This year the ALDE party met at Madrid for its congress. The European Liberal Democratic family consists of more than 60-member parties across the continent and more than 50 members of the European Parliament who are part of the ALDE Group. Hans van Baalen MEP (Member of the VVD) has been president of the ALDE Party since 2015.
The congress was set in the setting of the 2019 elections. It will be an important year for all Liberals with the coming elections.
Another important theme is the Brexit. This will overshadow the planned debate about budget, migrations and what is the future of Europe. Europe still favors a soft Brexit and any realistic idea from the UK is welcome. The Liberal Democrats are very clear, that they want to stay in Europe, but they are not strong enough to be able to change Brexit to Stay.
It is important for liberals to work together for the future of a stronger and united Europe. We must keep reminding people of what we have achieved together. But we must also listen to what the people of Europe want. Now we can see two visions of Europe: the vision of populists and nationalists and the vision of those who want to relaunch the European dream. It is important to build bridges even if we don’t agree on everything.
The discussion should be focused on the future of trade, investments and innovation. Most liberals are optimistic and hopeful that the liberals can win.
Juli Minoves said: “We need to fight beyond Europe. The Liberal struggle will be strong if it goes beyond any border”. We must show people the proven costs of anti -Eu policy.
“Let 2019 be remembered as the year when the EU regained its confidence and began moving forward again”, quote from Micheál Martin (Ireland) as also the following, “Brexit is one of the most destructive decisions taken by a free nation in decades. I want to thank all ALDE member parties for all their support in helping Ireland to diminish the impact of Brexit”.
A considerable amount of time was spent on the presentation of the “ALDE Manifesto: The Liberal vision for the future of Europe”. There was a good and healthy debate on the many suggested amendments to the Manifesto. After voting on the sometimes-reedited amendments the ALDE Manifesto was adopted. The parties can use this important document for their campaigns for the European elections in May 2019.
Another issue at the congress was sustainable growth. One of the conclusions was that cities around the world need to take real action to achieve sustainable growth. Some statements were given by participants: We should eat less but better meat, as large-scale industrial production hurts the environment, but small scale can enhance biodiversity.
Let’s save our blue oceans! Every second breath we take comes from the ocean, we need it to survive, strong message from MEP Meissner, The Liberals must lead the way to a more sustainable, innovative and safe world, MEP Federley (Sweden).
Apart from many interesting sessions we were taken to the Museo del Prado for a lovely Congress dinner reception. Several new members were elected for the Alde Board.
We also made some new contacts and hope to see many ALDE members again. We wish all the MEP’s a successful campaign in 2019!
The Committee meeting gave us many discussions about climate change. What is the Liberal response to the Paris Agreement of Delivering Climate justice? The INLW former deputy -president Hakima El Haiti gave an inspiring speech about the importance of climate change and the effects for people all over the world.
Climate change touches everyone and it has a lot of influence on the economy. Certainly, when parts of the world sustain severe periods of drought. Many countries especially in Africa have a lack of means if they get drought and thus no crop. Young women are very vulnerable for these effects. Often, they can no longer go to school because all must work and help to get water from elsewhere. These climate problems make people want to migrate. These problems must be solved. In 2015 the world agreed on acting on this problem. The sustainable agenda and the Paris agreement were agreed on by nearly all countries.
The change is foremost a mindset problem. More education is one of the important issues. Politicians cannot do this alone, they must work together and make green investments and adjust education to make people more aware of these developments. Governments, political parties and the UN must make this change together. Climate change and human rights, peace and security are all linked. Although the USA is not agreeable to this issue, we do still see that some of the states such as California are agreeing to the Paris Agreement and working on it.
Europe must work on it not only because it is so important for the next generation but also Europe doesn’t want all the migration coming its way so education, health care and transport must be worked on in the migration countries. For the politicians the problem is that some, mostly populists, go on saying that there is no climate change as for example president Trump says. Another problem with the populist movements is that everyone wants to be heard and needs results. Populists are using that in their attitude to the electorate. So, politicians must have enough evidence and solid explanations must be given to change political attitudes. Climate change and the attitude to this is all about equality for the world at large and thus climate justice for all.
Another interesting meeting was about Democracy.
The statement was that democracy is a process. This process can be stopped. Despite the many attacks on democracy Europe is still going and as former president Obama said: The Europe Union is successful and still there after 70 years. An intergovernmental issue is migration. Many populists are choosing nationalism as the best solution for any problem. They tend to say that they want change and are anti-establishment but, they want to establish their own establishment. We must show that the Europe Union is still a very good and solid partnership. We are stronger together and now you can see that leaving the EU is not so easy and will give many economic and other problems. With all the European countries we must go on fighting for freedom, prosperity and a good balance between human rights and responsibility. Europe is a part of the world with many possibilities: good laws, social inclusion, freedom of speech and the possibilities to make your own choices. We must go on fighting for: human rights, freedom and rule of law all over the world.
