Liberal International (LI) is the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic political parties.
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Final tickets for Verhofstadt Brexit lecture in LondonThursday 19 January 2017 17:01 With tensions raised after UK prime minister Theresa May set out her controversial plan for the United Kingdom ‘s departure from the European Union, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator for Brexit and leader of the ALDE Group (LI full member), Guy Verhofstadt, is set to take questions on the future of Europe at Liberal International’s 2017 Isaiah Berlin Lecture at Chatham House at the end of January.
In the event that there are no more seats left your name will be added to a reserve list.
The director of Chatham House, Dr Robin Niblett, and the president of Liberal International, Dr Juli Minoves, will deliver opening remarks. The Isaiah Berlin Lecture has attracted top-level speakers in recent years, including Governor Howard Dean amid the US presidential elections and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, addressing a New York audience on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Keep up with the latest news and join the debate online using the hashtag #IBL2017
Experts have shared their solutions to some of the challenges governments around the world face in countering radicalisation and extremism and advancing liberty, with the release this week of the 7th Liberal International Human Rights Bulletin. The Bulletin focuses on one the LI Human Rights Committee's core priorities of securing and promoting equal rights both for the religious and non-religious peoples.
Writing about the complexity of these two dimensions under the principle of freedom of belief, Member of LI Human Rights Committee and Former Member of Parliament Boris Van Der Ham (D66, LI full-member), said: "Liberals should be active in trying to get rid of legislation that is harmful against the non-religious or to the expression of non-religious views. However it is not be possible to 'fix' this problem with new legislation alone. Liberals should also take a stance against social exclusion which often occurs in orthodox religious environments even if there is suffiicient legal protection in place."
The Bulletin provides further insight into the issues by presenting several video interviews, where participants at the most recent LI HRC Meeting including the Mayor of the Molenbeek minicipality in Brussels Francoise Schepmans (Mouvement Reformateur, LI full-member), discuss the challenges when it comes to deradicalization including fighting against stigmatization of religious and in particular Muslim minority groups.
Stressing on the importance of multi-cultural and inter-faith dialogues in order to further integration in communities where social exclusion drives radicalization Mayor Schepmans said: "The Molenbeek Cultural Center is a place where there are lots of activities and meetings, for children and adults. It is a venue for life and we are trying to encourage the public to meet here. Therefore I’m thrilled and very proud that Liberal International has come all the way to visit Molenbeek, to the center of the community, in order to have a dialogue and allow the exchange of expertise with me, and the rest of the actors behind the scene. This allows to better understand the situation in Molenbeek, which permits to move forward with specific ideas to abolish radicalization.”
The full edition of the Bulletin can be accessed by clicking here.
Parliamentary group of Centerpartiet inspired after London visitThursday 19 January 2017 13:01 “As liberals we need to stand up for an open, tolerant society and against the aggressive nationalistic and pessimistic forces that are now growing. We can turn worries to hope and dissatisfaction to determination,” concluded Annie Lööf, President of Centre Party (Sweden - LI full member) after leading the party's parliamentary group on a visit to London.
“I’ve had some very interesting meetings with British parliamentarians and business leaders about cooperation, Brexit, trade and openness,” Annie Lööf tweeted after meetings. She characterised the meetings on Brexit, trade and cooperation with UK Liberal Democrats, party president Baroness Sal Brinton and the former LibDem Leader and UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as “fantastically inspiring, honest and uplifting”.
Emil Kirjas, LI Secretary General welcomed to group at National Liberal Club, which houses LI's headquarters. He summarised the lively discussions on Sweden, Europe, Russia, US, Human Rights and democracy: “Consistent message and sticking to values develops trust and is something that people will opt for, especially when they get disappointed by instant solutions which don't bring better life. Strategic partnerships based on shared principles are more fruitful than daily deals.”
For a fourth consecutive year, Liberal International (LI) is to co-host the largest gathering of human rights heroes and activists on the eve of the United Nations Human Rights Council's main session in Geneva, Switzerland.
In partnership with 24 other non-profit organisations including the main organiser of the event UN Watch (LI partner) and the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY - LI full-member), survivors will reveal their experiences and in doing shed light on the worst human rights abusers from around the world.
Chair of the Philippines Human Rights Commission and Member of the LI Human Rights Committee (LI HRC) Chito Gascon will address both the opening of the Summit at the United Nations on 20 February, testifying to President Rodrigo Duterte's policy of the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines. This follows the recent announcement by Mr Gascon that the human rights watchdog led by him will investigate claims by the President that he personally killed suspects involved in drug dealing while mayor of Davao.
The Vice-President of the Africa Liberal Network, leader of the Congolese opposition and LI HRC Member Medard Mulangala will stress the urgency of responding to the volatile situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following a decision by the Electoral Commission to delay the scheduling of Presidential elections in the country. In essence this means paving the way for the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, to stand for an unconstitutional third term.
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Dr. Irwin Cotler (LPC, LI full-member) who also sits on the Board of UN Watch, will also speak at the event concentrating on some of his recent human rights work not least his efforts to secure the release of 2017 LI Prize for Freedom Laureate and jailed Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi.
On the fringes of the Summit IFLRY will be hosting a lunch session on youth, the media and freedom of speech.
Attendance to the Summit is free of charge but registration is required in advance and can be completed by clicking here.
EP Brexit Chief to deliver 2017 Isaiah Berlin Lecture in LondonFriday 13 January 2017 12:01 The European Parliament’s chief negotiator for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, Guy Verhofstadt MEP, will deliver Liberal International’s 2017 Isaiah Berlin Lecture at the world-renowned think tank, Chatham House, this month.
