Hosted by the governing DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) under the theme “The Future of Democracy in Asia” Liberal International sent a large delegation to join in the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the CALD group and to support the Taiwanese colleagues.

In this region they are facing growing illiberalism and authoritarianism. The heightened tensions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea have brought not the End of History but the beginning of a new era of competition. Democracies are being tested for their unity and the strength of their convictions.

“We are faced with the rise of authoritarianism and must respond to increased tensions, we can work together as societies and countries that are bound by shared values and interests” that was the message from Taiwan’s Vice-President and 2024 presidential candidate, Lai Ching-Te, as he addressed the 30th anniversary congress of CALD. “This is our greatest strength and it is also the reason democracies will prevail”, he added. “we not only commemorate those past 30 years, but also present a roadmap for the future, with peace as the lighthouse and democracy as our compass, we will work together to bring a better future for people across this region”.

Taiwan Vice president Lai Ching-e, along with other representatives and partners signed the Joint Declaration on the Current State and Future of Democracy in Asia. One of the partners was our president Jayanthi Devi Balaguru for INLW.

Our INLW president, Jayanthi Devi Balaguru, was Chairperson of the CALD women’s Caucus during the past five years. Her term ended during the conference.
As she said “We felt the rise of the collective power of women through the social movement #MeToo, the unwavering spirits of the youth as they protested in the streets, the undying hope for truth and justice of imprisoned women like Senator Leila de Lima, Theary Sen and Aung San Suu Kyi. We also experienced the successes of women political leaders during the pandemic crisis and how they saved their countries”.
“Our journey to a full democracy and empowerment is long and it is far from over. We will still face challenges and obstacles that will hold us back”.
“I know that together we can overcome any obstacle and achieve our goal of a just and equitable society”.
“I look forward to the coming years where Liberal Women continue to break down barriers and shatter the glass ceiling”.

Josephine Wu Vuylsteke, Vice President, Asia Pacific/INLW stated: We have witnessed Taiwan’s success in building a vibrant democracy. But freedom isn’t free! That means democracy comes at great cost and sacrifice, and maintaining it will require the same amount of strengthening and growth. It is imperative that we help other countries in the Asia Pacific region to strive for the same liberties and democratic processes that Taiwan has been able to achieve.

Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, chairperson, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, welcomed us the first evening. He told us about the regional thread and that Taiwan deals with this using the ways and means of democracy. It is worth telling and retelling at a time when liberal democracy is losing its popular appeal and when autocrats are aggressively promoting an alternative model of governance. CALD is an outstanding network, which serves liberal political parties in Asia. Together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for freedom is has made its mark by giving new impetus to complex debates, by promoting and practicing liberal thought, including freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law.

The first part of the conference was with many women from all over CA. The ladies from Cambodia impressed us by their appeal to all of us to keep on fighting for a democracy, Unfortunately there is no longer any democratic value for the people of Camdodia. Anyone who has critical observations risks imprisonment.
In Indonesia the democracy is getting more and more accepted although there are hardly any women in parliament. Still few people are interested in politics so it is vital to make the young aware of the importance of politics.

In many of the meetings we saw that the theme of China and its influence is an important factor for all these countries. The mis-information that is used is difficult to fight but good education and using modern technology for young people is essential.
The way China tries to support countries in Africa by helping with companies and in that way getting their influence with people.

Apart from China we have to fight the threat of populism in many countries all over the world. As our past-president, Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk, remarked, almost all dictators are men!!
It shows again the importance of women in politics and other important positions.
China is also good at soft power, scholarships for young people and good work opportunities.

“For all of us liberals the only way to address China’s hegemonic rise means fortifying our democratic institutions, principles and values”. “Before we can strengthen our regional or global democracy, the democracy of our nations should first be solidified. When our democracies are this rock solid, we durably shield ourselves from autocratic China’s creeping invasions”, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, senator, Philippines.

After the conference we had a interesting tour to the National Human Rights Museum, Nylon Cheng Memorial Museum and the Taiwan Legislative Yuan.