Invest in our vision (without Iran)
The Narcotics Anonymous World Service (NAWS) corporation has released the ‘Conference Agenda Report’ which are a list of motions for the Fellowship to review and vote on with some supporting information. Motions come from various sources including the World Board who manage the affairs of the NAWS corporation and service bodies who participate in the biennial (every 2 year) World Service Conference. The next WSC is in spring of 2020. The CAR includes significant changes in the ‘Fellowship Intellectual Property Trust’ which allows the NAWS corporation to control the production and use of the Narcotics Anonymous logos and literature. Control of publication rights is very important to NAWS. If you examine the Annual Reports available online from the NAWS corporation, you see that over 80% of the revenue comes from the sale of literature with little if any change in over two decades. The CAR report is aptly named “Invest in our vision” but the single critical phrase that I noticed on the CAR report was ‘without Iran’ on page 5. The effects of the Iranian Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous has been nothing short of breathtaking and an examination of the numbers reveals a great deal.
In the 1990’s the World Service Office, Inc (which would eventually become NAWS in 1998) decided to tighten control of the use and production of literature. This was likely a reaction to individuals, groups, and service bodies who were not supportive of NAWS and used alterative literature sources. The WSO initiated a lawsuit that they lost, and an agreement was reached but never honored by the World Service Office, Inc (NAWS). The FIPT was formed and adopted by the segments of the Fellowship who supported the WSO/NAWS corporation. During this same time, unrelated and probably unaware of these new rules, a few addicts returned to Iran from the United States. They sought to continue their recovery by fulfilling the primary purpose of members of Narcotics Anonymous which is to carry a message of hope to the still suffering addicts. This dedication resulted in growth beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The rapidly growing Iranian fellowship translated (from English into Farsi), printed and distributed a wide array of literature including the most significant literature available in Narcotics Anonymous which is the ‘Basic Text’. Some segments of the Fellowship have always supported the idea of ‘free’ or ‘low cost’ literature and produce alternative literature including ‘The Grey Book’ and ‘Baby Blue’ versions of the Basic Text. Low cost production and distribution is what Iran was able to do with their Farsi Version.
The ‘Basic Text, hard cover, English language’ that NAWS used in 2015 cost $359,091 to print in ($336,900 in 1995) and produced $2,081,468 in income ($1,801,996 in 1995). Most years they sell about 250,000 copies. In fact, this single item over the last 25 years remained an average of about $350,000 to print and then sell for $2,000,000 and currently accounts for about 20% of the revenue for NAWS. That works out to over a 400% markup. This is in stark contrast to what is happening in Iran. Reviewing the Annual Reports produced by NAWS, the Regional summaries produced by the Iran Region and a detailed look at the Independently audited financial statements produced by Millar Kaplan of the NAWS Corporation will help to build a somewhat blurry picture. We know that today about 30% of the literature currently produced by NAWS is in Iran and the approximate markup is a much lower 50% which is very close to cost. Iran sells about 120,000 Basic Texts or roughly 30% of the total. This is critical concept of ‘free’ or ‘low cost’ literature is supported by some members and has fueled the distribution of Grey Books and Baby Blues for decades. How many groups use these or how many books are distributed is not reported by the WSC or NAWS.
The first time Iran had participated in a WSC was 2006 and NAWS reported 1100 groups. Iran Region attended the 2008 WSC and reported 2564 groups hosting 11256 meetings. Iran appears to have always been self-supporting off member contributions, never requiring profits from literature sales. In 2011 NAWS formed a non-profit entity in Iran called Payam Omega which operates very much like a non-profit company in North America and assumed production of literature. Each year, Millar Kaplan are provided copies of the reports of Payam Omega that were produced by an independent auditor. In 2018 financials, Iranian auditors report incomes for Payam Omega of $261,182, $224,450 and $287,943 for 2018, 2017 and 2016 which Millar Kaplan noted. This is a combined $773,575 in income for the three years listed. The only expenses NAWS reports on the consolidated statements produced are $189,336 for distribution costs over that 3-year period. A total inventory and where the remaining profits of $584,239 were spent during the three years is not reported.
Iran is under sanctions that prevent Payam Omega from transferring profits to NAWS but there are alternatives. Iran actively trades with the European Union, China, Japan and many Asian countries and has a well-educated population. Iranians are free to travel and have significant recent experience with Fellowship Development. NAWS expenses fall into 4 categories; Events ($0.45 million) Conference/WSC Support ($2.02 million), Literature Production/Distribution ($3.22 million) and Fellowship Development ($3.28 million). The WSC could assign any or a portion of these to Payam Omega and reduce literature prices in North America by as much as 30%. The WSC could halt all travel costs for NAWS staff which is an estimated $2-3 million that is hidden in the 4 categories which seems excessive given the lack of results. Iran has the largest conventions in the world, well beyond the attendance of the NAWS sponsored world convention. If NAWS continues to fund services using profits of literature sales then the fair application of that policy needs to be discussed by the WSC and adopted for the future. Reducing overheads and operating on member contributions would allow them to reduce the price of literature and could ignite growth not seen since the 1980’s in North America. Any version of the Basic Text includes the following section; (last two paragraphs, TRADITION TWO "For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority-a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.")
"Those of us who have been involved in service or in getting a group started sometimes have a hard time letting go. Egos, unfounded pride, and self-will destroy a group if given authority. We must remember that offices have been placed in trust, that we are trusted servants, and that at no time do any of us govern. Narcotics Anonymous is a God-given program, and we can maintain our group in dignity only with group conscience and God's love."
"Some will resist. However, many will become the role models for the newcomers. The self-seekers soon find that they are on the outside. causing dissension and eventually disaster for themselves. Many of them change; they learn that we can only be governed by a loving God as expressed in our group conscience."
The most significant event in Narcotics Anonymous history since 1995 is the entirely independent development of the Iranian fellowship. The WSC should pause and consider what’s working and what isn’t. The significant changes in the FIPT will only deepen the chasm between NAWS supporters and the anti-NAWS movement. Clearly this idea of free/low cost literature needs to be evaluated and priority should be the reunification of all NA members. The WSC and NAWS represent a dwindling number of groups and appear to be trying to use travel funds to promote the NAWS brand.