On 30th January Mr Verhofstadt, who is also in the contest on behalf of the ALDE Group (LI full member) to become the next president of the European Parliament, will speak about the challenges facing Europe amid growing illiberalism across the continent. The former prime minister is expected to discuss developments surrounding the United Kingdom’s plan to withdraw from the European Union, after the UK’s prime minister triggers article 50 of the EU’s charter, which is expected to happen in March this year.
Mr Verhofstadt’s lecture comes ahead of crucial elections in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, where the incumbent governments all face a tough fight against the rising tide of populism in their respective countries.
Registration has sold out in matter of hours on 17 January. Waitlist is available online.
Last year’s Isaiah Berlin Lecture was delivered by Governor Howard Dean in the heat of the United States primary elections, during a surge in popularity for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. This year’s Lecture promises to be equally well-timed as the Europe Union sits on the cusp of the most dramatic political changes and challenges to the established orderin its history.
The Lecture will also feature an opportunity to buy a signed copy of Guy Verhofstadt's latest book, Europe's Last Chance: Why the European States Must Form a More Perfect Union.
21st Century Parties: adapting to changing realitiesFriday 13 January 2017 11:01 Political parties must regularly adapt and continuously answer the challenges that new political and technological contexts present. In this context, the National Democratic Institute (LI Cooperating Organisation) launched in 2016 a 21st Century Parties Initiative on party renewal. On 10 January, NDI organised a conference bringing politicians and experts to further the conversation about how parties would keep up with changing citizen demands.
The Conference in Brussels gathered many representatives of liberal parties. ALDE Party (LI cooperating organisation)President and LI President of Honour Hans van Baalen MEP addressed a pressing issue of how political parties must fend off populism & political polarisation. “We must be close to the citizens. A modern politician must be in permanent interaction with the voters and should directly discuss solutions to the pressing issues of the citizen,” he said. He stressed that “populists must be answered back in a resolute way”, offering “real solutions that people understand.”
Emil Kirjas, LI Secretary General said that from voters’ perspective “there seems to be a narrowing ideological divide among the liberals, conservatives and social democrats”. He cautioned that “there seems to be a new clear ideological division among those who believe in institutions and those who don’t believe in institutional solutions but strong leaders.” Kirjas said that “these tendencies are not only a threat to our democratic societies”, but “we already live in dangerous times and must offer a joint response to that before it is very late.”
“The way citizens organize and communicate has changed,” said Ivan Doherty, director of political party programming at NDI. “This initiative aims to draft a blueprint to help parties adapt to these changing demands, as well as changing global norms.”
2016 has been a busy and challenging year for liberals worldwide. From confronting the realities of Russian annexation in Georgia to participating in the global climate change summit COP22, we would like to thank everyone who has made the year such a brilliant success and contributed to advancing the cause of liberalism around the world.
With the LI office now set to close from 19th December until 6th January we would like to recapture some of the highlights from 2016!
Liberal Tsai Ing-wen elected first female president of Taiwan – read more here
After election by the 196th Executive Committee in Tbilisi, the new formation of the LI Human Rights Committee gets to work…
Amid concerns for the sanctity of human rights in the Philippines following the elections of President Duterte, LI President Juli Minoves extends the support of the international liberal family to Philippines’ Liberal Vice-President, Leni Robredo
[A] Courtesy visit to Calauan, Laguna officials, Liberation International and meeting with NHA representatives. pic.twitter.com/wlbDdbewm8
LI President of Honour, Lord John Alderdice (Liberal Democrats, UK - LI full member), has been presented with the 2016 Global Thinkers Forum Award for his international efforts in promoting peace and collaboration.
The Global Thinkers Forum is a global platform promoting accountable leadership, women’s empowerment and youth development and its Annual Award aims to recognize individuals who have empowered others and actively effected positive change.
Lord Alderdice was recognized for his continuous work on conflict resolution including for his key role in negotiating the 1998 Good Friday Agreement as Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland at the time.
Commenting on the receipt of the award he said:"For those of a liberal and progressive disposition 2016 has been a very difficult year, so to finish it with a presentation that celebrates positive thought and action was really encouraging. It was also humbling to hear of the extraordinary work of other laureates, not least of course the International Committee of the Red Cross.”
Among other Honourees were the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Alwaleed Philanthropies and HH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal,world-acclaimed Turkish author Elif Şafak and One Heart World-Wide, an organisation that helps reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in rural areas.
The LI President of Honour currently serves as Chairman for the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building in Belfast and Director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Harris Manchester College at Oxford University.
Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister who subsequently broke from the ruling party and led the most successful opposition to its 60-year rule, was sent to prison in 2015 for a conviction of sodomy which was trumped up to keep him from contesting the elections in 2018. Through its work at the United Nations Human Rights Council, resolutions and statements Liberal International has fought for Mr. Anwar’s freedom alongside scores of international human rights organisations.
LI President, Dr. Juli Minoves, who met with PKR leaders in Malaysia last year, said: “This appalling verdict is an affront to the democratic values held by a majority of Malaysians. Everything about the case is untenable: these are politically motivated charges for crimes that should never be in the books in a country respectful of human rights. Liberal International condemns the whole process. A good mesure of the political motivations in this case is that many, like myself, were not allowed to even visit Dr. Ibrahim in jail, in spite of his poor health, when we were in Malaysia recently. This is a travesty of justice.”
In 2013 Anwar Ibrahim’s liberals dealt the incumbent party its biggest ever electoral blow when the PKR won the popular vote but missed out on forming a government due to the number of legislators elected. Since then a major scandal has surfaced concerning the illicit enrichment of the current prime minister Najib Razak in amounts totalling hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from a Malaysian government investment fund, as documented by a US Justice Department complaint filed recently in US Federal Court.
