During the congress one of the meetings was with representatives from many countries about the theme of “Populism in politics”.
All over the world we can see that populism and the parties that are using it are getting more and more votes. Ilhan Kyuchyuk (politician from MRF and co-president of ALDE) states that in Bulgaria populism undermined the liberal progress, liberals are losing ground and have to turn this. Europe is very important for Bulgaria and a strong Europe, meaning not more but less and more efficient, must be the perspective. A difficult statement at the moment with all the populism in many European countries.
In Thailand the new elected government is also based on populism. The liberals are not part of the government. Winning the next elections is essential. The present party is hoping to win again and through this get absolute power in the future. One of the methods they are going to use to get this result, is the rise of minimum wage with 80%, no voters can withstand this. This all leads to much corruption and disruption of the market.
The conclusion is that some populism is necessary in the present time in any party. For in the end winning is essential.
In the Philippines the new president Ferdinand Marcos jr. was elected on the issue of anti-corruption, he belongs to no party, is a real outsider. He stands for the war on drugs but because of the Pandemic this war and the fight against it has been stopped, at the moment the government is not taking any action. In the years 2016-2020 there were 7800 deaths because of this war on drugs. The new president will have no debate and now still the Marcos mystique still has many followers.
As liberals we must act against populism and des-information. Populism can’t be fought, you have to fight it with populism and use it, liberalism packed in populism. But there is a vast difference between populism in West Europe and Asia. In Asia, money and economic growth is important but in Europe “simple answers to difficult questions”, are the points used by populist parties.
The Renew group stated that we all have to take care that no one is left behind, make yourself “popular” and use of images is needed. That should be part of the popular way to get results. It will be a challenge for all liberal parties.
During the final session of the Congress the results were made known of the elections for the Bureau and the committees.
Hakima el Haité was re-elected as President of Liberal International.
Our president Jayanthi Devi Balaguru and past-president Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk were elected in the Human Rights Committee.
Ruth Richardson, board member, was elected in the Climate Justice Committee
Deputy-president Khadija el Morabit was elected in the Fair Trade Committee.
This year Liberal International met, after two years of zoom meetings because of Covid, in Sofia for our 75th congress. There were over 200 attendees from over 50 countries. At the welcome reception, Hakima el Haité president of LI, was very happy to see so many friends again after such a long and difficult time. Climate change, conflicts, pandemic, democratic recession, authoritarian resurgences as she told us, are changing our world! The theme of this congress was “Reconstructing a Liberal World Order” a very appropriate slogan. Today a devastating war is happening at the back door of Europe. The devastation brought by Vladimir Putin’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine goes beyond the borders of Ukraine threatening energy security in Europe and food security in a great deal of the world. Millions of people especially in the most vulnerable countries in Africa are at the risk of hunger as president Hakima el Haité said.
During the opening reception there was also the introduction of a new Serbian politician, member of parliament and president of the Free citizens Movement, Pavle Grbović. It is the first time in several years that Serbia will have liberals present in Parliament.
During the meeting on Friday morning, Sir Graham Watson, former leader of the ALDE party and member of the European Parliament gave us food for thought with his ideas about legal values, peace, freedom and democracy. With the war in Ukraine and opposition about the handling of the pandemic, we see the rule of law is under great pressure.
The Russian opposition voice from Dr. Grigory Yavlinsky, founding member of Yabloko, who reached us by zoom, made us aware that supplies have been stopped to Russia. Especially lack of medical items are causing people to die at the moment. 20% of the Russians do not agree with the present regime. The totalitarian system is based on their own former ideas and no reforms. The present system resulted out of the collapse of the iron curtain. The opposition did not agree with the system but realized too late that the system meant no freedom of the press, justice by fear and no protests are possible. The consequences are visible all over the world. President Hakima el Haité also confirmed these facts and wondered how far is Poetin prepared to go.
Later our member Lorna Marsden was appointed Patron of Liberal International as well as Robert Woodthorpe Browne.
