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Declaration of Brussels - 16th June 1946

We the Delegates of the under-mentioned parties, namely:

The Liberal Party of Belgium 
The Liberal Party of Great Britain 
The Radical Socialist Party of France 
The Radical Party of Denmark 
The Party of Freedom of Holland 
The Radical Democratic Party of Switzerland 
The Popular Party of Sweden 
The Liberal Party of Italy and 
The Representative of the Spanish Liberals in Exile, 

assembled in Brussels, on the 16th of June 1946, for the celebration of the Centenary of the foundation of the Belgian Liberal Party, at the time when the devastation caused by two savage world wars has provoked disorder in the minds of men and chaos in the economic condition of the people, affirm our common faith and our principles by the following declaration which we call the Declaration of Brussels.

1. We assert our faith in the spiritual Liberty of Man. We oppose every form of Government which fails to guarantee to all its people liberty of conscience, liberty of the press, liberty of association and of the free expression and publication of their beliefs and opinions.

2. We oppose every reactionary or totalitarian form of Government. We assert our faith in political liberty and democracy. No country is democratic if it fails to safeguard the fundamental rights of the human personality, personal freedom, the right of free criticism, the recognition by the Government of its responsibility towards its People, the independence of the administration of Law and Justice, and unless its political form is based on consent which must be conscious, free and enlightened.

3. Convinced as we are that the suppression of economic freedom leads inevitably to the disappearance of political freedom, we affirm our confidence in an economic system which respects private initiative, the spirit of enterprise and responsibility. We oppose those solutions which place all the National Economy in the hands of the State and we assert that it is possible to avoid economic anarchy and at the same time maintain the essential forms and habits of Freedom. Conscious as we are that political liberty cannot be separated from the well-being and progress of Society, we desire to see established everywhere a system of Government which shall be democratic in its economy and in its form and which, on the one hand, progressively and in conformity with the special conditions in each country, associates the workers with the benefits and the administration of all enterprises, and which, on the other hand, safeguards everyone against want, disease and unemployment.

4. We believe that war can only be abolished by a World Organisation, including all Nations, great and small, under the same Law and Equity. World peace and universal Economic prosperity demand the free exchange of goods and services, the free circulation of men and of capital, the abolition of all barriers to the complete economic relations between states, and, in the interest of the consumers the creation of a form of control over cartels and monopolies whether national or international.

5. Finally, we assert that our aim is to develop among men a faith in education and in the value of character, to give them a sense of liberty and responsibility and to fit them for service to their country and to mankind, and we assert that, in view of the growing danger of political and economic tyranny, the free man, endowed with a social and international conscience, is the hope of the world.




Oxford Manifesto 1947

Drawn up at the International Liberal Conference at Wadham College, Oxford, in April, 1947

oxford_1947.JPG - Orginal - Stock Photos

We, Liberals of nineteen countries assembled at Oxford at a time of disorder, poverty, famine and fear caused by two World Wars;

Convinced that this condition of the world is largely due to the abandonment of liberal principles;

Affirm our faith in this Declaration:

1. Man is first and foremost a being endowed with the power of independent thought and action, and with the ability to distinguish right from wrong.

2. Respect for the human person and for the family is the true basis of society.

3. The State is only the instrument of the community; it should assume no power which conflicts with the fundamental rights of the citizens and with the conditions essential for a responsible and creative life, namely:

Personal freedom, guaranteed by the independence of the administration of law and justice;

Freedom of worship and liberty of conscience;

Freedom of speech and of the press;

Freedom to associate or not to associate;

Free choice of occupation;

The opportunity of a full and varied education, according to ability and irrespective of birth or means;

The right to private ownership of property and the right to embark on individual enterprise;

Consumer's free choice and the opportunity to reap the full benefit of the productivity of the soil and the industry of man;

Security from the hazards of sickness, unemployment, disability and old age;

Equality of rights between men and women.

4. These rights and conditions can be secured only by true democracy. True democracy is inseparable from political liberty and is based on the conscious, free and enlightened consent of the majority, expressed through a free and secret ballot, with due respect for the liberties and opinions of minorities.

1. The suppression of economic freedom must lead to the disappearance of political freedom. We oppose such suppression, whether brought about by State ownership or control or by private monopolies, cartels and trusts. We admit State ownership only for those undertakings which are beyond the scope of private enterprise or in which competition no longer plays its part. 
2. The welfare of the community must prevail and must be safeguarded from the abuse of power by sectional interests.

3. A continuous betterment of the conditions of employment, and of the housing and environment of the workers is essential. The rights, duties and interests of labour and capital are complementary; organised consultation and collaboration between employers and employed is vital to the well-being of industry.

Service is the necessary complement of freedom and every right involves a corresponding duty. If free institutions are to work effectively, every citizen must have a sense of moral responsibility towards his fellow men and take an active part in the affairs of the community.

War can be abolished and world peace and economic prosperity restored only if all nations fulfil the following conditions:

a) Loyal adherence to a world organisation of all nations, great and small, under the same law and equity, and with power to enforce strict observance of all international obligations freely entered into;

b) Respect for the right of every nation to enjoy the essential human liberties;

c) Respect for the language, faith, laws and customs of national minorities;

d) The free exchange of ideas, news, goods and services between nations, as well as freedom of travel within and between all countries, unhampered by censorship, protective trade barriers and exchange regulations;

e) The development of the backward areas of the world, with the collaboration of their inhabitants, in their true interests and in the interests of the world at large.

We call upon all men and women who are in general agreement with these ideals and principles to join us in an endeavour to win their acceptance throughout the world.




Liberal Declaration of Oxford 1967

2 September 1967

We, Liberals of twenty countries assembled in Oxford on the Twentieth Anniversary year of the Liberal Manifesto and the foundation of the Liberal International :

- reaffirm our faith in the principles of Liberalism as defined in the Liberal Manifesto;

- welcome the endorsement of these principles in declarations of the United Nations and their incorporation in the constitutions of many newly sovereign States;

- declare in the light of these principles our considered opinion on the developments of the last twenty years.

The Liberal Task in the Present Revolution in Human Affairs

1. The revolution which has been changing the course of human affairs in the last few centuries has gained and continues to gain increasing strength and momentum.

2. The increasing tempo of scientific and technological change, cybernetics and automation; nuclear power for peace or war; mass media of communication; the population explosion; the revolution in the expectations of welfare and public services; the worldwide development of an industrial order replacing a mainly rural static society; the achievement of independence by many people - all these open vast new possibilities of human progress. At the same time, and in a world with a widening gap between affluent countries and countries plagued by hunger and poverty, and where suppression of freedom, discrimination and aggressive nationalism are rampant, they also create impulses towards concentration of power, oppression and destruction on a scale the world has never before known or imagined.

3. The fundamental task of our time is to master these new forces and to turn them to the service of mankind. The means of guiding them are not material, but lie in the progressive development everywhere of free societies of enlightened and responsible citizens, adequately safeguarded by their common efforts against fear and want and against internal or external oppression. Such free societies can only be created and maintained through unremitting devotion to the principles of liberalism.

Decentralisation and Freedom

4. Cooperation and solidarity between free men are a growing necessity in the modern world. However, the drive towards unhealthy centralisation has encouraged the downgrading of parliamentary institutions, the excessive dependence of the individual on the State and the growth of new forms of absolutism and of irresponsible centres of power through uncontrolled bureaucratic growth, the formation of public and private monopolies and the restrictiveness of some combinations of employers, of workers, or of both together.

5. We believe that these tendencies can only be fought by devoted concentration on the overriding need for freedom in all its aspects, and in particular by :

a) the greatest possible devolution and spread of power in the economic, social and governmental fields, especially by determined action against monopolies;

b) maintenance of the widest multiplicity of expression and initiative in all matters of education and culture, including mass media of communication;

c) making all necessary information available to enable each citizen to form objective judgements on all matters of public interest;

d) protection of the rights of minorities to enjoy the essential liberties as set out in the Liberal Manifesto;

e) elimination of racial and all other forms of oppressive discrimination;

f) protection of the individual and group from all forms of unwarranted invasion of personal private life, such as mechanised spying.

Economic Policy and Planning

6. We believe that planning by governments of their own economic activities is a necessity, provided however it is not used to stifle the autonomy of the private sector of the economy and the price mechanism of the free market which also requires the maintenance of free competition. These are fundamental to ensure economic development, to maximise both production and consumption and therefore to provide the goods and services needed for social progress, in all countries of the world.

7. We believe that the community has a special responsibility to protect natural resources, cultural treasures and the beauty of cities and countryside from indiscriminate development, either by public or private interests.

8. A growing population demanding a disproportionate increase in consumption will provoke inflation, and endanger social and economic achievement and progress by promoting monetary instability. In a free democracy this can only be avoided by a system of voluntary, balanced restraint on the part of the state and all social groups. The efforts towards such a policy should enjoy a high priority in all countries.

International Economic Cooperation

9. We believe in the need for the free movement of people, goods, capital and services; for the international division of labour and for international cooperation on the widest possible scale in monetary, social and technological matters.

