Concept 7

Short Form:

“The Charter and Bylaws of the General Service Board are legal instruments, empowering the trustees to manage and conduct world service affairs. The Conference Charter is not a legal document; it relies upon tradition and the A.A. purse for final effectiveness.”

Long Form:

The Conference recognizes that the Charter and the Bylaws of the General Service Board are legal instruments: that the Trustees are thereby fully empowered to manage and conduct all of the world service affairs of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is further understood that the Conference Charter itself is not a legal document: that it relies instead upon the force of tradition and the power of the A.A. purse for its final effectiveness.

Principle of the Concept:


One Thing You Need To Know:

The Board Can Override the Conference When Necessary

The Board Can Override the Conference When Necessary

The charter and bylaws of the General Service Board (GSB) ARE legal documents.  The charter of the General Service Conference (GSC) IS NOT.  Period!

Because of that, there may be times where the Conference has, shall we say, gone off the deep end, and the Trustees (legally or otherwise) need to reel them back in through the vetoing of a Conference action.

The Trustees have “legal authority,” where the Conference only has “moral authority.”

from Twelve Concepts of World Service Illustrated

This Concept attempts to clarify the relationship and “balance of powers” between the Conference and the General Service Board. “This . . . may look like the collision of an irresistible force with an immovable object.” On the one hand, “the board is invested with complete legal power over A.A.’s funds and services; on the other hand the Conference is clothed with such great influence and financial power it could overcome the legal rights of the board.

“Thus, the practical power of the Conference is, in the final analysis, superior to the legal power of the board. This superior power derives from the traditional influence of the Conference Charter itself; from the fact that the delegates chosen by the groups always constitute more than two-thirds of the Conference members”; and finally from the ability of the delegates to cut off financial support by the groups. “Theoretically, the Conference is an advisory body only; but practically speaking, it has all the ultimate power it may ever need.”

The Conference “recommends” — though its recommendations have the force of directives to the board. The board executes these recommendations. The board does have the legal authority to veto a Conference recommendation — but in actual practice, it never has done so. As Bill tactfully puts it, the trustees “simply refrain from using their legal right to say ‘no’ when it would be much wiser, all things considered, to say ‘yes.’

“If . . . the Conference will always bear in mind actual rights, duties, responsibilities and legal status of the General Service Board, and if the trustees . . . will constantly realize that the Conference is the real seat of ultimate service authority . . . neither will be seriously tempted to make a ‘rubber stamp’ out of the other . . . In this way, grave issues will always be resolved and harmonious cooperation will be the general rule.”

The text above is an excerpt from the A.A. conference approved pamphlet (P8) The Twelve Concepts for World Service Illustrated. Download your own copy of the full pamphlet.


  1. Do we act responsibly regarding the “power of the purse”?
  2. Do we realize that the practical and spiritual power of the Conference will nearly always be superior to the legal power of the G.S.B.?

This checklist offered as part of Service Material from the General Service Office (SMF-91).  Download your copy of the complete checklist.