“The international community must see this verdict against Anwar for what it is: a political shot across the bows of the liberal-democratic opposition in Malaysia ahead of the elections in 2018. Liberal International and our global member parties are outraged by the mixture of corruption, disregard for the rule of law and political motivations that have landed Anwar, an innocent liberal politician, in jail. We will continue our fight for justice and we stand in solidarity with our Malaysian partners.”, added the LI president.
Addressing reporters once the hearing had concluded, Mr. Anwar said simply and defiantly: “It is not the end of the road.”
Coinciding with the verdict, PKR leader and daughter of the imprisoned liberal, Nurul Izzah Anwar MP, spoke to Quartz media, outlining her fight for justice in Malaysia. Facing arrest on charged of ‘sedition’, Ms. Anwar said: “When my father was arrested in 1998 it really gave me a sense of how sacred, how valuable, working democratic institutions can be.”
In 2015 PKR president and Anwar’s spouse, Dr. Waz Azizah Wan Ismail, addressed LI’s 194th Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, Switzerland where she spoke of the plight of Anwar Ibrahim who was then suffering in custody without access to urgent medical attention. The 194th EC unanimously adopted a resolution on the struggle for justice in Malaysia.
Elections see LDP and opposition end the authoritarian rule in MacedoniaWednesday 14 December 2016 18:12 The early elections in Macedonia have seen an overall victory for the opposition political parties, which pledged during their campaigns to end years of rule by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party. Liberalno-demokratska partija (LDP), LI full member, returns to the Macedonian parliament with 2-3 seats, as part of the broad coalition led by the Social Democrats (SDSM).
Following two tense years marred by protests in the aftermath of the massive wiretapping scandal that revealed high degree of corruption in the highest level of the government, the elections were seen as an end to the political crisis. The latest European Union progress report on the application of the nation to join the block spoke of “state capture” by the governing party. Without a clear victory and with a virtual tie in the number of parliamentary seats won the political parties will have to find a way to continue the reform processes in the country.
“It is clear that the ruling party has lost its capacity to govern independently, in an arrogant style, without checks and balances. Macedonia is now a different country, the authoritarian rule is over,” commented LI Secretary General Emil Kirjas, a native of Macedonia and member of LDP, in a national TV discussion as the results were coming in. The massive turnout surpassing 70% in many urban centres helped the opposition won all major towns in the country, giving a major blow to the government. In 3 months Macedonians will be voting at the local elections.
FNF European Future Conference: We need to take away the fear of freedomFriday 9 December 2016 11:12 German Federal President Joachim Gauck quoted one of the most influential [liberal] thinkers of his generation, Ralf Dahrendorf, who in a "prophetic speech" in 1997 warned that globalisation might "produce more authoritarian than liberal constitutions.” This is the challenge which the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (LI cooperating organisation) aimed to answer with the "Re-Shaping Europe" European Future Conference in Berlin this week.
The Federal President told the audience that included guests and representatives from across the world: "We need to take away the fear of freedom." In the words of President Gauck “it is about bringing Europe back into shape and holding it”.
Christian Linder, the leader of the German Free Democrats (LI full member) spoke out against the politics of fear of the populists. He said: "We do not have to fear the changes, but the fear. Let us not give more power than they really have to those who hate Europe and progress." Lindner called for "a strong, liberal and subsidiary Europe as a region where ideas and regions compete, and as an area of freedom and opportunities."
Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg from Demokratesch Partei (LI full member) addressed the current EU challenges with focus on the refugee crisis: "Without a true perspective on the future for the people of the Arab world and in Africa, accompanied by democratic, economic and social progress, the EU will continue to deal with the problem of refugees and immigration, as well as with security challenges". He added that "walls against refugees will definitely not be able to solve this problem." PM Bettel identified Europe's digitization as one of its primary objectives: "The larger the uniform digital market, the greater the investment and growth potential."
Slovenian Prime Minister and leader of LI member SMC Miro Cerar said that Slovenians "strongly believe in European cooperation, trust and common values." He highlighted the “restoring of trust” as the key challenge the EU presently needs to meet if it wants to cope with contemporary issues. He called for better education and sent a clear message that "future EU must be built on common values not on weapons." “Strong Union is needed more than ever,” he concluded.
The ALDE Party President and LI President of Honour Hans van Baalen MEP called for Europe that listens the genuine problems of the people and governments that represent wider segments of society. “We need a stronger government in Germany, that includes also the liberal voice of FDP,” said van Baalen.
Speaking on the conditions in Europe the leader of the Polish liberal party Nowoczesna Ryszard Petru said the "populists handle fear but don't solve problems - they over-promise but under deliver," stroking an optimistic tone saying that the liberals can stop them "because [we] deliver."
Liberal International was presented by a high-level delegation, including Vice Presidents Minister Hakima el Haite and Markus Löning, Secretary General Emil Kirjas and Treasurer Manfred R Eisenbach.
The DA is confident that the ANC government of South Africa acted unconstitutionally when it by-passed parliament and announced its intention to withdraw the country from the ICC earlier this year and, in doing so, violating the guarded liberal value of the rule of law.
In a statement, the DA said: “We are optimistic that the Court will find in favour of the Constitution and uphold the precepts of the Constitutional which all South Africans, including the Courts, are duty-bound to do.”
Sidelining parliament is just the latest indication of the ANCs disregard for due process after President Zuma provided safe passage for Sudanese President Bashir, wanted by the ICC.