In the evening we had dinner in the Vrana Palace of H.M. King Simeon II of Bulgaria. The Hans van Baalen Medal of Liberalism, in commemoration of our dearly missed president of honour, was awarded to H.M King Simeon II of Bulgaria, the last reigning Bulgarian monarch.
Ilhan Kyuchyuk, co-president of ALDE and politician from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) in Bulgaria received the medal to give it to Simeon at a later time.
On the Saturday all the resolutions were discussed and adopted.
- INLW submitted the resolution: “Preventing and Combating Violence against women & girls and unpaid and underpaid care work”.
- US Supreme Court Decision, an urgency resolution submitted by INLW and SFP.
Urgency Resolution on Securing Freedom for Vladimir Kara-Murza, a renowned Russian journalist who earlier survived two poisonings and now is convicted to many years of prison with a risk of death, was submitted by the Canadian group. Also the re-elections took place with a 100% of votes for Hakima el Haité as LI President. Ruth Richardson, Khadija el Morabit, Jayanthi Devi Balaguru and Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk were all re-elected in their commissions for a new period.
Afghanistan Shall Not Be Forgotten is one of the resolutions that was adopted during the congress.
We heard more about the present situation in Afghanistan by zoom from Dr. Sima Samar, winner of the Prize for Freedom 2021, member of the High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation and member of the High Level Panel for Internal Displacements. She began her career as a medical doctor providing health care in Afghanistan’s most isolated and marginalized region.
Women are no longer seen as humans, no more than the fly on the wall. Schools are closed for girls despite access to education being a fundamental Islamic and civic right and there is no freedom of speech for journalists. Even the newsreaders have to wear a mask as women are not allowed to show their faces. The tv stations are trying to get rid of all female news readers.
A nurse cannot get a job without a man’s permission and women are not allowed to get any treatment in hospital without a man.
There is no real system in what the government is doing and there is a rejection of democracy. At the moment there are more and more people who are unable to read of write. Many are sitting at home without work and with the high rate of inflation it is very hard to make both ends meet.
Because of the pour healthcare many are dying including many children.
UN can do some things and must ask the countries to keep the sanctions in place and keep blocking the regime’s access to the international financial system, until Afghanistan has a more inclusive government respecting everyone’s rights. Also the UN should call for the immediate opening of all schools to girls and restoring the right of women to gainful employment, targeting donor development at those districts which allow equal access to education and greater respect for human rights.
UN and the world must stand for freedom, fight for freedom for children and education. All human beings are of one frame.
At the moment the help that is given mainly goes to those who are in favor of the Taliban regime. It will be necessary to have an independent group to see to the distributions of goods and money for the people of Afghanistan.
Yesterday the 22nd of March was the World Water Day. Liberal International wants to commemorate this across the membership of LI. As such, the LI CJC identified me as a valuable stakeholder, observing Water Day from the perspective of women’s access to water.
The importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment, particularly women’s economic empowerment is at the core of International Network of Liberal Women’s mandate.
This means: Enhancing the role of women as drivers of poverty reduction, promoting female investors and entrepreneurs, and recognizing the link between gender equality and safeguarding the environmental promotion of inclusive and sustainable environment, water and sanitation, and directly contributing to SDG 6 on clean water, clean environment, innovation and infrastructure and to SDG 5 on gender equality.
Our INLW Board member, Ruth Richardson, has recorded a short one-minute video on the subject.
As a member of the LI CJC Climate Justice committee, a meeting took place today, I was one of the attendees of our first zoom meeting of 2021.
This meeting was about CCJ Introduction and a setting of the next meeting
The Climate Justice Committee of LI has started this year in full swing. Having appointed our new Head of policy and programs, the work of the committee is expected to be fully reinstalled in 2021.
Mrs. Hakima made a general statement about the work for Climate Justice Committee and the importance of building our network and work.