10. We advocate regional economic groupings provided they do not become instruments for regional protectionism or for economic exploitation by one country of other countries and do not degenerate into bureaucratic-technocracies operating outside a system of democratic controls.

Equality and Welfare

11. We believe that a substantial part of the increased wealth available should be used to promote equality of opportunity, both for individuals and for nations all over the world.

12. For the individual, this involves security from the hazards of sickness, unemployment, disability and old age, and the provision of adequate housing.

13. It also requires the provision of the best possible educational facilities, physical as well as intellectual, humanist as well as technical, for everyone, irrespective of birth or means. To this end we favour the widest variety and choice of educational systems, subject to adequate academic standards and to the capability of the school to produce free responsible citizens.

14. It also involves the need to fight against the feeling of alienation in employees by giving them the right to participate responsibly in the running, stability and development of the enterprises in which they work and enabling them to acquire a financial interest therein.

15. Family planning must be facilitated with full respect for the responsibility and freedom of choice of individual couples.

16. Internationally, it involves, on the part of the highly industrialised nations, a liberal trade policy taking adequate account of the special needs of the poorer parts of the world and the provision of financial and technical assistance to support them in establishing educational and social security systems, in creating the infrastructure necessary for economic expansion and in furthering agricultural and industrial development.

17. We believe that aid to poorer areas should not be given for selfish political or economic motives, and we stress the need for cooperation by the authorities and inhabitants of the areas and for the development of their sense of freedom, initiative and responsibility. With the same aims in view, we believe that close coordination between governmental agencies, private enterprises and voluntary organisations is necessary.

Peace and Freedom

18. We believe that the United Nations, based on liberal democratic principles and on the development of a common international ethos, notwithstanding its present short-comings, deserves the support of the people in all countries in order to make it into an effective world authority, with clearly defined functions and real power, capable of enforcing the rule of law in international relations.

19. We believe that the interests of all peoples, including those of the states now taking their place in the technological civilisation of today, will best be served by their governing themselves according to the principles of liberal democracy.

20. We reiterate our frequently expressed belief that lasting peace can only be ensured through freedom, and that liberal foreign policies must aim primarily at the enlargement of the total area of freedom throughout the world.

21. We believe in the need to pursue the immensely difficult end of a balanced, controlled and effective reduction of all armaments. Until this has been achieved, we believe that the free nations must cooperate to provide firm protection against nuclear or conventional aggression.

22. We welcome all regional groupings in all continents, based on the mutual cooperation of free societies, leading to the merging of national sovereignties. In this respect the achievement of European unity, open to all democratic European nations, is an imperative duty for the Europeans themselves in order better to be able to contribute effectively to the peace, freedom and welfare of the entire world.

Finally, we wish to underline once more our reasoned belief that the task of directing the world revolution for the benefit of man is a liberal task. It requires tolerance and cooperation in freedom. It requires a liberal awareness of the growing human needs whose satisfaction is imperative, liberal ideas, liberal initiatives. It requires liberal parties capable of influencing the policies of their countries in a significant way.

We welcome, therefore, the self-searching and the stresses that are visible in non-liberal countries and movements, as an indication that the need for freedom is asserting itself even under most difficult circumstances. It is our duty and our will to do all we can to assist in this development.




Liberal Appeal of Rome 1981

I Premise

1. We Liberals, from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Europe, assembled in Rome in September 1981, at a time of gross violations of human rights and persistent grave tensions which threaten peace and democracy;

a) confronted with the increased effects of the tremendous changes in which liberalism has played a decisive part and which have been changing fundamentally the concept of man, society and the state; of science and technology; of politics and economics;

b) determined to influence these profound changes and their worldwide repercussions in the liberal direction, namely, the fundamental rights of man;

c) reaffirm our faith in the enduring validity of the fundamental liberal principles defined in the Oxford Manifesto of 1947;

d) confirm the Declaration of Oxford of 1967 on some of the main developments of the last decades;

e) call on all men and women in all lands who put their hopes in freedom to take up with renewed faith and understanding the great task of ensuring the survival and strength of free society by demonstrating its unique capacity to turn to the service of humanity the new forces which have grown and emerged, and of satisfying through liberty, the spiritual and material needs of the peoples of the world.

2. The liberal task is made harder by many of the realities which confront us. The ambiguity of the new forces described in the Declaration of Oxford of 1967 has become greater. New forms of freedom but also new forms of oppression have been born. We must analyse more deeply, devise and organise new institutions, make a vigorous effort to ensure the acceptance of liberalism by public opinion. We must strive for a new balance between the necessary intervention of the state and the initiative of the individual, without which the state turns itself into an oppressive bureaucracy. We must go beyond the industrialised states and take a world view.

3. We must be aware of the extent and depth of the resistance we are bound to find, not only as is natural, among other political groupings. There are those who believe that our principles, our view of man, of society, of the state, of the economy and of the international community are by necessity wedded to the rules and institutions set up by our fathers and ancestors. On the contrary, we recognise that the departures from old ways are, in the main, the result of new factors. It is our task to understand these factors in order to make them amenable to new and various forms of liberal-democratic society, state and economy, now and in the future.

II Liberal Principles and Present Realities

4. The main challenges we are faced with in the interplay between our principles and present realities are :

a) the fact that over two-thirds of mankind live under regimes which do not respect fundamental human rights;

b) the growing disparities between the rich countries with long-established industrialisation, the newly industrialised countries, the developing countries with raw materials and energy resources and the very poor countries with scant resources;

c) the deterioration in the "terms of exchange" between man and nature due to the increasing pressure of population and its demands;

d) the growing threat to the environment and the quality of life;

e) the severe tensions between states and groups of states, caused by imperialist and nationalist ambitions, by ideological conflicts and by reciprocal fears;

f) the arms race which threatens the survival of mankind;

g) the divisions within the industrialised democracies and the wide-spread disenchantment with their working.

Taken together, these challenges represent the deepest crisis with which humankind has been faced in its long history, both in the East and in the West, while the South asserts its justified demands for political independence, cultural integrity and a fairer share of the world's resources.

5. The growing disparities in wealth within and between countries threaten peace and democracy in the whole world. Liberal values are unique in opening the way both to political and personal freedom and material development. But where a great number of people suffer hunger, disease, destitution, unemployment and under-employment freedom is undermined.

6. The wide-spread disenchantment or disaffection, especially among the young in liberal democracies, is the result of the partial failure to create, support and promote idealistic values as well as of the incapacity to adapt institutions and to ensure more justice and a better quality of living. In extreme cases, this disaffection has led to terrorism, in others, to anarchism or to a refusal to participate in public life. The values of freedom and independence promoted by liberalism can overcome this void, particularly if liberals make it clear that freedom for the individual is not to be confused with egoism, but is freedom within the context of a community, implying responsibility and solidarity with fellow men.

7. It has become evident that energy resources and raw materials as well as land for agriculture are not inexhaustible. While the population is still increasing in many parts of the world at a frightening rate and while material expectations everywhere continue to be raised, it is impossible to satisfy these demands by unlimited economic growth without irreparable damage to the environment. Massive energy conservation and the development of renewable and ecologically safe energy resources are essential.

8. The continuing build-up of arms in all regions of the world diverts resources which could be better used to improve living conditions, especially of the poorest groups and countries. While recognising the importance to many nations of an adequate defence, liberals call for moderation and prudence. A world where peace is only kept by military measures is a world in peril. Peace and stability mean more than mere deterrence. Liberalism requires that the causes of violent conflicts be reduced by political and diplomatic action as well as by social, economic and cultural development.

9. There is no such thing as a definitive solution for the problems of mankind; no "paradise on earth" of any kind is possible. The understandable urge of man to solve difficulties for ever is the root of totalitarianism. The specific liberal approach is based on the following principles:

a) continuous debate, criticism and reform are indispensable to a healthy society;

b) no liberal believes in absolute power; the basis of legitimate power is consent, but excessive concentration of governmental power stifles consent. To make consent a reality, power must be disseminated and decentralised through a variety of democratically responsible institutions;

c) liberals believe in obeying the will of the majority unless it runs counter to human rights and to the fundamental principles of freedom;

d) equality in dignity, rights and opportunities; the protection of the individual against the main material hazards of life; a more just distribution of property and income are essential, but must not be confused with abstract egalitarianism;

e) liberals support those liberation movements which in the face of tyranny struggle for freedom and democracy whilst continuing to reject unequivocally the use of terrorism or any other form of illegal violence in democratic societies;

f) liberals consider it essential to strive for equality of men and women. Women and men should have the same opportunity to participate in the development of their countries.

III Institutional Issues in Modern Democracies

10. Liberalism requires the continual reform and renewal of democratic institutions. It faces the following main challenges :

a) the need to strengthen the real power of parliaments;

b) improving the efficiency of the executive power and parliamentary control over it;

c) the decentralisation of power;

d) the legal protection of the individual and of human dignity;

e) the balancing of state intervention and non-interference;

f) cooperation between states.

11. Liberals are aware of the fact that liberal democracy is not a perfect system but it is the one most favourable to freedom, human dignity and social justice.