Of course, there were some nice visits to make as well.
Members of INLW Board: Ruth Richardson, Margaret de Vos, Jayanhti Devi Balaguru, Lysbeth van Valkenburg and Maysing Yang were all present in Berlin.
Before the official opening of the Berlin Executive Committee Meeting on Thursday 21st of June the Human Rights Committee of Liberal International was able to make a study visit to the Federal Commission for the Records of the State Security Service of the former GDR.
After travelling to the outskirts of former GDR East Berlin we arrived at an enormous complex of buildings in communist style.
In one of the thousands of office rooms we were welcomed by the Stasi Archives Commissioner Roland Jahn.
Markus Löning the Honorary Chairman of the LI Human Rights Committee explained who we were, and Commissioner Roland Jahn gave a very accurate and gruesome explanation of how nearly all East German citizens were registered and daily actions were secretly described and kept in the GDR State Security Service system.Read more
After the fall of the communist regime the people of GDR were shocked to realize and hear that so many of their neighbors, friends or family were spying on each other! Of course, there are no such records made up of citizens nowadays. The Commissioner and his office are now helping people to find out if they or their family members have been spied on in the GDR. And many still come to the Stasi Archives to see what was written about them and what is kept in the precisely administered Stasi Archives.
A frightening idea of how it must have felt to be a citizen in such a communist totalitarian system. Very good to realize how such a regime treated its citizens.
|Roland Jahn took this photo of Margaret de Vos between thousands of historic files full of detailed descriptions of innocent citizens.||Jayanthi Balaguru listens contemplating the horrific way people were followed and treated in the German Democratic Republic!|
This year the UN CSW was set with the title “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”.
Several members of our INLW board were present. Margaret de Vos, Lysbeth van Valkenburg and Ruth Richardson were present during the opening ceremony, as well as Joaquima Alemany.
The new Chair, Ms Geraldine Byrne Nason (from Ireland) opened the 62nd CSW. She stated: “I am proud to be here in St Patrick’s week. We must promote the instruments to help girls in rural areas. I know from my own home country, Ireland, that especially women and girls can help build peace and help development in the rural parts. Girls and women must come to the decision-making table, we must leave no one behind and work on this for 2020!”. A quote from Irish Murdoch: “I think being a woman is being Irish, you are nice but second place”.
Liberal International, the National Democratic Institute and INLW organized an event about: Pushing Back, strategies for combatting violence against women in Politics.
Teaming up with Madeleine Albright’s National Democratic Institute (NDI), LI and INLW asked NDI, for the occasion of two-year anniversary of the #NotTheCost campaign to end violence against women in politics, to organize a side-event on the fringes of the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in New York, raising the profile of this global cause.
Under the theme Pushing Back: Strategies for Ending Violence against Women in Politics (VAW-P) and in partnership with the International Network of Liberal Women (INLW), the event aimed to showcase best practice solutions by exploring lessons learned from around the world and providing participants with tested tools to push back on violence against women in politics both preemptively and proactively.Read more
Addressing more than 100 delegates, LI President Dr Juli Minoves insisted that the abuse women in politics suffer is not only physical or sexual but psychological and liberals in government and opposition around the world are leading the efforts to offer solutions and strategies to end gender-based violence, especially violence against women in politics. “Something that happens with Violence Against Women-Politicians is that there is very little self-acknowledgement that this is happening in society and that it goes much beyond physical violence, the internet abuse is getting more and more intense” he said.
Speaking on behalf of INLW, Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Denise Robinson, emphasized that “stronger legislation needs to go hand in hand with stronger implementation and monitoring when it comes to ending violence against women including violence against politically active women.” Even within liberal parties this attitude occurs and must be addressed.
The panel was moderated by NDI’s director for Gender, Women and Democracy, Sandra Pepera and featured United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, and NDI Senior Program Manager (Elections and Political Processes), Michael McNulty.
Liberal International has been at the forefront of the issue. Most recently, LI HRC Member Marina Schuster (FDP) participated in a closed expert hearing meeting with H.E. Dubravka Simonovic where she highlighted efforts of liberals in government and opposition to support women in politics and end all forms of discrimination and abuse against politically active women.