The DA’s appal to the high court comes days after the election of a new government in Gambia, which has pledged to roll back the decision of the former president to withdraw Gambia from the ICC.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">[STATEMENT] DA heads to Constitutional Court to compel Zuma to establish Commission of Inquiry into <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StateCapture?src=hash">#StateCapture</a>. <a href="https://t.co/kNBYa6XU5e">pic.twitter.com/kNBYa6XU5e</a></p>— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) <a href="https://twitter.com/MmusiMaimane/status/805719625900195840">December 5, 2016</a></blockquote>
Gathering a diverse set of Liberal International Human Rights Committee (LIHRC) members, liberal politicians and representatives from across the civil society sectorin Brussels this week, the LI Human Rights Committee met for the second time this year to discuss freedom of belief in an era of radicalization.
The first part of the event was hosted by the Mayor of Molenbeek (a municiplaity of Brussels), Francoise Schepmans (Mouvement Refarmatuer, LI full-member), at the Cultural Center of Molenbeek alongside Jo De Ro, Member of Palriament from Open VLD (LI full-member) and Olivier Vanderhaeghen, a Local Radicalisation Prevention Officer.
Chaired by Boris Van Der Ham, LI HRC Member and Former Member of Palriament (Democrats 66, LI full-member), the debate focused on the challenges of combatting radicalization and on the prevention of stigmatization of religious minorities.
Delivering welcoming remarks on behalf of the LI Bureau and LI HRC, Chair of LI HRC and LI VP on the Bureau Markus Loening explained that it is important to debunk the myth of Molenbeek as it is largely considered as a hot bed for terrorism in Brussels while at the same time Muslim residents of the minicipality are being discriminated on a daily basis.
Addressing the issue of integration, the Mayor said: "Belgium has been an immigration land for a long time but integration has not been prioritised. It is a challenge which needs to be addressed by both the federal government and municipalities."
De Ro explained that a specilisit on religious affairs has to be incorporated into the integration work in order for it to be effective whereas Vanderhaeghen stressed that religion is not the main driver of radicalisation but it is rather an ideological/identity problem stemming from social isolation and emotional fragility. "Radicalization needs a multi-disciplinary approach as it doesn't take place in the mosque but rather in the public space. The emotional link between the radicalised person and his/her family needs to be re-enforced so that re-integration and social insertion in the society can be achieved." he concluded.
The second part of the event was hosted by LI HRC Member and Member of the European Parliament Ilhan Kyuchyuk (MRF, LI full-member) at the European Parlaiment where speakers included Dr. Solomon Passy, Former Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, Abir Al-Sahlani, LI HRC Member and Former Member of Parliament (Centerpartiet, LI full-member), Sophie In't Veld, Deputy Leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament (D66, LI full-member) and Adam Deen, Managing Director at the Quilliam Foundation.
Al-Sahlani spoke at length about the need for democratization in the Middle East in order to adress the underlying cause of fundametalism which in turn breathes extremism while In't Veld insisted on removing class justice in order to prevent radicalization.
Dr. Passy enriched the discussions with presenting a perspective on the need to manage migration while Deen focused on the lack of tolerance created by extremism which in turn manifests into violence. "Acts of terrorism confirm that there is a clash of civilizations. Reform must come from within the Islamic tradition which has resources to bring about a liberal Islam" he further explained.
The concluding remarks of the debate were delivered by LI Past President Annemie Neyts (Open VLD, LI full-member) who emphasized that radicalization has become a "container phrase" as we don't know what it means and therefore we need to invest in understanding the triggers of the problem.
Liberal International reflects on the events of the past 12 months which have promoted and advanced human rights internationally, as the international liberal community prepares to celebrate international Human Rights Day on Saturday 10 December.
During this year’s Human Rights Day, we look back at all the opportunities LI have taken to promote their four priority areas within Human Rights: Freedom of Belief, Women’s Rights, Responsibility to Protect and LGBT rights.
LI organised a side event at the 135th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva in October, as well as at COP22 in Marrakech in November, where both events focused on eliminating violence against women, specifically in politics, with the cooperation of NDI.
Under the theme “Freedom of Belief in an Era of Radicalization”, the LI Human Rights Committee meet last week convened in Brussels, to discuss the priorities of the new year. The event also included the presentation of the 2016 LI Prize for Freedom, which was awarded to Raif Badawi, imprisoned Liberal Saudi Blogger. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, accepted the award on his behalf. “This prize goes to this very courageous man. [Raif Badawi] hasn’t seen his wife or kids for so many years now, and he’s still standing strong,” said Markus Leoning, Chairman of LIHRC.
This year we released the latest publication from LI - 'The Responsibility to Protect: Ten Years on - what next?' Drawing together the conclusions of prominent liberals, ministers, diplomats, and civil society experts from LI's meeting in the European Parliament on Responsibility to Protect.
One of our working groups focuses exclusively on LGBTI rights, and the LIHRC continue to promote the cause. During the summer, LI Secretary General, Emil Kirjas attended the #IDAHOT2016 Forum in #Denmark and shared a powerful message: "Touch hearts to change minds", he said.
“It is in the midst of challenge, that liberalism thrives, it is when pushed from left to right that liberal values punch back: this is a lesson we have inherited from our liberal founders,” stated LI President, Dr. Juli Minoves
All of these events and gatherings are perfect examples of liberals coming together to further the fight for human rights. On 10 December, we are proud to stand together and fight!
In the presence of special guests from four regions of the world, Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi and President of the Raif Badawi Foundation, has been presented with the 2016 LI Prize for Freedom on behalf of her husband at a special ceremony at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Addressing a diverse group of participants to the event, including representatives of the media, Haidar said: "The fact that Raif Badawi has been awarded this esteemed prize is in itself a reminder of Raif's own liberal message: the message of respect for the human being as an individual and his/her right to freedom and to live freely without fear or oppression: no matter the gender, religion, sect or ideology. This prize is saying to [Raif] and to every freedom fighter in the MENA region, and to everyone who is dreaming of democratic change, that theirs is a legitimate human dream!"