12. Starting from the premise that every system can be improved and that to remain static is a threat to stability and the future, liberal democracy can be described as the system most able to meet the permanent challenge of improvement and reform. It is the institutions in which values are embodied that change, not the values themselves.

13. Improvement and renewal in the institutions of state and society is seen by modern liberals as most important in :

a) the most effective representation of the people's will in the legislative power, e.g. through proportional representation, referenda, the development of legally-organised as well as spontaneous participation in public activities, the protection of minorities to ensure their equality of opportunity;

b) the reorganisation of the legislature, bearing in mind that large sectors of the population, particularly the young, are deeply dissatisfied with the actual functioning of parliamentary democracy. Liberals see with great concern that in some parliamentary democracies the efficient control of the executive by the legislative power is hampered by technocracy, institutional defects or by special interest groups;

c) the greater prestige and effectiveness of the executive power; the choice between a parliamentary and a presidential executive should be based on the traditions and needs of individual countries, control by the electorate through parliament should always be ensured;

d) the decentralisation of power by the proper and clearly defined organisation of regional and local government : liberals consider this as an important horizontal extension of the traditional vertical division of power;

e) the inclusion of trade unions and business and professional associations in the liberal democratic system of checks and balances, in order to make planning for the market economy possible and achieve healthier and more just industrial relations;

f) the status of women in society, the disabilities and disadvantages imposed upon them are fundamental questions of concern to everybody. The unequal status of women is wasteful of the talents of half the population when the development of society demands the contribution of all citizens;

g) the legal protection of the individual from acts by the state which threaten his fundamental rights and existence (Habeas corpus, proscription of torture, abolition of the death penalty);

h) the protection of the privacy of the individual against technological spying and the abuse of computers by state or private agencies;

i) the strict regulation and control of biological engineering and psychological manipulation, in order to protect the individual's personality and health;

j) the careful balancing of state intervention and non-interference to reconcile the interests of the individual and those of society. The liberal principles are that :

- the freedom of the individual is of foremost importance;

- the state should intervene in order to ensure freedom for all;

- without individual initiative and responsibility both in the private and pubic sectors the state turns itself into a soulless bureaucratic machine and rapidly loses efficiency;

k) the strengthening of existing and the creation of new organisations at international, inter-continental and worldwide level in order to increase cooperation based on the equitable treatment of all countries.

IV Educational and Cultural Issues

14. Modern liberalism is faced with :

a) worldwide pluralism of cultures;

b) cultural, political, professional and economic aspects of modern education in and for a democratic society;

c) the need for freedom and pluralism in the media.

15. Today there is a growing awareness in the developing countries of their own cultural identity. Profound conflicts between the occident and, in particular, the Islamic world are to a degree the result of mutual cultural misunderstandings. The industrialised world must realise that for a growing number of countries the values and achievements of technical civilisation are not beyond critical scrutiny or even outright rejection.

Unlike some other value systems which originate in Europe, liberalism has by tradition a tolerant and open attitude towards different cultures. Liberals have therefore to be in the forefront of those who refuse to limit the North-South dialogue to economic and political matters. In a multi-polar world, where the military and economic hegemony of the superpowers is increasingly questioned and challenged, cultural pluralism is a valuable means for promoting understanding and cooperation across borders.

16. For liberals, culture is not an abstract concept. Culture affects directly or indirectly the daily life of every man, woman and child. It is the central task of a liberal cultural policy to make people aware of the fact that their existence is deeply conditioned by cultural values and inheritance. The promotion of cultural activities in and by the community must primarily aim at creating, for the largest possible number of citizens, awareness of their own culture and understanding of the cultures of other peoples and continents.

17. The main instrument with which to break down barriers to culture and to fight cultural, political and racial intolerance is free education, based on democratic methods. Education has been, and is, the most important tool for a liberal policy to promote peace, to fight class barriers and social and economic injustice, to overcome backwardness and to harmonise humanist and technical knowledge. Liberals therefore ask for the promotion of education for both sexes and all ages with the aims :

a) of creating for each individual equal opportunities for a personally satisfying and socially useful life;

b) of making people aware of the mutual dependence of states and regions in the solution of complex problems which today, more often than not, go beyond national borders;

c) of ensuring that women no longer receive less education than men during or after their school years;

d) of making parents aware that good education at home, as well as at school, is the basis of good citizenship.

18. Freedom and pluralism in the mass media are essential to a liberal society. There can be no political freedom where the media are in the hands of a monopoly or quasi-monopoly, private or public. Liberals see, with growing concern, the powerful attacks against press freedom from within and from outside liberal societies, the main challenges being:

a) the increasing concentration of press-ownership within industrialised democracies;

b) new technology, making transnational communication easier, but also providing dangerous instruments for the manipulation of public opinion and for the weakening of indigenous cultures;

c) the attacks of governments, group interests and international organisations against a pluralist press independent of government control and censorship.

Liberals recognise that to meet these challenges state subsidies under public supervision may sometimes be necessary to ensure the continuation of pluralism in the media. They insist that such subsidies and supervision should be strictly controlled in their turn, so as not to be self-defeating.

19. Liberals acknowledge the legitimate demand of the developing countries for a fairer representation of their problems in the Western media. This aim cannot be achieved through censorship and restrictions on the flow of information. The Western democracies and the developing countries must reach a reciprocal agreement of mutual benefit which respects press freedom and pluralism.

V Economic and Social Issues

20. The following are of crucial importance today :

a) the role of the economy in a liberal democracy;

b) the role of the state and planning in a social market economy;

c) social security;

d) new technologies and the protection of the environment.

21. The basic liberal principle in the economy is that there can be no political freedom where the state fully controls the economy and no room is left for private initiative. But notwithstanding some delusions to the contrary, there can also be no real and lasting economic freedom where political freedom has been abolished and human rights are not respected.

22. The link which exists for liberals between a social market economy and liberal democracy also implies a constant battle against monopolies, cartels, restrictive trusts, restrictive practices and so-called "dominant positions", open or disguised, private or public, except for cases authorised by law for justified and defined social needs.

23. Internationally, the natural corollary of a social market economy is free trade based on equality and partnership and, in some cases, on planning for the international market. Protectionism, de jure or de facto, conflicts with a market economy.

24. The stability of a liberal democratic system and the proper working of a social market economy are in jeopardy where large sectors of a country's population live in misery. The functioning of a market economy must be judged by its capacity to guarantee sufficiency and a fairer distribution of material wealth and economic power than any other system.

25. In the long term, the poverty of large parts of the world can best be alleviated through freedom of trade, but such freedom is endangered by cartels, restrictive trusts and by the artificial and unfair pricing of raw materials and crops. Where a market economy comes up against protection de jure or de facto, a case can be made for counter measures as an instrument for re-establishing freedom of trade, except for special arrangements for the poorest countries.

26. State or private monopolies, operating nationally or internationally, endanger the market economy and should be subject to strict legislation. Liberals favour, too, international codes of conduct and legislation when necessary for transnational companies. They recognise both the dangers they present of abuses of economic and political power and their positive influence in spreading investment and technology and in diversifying economies.

27. The liberal concept of the market has been wrongly connected with an economy controlled by purely monetary means or a "laisser-faire" economy disassociated from the interests of the poor and of the community as a whole. Liberals do not accept such a simplistic view of the market economy and of their attitude towards it. They have long recognised that economic freedom, in the case where it could be hostile to the welfare of the community, degenerates into anarchy and is one of the sources of oppression.

28. Planning, in the liberal sense of the word, means planning of and for liberty. Planning in a social market economy is based on an interaction between private initiative and state intervention. Where conditions call for it, a flexible incomes policy can be a part of such planning. In a modern society economic problems are too complex to be mastered either by the private or the public sector alone.

29. The structural changes in production and services, which are the inevitable product of technological progress, create problems which often require concerted action by private enterprise and the state. Public intervention must then aim to create competitive enterprises in market conditions.

We liberals reaffirm our confidence that the social and economic changes caused by the extension and application of new technologies, if they take place in a spirit of peaceful human cooperation and in the framework of a liberal democratic state and society, especially in the sector of information, can lead to a greater participation of human intelligence in the process of production, more human working conditions and, finally, the freeing of physical resources as a means of satisfying human needs.

30. With this undogmatic approach towards the role of the state in the economy, liberals do not see the relations between the private and public sector in a given economy and at a given time as static or final. Whilst the state or local authorities can be forced by their obligations to public welfare to take over economic activities, there must be a constant review of the public activities to decide which of them should be returned in some form to private enterprise or to voluntary organisations or local groups of citizens cooperating with public bodies. It is, however, necessary to ensure that a public monopoly is not turned into a private monopoly.

31. Liberals are in favour of industrial democracy based on genuine direct worker participation and on profit-sharing. This has already proved its value in many cases and should be further developed. Present forms of organisation in the public and private sectors do not exclude new models. Liberals encourage cooperatives, companies owned by their workers and the decentralisation of large enterprises into smaller units.

32. For liberals, full employment is a cardinal economic and social aspiration. Large-scale unemployment, especially among the young, is unacceptable for liberals. Where many people are out of work without any reasonable prospect of employment, the basic political and economic values of liberalism are threatened.