Special rapporteur Dubravka Simonovic is compiling an important report on the situation in the world concerning violence against women involved in politics. INLW is encouraging its members to file their own experiences and send this via NDI to the Special Rapporteur. This fall the report will be presented at the UN.
For information on how to file your experiences for the Rapporteur, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The conclusion of all the participants on the panel was, that there is still a lot of important work all around the world needed, to change the attitude towards women in politics.
On Wednesday March 14th, 2018 at 10.30 am Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk president of INLW, was invited to deliver a speech at the Parallel Event at CSW62. This Parallel Event was sponsored by “The Urban Diversity and Mobility Research Center of Taiwan (UDM)”. She was asked to give her opinion and ideas about “Women’s political participation” in the future.
Other speakers were the Member of Parliament Mrs. Lin Ching-Yi who spoke of the situation in Taiwan for women. Also, Mr Shih, Mu-Min Ph.D. candidate University of Department of Asian Studies, Texas at Austin spoke of the gender progressiveness but very much with the eyes on the past. Gender is a word that does not exist in Taiwanese and so very often sex is put in its place which has a different meaning that is often overlooked in the policy papers and and discussions.
“How women make Cities smarter? Education, Empowerment and Policies. Through the improvement of education and more political participation of women we can see a change. Now there are 38% women in parliaments all over the world. Locally we find even more women in city councils and as aldermen. The females are more supportive of points such as gender equality and the endorsement of it. The gender equality is now integrated in the curriculum of health and physical education. Many school text books must be changed so that the existing gender stereotyping is taken out. They should for instance be illustrated in a gender equality friendly fashion.Read more
Mrs Chang, Yuan-Ting, Alternate Director, Urban Diversity and Mobility Research Center and Mr Chen, Chih-Wei who resides in London from the UN Sustainable Development Goals Advisory Council of Taiwan also spoke briefly. He was emphasizing connecting people and stressed the importance of conversation between men and women.
In Taiwan although many girls do get educated there is still the notion of Motherhood which prevails, and which monopolizes Femininity. 1988 the Gender equality was introduced in education.
Confucianism is still in the minds of Taiwanese people whereby women should be mothers and should not give that task to immigrant women. There is a prejudice towards immigrant women.
Margaret de Vos spoke of the importance of empowering women to participate in politics and economy. Without their participation we can’t build a sustainable world and sustainable cities. More than half the population in every country is female. It is important to use this latent working force and intellect. She gave answers to questions such as `What reasons are there to empower women to take part. What do you miss if they don’t participate`.
First, no person may be excluded the right to represent the people. Socially inclined reasons for diversity in political bodies are that the people should recognize themselves in those representing them in democratic bodies. It is not only important to have men and women, but also for instance ethnical diversity is important, so that people FEEL they are represented.
Second a more diverse parliament or government will address more of the concerns that apply especially to women. Diversely composed town councils and parliaments also know better what is going on in society. And likewise, the political agenda will reflect the questions which civil society finds important. SO, it often takes women to bring changes into legislation in favor of women and society. Political representation by women is also important to get rid of obstacles there are to get women elected. Also, for the knowledge they bring along in relation to themes which concern especially women or related to emancipation themes. Changes are necessary, but this means that if you want changes made you better change those who take the decisions as well. There is a critical mass needed to be able to make a difference and a change and that is 30 %.
Mrs. De Vos also raised the question if political parties do better if they have women on the ballot list. She called upon this to be researched.
Have more working women changed cities? Active women in cities has changed the way of life in many cities. Just look at the burst of new restaurants in towns, where couples eat out very much more than in the past where the women were always at home preparing and cooking the meals. Empowerment of women and diversity in decision making is important to use all available talent.
Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”. She mentioned that the brain architecture of men and women is different: Women think in web style and men in step thinking. Women considering more options to a problem and men, in general of course, thinking more via a linear causal path. Other positive traits can be intuition, mental flexibility, long term planning, creativity and keen imagination as well as other views on power. Working towards better decisions, while showing more patience, more listening qualities and showing more empathy, women tend to show a different kind of leadership. With all these positive reasons why are Women still not so empowered?
Mrs. De Vos went on to explain that women often wait to be asked or are triggered only after being encouraged. There is a social, political and practical necessity to have women on board in representative bodies like Town Councils and Parliament. How to get more women there? Get them over their modesty, teach them to present themselves with more confidence, while learning to exaggerate a little at least. Build up a network and within political parties learn to ignore any biased comments and use the competitive atmosphere for your own good.