In the meantime we will be focusing on the coming COP26 congress by preparing documents and policies for the COP26 and we will publish more of our work and show it to the rest of the members within LI and last but not least we will be inviting Key members to our CJC meetings.
The new leaders of CJC are Steven Lunares and Suzanne Rivero Baughman
With the first meeting scheduled for February, the committee will aim to meet once every two months.
Stay tuned for more substantial updates on our work!
This year Liberal International met for the Executive committee in Fès. The Liberal family was present with over 80-members from 27 countries and 32 parties from all over the world. At the welcome reception, Hakima el Haité president of LI, was very happy to see so many friends in Fès, her place of birth. The main theme of this meeting was “Peace and Prosperity through open markets”, also we met to finalize the renewal of the organization by finalizing the discussion on LI’s constitutional amendments. by The WIPP (women in political parties) inclusivity handbook was presented. The aim of the WIPP Inclusivity handbook is to strengthen the political participation of women. All LI member parties will receive a copy during 2020 and will be asked to complete the WIPP inclusivity Index for their party and send it back to LI headquarters for further analysis.
During the opening reception there was also the introduction of the Liberal Democratic Training Academy, a partnership between LI and VVD. Gijs Houben, member of the VVD, gave us some insight in the setup of the academy. It is for training politically oriented, high potential and talented youth. One of the young talents told us in her speech how she now had seen that your choice is more important than abilities, advocating for youth and defending liberalism and through her training she became really interested in politics and wants to use her new knowledge for the liberal party.
The opening gave us Mr. Mohammed Rherras, director of Human Resources, Ministry of Culture, as master of Ceremonies. He introduced himself by giving some information about Fès. We find the oldest university of the world in Fès, and this was started by a woman.
Hakima el Haité told us about the beautiful architecture of Fès with the Medina with its 5 gates and over 1000 streets. The Medina is certainly worth a visit. She continued with: “For the future the infrastructure of water will be one of the most important issues in the climate discussion. Basic needs are freedom and human rights in a changing world of economic, political and multilateralist differences between countries. We must work for peace and democracy, it is good to wish to make money, but work must be re-invented. Realism is necessary in human rights, climate change, poverty and inequality while respecting partnerships that promote democracy and stability. We must not be blind that by just making money you can also create poverty. Space for fair trade and responsible partners with support of all political parties”. Hakima el Haité gave us food for thought at this opening of our 203rd ExCom and she thanked her liberal Moroccan party, le Mouvement Populaire, for all the support she has had in the past and still gets now.
Prof. Mohamed Tamaldou, the first promoter of Liberalism in Morocco and of the other Moroccan Liberal Party, Union Constitutionelle, addressed the delegates and guests: “Morocco has hosted LI events on 3 occasions. I am happy to be here in Fès at LIEC Fès because this meeting is headed by a Moroccan woman who calls for freedom.” In the Arabic world a women president is rare. In Africa the level of freedom is different from the international. We need to translate liberal concepts such as freedom. It is still seen as revolutionary; we are developing a work plan to find a root of liberal thinking in our culture. This is most important”. “The linking between what we want and what we can do with liberal conventions is very often not translated into the Arab world. Many famous books written about freedom and liberalism cannot be read by most of the people of the Arab world. The Arab world must change its concepts of liberalism and the traditions of Islamic world. Liberalism is like a Moroccan dish in which you can put many different ingredients, we need different ingredients to get great Moroccan liberalism”.
He was worried that the world is changing shape. We are living in a critical period, where diplomatic leadership and multilateral conventions which brought us economic stability are dying. Diplomacy is being taken over by Populism and the might of money is taking over from multilateralism. We must together save Democracy which faces many challenges like that of the flows of migrants.