33. The market economy destroys its very basis where it encourages or permits economic growth irrespective of its ecological impact. The welfare of a society goes beyond the quantitative growth of its economy and is connected with the quality of life in its broadest sense. Market economic structures and environmental protection are complementary. Where nature and natural resources are destroyed, there is nothing left for any economy to work on. Planning and taxation must take this into account. On the other hand, "zero growth" as a remedy to social and economic ills is unacceptable - not least because the well-balanced development we desire is becoming more costly.

34. Individuals as free citizens are themselves first and foremost responsible for their own existence and their life-long development. But where for reasons beyond their control, e.g. illness, disablement, unemployment, old age, they are not able to live up to this responsibility, the community, organised by the state, is responsible for their social security and material welfare.

35. The corrective role of the state must not make everybody dependent on subsidy. The main dangers inherent in an over-extended welfare state are :

a) it makes people dependent on government and bureaucracy, thereby reducing their sense of responsibility and their freedom;

b) it creates an expanding bureaucracy which inclines to grab for power for itself beyond its competence;

c) by taxes or by waste it subtracts too large a portion of the national income from the growing needs for productive investment, research and development;

d) it can feed inflation and therefore make employment and investment more difficult.

36. Liberals believe that taxation should be commensurate to the rights of the individual and the needs of society for saving and investment. Taxation should therefore play a positive role in encouraging enterprise and in ensuring a greater equality of opportunity.

Liberal advocate the benefit principle. Where feasible and equitable, corporations and consumers should pay for the goods and services received from government instead of charging the cost to countless anonymous taxpayers. This reduces waste and promotes an equilibrium between demand and supply in the public sector.

37. To try to eliminate poverty and social injustice is not to accept egalitarianism vis. the abstract right to rigid equality of conditions for all, independent of talent, work or forethought. While liberals strongly support measures to reduce differences in wealth, to protect each citizen and to increase equality of opportunity, they decidedly oppose egalitarianism which degrades the individual, whereas the recognition of merit in conditions of social justice is stimulating.

38. Liberals consider each human being to be unique; not equal, but of equal worth. Equality means that everybody must have equal opportunities for their self-development and must have the opportunities to make a full contribution to society.

VI Liberalism and International Affairs

39. Among the many problems with which liberals are confronted are those concerned with :

- human and political rights and "realpolitik";

- tensions and detente between East and West;

- "bipolarism" and "multipolarism";

- the arms race;

- regional organisations;

- the non-aligned states;

- the developing countries;

- the United Nations.

40. Liberals take up these challenges, like those of the North-South dialogue, in a spirit of universalism. Their traditional refusal to consider race or creed, class or nationality, sex or age, as reasons for discrimination, is applied by liberals today to the affairs of the whole world, far beyond the borders of the industrialised countries. This is not only due to the evidence of growing interdependence between nations. It comes from recognising that the pluralism of cultures is a necessity. Otherwise, bureaucracy and national pride run wild, technology and consumerism unrestrained, will stifle the human quality of each man and woman to which we attach fundamental importance. It also arises from the awareness that cross-fertilisation between cultures all over the world can create a pluralist civilisation, contributing to general understanding and the peaceful solution of unavoidable conflicts of interest.

41. Civil and political human rights constitute an inalienable endowment of every man and woman in the world. Their defence and promotion are incumbent on the states, or groups of states, where, even with limitations, these rights are already applied. This may lead states into conflict with their short-term interests. Notwithstanding this, governments must follow the kind of action most conducive to the widest possible acceptance of civil and political human rights, while liberals have the duty of outright denunciation of abuses. In the longer term such policies are often the most successful, especially in a world where public opinion rightly plays an increasing part. This applies with particular force in Latin America and Africa.

42. Since 1945, the world has been dominated by continuous tension between the NATO and Warsaw Pact States, revolving around the USA and the USSR. It is sustained by a conflict of ideals between a West which is governed, on the whole, by liberal democratic institutions and the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union. It is intensified by the growing reluctance with which the smaller states of the Warsaw Pact bear Soviet-controlled regimes and policies. The danger that these tensions, mingling with others, may go beyond existing conflicts and explode into a world war or into serious "limited" wars, as we have seen them do year by year, has been recognised on both sides. The "cold war" gave way to a policy of detente, that is, of increased negotiation and accommodation, which led to the Helsinki Agreement. These limited gains are now in jeopardy.

A very important factor is the tremendous build-up in military strength both by East and West, the USSR having thereby achieved a worldwide balance in strategic nuclear weapons with the USA, while, in Europe, the Warsaw Pact has clearly surpassed NATO in long range theatre nuclear forces and in conventional arms. In such circumstances liberals believe :

a) that the spirit of liberal universalism should govern the attitudes of the West towards the USSR and her allies, trusting in the inherent superior strength of the ideas and institutions of liberty;

b) that the West should uphold at all times the cause of civil and political human rights with regard to all countries in the world, as foreseen by the United Nations' Covenants on human rights and the Final Act of Helsinki, which bear the signatures of both East and West;

c) that cultural, technological and economic cooperation between East and West should be considered as parts of their total relationship;

d) that dialogue and negotiation should be continued with a particular accent on disarmament and on ending acts of military intervention and the arms race;

e) that detente is indivisible;

f) that the West should at no time leave the USSR under any delusion concerning its will both to negotiate and to stand up to aggression;

g) that the balance of military strength is an indispensable condition for the continuation and the success, however limited, of detente.

43. The estrangement between China and the USSR and the emergence of new powers (like OPEC) with growing impact on world affairs, have given birth to the notion that the "bipolar" relations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact are now superseded by a "multipolar" world system. Liberals believe :

a) that for motives of power - political, military, and economic - the "bipolar" relationship remains of paramount importance and will remain so for a long time;

b) that the trend towards a "multipolar" system is, however, undeniable and makes the liberal universalist view of the world more relevant;

c) that the role of neutral and non-aligned countries in world politics is growing in importance and these countries can become mediating forces;

d) that the greatest attention should be given to the establishment of peaceful cooperation with the new emerging forces.

44. Among such forces must be included the regional groupings of states which are appearing all round the world. Important among them is the European Community, which, besides its economic achievements, has begun the extension of democratic political institutions to international relations. This tends to create a new factor of equilibrium between East and West and in the world in general. Other multinational agreements and organisations such as the Andean Pact, ASEAN, EFTA, the Lom‚ Convention and the OAU, whilst not having the same impact as the European Community, are valuable instruments for securing regional, economic and political stability. Liberals welcome and support such developments, which correspond to their view of better international understanding on the basis of common cultures and common interests.

45. With regard to the non-aligned countries, liberals believe:

a) that the effort to create and maintain a vast differentiated area not aligned with either of the superpowers should be encouraged;

b) that any country should have the right to be non-aligned;

c) that many non-aligned countries can contribute much to the spreading and taking hold of liberal universalism.

46. The present and growing level of expenditure on armaments is a terrible danger. This load increases year by year and incites countries to indulge in so-called "limited wars". The arms race has spread to the poor and poorest developing states, where it constitutes a staggering burden.

a) No effort should be spared to bring the expenditure on arms under control and to reduce it in relative and absolute terms by mutually balanced and controlled efforts. This goal, once considered utopian, is now a matter of life and death for civilisation.

b) The manufacture, transfers and trade of all arms should be strictly controlled by governments, acting in agreement. To this end, a UN-register on all transfers of arms across borders should be established.

c) The growing sophistication of all armaments makes these tasks not only imperative, but urgent.

47. Liberals confirm the opinion expressed in the Oxford Declaration of 1967 about the United Nations. Liberals believe that the UN, originally set up to solve conflicts and enforce the rule of law in international relations, still deserves the support of the people in all countries to enable it to fulfil these great responsibilities. But in view of the many weaknesses of the organisation and failures of its members, liberals consider it their task to monitor the activities of the UN and its special organisations as well as to further their reform, in order to protect the fairness of the deliberations and decisions in these worldwide organisations.

VII The Liberal View on the Relationship between the Industrialised and Developing Countries

48. The main challenges are :

- the chances for liberal democracy in the developing world;

- the variety of groups of developing countries, ranging economically from oil-exporting to the newly-industrialised and to the very poor countries which require different policies;

- the cultural aspects inherent in the North-South dialogue;

- the relationship between the North-South dialogue and the tensions between East and West, as well as the global arms race.

49. Liberalism cannot accept that the North-South dialogue should merely be an exchange of material values, trade, economic cooperation and aid. Apart from cultural values, political ideas have to play an important role. Liberals see human rights not only under the aspect of political rights and pluralism but also under the aspect of specific social rights. We cannot accept that human rights, political dignity, both personal and national, should be estimated by the size of the gross national product or by the readiness to act as mercenaries for the East or as bases for the West. It would be equivalent to capitulation and ultimately to self-destruction for liberalism if developing countries had no other choice but left or right wing totalitarian regimes. Liberalism can become the basis of free regimes in the developing countries. The future of liberalism in the industrialised parts of the world also depends on the possibility of extending its values to the developing countries in all their variety.