Get to share the tasks in the household with the partner to be able to take on the extra work. And make sure you get women and especially also men to promote your candidacy. Go for it with a personal campaign. Think as party that 50% of the voters are women. So, widen the campaign with slogans and media presentation on subjects that appeal to women and present good solutions for these topics. Parties must give exposure to the women candidates! With the female vote one can win 50% of the voters! In Mrs. De Vos ’s experience in the Netherlands there are many women who only vote for women. So, you better have women on your lists!
She concluded: “We must use all capacities, talents, creativity and knowledge of half of the population. Women then become more engaged in public decision making and it is a means of ensuring better accountability to women and making more and better decisions which will be beneficial for the country and towns! Diversity and empowerment of women is a question of common sense! The message is that Democracy without women is incomplete. Women’s adequate political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy. Without the representation of women there is no Democracy”. Before the time was up a few questions were able to be asked, resulting is a discussion on whether women should help each other more instead of sometimes showing actions of jealousy and where Margaret found her information. The answer was: yes women should be more supportive of each other and promote each other more!
The next day the members of the Board of INLW were invited to the Taiwan building. Here our Board member Maysing Yang was one of the speakers during the evening.
This year the ALDE party met at Amsterdam for its congress. The European Liberal Democratic family consists of more than 60-member parties
across the continent and more than 50 members of the European Parliament who are part of the ALDE Group. Hans van Baalen MEP (Member of the VVD) has been president of the ALDE Party since 2015 and was re-elected during the congress.
During the afternoon VVD and D66 organized a debate on Fighting Populism.
In the discussion one of the elements was that many people have the feeling that politicians do not listen and don’t solve problems. Populists talk about fear, and often walk away from responsibilities but still they get voters all over Europe.Read more
It really is a wake-up call for all the parties that democracy is not easy to keep and needs maintenance every day. We as liberals must fix problems. Not try to explain what is wrong but instead give solutions and implement them.
One approach is to address emotion, so provide personality and be authentic.
As Yair Lapid, Chair Yesh Atid from Israel said, “populism was already there in the 4th century according to Socrates”
So, we must learn to find a way to cope with populism in this instable world.
Antonio Roldán, MP from Spain, finds economic populism the most important problem.
His advice was:
- You need “reform champions”
- Equal opportunities for workers
- Pro-market and pro-business attitude
- Gaining sovereignty through Europe
- Communicate well and value emotions
Also Chair Markus Loening, ALDE party Vice President, took the view that more emotion, not the policy, but the plans are important. The authentic attitude is necessary to affiliate with the problems: why, how and what are the words to use for understanding problems. It is important not to get into the frame of others. For many people the love of their country ultimately ending in patriotism is what we see in many parts of Europe. Instead of blind patriotism one can also ask the question that was asked so many years ago by Martin Luther King: what can you do for your country?
The official opening was done by Hans van Baalen MEP
and Party President and Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and ALDE group leader.
The key-note speeches were given by;
Alexander Pechtold MP and Party leader D66
Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, PM Luxembourg.
This was followed by a debate on Renewing Democracy in the 21st Century. Some statements were given by the panel members Alexander Pechtold, Albert Rivera MP, Party leader Ciudadanos, Bart Somers, Alde-Cor-President and Margretha Vestager.
On Saturday Prime Minister Mark Rutte gave a speech (for the various speeches please go to www.aldeparty.eu) and Mark Rutte was one of the members in a panel discussion organized by the Friedrich Neumann Foundation:
“Renewal, Reinvigoration, Reform a Roadmap for a successful Europe to 2019 and beyond”.
Moderator was Corinne Hörst; other panel members were Gwendolyn Rutten, Leader of Open VLD, Belgium,
Nicola Beer, FDP, Germany, Christiaan Lindner MP Party Leader, FDP Germany.
Gwendoyn Rutten said Europe is about the three P’s; Europe belongs to the People, it gives Prosperity with its free market and Europe has given Peace.
Europe has too many laws, so more focus is needed, we share ideas, but the migration problems are cause for chaos. So, a more active policy and a one border policy are necessary. European defense policy must be set up. Migration means that our identity is influenced. But we should recognize that we don’t have one identity but consist of many identities. Europe also has diversity and so many identities. Values, on the other hand, must be taught at school as well as freedom of speech and religion. We must stick up for our values. Values are not negotiable.
The core business of Europe is still: Safety and Jobs! And to invest in people and education.
There were more than 1400 Liberals present from all over Europe at this very interesting ALDE congress. Also, several members of INLW including three members of the Board, Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk (President), Lysbeth van Valkenburg-Lely (Treasurer) and Ruth Richardson (Member).
Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk
Lysbeth van Valkenburg,
INLW Board members Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk and Lysbeth van Valkenburg attended the 199th LI ExCom in Johannesburg.