Mohand Laenser, secretary general of Mouvement Populaire, also reminded us of the oldest university and the culture here in Fès. He said: “We must explain liberalism and must stay away from populism. Many people in Morocco only know the negative side and not the values we are working for. After 1956 and the independence of Morocco a mulitiparty system was started and in this way tolerance all over grew. Now we want to see progress also for the women. Despite religion, which is still very dominant in Morocco, there are quite a few women visible everywhere.
Now there is a lot of unemployment and much protest. There is a huge difference between the city and the country. Most of the problems must be solved in the local community and money is needed to get this done. Also, the right of women and children must be protracted, as countries we must help each other. Defending liberalism needs courage in the Arab world. In 1992 there were 2 women in parliament. One of them came from Fès. 2011 there were 67 women, in 2017 81 women in parliament (21%) which consists of 395 members. Investing in women is important, women are different in their perception and priorities and the way they want to implement things. This can make a better balance. The women issue is a social issue and a worldwide problem, they also get paid less. We as liberals must set an example also in our parties.
The WIPP (women in political parties) inclusivity handbook that is introduced during this meeting must be shown every year to show us the progress. Astrid Thors, LI vice president, underlined the importance of the handbook. We must implement equality within our parties. The WIPP was set up for a large part by Tamara Dancheva, consultant for Liberal International. She gave us more figures. Worldwide there are 24% women active in politics. 11 women are heads of state and 12 women are heads of government. In Sweden 60% of the politicians are women since the latest elections. With more women you can make society more inclusive. Also, elections cannot be won without women. New votes can come from women voters. Without data you cannot get a good insight of the progress. One of the problems in politics is the harassment that is met by female politicians.
During the executive committee meeting the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was awarded the LI Prize for Freedom for 2020.
In the evening we had a wonderful dinner at the Riad Arabesque in the middle of the Medina.
On Saturday important resolutions were accepted during the meeting such as urgency resolutions on the situation in Cambodia, Catalonia en Hong Kong and others such as one against gender-based violence (see website LI).
Mr Cellou Dalein Diallo who is the leader of the official opposition party in Guinea and former Prime Minister from 2004 till 2006 and elected Vice President of LI in Andorra in 2014 told the Ex Com meeting that he is currently running for President in Guinea. He is hoping for support of LI members as the current President Alpha Condé wants to stay on for an unconstitutional third term. This has brought about a peaceful manifestation of 2 million people, but later demonstrations were held in protest which have been met with military force. Mr Diallo is afraid that the election will not be held or if it is held that it will be held in a lawful manner. He hopes he will survive it all. LI will follow the developments closely.
The Human Rights Committee held its administrative meeting, in which the different working groups reported on their work and plans.
The LI HRC Priority working areas will be:
1.Women’s Political Empowerment;
- Digital Space and Human Rights and
- Defence of Civil and Political Rights/ Countering the Shrinking Democratic Space around the world. In 2020 the HRC will take part at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights on February 18th. Margaret de Vos participated as member of the LI HRC on behalf of INLW
The next Liberal International 63rd congress will together with our parties and partners MRF and LIBSEEN, will convene in Sofia, Bulgaria on 25-28 June 2020.
During that congress INLW will hold its next General Meeting.
I NLW board members, Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk-Groeneveld and Lysbeth van Valkenburg-Lely were participants during this meeting. At the impressive Institute of Civil Engineers, we were present at the opening by Hakima El Haité, President of Liberal International.
Hakima El Haité gave us food for thought; “the importance to fight for freedom and for climate justice all over the world is a new challenge for all of us. We must reform our organization into a movement and help each other. People from all over who believe in our values and our constitution are very welcome”’ The partnership in the programmes of VVD, ALDE, FNF and our friends in SENEGAL will enhance to build Liberal International and make our values a daily reality. “Reactive, responsive and aggressive are the words for our communication. Good communication is a tool to democracy and our values and a weapon to answer populism. Share our activities via phone and other means”.
Hans van Baalen gave us some positive news about the new group of President Macron in the European Parliament. The cooperation between the liberal parties is going well. Alde will remain member of LI. “We Liberals must give our own story ‘. ALDE together with the new group of Macron, “En March” now form the group “Renew Europe” and together we have 108 seats in the European Parliament.