50. Liberalism in the developing countries offers a third way which rejects both authoritarian regimes of dictatorship or theocratic reaction and communist totalitarianism. Liberalism favours and promotes a simultaneous development in economics, culture and politics. Marxism instead subordinates political freedom to economic progress which ultimately cannot be achieved even on its own premises. Equally the dogmatic partisans of a totally capitalist system are ready to subordinate to this unrealistic goal, the achievement of economic and social progress.

51. Liberals do not accept the views of those who believe that if a developing country joins the non-aligned, if its government steers a rather nationalist economic course, if it introduces strict economic planning or financial control, it means that such a country has broken or means to break with the liberal democracies.

52. Liberals consider the right of people to their own cultural identity as of fundamental importance. Liberals understand and support the claim of many developing countries to abide by their cultures even at the price of slower economic development.

53. Liberals see the world as an indivisible unit, in which no part can live in real and lasting peace and prosperity while so many human beings suffer from poverty and even destitution. The plight of the millions of destitute people in the developing countries must be of direct concern to every country in the industrialised world.

54. It is obvious that the world cannot for much longer develop along totally different and separate lines, where one-third of mankind burns up more than two-thirds of all non-renewable energy resources and where in the industrialised societies of the West the average citizen lives on an income which is equivalent to that of seventy families in Bangladesh. Revolutions have been caused within one society by extreme disparities in income and property and thereby in human, social and political status. It is a scandal which threatens us with massive conflicts that two-thirds of mankind live on or below the poverty line, whilst good agricultural land and forest are destroyed year by year without the world community taking any effective steps to stop it.

55. Since many natural resources are being used up at a rate which can only create the greatest difficulties for coming generations, while nature has only a limited capacity to absorb the by-products of industrial activities, a more equitable distribution of wealth cannot be achieved by having uninhibitedly growing economies in the industrialised countries, while at the same time raising the rapidly increasing population in the developing countries to the standards of living and consumption enjoyed by the majority of North Americans, West Europeans and Japanese and by some at least of the East Europeans. The persistent unwillingness of the Comecon countries to make any significant contribution to the economic and social progress of the developing countries is shocking.

56. A more just distribution of wealth therefore means that the industrialised societies must drastically reduce their waste of raw materials and non-renewable energy resources. They must slow down the rate of increase of their per capita consumption in order to make room for the greater productive investments they need for themselves and for the development of the world economy, including the developing countries, for trade concessions and for direct transfer of resources to the more needy parts of the world. The balance of consumption of natural resources has to be tilted in favour of the human beings living on the edge of starvation.

57. Liberals have to pay particular attention to ensure that the industrialised countries abide by the policy of free trade, not only in dealing with other industrialised countries but especially in their relations with the developing countries, without excluding the maintenance and development of preferential agreements in favour of poor states. Contrary to views often held, in the longer term and if proper policies are followed, trade with the developing countries not only does not reduce employment in the industrialised countries but in fact is instrumental in increasing it and therefore positive for both parties.

58. Liberals believe that the engagement made by industrialised states granting official aid to the developing countries of at least 0.7% of their gross national product should be speedily fulfilled. It is unacceptable that many states have not yet reached this inadequate percentage. More must also be done on either side to encourage the development of private productive investment in developing countries.

59. Economic underdevelopment in many developing countries is caused, apart from the negative after-effects of colonialism and the inequalities in world trade and economic cooperation, by economic mismanagement and the political failures of the indigenous elite. The developing countries, and particularly the liberal forces within these countries, must put more emphasis on basic needs such as the mobilisation of their own resources both human and material, public health and education, population control, the fight against corruption, the efficiency of the administration and the proper working of the political system. Liberals from the industrialised countries should strongly support these efforts.

60. One of the most serious threats to the economic and social development of the developing countries is the tension between East and West. The arms race, which represents a heavy and growing burden for the economies of the industrialised countries, is ruinous for the developing countries and induces them to abandon non-alignment and to devote a growing part of their scant resources to policies of military or political aggrandizement which weaken or destroy their internal freedom and run counter to their real needs.

VIII The Way Forward

61. We reaffirm our faith in the unique capacity of liberalism to meet the threats to freedom, human existence and security from external aggression. In a world of rapid change and growing complexity, where even totalitarians pay lip-service to liberal values, all men and women are entitled to seek more liberty and dignity, better conditions of life and greater security.

The great liberal challenge, whilst totalitarians, anarchists, reactionaries and terrorists occupy themselves in fighting the battles of yesterday, is to reconcile these aspirations with the avoidance of anarchy, oppression and tyranny.

In this we look with understanding and a spirit of cooperation to all other democratic forces. To meet this challenge we must fight the battles of today and prepare ourselves for those of tomorrow.




Ottawa Human Rights Appeal 1987

Human Rights : the fundamental Necessity for Mankind and an essential precondition for progress and stability

We, Liberals from all over the world, assembled at the Congress of the Liberal International in Ottawa, September 9-12, 1987, 40 years after the adoption of the Liberal Manifesto and the foundation of the Liberal International, proclaim that:

- as men and women are born free, unique and of equal worth, regardless of their race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

- as respect for human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms goes far back in different historical, cultural and religious traditions;

- as the struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms was the origin, still is and will remain the core of liberalism;

we therefore call on all men and women all over the world to join efforts in the struggle for the establishment, extension and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a universal scale.

The liberal position past and present

We liberals :

- recall that liberalism was born as a liberty movement directed against royal absolutism, lack of spiritual freedom, aristocratic privileges and economic regulations, in order to protect the individual against any concentration and abuse of power and to ensure his or her right to control power and participate in government, advocating

- personal freedom, guaranteed by the independence of the administration of law and justice,

- freedom of worship and liberty of conscience,

- freedom of speech and of the press,

- freedom to associate or not to associate;

- recall that liberals were always convinced that these rights and conditions can be secured only by true democracy. True democracy is inseparable from political liberty and is based on the conscious, free and enlightened consent of the majority, expressed through a free and secret ballot, with due respect for the liberties and opinions of minorities;

- recognise that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms was for the first time constitutionally acknowledged though the American Bill of Rights, the French Declaration des Droits de l'Homme and the Constitution of Cadiz, to be continued later in several modern constitutions, e.g. the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

- reaffirm once more our faith in the enduring validity of the fundamental liberal principles defined in the Oxford Liberal Manifesto of 1947 as well as the Liberal Declaration of of Oxford of 1967 and the Liberal Appeal of Rome 1981;

- emphasise the universal significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, December 10, 1948, as well as the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights respectively on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, December 16, 1966 and as a consequence thereof the establishment of the Human Rights Committee;

- regret, however, that the international instruments and institutions to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms are not provided with the necessary powers to enforce measures against violations upon national governments;

- deplore the fact that two-thirds of the world population are deprived of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms;

- recognise that technical development is offering humanity necessary and useful instruments to create a better and more dignified life and also new opportunities to threaten and abuse human rights and fundamental freedoms;

- declare that the development of society in all nations necessitates a continued struggle for the establishment, extension and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

- emphasises that the struggle for human rights should be non-violent. Violence will always threaten the core of human rights and thereby the durability of democratic society when put under severe pressure. We acknowledge, however, the right to armed defence of democracies and of national sovereignty as well as the right to armed liberation from oppression and deprivation of human rights when peaceful means have been exhausted and if these acts are, in themselves, not a violation of human rights.

Achievements, threats and challenges today and tomorrow

We liberals :

- welcome the fact that protection and development of human rights appear to have gained universal recognition both by the continued codification and development of human rights in international fora e.g., the United Nations and repeated reference to human rights in national constitutions, although far too many governments in reality refuse to meet their obligations;

- welcome the genuine popular struggle for human rights in accordance with international instruments referred to above, which is growing and gaining support in East and West, North and South, e.g. Amnesty International, Charter 77 and Human Rights Commissions in Latin America;

- recall that in Europe Portugal, Spain and Greece returned to the family of democratic nations during the 1970's;

- welcome the fact that Latin America has seen the victory of liberal democracy over military dictatorships in a number of countries, although the new leadership is still far from being firmly established;

- honour the Philippine people for their courageous and non-violent struggle under the leadership of Mrs Corazon Aquino against the dictatorship of President Marcos enabling the establishment of democracy and human rights.

We liberals :

- are concerned, however, that human rights and fundamental freedoms are neglected and violated by left-wing and right-wing, theocratic and military regimes all over the world, too often under the false claim of securing national order and security and social and economic development;

- are worried about the growing fundamentalism, mostly religious, all over the world which often openly rejects basic liberal values e.g. freedom of the individual, freedom of thought and information and the open society;

- are deeply concerned about the growing wave of anti-semitism and neo-Nazism which are - as revealed by the world's bitter experience in recent history - a grave threat to the very existence of democracy, and will take public steps and effective measures wherever necessary against these tendencies in all countries including our own;

- are concerned about the growing number of people persecuted, arrested with legal cause, illegally detained, disappeared, tortured, executed and forced to leave their country by their respective governments;

- are equally concerned about denial of the right to leave their country imposed on individual citizens and minorities of totalitarian states;

- are worried about the development whereby more and more states are closing their borders to asylum-seekers, thereby denying refugees the right to seek asylum against persecution and repression of human rights;

- are concerned about the growing racism and xenophobia in many countries blaming immigrants, refugees and minorities by making them scapegoats for economic and social decline and for cultural and social unrest;

- condemn all forms and acts of terrorism and, while recognising the rights and duties of societies and the international community to combat terrorism, request all governments having to take measures against terrorism to do so with a minimum of limitation of human rights and with strict time limits;

- are worried about the possibilities of abusing the achievements of technical progress and research thereby threatening the privacy and the dignity of the individual human being, especially in fields such as electronic data registering and genetic engineering;

- are concerned about the possible conflict between economic growth and mankind's right to live in a sound environment where air, water and soil are protected against misuse and pollution.