This year the theme of this LI Executive Committee meeting was “Good Governance”. The theme was explored with discussions on “Results of Better governance on different fields of government” and the influence of that on Local and Global Challenges for the 21st Century.
Our host was the Democratic Alliance (DA) and they had taken upon them to produce a draft for a new Johannesburg Declaration. This declaration was discussed and adopted during the last session of the meeting.
The DA was founded in 2000 although its roots go back much longer. DA is supported by liberals to the right and left depending on the subject. DA is in power in 33 cities now, among them Cape town, Tshwane (Pretoria), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Bay (Port Elizabeth) and Johannesburg. In 2018 there will be Presidential elections. President Jacob Zuma will have had two terms by then. DA leader Mmusi Maimane has started to present DA as an alternative for the ANC. In the beginning of 2018 Maimane will have to be re-elected and as such will be the DA candidate for President during the next elections, where he will hopefully be seen as an alternative for the ANC candidate.Read more
Our other host was the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). FNF works throughout the world in over 50 countries to promote human rights, the rule of law, democracy and the principle of a free market economy. The Foundation has been in Africa since 1963, and has its Sub-Saharan African headquarters in Johannesburg.
For us INLW, it was also interesting to meet members of DAWN, Democratic Alliance Women’s Network. DAWN seeks to address the core issues affecting women and aims to empower women and create a society where dignity of women is recognized. DAWN seeks to combat and address: Rape and Domestic Violence, Maintenance issues, Responsible Parenting, Economic Empowerment and the Recognition of Women’s Rights as Human Rights by concentrating especially on customary law, constitutional law, patriarchy, tribal law and maintenance of families by fathers. In South Africa the educational changes for girls are still inferior to the education for boys. In the rural area’s apartheid is still feared and violence against women and girls such as rape is a big risk. A woman must leave her house once she becomes a widow. All these elements make it a slow process to make life better and to improve the education possibilities for girls.
On Friday the theme of good governance was discussed. With good governance and the right institutions, a country has the means to develop itself and its people. You can only reach sustainable development by a transparent and trustworthy government. Sustainability, anti-corruption steps, transparency, inclusiveness, rule of law and independent justice will ultimately bring equal opportunities, equal education and equal innovation for a country.
During lunch there was the opportunity to hear the country reports. The Brexit was widely discussed at our table among others with Sal Brinton who is a member of the House of Lords and president of the Liberal Democrats. Brexit will have an enormous impact in Great Britain and Europe.
The discussion in the afternoon panel gave us food for thought about “What is social equality in liberal terms?”
- Equality before the law;
- Guarantee the same opportunities, the same starting point to develop the potential of the individual and second chances.
- Inclusive social security, there must be social securities for all;
- Equal education for all children without discrimination;
During the administrative session of the LI Ex Com INLW’s resolution “More Women in local regional, national and international policy making for Good Governance Worldwide” was adopted. Read on.
Friday evening brought us to Sophiatown the MIX in Johannesburg, a historical black cultural hub that was destroyed under apartheid and then rebuilt. During the event the annual African Freedom Speech and Award Ceremony was held. The Zambian opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, who spent time in prison for his beliefs, was given the award for his extraordinary contribution to the cause of Freedom in Africa.
On the Saturday morning several visits were paid to important places in Johannesburg such as Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill, Inner city tour.
The panel discussion in the afternoon was about Better Governance: Liberal Answers to Twenty-First Century Challenges.The panel was with the former Prime Minister of Guinea, Cellou Dalein Diallo, the national leader of AND, Edgard Razafindravahy from Madagascar; the Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, Solly Msimanga, Mayor of Tshwane (Pretoria). The discussion was led by our President of LI, Juli Minoves.
For South Africa teaching people in citizenship is important. Too many people need the government, there is too much dependency. Civil society must take the power back from the government and improve the government.
You cannot talk about freedom if you don’t get people to act honestly, there is still too much corruption in this country.
The conclusions were:
Liberal values to be defended, get people to gain control and adapt faster to new developments and show that good governance makes a difference to people’s lives. A big problem is that in SA 60% of the 25% unemployed are youngsters.
Herman Mashaba told us that in his position he tries to work on the corruption, don’t tell lies, get children educated and transform the townships into suburbs with nice tree lined streets and parks. There is a lot to do for any government in SA.
We finished the Executive Meeting with the adoption of the Johannesburg Declaration.
At the closure of the meeting on Saturday evening the Mayor of Midvaal hosted us in Restaurant Moyo in Johannesburg where we had an authentic African experience, inspired by traditions and values from across the African continent.