Rt. Hon. Baroness Sal Brinton, President of Liberal Democrats, underlined the importance of our liberal values and possibilities for responsibility in government. “We must all fight like a liberal . We have the courage of our convictions. We are talking about new politics where the Lib.Dem might be leading in government”
Ms Naomi Long, MEP & Leader of Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. “Liberals lead the way in gender equality and gender balance. More women must get more involved, as that could be part of the solution of several problems. Brexit is a huge problem for Northern Ireland and the result of English nationalism. This crisis can break up the UK. Scotland and Ireland want to stay in the EU.
Nationalism is part of the problem. But:
• We must go for prosperity, progress and hope. Nationalism ignores that progress can better the world.
• We must fight for our values, that makes it difficult to be a liberal.
• Clean and consistent communication. Populism simplifies everything.
Most people don’t have time to wrestle with complex difficulties; we must communicate better and therein we can learn from populists. People must see benefit, so we must demonstrate delivering our promises”.
Rt.Hon. Baroness Lindsay Northover, President of the British Group of Liberal International. “All changes are a challenge, unfortunately the British are so divided about Brexit. These complex challenges we must tackle together. Climate change and migration cannot be defeated in isolation. UK will weaken by leaving the EU. We pushed the EU away”.
During the afternoon we attended one of the political sessions. The theme was “Europe Better In or Out?” The moderator was Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, President of Honour of LI.
Hans van Baalen, President of ALDE party, gave some more details about the EU parliament. The rule of law, freedom of press, no exceptions and the Lisbon treaty are still valid in the EU parliament. The EU is functioning well.
Mr. Ümit Yalcin, ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, Turkey still wants to become a member of the EU. Perhaps that is better than Turkey going in the wrong direction, that was his question to the liberals to think about.
Ms. Trine Skei Grande, Minister of Culture & Gender equality, Venstre Norway. A system with only 2 parties gives the wrong challenge. Democracy means that small minorities are also to be heard not only the majority. That is not possible in a 2-party system. Structure builds the small countries. Trade is important but must combine with climate change. The Young vote for the climate. Problems: We find strong pollution in the seas and a fast-growing China. The change in our climate causes us to get more refugees and more problems. In Europe we are caught between Trump and China. In the Council of Europe cooperation with all countries is the future. It’s important that rules and the rule of Law must work.
Some more remarks were made by the speakers: The EU makes rules, but those rules are not always above the laws in Britain, but Britain must reform. Turkey is a neighbor and member of NATO. Political reform according to Hans van Baalen could help reform China to become a democracy.
The next day we were welcome at the National Liberal Club, established by Liberal Minister William Ewart Gladstone in 1882, home to the headquarters of Liberal International.
In this political session the theme was “Defending the Democratic Space”. Moderator was Astrid Thors, LI vice-president of LI.
Will Moy, director of Full Fact, gave us some ideas: we must get improvement of public information, trustworthy information. Elections – outsourcing transparency of content. For internet companies, it would be good to make better legislation.
Politicians are often using false information,
- some as a standard,
- some as personal data as campaign,
- some use it just to kick up dust, undermining democracy. Politicians respond to this.
Education is important to understand new technical skills and to develop awareness of information. We need new laws on how to work with this new tech. Legislation though is not the solution. How we choose to behave in politics and in civil society is! We must promote good examples. Remember 5 years ago, is different from now – for elections be aware of that!!
During the lunch period participants were able to visit both the Houses of Parliament.
In the evening the farewell dinner was given in the dining room of the National Liberal Club. We were welcomed by Karl-Heinze Paqué, deputy president of LI.
President Hakima el Haité wished us already a warm welcome for the next
LI exc. Meeting which will be held in Morocco in November 2019.
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=”Read more” less=”Read less”]
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!|