We liberals :

- demand new efforts to abolish the death penalty and the use of torture in all countries and under all circumstances;

- urge all states to pursue a liberal and generous policy towards refugees and asylum-seekers forced to leave their country of origin mainly or partly because of persecution and violation of human rights;

- claim that the lack or comparatively slow economic social development in totalitarian and many developing countries is caused by the denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms. In a society where men and women are guaranteed personal freedom and the exercise of human rights, they are most encouraged to develop their initiative, effort and responsibility to the benefit of themselves, their society and future generations, Human rights are a condition for economic and social progress and for political stability not only in countries having already achieved a high level of economic development but also those regions of the world suffering from under-development and economic stagnation;

- urge all industrialised countries to increase their efforts to support developing countries with generous development aid designed to promote democratic development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Ways and means to action - how the liberal international can act on human rights

We liberals :

- proclaim that the future of liberalism lies therefore first and foremost with its ability to lead the battle for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world;

- expect all liberals and liberal parties, whether inside or outside government, to take the lead in promoting and developing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in their respective countries;

- invite all liberals and all liberal parties to initiate and participate in campaigns in favour of individuals, groups and minorities deprived of their human rights and in campaigns in favour of democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;

- request all liberals and liberal parties to support in solidarity liberals who are working under difficult political conditions and who need moral, political and practical support;

- expect all liberals and liberal parties to urge their governments to exert all forms of pressure that can bring about the speedy and total dismantling of apartheid and the creation of a non-racial democracy in South Africa;

- expect all liberals and liberal parties to urge their governments to support developing countries with development aid which promotes democratic development and respect for human and fundamental freedoms;

- expect all liberals and liberal parties to urge their governments to promote multilateral initiatives in the East-West, North-South and world-wide contexts in order to strengthen further the existing international human rights instruments, including the introduction of international sanctions against grave and constant violations of their standards;

- reaffirm the proposal of the 1978 LI Congress in Zürich for the creation of an International Court on Human Rights;

- urge all liberals and liberal parties to urge those governments concerned to ratify the International Convention of 1984 against Torture, thereby abolishing torture worldwide;

- demand that all liberals and liberal parties urge their governments to promote a convention against the death penalty worldwide.

We liberals finally,

demand that the Executive Committee of LI sets up a working group to monitor the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and more specifically with the tasks :

- to follow up the relevant Congress resolutions;

- to encourage member parties and groups to take national and international actions;

- to collect and distribute information about liberal activities in the human rights field in cooperation with the Liberal Groups of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament;

- to promote campaigns aiming at specific cases where liberals are involved;

- to report regularly through the Executive Committee to the Congress of Liberal International.




Helsinki Declaration on the Environment 1990

Liberal International Congress 1990, Finland

I. The Liberal Commitment to the Environment
This Congress recalls the long standing engagement of liberal forces the world over in the field of promoting ecologically sustainable development.

In particular it recalls :

- the Liberal Declaration of Oxford (1967), where it was stated that "the community has a special responsibility to protect natural resources from indiscriminate development, either by public or private interests";

- the Liberal Appeal of 1981, where a strong warning was issued about "the deterioration in the 'terms of exchange' between man and nature due to the increasing pressure of population and its demands";

-  the call - made in the same Appeal - for "massive energy conservation and the development of renewable and ecologically safe energy resources";

- the plea - also issued in the Appeal of 1981 - for "a more just distribution of wealth" between North and South, which requires that "the industrialised societies drastically reduce their waste of raw materials and non-renewable energy resources";

- the resolution passed by the 1984 congress concerning transnational air pollution, where all governments were urged "to take active steps to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from industry and power stations";

- the resolution issued at the 1986 Congress, where the proposal of the "development and implementation of a worldwide environmental policy", based on the principles of prevention, liability and cooperation was made and where "to instill as accepted thinking that ecology and economy are not contradictory" was formulated as one of the main objectives of such a policy;

- the resolution adopted at the 1987 Congress backing the recommendations of the World Commission on Environment and Development;

- the resolutions accepted by the 1988 Congress on toxic waste and acid rain, the latter calling for accelerated efforts "to arrive at a strong international protocol to reduce pollution by oxides of nitrogen";

- the resolution passed by the 1989 Congress stressing international environmental cooperation and demanding special attention to ecological issues in the CSCE process as well as in development cooperation.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness now among the world population and their political leaders that for the long-term safeguarding of our planet and the maintenance of its ecological balance, joint effort and action is necessary.

While striving to preserve the global environment, it is important to work at the same time to ensure stable development of the world economy, in line with the concept of sustainable development. All countries, especially industrialised countries, should recognise the need to make their socio-economic activities and life-styles environmentally sound.

II. Liberal Principles Regarding Mankind's Relationship with Nature
This Congress reiterates that from a liberal point of view the complex relationship between mankind and nature must be viewed as a stewardship. Mankind has a moral responsibility to use common sense and creativity to preserve and enhance good living conditions for all living things. Liberals reject laissez-faire exploitaation of nature and, bearing in mind that man alone can take responsibility for the future of our planet, reject the view of those who put equal value on the lives of human beings and other living things.

No generation has a freehold on this earth. The protection of the environment is of the same order as the protection of human rights. Infringements should be seen as a violation of individual and communal rights.

It is the responsibility of both citizens and enterprises to avoid and prevent unacceptable and irreparable damage inflicted upon the environment. Unloading present environmental problems on future generations is irreconcilable with the liberal principle of accepting one's own responsibility.

This congress states that liberal environmental policy starts from the premise that it is a fundamental right to have clean air, soil, water and a quiet environment. Furthermore, liberals emphasise the significance of undisturbed natural environments and diverse flora and fauna. This intricately links environmental issues with questions of justice and distribution of wealth. This is particularly evident with regard to those parts of the world which do not have a single owner, such as the seas, rain forests, air etc.

The issue of environmental protection is not something that only the rich countries can afford to worry about. If nature turns malevolent, poor countries have in fact much more to lose than the rich. This fact implies an interdependence of environmental policies with development strategies.

This Congress endorses the definition of sustainable development given by the United Nations' World Commission on Environment and Development, namely "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

III. The Main International Issues for a Liberal Policy on the Environment
This Congress states that a large and growing number of ecological problems know neither political nor geographical borders. In fact the protection of the environment has become a global issue and, therefore, must - like peace and disarmament - figure amongst the highest priorities of international cooperation. No summit whether on a bilateral or multilateral level should be held without environmental issues being high on the agenda.

Three challenges stand out in the field of international environmental cooperation :

- the environment and North-South relations;

- the environment and the profound changes in the formerly communist world;

- global environmental dangers.

Within the framework of North-South cooperation urgent solutions are required for :

- the problems of large and ever-increasing populations;

- poverty as a cause of environmental damage;

- the problems of habitat destruction in the tropics and the consequent extinction of animal and plant species;

- environmental destruction caused by rapid industrialisation and growth of demand in the South;

- the continuing inequity in the consumption of raw materials and non-renewable energy sources between North and South.

Concerning the formerly communist countries the main challenges are :

- the massive environmental destruction perpetrated;

- the huge pent up demands for matching Western standards of living;

- the introduction of an ecologically sustainable market economy.

On the global level several environmental problems are emerging as a threat to our survival. While it is essential that research facilities are strengthened, action in such areas as global warming or the destruction of the ozone layer must not be further delayed with the argument that scientific data is incomplete. In fact one has to remember that in environmental protection, prevention is generally several times cheaper than cleaning up pollution afterwards.

In order to solve each environmental problem the most suitable organisation and the most effective approach should be chosen in every instance.

For global problems, such as global man-made emissions of greenhouse gases and the depletion of the ozone layer, the United Nations are the best instrument. This Congress feels that there should be established a UN Council for the Environment, with a status and authority similar to that of the Security Council. A new article on the subject will then have to be added to the Charter of the UN.

A non-governmental organisation for monitoring purposes, comparable to the much-respected Amnesty International structure, should be set up, as individuals and governments may be slow to recognise their responsibilities and respond to the global requirements.

IV. Proposals for Action

Population growth and the increasing use of energy are the two principal developments which will cause environmental problems in the near future, in case of unaltered policy.

Population growth implies:

- increased use of space and natural resources at the expense of nature and environment (inter alia erosion);

- increased food production to meet basic needs, resulting in growing use of pesticides and fertilisers affecting the quality of soil and ground water;

- increased use of energy.

