“The late Bernard B Smith, non-alcoholic, then Chairman of the North American Board of Trustees, and one of the architects of the Conference Structure, answered this question in his opening talk at the 1951 meeting in New York”

“We may not need a General Service Conference to ensure our own recovery. We do need it to ensure the recovery of the alcoholic who still stumbles in the darkness one short block from this room. We need it to ensure the recovery of a child being born tonight, destined to alcoholism. We need it to provide, in keeping with our Twelfth Step, a permanent haven for all alcoholics who, in the ages ahead, can find in AA that rebirth which brought us back to life.

We need it because we, more than all others, are conscious of the devastating effect of the human urge for power and prestige which we must ensure can never invade AA. We need it to ensure AA against government, while insulting it against anarchy; we need it to protect AA against disintegrating while preventing over-integration. We need it so that Alcoholics Anonymous, and Alcoholics Anonymous alone, is the ultimate repository of its Twelve Steps, its Twelve Traditions, and all of its services. We need it to insure that changes within AA come only as a response to the needs and wants of all AA and not of any few. We need it to insure that the door of the halls of AA never have locks on them, so that all people for all time who have an alcoholic problem may enter these halls unasked and feel welcome. We need it to ensure that Alcoholics Anonymous never asks anyone who needs us what his or her race is, what his or her creed is, what his or her social position is.”


The General Service Conference begins with the Group conscience. It also leads back to the Group, since the Group has final responsibility not just for initiating, but for implementing the decisions agreed upon by Conference. The General Service Conference is the practical means by which the Group conscience in South Africa can express itself in matters that concern the Fellowship as a whole. The existence of Conference is moreover a guarantee that the Fellowship will be able to function under all conditions; ensuring the continuity of the work within the framework of the Twelve Traditions.

Conference is a service workshop held once a year in May to reflect and learn on how we as a fellowship may be more effective in fulfilling our primary purpose. To fulfil our primary purpose; Delegates, General Service Board (Board), and the General Service Office (GSO) work together in one of five National committees on service projects throughout the year. These National committees are responsible for the implementation of National projects and conference decisions.

The Conference, representing the whole of our fellowship, delegates the necessary authority and responsibility to the Board to manage the affairs of A.A. in South Africa (AASA) during the year. The Board in turn delegates the necessary authority and responsibility to GSO to run the administrative functions of AASA.  The three bodies - Delegates, Board, and GSO are accountable to each other at Conference by delivering reports back to Conference, and voting on proposals for the year ahead.

Thus the Delegates body represent the Groups in our fellowship throughout the year. The GSB is the legal representative body of Trustees who guide the fellowship and are custodians of our Traditions. GSO is the body that facilitates action and provides the fellowship with the practical means for the fellowship to carry the message and to support decisions made at Conference.

In conducting the business of AA at Conference we are guided by the conference charter and bylaws which is available in the service manual. In communicating and relating to each other at Conference we are guided by the warranties and concepts for world service. As individuals at conference we are guided firstly by the conscience of the groups and members of our fellowship and finally by our own conscience in deciding what may be the best for our fellowship.