The Bahá'í Administrative Order is not merely a system of governance. Beyond and above administration, its purpose is to provide orientation and consistency for concerted effort and sustainable action for the generality of the membership of the Bahá'í Community. In the last analysis, the operation and success of the work of the Bahá'í community is dependent upon all its individual members, upon the grass-root initiatives that they are capable of producing and the imagination with which they are able to discharge their plans. Thus, within the Bahá'í system, the task of the administrative institutions is to analyze the needs of each phase of development and to provide the membership of the Bahá'í movement with the perspectives and objectives that are needed for achieving the next systematic step towards the realization of Bahá'u'lláh's ideals -- his future vision and social teachings. The principles of this administrative infrastructure Bahá'u'lláh himself laid down, and its infrastructure has been built up through a systematic and gradual process of construction.
The procedures of Bahá'í administration are based by a process of frank and sincere consultation -- a decision-making process that is quite different from current consultative modes. It requires an atmosphere that reconciles open interaction of different and opposing ideas, on one hand, and personal detachment of one's opinions and openness to new ones, on the other. The participatory principles of such consultation could, perhaps, be summed up as: truth-seeking, intelligent, impartial, frank, and cordial. It is decisions arrived at through such a process of consultation that are the source of social authority within the Bahá'í Community. In other words: the group of individuals that constitute the membership of administrative institutions are not invested with any social authority; rather, authority lies within the decisions which these institutions arrive at through the consultative process -- their members are themselves subject to the authority of their decisions. This means that authority lies in consultative decisions not in groups of individuals.
To make possible such a consultative process, Bahá'u'lláh instructed that Bahá'í administrative institutions must include none of the mechanisms that allow pursuit of power. Therefore, Bahá'í institutions must be elected regularly through secret ballot and strictly without electorial candidacy or campaigning. This means that, within the Bahá'í system of governance, the nomination of candidates by various interest groups and campaigns in favour of (or against) such candidates is strictly forbidden: all members can vote and can be voted for, all electors are also 'candidates'; moreover, one's vote is never a subject of discussion. Elections are conducted through secret ballot without hubbub, in a dignified atmosphere of contemplation and genuine thought. The practice of mastering this new method of governance and consultation is a continual concern and ongoing project of the Bahá'í movement -- and has been so throughout its history.
The supreme consultative administrative body of the worldwide Bahá'í community is the Universal House of Justice -- an institution representing the entire membership of the Bahá'í movement, having its seat at the Bahá'í World Centre (Haifa, Israel), and elected every five years. The Universal House of Justice was designed by Bahá'u'lláh himself and is charged with the enactment of his vision and strategy according to the needs and developments of each period of time. It gives systematic guidance to the worldwide membership of the Bahá'í movement through analyses of the situation, scenarios of the near future development, proposals for new actions, and encouragement and advice for pursuing existing activities. It seeks to provoke initiative on all levels of activity and administration.
The sustained efforts of the Bahá'í Community to maintain and extend globally such a system governance, despite the valnurability of this world movement at such an early stage of its evolution, are another demonstration of the validity of Bahá'u'lláh's diagnosis of the needs of mankind today and the credibility of his analysis concerning the means for the construction of a just and united humanity.