The growing use of energy is a contributory cause of:

- the greenhouse effect (CO2 gases);

- acid rain (forests);

- climate change.

Therefore fundamental decisions have to be taken in these two areas in order to avert imminent threats to the environment.

This Congress appeals to national governments, regional organisations, international bodies and, in particular, to the members of the Liberal International to work for the speedy realisation of the following proposals for action:

The tailoring of economic policies in the industrialised and in the developing countries in accordance with sustainable development

This requires first and foremost the recognition of the fact that renewable resources must be exploited in ways that allow them to maintain their productive capacity and protective function. The stock of non-renewable resources will of course decrease when exploited, but market economy and scientific development can meet problems of shortages by promoting new technologies, recycling and conservation. Sustainable development does not mean zero economic growth. It represents growth within the bounds set by the need to maintain the environmental capital, it means changing the signals given to economic decision makers.

Changing these signals means changing prices and using the market. The state controls should be restricted to the setting of maximum total levels of pollution, whereas the market forces should be given every opportunity to employ the economically most effective technology to produce goods and services in an ecologically sustainable manner. To achieve this it is necessary to ensure that prices reflect the true value of the environmental assets used up or damaged in the production of goods and services. Environmental fees and taxes - such as for example a tax on the use of non-renewable and/or polluting energy - should be collected according to the principle that the polluter pays. These environmental taxes must not, however, be imposed in a way that unduly burdens individuals with limited income. Care should be taken that the total tax burden is not increased unnecessarily, and that such taxes and fees are raised within a framework of international coordination so that no advantage is given to countries that offer deliberately low levels of taxation and environmental protection. Revenue from environmental taxation should initially be used for activities in the field of environmental protection and, in the long run, to alleviate other forms of taxation. The role of regional economic associations, such as the European Community, in creating effective international schemes of environmental taxation needs to be emphasised in order to avoid distortion of economic competition between nations and corporations.

Furthermore, the goal of sustainable development can only be achieved through a fundamental reform of governmental policies on subsidies. Subsidies and price controls artificially influence prices, giving the illusion that some things are in plentiful supply when they are not. Throughout the world water is wasted because it is too cheap and farmers both in the industrialised and in the developing countries are encouraged to use an excess of environmentally damaging pesticides and fertilisers. The further development of agriculture must be a sustainable one. Price support also takes away the incentive to pursue mixed farming and instead encourages monocultures. An environment-sensitive agricultural policy makes due allowance for the distinctive features of agricultural production to create a tax system that is adapted to its special requirements. Consumers have to accept the fact that ecologically-grown food will cost more.

The effective reduction of the unsustainably high rate of population growth

This requires that in the field of development assistance much more money is made available for measures in the areas of population control and family planning. Such measures must cover a wide field of initiatives, from assisting developing countries in setting up social security systems to development strategies aimed at improving the status and education of women.

It further requires that governments make family planning a mandatory component of their basic health programmes. Family planning measures in order to be successful must be implemented within a democratic framework and must be voluntary.

It finally requires that leaders of religious and social institutions influence their followers to adopt and implement family planning and at the same time promote the emancipation of women.

All nations are to commit themselves to follow the resolutions on population issues adopted at the Population Forum in Amsterdam, 1989.

The linking of development aid programmes with environmental protection

This requires that environmental protection be included, from the planning stage onwards, in all development aid programmes and that multi as well as bilateral donors dedicate an increasing part of their development aid budgets to activities connected with the protection of the environment and the biological diversity.

It furthermore requires that governments in developing countries extend the rights of local communities to own, utilise and protect natural resources and to take part in decisions regarding their own environment. This is of particular importance with regard to prevention of deforestation and renewal of tree cover. Massive investments in agroforestry and afforestation (which must be part of internationally sponsored development programmes) can only be implemented in a meaningful way, if they are integrated with basic services such as water supply, waste disposal, food production and health care.

It also requires an innovative approach towards the partial cancellation of foreign debt in exchange for conservation measures by the debtor government.

The up-grading of environmental issues on the political agenda of global and regional cooperation

In order to achieve the goals of sustainable development, the United Nations Charter should be revised to include the environmental aspects and provide the world organisation with the means to implement the environmental protection measures necessary for achieving these goals.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) should be given a strengthened authority in its field of action, and the budget of the organisation should be increased significantly.

This requires first and foremost that within existing and evolving frameworks of regional cooperation such as the EC and ASEAN, the common standards of environmental policies must be based on the most progressive legislation amongst the community members and not on the lowest common denominator. Differences of intensity with which environmental policy is pursued should be considered also in the GATT talks.

In the special case of East and Central Europe it requires the granting of long-term loans and technical support in order to reduce pollution and to promote environmentally sounder production processes. The finances needed for this should not be taken from aid budgets for developing countries.

Where regional cooperation is still in its infancy such as in Central and South America, in Africa and South Asia, environmental issues can serve as a useful and important platform for promoting and concretising regional cooperation. This is of particular importance in regions where political and military tensions prevent even the most elementary aspects of cooperation such as in the Middle East and in certain parts of Africa.

The accelerated implementation of policies for the protection of the global climate

On a global level the most pressing challenge is the protection of the world's climate. This is both a technological and a political challenge. While the rich countries got richer they polluted freely and exploited those resources that they now want low-income countries to conserve. Clearly the future increase in greenhouse gases will come mainly from the developing world. Of the approximately 3.5 billion people currently living in developing countries, some 2 billion are still dependent on traditional sources of energy such as firewood, charcoal as well as plant or animal remains. The diminishing size of the forest reserves in these countries contrasts with a growth in energy needs.

This requires that both in the developing and the industrialised countries renewable energy sources be given higher priority, and that the latter should invest seriously in the research and implementation of appropriate technologies which then should be shared with the developing countries.

This requires further that governments in the industrialised countries agree as soon as possible to reduce their consumption of fossil energy significantly, setting as a target the freezing of carbon dioxide emissions at the present level to the year 2000 and further reductions in the next decades. In the field of electricity, energy-saving and improved efficiency is the most cost-effective way of slowing down global warming. It is not possible to achieve the 50% reduction in energy consumption by the year 2010, as anticipated by the Brundtland Commission by building more nuclear power plants. The key long-term objective should be to base energy production on renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and water power, and to multiply resources to extend research of these forms of energy. Complementary to this, the global community should seek to increase the volume of biomass-binding organic carbon, which implies that forest regeneration and planting should be given top priority in global development programmes.

This Congress firmly believes that, within one generation, two essential goals must be achieved:

1 all working methods and procedures to be based on the principle of sustainable development in industrialised and developing countries;

2 existing pollution to be cleaned up to the extent that it will be under control in order not to have adverse effects on future generations.

Last but not least: the quality of the environment does not affect only the globe, nature, the climate, natural resources, future generations. The health of human beings, living today, is at stake as well. On December 7th and 8th 1989, at Frankfurt-am-Main, the Ministers of the Environment and of Health of the member States of the European Region of the World Health Organisation met together for the first time and adopted the European Charter on Environment and Health and agreed upon the principles and strategies laid down therein as a firm commitment to action. The LI Congress calls upon all governments, when deciding upon policy affecting the environment, to take into account the dependence of human health on a wide range of crucial environmental factors and to pay attention to the vital importance of preventing health hazards by protecting the environment.

The Ministerial Conference on Atmospheric Pollution and Climatic Change held in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, in November 1989 produced the Noordwijk Declaration, a unique document which is very valuable. The issues will be further elaborated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change and by the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva, in November 1990.




Oxford Manifesto 1997: The Liberal Agenda for the 21st Century

The Liberal Manifesto, adopted by the 48th Congress of Liberal International on 27-30 November 1997 in The Town Hall in Oxford, UK

Inspired by the founders of the Liberal International who fifty years ago launched the Liberal Manifesto, 475 Liberals from every continent have returned to Oxford on 27­30 November 1997 to consider Liberal responses to the challenges and opportunities that emerge on the threshold of a new millennium.

Over the past 50 years, substantial progress has been made in establishing open societies based upon political and economic liberty. However, there is still a long way to go. New generations have to define liberal priorities in the face of new opportunities and new dangers.

There remain many challenges to Liberalism: from the violation of human rights, from excessive concentrations of power and wealth; from fundamentalist, totalitarian, xenophobic and racist ideologies, from discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, age, sexual orientation and disability; from poverty and ignorance, from the widening gap between rich and poor; from the misuse of new technologies, from the weakening of social ties, from competition for scarce resources, from environmental degradation in an overcrowded world, from organised crime and from political corruption. Our task as Liberals in the 21st Century will be to seek political responses to these new challenges which promote individual liberty and human rights, open societies and economies, and global cooperation.

Our Liberal Values

We reaffirm our commitment to the principles of Liberalism set out in the International Liberal Manifesto of April 1947: that liberty and individual responsibility are the foundations of civilised society; that the state is only the instrument of the citizens it serves; that any action of the state must respect the principles of democratic accountability; that constitutional liberty is based upon the principles of separation of powers; that justice requires that in all criminal prosecution the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, and to a fair verdict free from any political influence; that state control of the economy and private monopolies both threaten political liberty; that rights and duties go together, and that every citizen has a moral responsibility to others in society; and that a peaceful world can only be built upon respect for these principles and upon cooperation among democratic societies. We reaffirm that these principles are valid throughout the world.