Awarding the Prize of behalf of LI, Chair of LI Human Rights Committee and LI Vice-President Markus Loening, expressed gratitude for the work the Raif Badawi Foundation is doing to give hope to others that individuals can stand and make a difference.
Criticizing the regime of Saudi Arabia he further said: "It tells us something about the regime in Saudi Arabia. It should also tell us something about our relations with them. Too many countries including my own [Germany] have too friendly relations with a regime which commits crimes against humanity. This Prize for Freedom goes to this courageous man who hasn’t seen his wife and children for a year now.”
Former Member of the Canadian Parliament and legal counsel for Raif, Dr. Irwin Cotler(Liberal Party of Canada, LI full-member), spoke of the importance of the prize for the furthering of Badawi's cause saying:“I commend Liberal International for awarding its Prize for Freedom to Raif Badawi, who has displayed great courage in standing up for freedom and human rights. It is particularly poignant that the Prize is being awarded the week of UN Human Rights Day – highlighting the struggle for fundamental rights that finds expression both in the case and cause of Raif Badawi and the work of Liberal International.”
Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 on a charge of insulting Islam through electronic channels and brought to court on several charges including apostasy. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, then resentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison plus a fine in 2014. The lashes were to be carried out over 20 weeks.
Previous recipients of the LI Prize for Freedom include Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma/Myanmar) , Benazir Bhutto(Pakistan), and Waris Dirie (Somalia).
A full version of Ensaf's Haidar speech can be found by clicking here.
LI announces the establishment of African Human Rights AwardThursday 8 December 2016 17:12 In recognition individuals or organisations that advance liberal-democratic values and human rights in Africa, Liberal International is pleased to announce the establishment of an annual Africa Human Rights Award, with the support of the president of the republic of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, leader of LI full member Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR).
Each year, LI will present the Award to an institution/think-tank/non-governmental organization or a person representing an institution/think-tank/non-governmental organization recognized for work on promotion and advancement of human rights and basic democratic principles in Africa.
Member parties, cooperating organisations of Liberal International and members of LI Bureau and LI Human Rights Committee are entitled to submit nominations.The nomination is to be accompanied by a brief overview of the institution/thinktank/organisation including its mission, objectives and on-going projects along with the reason for the nomination.
The laureate’s work should cover one of the four priority work areas of LI Human RightsProgramme (LGBTI Rights, Women’s Rights, Responsibility to Protect and Freedom of Belief) and it is to provide direct support and recognition to work advancing core liberal values on the African continent.The Prize is to bear a monetary value of 5000 Euros. While the institution/think-tank/nongovernmental organisation does not have to be physically based on the African continent, its work does have to focus on human rights and democratic principles in Africa.
Those eligible to submit a nomination are encouraged to do so by no later than Wednesday, 25 January 2017by sending an email satisfying the criteria mentioned above to the Head of LI Human Rights Programme Tamara Dancheva (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The winner of the award will be announced in the framework of LI's next statutory event.
LI Vice-President on the Bureau and Minister of the Environment of Morocco, Hakima El Haite (Mouvement Populaire - LI full member), has been awarded France's Legion of Honour: the highest honour for civilian merits.
Accepting the award Minister El Haite said: "I am very honored to receive this distinction. This decoration reflects the excellence of the friendship which unites Morocco and France. I will continue to campaign for the protection of the environment as a human right."
Presented to her by former Prime Minister Laurent Fabiuson on behalf of President François Hollande, the decoration recognised Mrs El Haité’s career and commitment to the ecological cause both nationally and internationally for her will to “implement the ecological momentum".
Minister El-Haite played a pivotal role during the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit (COP 21) in Paris, which saw all permanent member states of the UN agree to lower global warming well below 2 Degrees Celcius, and subsequently hosted the most recent UN Summit, COP 22, in Marrakech, Morocco where member states debated the implementation of the reached agreement.
Delivering the keynote speech of the Economic Freedom Network Asia (ENF) Conference in Manila, The Philippines, LI Vice-President and Chairman of LI's Human Rights Committee, Markus Loening, has called for prioritising human dignity before economic freedom.
Stressing that globalization and free trade are key for fighting poverty and creating jobs, but pose negative consequences for human rights which remain to be addressed, he said: "Globalisation is a source for innovation and economic growth. The freedom to move goods, capital and ideas around the world must be protected and expanded. However, slavery, child labor and other violations of human rights are also a reality in supply chains. Liberals must address these downsides of globalization if we want make the case for open borders and open markets."
Loening also discussed at length the state's and businesses' responsibility in improving people's lives economically and protecting their respecitve human rights by emphasizing the responsibility of both to create access to a remedy for cases of human rights violations. "Respecting human rights is a legal obligation for anyone and that includes anyone acting on behalf of a business. If we believe that open markets are for the good of everyone we should make sure that is really so. The task for liberals is to bring open markets and the protection of human rights together. Freedom comes with responsibility and accountability," he concluded.
The Philippines Human Rights Commissioner and Member of LI Human Rights Committee Chito Gasconalso delivered a keynote speech at the opening of the Conference with the Vice-President of the Republic of the Philippines Leni Robredo delivering an opening keynote on the second day of the event.
The Economic Freedom Network Asia network brings together liberal politicians, thinks tanks, and economists toenhance human development and economic growth in Asia, in order to promote civil societies, market economies and individual liberty.
The Conference was jointly organized by ENF and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF, LI Cooperating Organisation).
LI full member in Lebanon – Future Movement – gathered over 2,400 delegates and 400 observers last weekend for its national conference, where future priorities and policies were discussed. A two-day general assembly rallied supporters from around the country, including re-elected Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri ashead of the party and Ahmad Hariri as Secretary General.
