The World Today
As adopted by the Congress of Liberal International, Ottawa/Hull, Canada 26-28 October 2000
Liberal International Congress meeting in Ottawa, Canada, applauds the continuing movement towards democracy that can be witnessed in many parts of the world, but deplores the proliferation of ethnic, religious and regional conflicts causing the displacement of millions of people. All over the world equal rights and possibilities for women has not yet been realised, extreme poverty and famine has yet to be conquered, and organised crime is expanding its operations at an alarming rate. Millions and millions of individuals have to survive without even the most basic political and economic freedoms.
Liberal International Congress urges the promotion of a culture that respects human rights, promotes democracy, good governance and the empowerment of our regional and global institutions not only to monitor developments but also to intervene when necessary.
A state can only be considered genuinely democratic if it shows unconditional respect for human rights, conducts its governance on the basis of free and fair elections with the participation of more than one party, has an independent judiciary upholding the rule of law, demonstrates transparency of government, upholds freedom of the media, and permits no influence of the military in matters of state. Liberal economics and liberal democracy go hand in hand. Freedom, democracy, the rule of law, stability and prosperity are found most frequently in one another's company.
True and lasting democracy can only be built on the foundations of civic society, where the position of liberal forces in the democratic centre is strong. There can be no justification for violence by the state, nor for terrorism or violence against the state, where citizens can participate through free and democratic means in the determination of their future.
Liberal International recognises that in many countries democracy has advanced, but enormous problems still have to be overcome. Congress expresses its concern about the deteriorating political situation in many countries.
1. deplores measures taken by some ruling parties to amend constitutional provisions delimiting the elective terms of office of heads of state and other elected officials, effectively negating democracy by imposing life presidents, and rendering impossible the removal of the party in power by free and fair elections.
2. notes with deep concern that whereas in some countries there has been real progress towards democracy, in others the situation has worsened. Congress in particular condemns the practice of 'false democracy', where opposition parties are denied access to the state, in some cases even private media, and where funding and voting fraud negates the democratic procedures.
3. demands that international election monitors should undertake more thorough investigations of all stages of the democratic process, devoting the time and human resources necessary. Countries found to have flouted democratic norms should no longer be treated as democracies by the international community.
It is obvious that many of the current international human rights treaties lack the necessary means of enforcement. This is one of the urgent challenges facing the international community.
Congress urges the establishment of parliamentary human rights committees and independent human rights commissions of ombudsmen in all states where they are not yet in place.
Congress calls upon governments to:
1. sign and ratify the treaty establishing a permanent International Criminal Court to bring to justice those who have committed crimes against humanity or violated humanitarian law.
2. integrate foreign affairs, development, and human rights policies. In this way development programmes and assistance will be more effective in improving human rights, expanding the private sector and the market economy and building good governance and liberal democracy.
3. ratify existing individual complaint mechanisms for human rights treaties and to add protocols to the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights and to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women so as to close the gap between the recognition and realisation of human rights
4. cooperate on a global scale to facilitate the fight against international crime.
5. ban capital punishment which is a serious violation of human rights.
6. promote a climate of tolerance in favour of diversity and multi-cultural societies, to condemn extremism and xenophobia in all its forms and to combat with vigour the rise of violence, oppression against ethnic and other minorities, trafficking of persons, violence against women, sexism, racism, anti-semitism and extremism in both developed and developing countries.
Aid and Trade
Liberal International continues to advocate free world trade, which is to the advantage of developing countries, new democracies and consumers world-wide, but recognises that free world trade will not be a reality until the proliferation of corruption in governments and economies is wiped out.
The building of free trade areas such as CEFTA, NAFTA, MERCOSUR and the EEA can be a positive step towards the evolution of a genuinely global system of free trade. Liberal International believes that the WTO must play a leading role in this respect. At the same time we recognise that many countries have not yet ratified the relevant agreements, and also that we are still far from a new global spirit of free trade. We therefore call for the further creation of free and accessible markets and the lifting of trade barriers particularly by the trading blocks.
Liberal International again expresses deep concern at the significant increase in the number of people living in, or facing, profound poverty. Congress calls on donor countries to make more progress with debt relief while ensuring that the recipient countries use the funds that are made available for the social and economic benefit of their people. LI is extremely concerned by the alarming speed with which AIDS is spreading in many developing countries.
We repeat our call for a new direction in North-South relations, putting at the centre of development policies the promotion of democracy as well as the fight against poverty and impoverishment.
Essential for this to succeed are:
1. respect for human rights, the encouragement of democratic development and the functioning of an independent and effective judiciary. Good governance is an essential factor for economic development and the alleviation of poverty.
2. an increase up to 0.7% of GDP for official development assistance and a redirection of official development assistance towards projects aiming at economic empowerment with special attention to the integration of the informal sectors into the formal sector of the economy, and including projects on nutrition, education and literacy, low-cost housing, and basic health ensuring that the poorest countries, especially in Africa, receive a substantial share of the assistance.
3. free trade between developing and industrialised countries, including trade in agricultural products. Congress urges developed countries to give free access to their markets to products, including agricultural products, from developing countries. Such a move would be extremely beneficial to economic development.
4. the promotion of private initiative and small and medium size enterprises
5. the fight against feminisation of poverty which calls for the measures taken to pay special attention to the position of women including sexual information and education for girls and women which are necessary to promote their economic independence. Specific attention should be given to the creation of jobs for women
6. in end to the practice of "tying assistance" to purchases from donor countries if these impose higher costs and distort developmental priorities
7. major programmes to assist the developing countries in reducing their debt-burden and to build the necessary institutions for a democratic society.
8. for governments of developing countries to quickly start public awareness programmes on HIV and AIDS and promote the use of condoms and for donor countries to generously assist in the fight against AIDS and HIV.