What is a unit convention?
In its letter dated 21 July 1985 to all National Spiritual Assemblies, the Universal House of Justice provided guidance regarding the election of delegates to a National Convention on the basis of electoral units, and thus introduced a uniform method of electing delegates to National Conventions throughout the world.
The unit convention represents the first step in the process of electing our National Spiritual Assembly for the coming administrative year. Participating in the unit convention in your area is thus a “privilege and spiritual responsibility” that contributes to the administrative structure envisioned by Bahá’u’lláh.
The unit convention consists of two principle parts: (1) the election of delegates, who will be responsible for electing the National Spiritual Assembly, and (2) the consultation of the believers present at the convention on matters raised by the National Spiritual Assembly, as well as others of national concern. For this reason, attendance at the unit convention, in addition to voting, is strongly encouraged. Indeed, in a letter written on his behalf, the Guardian stressed
the importance of reminding the believers that they should make every effort to attend the meeting for the election of the State or Province delegate, in order to stimulate a larger group consciousness which will greatly facilitate the process of the believers becoming acquainted with each other, and provide an intermediary stage — which will become increasingly valuable and necessary between the local organization, represented by the group or assembly, and the national collective action, represented by the activities of the Convention and the institution of the National Assembly.
Regarding participation in Bahá’í elections, the House of Justice has further stated:
The manner of participation by all adult members of the community in these elections is a distinguishing feature of the System of Bahá’u’lláh; for it is a bounden duty that confers a high privilege upon every Bahá’í to select, as a responsible citizen of the new world being brought into existence, the composition of the institutions having authority over the functioning of the Bahá’í community. In this regard, indifference and neglect on the part of any believer are alien to the spirit of the Cause. The friends must strive ceaselessly to avoid being contaminated with these destructive attitudes, which have inflicted such damage on the integrity and authority of the institutions of a declining world order.
When the House of Justice called for its worldwide implementation in 1985, it expressed hope that the electoral unit system “will promote Bahá’í solidarity, broaden the basis of representation at the National Conventions and that thereby the work of the Faith in each country will be characterized by greater efficiency and enhanced harmony.” By participating in the unit convention, we engage in a process that aims both to reflect and cultivate the aspirations of the Universal House of Justice.
… Throughout the entire planet the devoted followers of Bahá’u’lláh are labouring to develop further the Bahá’í Administrative Order described by the Guardian “not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New World Order,” thus setting the foundation for a world civilization destined to yield its dazzling splendour in the centuries to come.
It is expressly recorded in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Writings that these National Assemblies must be indirectly elected by the friends; that is, the friends in every country must elect a certain number of delegates, who in their turn will elect from among all the friends in that country the members of the National Spiritual Assembly.
One of the signs of the breakdown of society in all parts of the world is the erosion of trust and collaboration between the individual and the institutions of governance. In many nations the electoral process has become discredited because of endemic corruption.
The Eleventh International Convention, recently concluded, offered all who were present a glimpse of the promise of Bahá’u’lláh to unite the peoples of the world. More than a thousand members of one hundred and fifty seven National Spiritual Assemblies attended, and nearly five hundred more, including those from an additional fourteen countries, participated in the election by mail.