Opening the Conference, PM Hariri said the convention is being held during “one of the most delicate and difficult stages in the history of Lebanon and the Arab region.” After two days of lengthy and passionate discussions, PM Hariri characterised the conference as “a new start for the Future Movement”, adding: “the interactions that we saw at the convention were wonderful… we see that the situation has started to improve and people feel that the atmosphere is positive.”
Dzhevdet Chakarov, LI Vice President and Bureau’s Treasurer together with Emil Kirjas, LI Secretary General, attended the Conference. Congratulating the Lebanese liberal colleagues, Dr Chakarov said: “What our Lebanese colleagues are doing is exceptional. Only 50km from the unimaginable atrocities in Syria, we witness a political convention where openness, tolerance and inclusiveness are flourishing.” LI SG added: “In times of discouraging world news this impressive display of democracy shows in the very heart of the Arab world that modernity and liberty are prevalent values especially among the young people.”
In the highly contested elections, delegates exercised an unprecedented support for the region free vote electing 18 of the 30 members of the Political Bureau of the party. The party leader appointed the additional 12, mainly consisting of women and young individuals, honouring his pledge at the beginning of the conference “to improve the representation of women and youth.” FM Secretary-General Ahmad Hariri commented: “women and youth are at the heart of the Lebanese society and its basis for advancing towards the future.”
The Future Movement announced a 20-point policy plan that will govern its future conduct.
The two former foreign ministers came together in California for a talk with Model United Nations Students at ULV University in Los Angeles, California, just days after the American election. Luis Derbez analysed the surprising US election result in the framework of a 15-year evolution of the geopolitical (World Trade Center attack) and economic (crisis of 2008) context for American citizen. "Dr. Derbez’s informed vision of international affairs since the start of the new millennium helps us understand better the challenges that have surfaced against liberal democratic principles in politics and economics. He is an old friend from Mexico with a sharp eye for long-term trends and some of his analysis converges with conclusions we drew in the Marrakech Executive Committee", said LI President Juli Minoves.
Dr. Derbez, who is currently the President of the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico, proposed a talk on the war in Iraq, and the role of the United Nations at the time, which he linked with current events in the US.
Raif Badawi to be awarded LI Prize for Freedom in European Parliament ceremonyThursday 24 November 2016 11:11 On 6 December 2016, the Chair of LI's Human Rights Committee and Germany's former Federal Commissioner for Human Rights, Markus Löning, will present Liberal International’s Prize for Freedom to the wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has become a global icon of the right to free expression following his incarceration in a Saudi prison in 2012.
The Prize for freedom, awarded annually since 1986, is Liberal International’s highest human rights award and is recognition of individual who has campaigned or drawn national and international attention to a particular human rights issues. Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 for ‘insulting Islam through electronic channels’ and charged with apostasy; in reality Raif Badawi’s crime was to criticise the dominance of religion on his website, Free Saudi Liberals. In 2013, Mr. Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, increased in 2014 to ten years and 1,000 lashes.
Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, will receive the Prize on behalf of the jailed liberal at a ceremony in the European Parliament on Tuesday 6th December. LI members and supporters are encouraged to show support and solidarity for Raif Badawi by engaging online via Liberal International’s Facebook and Twitter pages and using the hashtag #LIHRC.
Earlier recipients of the Prize include Benazir Bhutto to Aung San Suu Kyi. Raif Badawi was nominated for the 2016 Prize for Freedom by the German Group of Liberal International (DGLI - LI full member).
Elevating LI's call about the need for universal adoption of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women (Istanbul Convention), the ALDE Group in the European Parliament (LI full-member), has announced that it will call on all individual European Union (EU) member states and the EU itself to ratify the Convention.
Commenting on this important move, ALDE Coordinator of the Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) Committee in the EP Angelika Mlinar MEP said: "Violence against women is a violation of women's human rights. It is regrettable that only 14 Member States have ratified the Istanbul Convention. The accession of the EU to this convention is vital, as for the moment it is the only binding instrument to prevent violence against women and girls, protect the victims and punish the perpetrators".
Liberal International has been at the forefront of global efforts to end violence against women and girls by becoming the first and only political internaitonal to call for the extension of the Istanbul Convention beyond the borders of Europe. Over the course of the past 2 years, LI Human Rights Committee (LI HRC) has taken the call before the UN Human Rights Council, UN Commission on the Status of Women and its global memberhsip by urging for a comprehensive international legislation to address and prevent the causes of such violence.
As part of these efforts, LI has also recently joined forces with the National Democratic Institute on their #NottheCost campaign on stopping violence against women in politics which saw the cause being advanced before liberal human rights parliamentarians at the 135th Inter-Parliamentary Union Session and LI member parties at the 197th LI Executive Committee meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.
Global community affirms commitment to Paris Accord at COP22Wednesday 23 November 2016 17:11 Minister of Environment for Morocco and LI Vice President, Hakima El Haite, has spoken with optimism at the success of the 22nd session of the United Nations Climate Change Summit, known as COP22, which ended this week in Marrakesh, Morocco, as the international community affirmed its dedication to preserving the legacy of the global climate change accord signed in Paris last year.
The conference, which coincided with Liberal International's 197th Executive Committee meeting, forged international cooperation on climate change and brought together the public and private sectors of development to pave the route for implementing climate change policy.
“What I have seen in Morocco is something I have never seen anywhere in the world. We destroyed all the walls and we built bridges between the climate negotiations and the real world”, Minister El Haite said after the Summit's conclusion.
Minister El Haite was also happy that the talks affirmed Morocco’s presence as a role model in the region for international diplomacy.