Freedom, responsibility, tolerance, social justice and equality of opportunity: these are the central values of Liberalism, and they remain the principles on which an open society must be built. These principles require a careful balance of strong civil societies, democratic government, free markets, and international cooperation.

We believe that the conditions of individual liberty include the rule of law, equal access to a full and varied education, freedom of speech, association, and access to information, equal rights and opportunities for women and men, tolerance of diversity, social inclusion, the promotion of private enterprise and of opportunities for employment. We believe that civil society and constitutional democracy provide the most just and stable basis for political order. We see civil society as constituted by free citizens, living within a framework of established law, with individual rights guaranteed, with the powers of government limited and subject to democratic accountability.

We believe that an economy based on free market rules leads to the most efficient distribution of wealth and resources, encourages innovation, and promotes flexibility.

We believe that close cooperation among democratic societies through global and regional organisations, within the framework of international law, of respect for human rights, the rights of national and ethnic minorities, and of a shared commitment to economic development worldwide, is the necessary foundation for world peace and for economic and environmental sustainability.

The advance of Liberalism, 1947-97

We welcome the progress made over the past fifty years in putting Liberal principles into practice in a growing number of countries:

the return of freedom and democracy to the former communist countries in Europe 

the spread of democratic government and the rule of law. 

the end of colonialism, with previously-subject peoples gaining the opportunity for self-government. 

the retreat of the state from control of national economies, with widespread acceptance that market economies create wealth more effectively and distribute it more widely. 

the transformation of education from a privilege for a minority to a life-long process for a rising proportion of citizens. 

growing respect for human rights, both within states and as a subject for international oversight and - where necessary - intervention. 

a growing national and international awareness of the human rights of women and children. 

the extension of the rules of equality to sexual minorities and the recognition that homosexuality and lesbianism are legitimate expressions of personal proclivities. 

the consolidation of an open international economy, within an agreed framework of international regulation. 

the strengthening of international law and of global and regional institutions. 
increased freedom of information, communication and travel, both within and across national boundaries. 

acceptance that shared responsibility within the world community extends to a common obligation to tackle world poverty and to protect the global environment.

The challenge for our generation

We recognise that these achievements have been won so far for only a minority of humankind.

The challenges we face in the next fifty years are to build on what has been achieved, to extend the principles of liberalism throughout the world, and to harness the forces of change to consolidate rather than to undermine the development of open societies.

The challenges we face include:

1. The challenge of extending democracy.

Liberal democracy has at last become widely accepted as the global model for political organisation. But only a minority of states are yet properly democratic. Authoritarian regimes, military elites usurping power, abuse of state powers for partisan purposes, criminal elements gaining influence over government, power-seekers exploiting popular hopes and fears, still block the path to liberty. We call on all governments and peoples

* to discriminate in international relations in favour of governments which observe the rules of human rights and democracy;

* to abolish capital punishment all over the world;

* to strengthen the rule of law and to promote good governance within a genuinely democratic framework;

* to redirect public spending from military expenditure towards investment in social capital, sustainability, and the alleviation of poverty;

* to limit the sale of arms, and to prevent the sale of the means of repression to non-democratic regimes, and to promote the effectiveness of the UN register of conventional arms;

* to combat corruption, organised crime and terrorism;

* to promote media free from undue control or interference by government or dominant companies;

* to instil through education the crucial importance of tolerance to the very existence of a civilised society

2. The challenge of violence and of global governance.

In a world filled with violent conflicts, one of the most critical tasks is to find effective means of avoiding violence. An increasingly interdependent world also requires a high standard of international cooperation to promote a secure, sustainable and equitable world order. Transnational crime, intractable disease, environmental pollution and the threat of climate change pose additional challenges for international cooperation. Liberals are committed to strengthen global governance through the United Nations and through regional cooperation. We call on all governments to join in the initiative to establish an international criminal court with jurisdiction over war criminals. Our objective in the 21st century is to build a liberal world order securely based upon the rule of law and backed by appropriate global and regional institutions.

3. The challenge of improving democracy.

We recognise that democratic practices must be extended further to meet the expectations of more educated societies and to protect against disillusionment with representative government. Citizens deserve better access to information, more effective parliamentary controls on executive power, wider opportunities to play an active part in public life and to question their governments. The principle of subsidiarity must be fully respected, to give the maximum autonomy to regions and local communities. Effective decentralisation of political power to self-governing communities remains the best way to empower every citizen.

4. The tension between self-government and human rights.

Self-government, more specifically state sovereignty, can conflict with individual freedom and human rights. Authoritarian regimes abuse the principle of sovereignty to bar intervention to support those who are denied freedom. Liberals insist that human rights are indivisible and universal, and do not depend on citizenship of a specific state, or on membership of a particular ethnic or social group, gender, religion or political party. Adequate sanctions should be found by the international community against governments which refuse to observe the principles of an open international society.

5. The challenge of poverty and social exclusion.

Poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion blight the lives of men and especially of women, children and the elderly, and present major dangers to civil society. Poverty breeds despair and despair breeds extremism, intolerance and aggression. The central question in the alleviation of poverty is how to provide people with the means to fight poverty themselves, to lift themselves out of poverty. We call for an active policy, creating opportunity for education and employment, assistance for those who cannot help themselves, resting upon a partnership between public and private provision. Public institutions and welfare systems must be as flexible and as locally administered as possible, aiming to promote individual responsibility and respond to individual circumstances.

6. The challenge of lean government.

The age-old misconception that it is government's business to organise people's happiness is heading for crisis, if not collapse, all over the world. In most industrialised countries, exaggerated and ill-targeted systems of social security and redistribution threaten to break down, and state budgets to impose ever-increasing debt burdens on future generations. In developing countries, attempts to promote development exclusively or predominantly by government action are bound to fail, through overloading government and stifling private initiative, the only factor that can produce really sustainable development. Liberals recognise that the capacity of government is limited, that 'big government' and the growth of state expenditure are themselves serious threats to a free society, and that limiting the scope of government and retrenchment of government spending must therefore be given priority.

7. The need for a new contract between generations.

We recognise the tensions between the immediate pressures of demand and consumption and the long-term interests of community and environment, with which governments as trustees for society must be concerned. We seek a new contract between generations, recognising the benefits which current consumers and citizens have received from earlier investment and the responsibilities they carry to maintain and renew the natural environment, cultural treasures, public assets and social capital for future generations. Prices should reflect the underlying costs of pollution and of the exploitation of natural resources.

8. The challenge of scientific and technological progress.

We welcome the economic and social opportunities presented by new technologies and scientific innovation. But we also recognise the need for public scrutiny of their potential impact, and misuse, and for national and international regulation. The precautionary principle should be the governing principle in all sectors of human activity. This is particularly true for the threat of climate change, which mankind has to address immediately. Binding agreements and timetables for substantial reductions of the consumption of fossil fuels are urgently needed. Consumption must be kept within the regenerative capacities of the ecosystems. All chemicals, genetically engineered substances and industrial products should be carefully tested before they are commercially utilised. We also welcome the revolution in communications, which offers new opportunities to promote creativity, decentralisation, and individual autonomy and initiative. Liberals insist upon diverse channels of communication, provided through competition in the open market. Information, networks and other communication structures must be widely accessible, with open systems for producers and consumers and public interest bodies.

9. The challenge of creating open markets.

Open societies need open markets. A liberal, open and tolerant society requires a market economy. Political freedom and economic freedom belong together. With the markets of ideas and innovations, with the competition for the best solution, the market economy creates a dynamic progress that provides the best opportunity for an independent life. With the underlying principle of private property and a legal framework to prevent monopolies, open markets generate private initiative and the economic means for social assistance. Bureaucratic regulations of market economics and protectionism are therefore barriers for new chances and new jobs in developing countries as well as in the industrialised world.

In order to achieve an ecologically and socially sustainable development the emphasis should be shifted from taxation of labour to taxation of energy and raw material consumption. Without such a change the environmental problems and the unemployment will continue to increase.

10. The challenge of world-wide development.

Corrupt and authoritarian government, weak states and societies, unemployment, impoverishment, illiteracy, and over-population all contribute to environmental degradation, generate flows of migrants and refugees, and provoke revolts against political and social order. It is in the long-term self-interest of the developed world to encourage human progress, and assist economic development within poor countries; it is also a moral responsibility. Since open global markets best serve to promote prosperity, within both rich and poor countries, Liberals will have to aggressively re-emphasise, and to the best of their ability implement, their firm conviction that free trade, by giving the best opportunities to the economically weak, is the safest way towards overcoming poverty in the world. Resistance to economic protectionism therefore remains a key Liberal commitment.

At the dawn of the 21st century we commit ourselves as Liberals to work together to meet these challenges. We reaffirm the Liberal commitment to place the freedom and dignity of every human being at the centre of our political life.

199th Executive Committee
Johannesburg, 27-29 October
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