“The best conclusion is the end result of the committee and having received congratulations from His Majesty [the King of Morocco]. It reflects the total success of COP22, where millions of participants from around the world assembled in Marrakech. [...] We Moroccans are so proud of our country and King -- we were able to carry Morocco so high in the world. By putting Morocco at the heart of international diplomacy, we were able to write a new page in history.” She said.
The international community reaffirmed the terms set out in the Paris Accord and worked to provide frameworks for its implementation and came out with the Marrakech Action Proclamation. In other successes, the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a community of 47 of the poorest countries in the world, committed to generating 100% of their energy from renewable resources as soon as possible.
The conference occurred under the shadow of the election of President-Elect of the USA, Donald Trump, who has frequently spoken out against the Paris Accord and promised to withdraw from it, if elected. However, the international community remained resilient in solidifying the terms set out in the Paris Accord and fear was transformed into a resolve to working strategically to combat the worrying rise of the earth’s temperatures.
“I am sharing experiences of transforming violent political conflict in Northern Ireland and in other parts of the world”, said Lord Alderdice. “I found it useful to speak about the 'Civil Paths to Peace' report that I was involved in writing for the Commonwealth leaders under the chairmanship of Amartya Sen.” Particular focus was addressed to young people, education, social media and the role of women.
While in Beirut, it was announced that on his return to London Lord Alderdice will be awarded the Global Thinkers Forum's 2016 Honorary Award for “Excellence in Promoting Peace and Collaboration.” Global Thinkers Forum (GTF) is a global platform that brings together a diverse network of thought leaders to share their visions of the future, create meaningful conversations around them and effect positive change in the world.
UN GA confirms independent expert on LGBTI rightsWednesday 23 November 2016 16:11 After a vote this week, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly confirmed a special UN Independent Expert on the Protection Against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). LI's Human Rights Committee earlier welcomed the appointment of the Independent Expert by the UN Human Rights Council.
By margin of 84-77 with 12 abstentions the UN GA Third Committee – responsible for Human Rights - rejected the postponement of the appointment, which was requested by number of African nations, led by Botswana, citing “cultural” objections. Vitit Muntarbhorn, an international law professor from Thailand, was appointed in September, and his mandate came into effect on 1 November.
“The Third Committee’s vote affirms that the right to be protected from violence and discrimination applies equally to LGBT people,” said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch and former leader of D66 in the Netherlands (LI full member). “It also respects the integrity of the Human Rights Council, as the UN’s top human rights body, to ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect rights not just in theory, but in practice.”
LGBT anti-discrimination and rights are among top 4 priorities in the Human Rights work of Liberal International. It is high on the agenda for many LI member parties, with DPP in Taiwan and LPC in Canada setting the last examples. However, the issue is a divisive one among the UN membership, with homosexuality still a crime in more than 70 nations. Several states said on Monday that they would not recognize or cooperate with the special rapporteur.
“Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, LI full member) is important for our liberal family, an important party in the region and the regional liberal organization LIBSEEN, an important partner of the ALDE Party and an important element of global liberalism”, said Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP, Vice president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party) and member of LI Human Rights Committee at the meeting with the LDP leadership in Skopje.
Accompanied by ALDE Party Treasurer Roman Jakič and LI Secretary General Emil Kirjas, Kyuchyuk said that the delegation was visiting various cities in Macedonia “to express our support and show our solidarity with our friends because they deserve a better future.” He added: “Our support is not only for them but for Macedonia and the Macedonian democracy. The region has only one way, and it's European, pro-European and one to NATO”.
The European Parliamentarian, who is also leader of the Youth of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF – LI full member), connected the situation in Macedonia with his native Bulgaria, where the opposition won the elections just a few days earlier. Kyuchyuk said: “We chose a President who is not from the ruling party. People made that change. Not political parties, but the free Bulgarian citizens came out and voted for that change. They said the country cannot be run in the current way. This political shift could have an impact on Macedonia. Bulgaria and Macedonia are friends, neighbors, who share much in common.”
ALDE Party Vice President said that he wants to see Macedonia as part of the EU and NATO. “But to have such Macedonia there is a need of change that will come from the citizens. We do not live in countries of Europe that is governed by dictate. We live in a Europe governed by free and democratic citizens. Sovereign is the one who decides, and I am confident that the sovereign will make the correct choice for the necessary change in Macedonia enabling the nation to return to its Euro-Atlantic path,” concluded Kyuchyuk.
The first fringe meeting to engage the LI delegates on the position of power for various minority and vulnerable groups in the region was organised by the Africa Liberal Network (ALN, LI cooperating organisation) and the Liberal Democrats (LI full-member, UK). Under the theme Positions of Power: Increasing the real influence of women, youth, and minorities in the Middle East and North Africa, participants addressed the issue of under-representation across the globe by focussing on the four key areas mentioned in the title of the event in light of the ALN’s ground-breaking Marrakech Declaration.
The meeting included an interactive roundtable discussion which was conducted in four separate working group sessions where liberals were encouraged to find workable solutions, innovative channels and possible policy solutions regarding the overall theme. The keynote speech was presented by LI Deputy President and Premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille who spoke about efforts to empower women in Africa: "In Africa, traditional political systems have a very uneasy fit with liberalism. As liberals our focus should be on removing the barriers to women's advancement and creating opportunities as women have what it takes to get where they need to on the basis of merit not gender quotas."
The LI Human Rights Committee held a session together with the National Democratic Institute (NDI, LI cooperating organisation) on stopping violence against women in politics in line with NDI's #NotTheCost campaign, which focused on formulating concrete policy recommendations for liberal parties on the issue. The meeting was chaired by Premier Zille and featured a presentation on the #NotTheCost campaign by NDI Resident Director Jane Hurtig. LI HRC Member and Former Member of Parliament Abir Al-Sahlani (Centerpartiet, LI full-member), Member of Parliament Jean-Jacques Flahaux (Mouvement Refarmateur, LI full-member) and Fouzia El-Bayed (Union Constitutionelle, LI full-member) all shared powerful personal testimonies with the issue describing the challenges and threats women in politics face. Recalling her experience as a female Member of Parliament in Iraq, Al-Sahlani said: "In Iraq, women were considered the weakest link in society and were targeted in public life on a regular basis."
The International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY, LI full-member) and the European Liberal Forum (LI partner) both held a session on formulating liberal strategies to fighting climate change and the challenges and opportunities young people face in particular when trying to engage with the issue.
The People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD, LI full-member) organised a fringe meeting on offering affective answers to populism which featured LI Vice-President Baroness Kishwer Falkner (LibDems, LI full-member) and Kiat Sittheeamorn, Deputy Leader of the Democratic Party in Thailand (DP, LI full-member) who debated the rise of populism by sharing their respective national experiences. "Liberal democracies have tended not to respect the validity of populist concerns", argued Baroness Falkner with participants debating the latest results of the Presidential elections in the US and the rise of Donald Trump.
African applicant parties set to boost ranks of LI membershipThursday 17 November 2016 17:11 Africa is already the continent with the largest number of Liberal International member parties after Europe and that statistic could grow even higher with the upcoming 61st Congress in Andorra next May with endorsements from the 197th Executive Committee meeting in Marrakech, Morocco last week for five new African member parties.
In spite of the rise of populism internationally, liberal values are increasingly being seen as a bulwark, with a number of strong political parties across Africa applying for membership in the international political family. Delegates of the 197th Executive Committee approved the applications of:
The current number of LI member parties in Africa stands at 22. Before the parties can be formally admitted the next stage of the application process, the applicants require approval from the 61st Congress of Liberal International, which will see hundreds of delegates convene in Europe’s highest capital city, Andorra la Vella.
"Our [liberal] philosophy is a moral philosophy, a philosophy of conservation," said LI President Dr Juli Minoves at the special session on Climate Change, organised as part of the 197th LI Executive Committee at the UN COP22 venue in Marrakech. Assembled upon the invitation of LI Vice President and Moroccan Environment Minister Hakima el Haite, LI delegates agreed that “innovation, opportunity, and passion are key ingredients to fight the climate challenges facing future generations.”
Addressing the delegates, Minister El Haite praised the clear determination of the liberals world-wide to focus on climate change. She said that she is “proud” to be part of the international liberal family as securing secure and safe environment across the globe puts the individual in the core of the policy, which is at the center of liberalism. In that sense, she reminded that “the problem is not a South-South problem” adding that “Europe is dealing with problems from the south and of climate change.”
The delegates engaged in a lengthy and inspiring debate on the draft of the Liberal Manifesto 2017, which is to be adopted at the 70thanniversary Congress of Liberal International next May in Andorra. Presenting the work of the Manifesto Drafting Committee under the leadership of LI President, the Chair of the Committee Prof. Karl-Heinz Paqué – Deputy Chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation – emphasised that while liberal values are under threat in the aftermath of the latest political developments from the Philippines, over United Kingdom to the United States, the Manifesto 2017 will offer a liberal response based on “opportunities for everyone and progress for all.”
The meeting of the LI EC in Marrakech coincided with the upsetting victory of Donald Trump at the US Presidential elections, who among other populist policies frequently spoke against the international liberal order, including the Paris Accords and expressing to revert the dangerous change of our planet’s climate.
Photos from the EC are available on the Facebook page of the co-host of the LI EC - the Morocco office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundaiton for Freedom. The EC was organised with the assistance of LI full members in Morocco: Union Constitutionelle and Movement Populare.
On the fringes of this year's annual Human Rights Committee meeting in the European Parliament, Liberal International will bestow its highest human rights award, the Prize for Freedom, to the jailed Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi.
The ceremony will take place on 6 December at the European Parliament in Brussels, where the wife of Raif Badawi, Ensaf Haidar, will receive the award on his behalf. Badawi remains in jail in Saudi Arabia where his physical condition has worsened over the past year and the threat of receiving a second set of 5000 lashes has become imminent.
Under the theme “Freedom of Belief in an Era of Radicalization”, the Human Rights Committee will meet to discuss strategies to debunk the stigmatization of religious and in particular Muslim minorities, when it comes to radicalization and violent extremism and, at the same time address, the fine line between freedom of speech and freedom of belief.
The highlight of the meeting will include a field visit to Molenbeek: a neighbourhood in Brussels known as the “radicalization hub” of Belgium. The visit will be hosted by the Mayor of the Municipality Ms. Françoise Schepmans (Mouvement Réformateur, LI full-member) at the Cultural Centre of Molenbeek, where she will provide an overview of the situation on the ground, alongside a local radicalization prevention officer and Mr. Jo De Ro, Member of Parliament and Former Deputy Mayor of Vilvoorde (Open VLD, LI full-member).
The second part of the event will take place at the European Parliament in Brussels upon the invitation of LI HRC Member Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP (Movement for Rights and Freedom, LI full-member) and it will feature input from Mr. Adam Deen, Managing Director from the Quilliam Foundation and Dr. Solomon Passy, Former Foreign Minister of Bulgaria.
The former President of the ALDE Party Sir Graham Watson (Liberal Democrats, LI full-member) will host an evening reception for LI delegates attending the meeting at the Representative Office of Gibraltar in Brussels in his capacity as Head of the Gibraltarian Representation.
Ensaf Haidar contributed to the 3rd Edition of LI Human Rights Bulletin on Freedom of Belief where in an exclusive video message for Liberal International, she expressed the importance of joining her husband’s struggle for the promotion of individual liberties and freedom of belief in Saudi Arabia and beyond.