The Liberal International Human Rights Committee would also like to thank our sponsers for their kind support:
- ALDE Party - Rassemblement des Républicains
- Democratic Progressive Party
- Radikale Venstre
Liberal International is pleased to announce the release of the LI Human Rights Committee Annual Report – covering all major areas of LI’s human rights work through the year 2013, including lobbying at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the promotion of LGBT rights, and the awarding of the LI Prize for Freedom to Senator Dick Marty.
The LI Human Rights Committee has been active throughout the world and this 2nd annual report reflects the extensive and diverse work undertaken by Liberal International in defence of human rights.
The report is available free of charge in e-Book format, via the link below:
The Liberal International Human Rights Committee would also like to thank our sponsers for their kind support: - ALDE Group - ALDE Party - Centerpartiet - Democratic Progressive Party
- Radikale Venstre
President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has signed a controversial homophobic bill which grants life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill punishes both homosexuals as well as defenders of gay rights and people who fail to report acts of homosexuality to the authorities, including doctors and parents of gay children, each group risking an imprisonment of up to seven years.
Reacting to the news LI Vice President on the Bureau and ex-Human Rights Commissioner of Germany Markus Löning said: “The latest homophobic bill passed in Uganda is worrisome as it promotes discrimination and fear. It is a provocation for anyone who believes in freedom of every human being. It is infringement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I would like to reiterate the statement of the President of the Africa Liberal Network, and stress that the discrimination propagated by the Ugandan state is not only un-African but ethically indefensible.”
While signing the law, President Museveni spoke of it as declaration of “independence from the West”. LI VP Markus Löning, who visited Uganda last year, commented: “Human Rights are for everyone and everywhere. Such blatantly discriminatory policies have nothing to do with geography or culture. It has to do with greed for power and for being utterly intolerant. The tolerance of the international community for those do disrespect universal human rights should have an end, too.”
The Chair of LI LGBT Rights Working Group, Frank Van Dalen, voiced his concerns, saying: “We have to show that we are serious about protecting and promoting human rights for all. Re-evaluation on the development budget is the first appropriate action but it should not be the only one. We have to provide a sustainable solution. Considering providing asylum protection for LGBTI people under threat as well as discouraging foreign direct investment and tourism in Uganda are other areas to look into.”
Note to editors:
- African liberal leaders have come out with support for LGBTI Rights by releasing a statement following the signing into law of the repressive discriminatory “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act” in Nigeria. A copy of the statement can be accessed here.
- WHO (the World Health Organisation) had removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases on 17 May 1990
- The Holy See (Vatican) Statement at the 63rd session of the UN GA in 2008 advocating “that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them”
- The ALDE Group in the European Parliament recently passed a resolution calling on President Museveni not to sign the bill into law. A copy of the text can be accessed here.
Chair of LI Human Rights Committee, Abir Al-Sahlani MP, has stressed the need for the adoption of a full legal framework for protecting the rights of refugees across Europe. The Swedish liberal politician’s comments come following the tragic loss of more than 300 African migrants, who drowned trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Al-Sahlani said: “I am deeply saddened and equally disturbed by the tragedy which struck off of the coast of Lampedusa. I would like to express my condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in this tragic event. It is high time for Europe to assume full legal responsibility towards all people seeking refuge on its territory and assure that such tragedies are prevented from occurring in the future. As part of its obligations under the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights to which it is a signatory, Europe is bound to provide refugees with a legal framework to seek sanctuary and not let them fall powerless into the hands of smugglers.
“More than 1500 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the last year alone, with numbers steadily on the rise. How many more people do we need to witness drowning before we say “enough!”? What happened in Lampedusa is not an Italian tragedy. It is a European tragedy! We can no longer afford to continue to ignore this horrible reality. We need to take concrete steps by engaging in a stronger dialogue with the countries across the Mediterranean region and by focusing on preventing not reacting to such unnecessary incidents. Furthermore, European Union member states have to reach a full agreement with the United Nations Refugee Agency on the number of refugees they can take in and adopting a binding legal mechanism is the only way to do so.”
Al-Sahlani: Belgrade Pride cancellation is government's failure to tackle homophobia
"In Liberal International we have taken time to analyse the cancellation of the Belgrade Pride. It is a serious issue that requires even more serious attention", said Abir Al-Sahlani MP, Chair of the LI Human Rights Committee.
She continued: "In the last 12-36 months since the banning of the Belgrade LGBT Pride, the Serbian government didn't do anything to counter the homophobia in the country that provokes continuous calls for violence against LGBT people and the potential Pride participants. That's the essence of the problem. Hooligans themselves are not. Every democratic society handles existing hooliganism. However, the Serbian government found excuse in security challenges posed by the hooligan groups to cancel the Pride."
"Security challenges will not vanish by themselves. The government has the responsibility to create the atmosphere of tolerance and respect, which would lead to enhanced security. Respect for minorities of any kind, respect for Human Rights, and respect for freedom of speech have been a long term problem for Serbia. If the authorities managed to show progress in some aspects, it was because there was political will. It seems like the Serbian authorities lack understanding of the real meaning of democracy and shared values of the EU member states, and has no will to counter homophobia. We should say clearly to the Serbian authorities that it is not an acceptable attitude. Serbia would be a much more prosperous nation if its authorities would follow the example set by their Croatian colleagues, which brought Serbia's western neighbour, Croatia, into the EU only few months ago."
"Liberal International was proud to have in Belgrade high ranking representatives from its member parties. Next to our Serbian member Liberal Democratic Party that has always championed Human Rights in their nation, EU Minister Birgitta Ohlsson of our Swedish member Folkpartiet and former LI Vice President on the Bureau Jelko Kacin MEP of Slovenia were scheduled to address and support the Belgrade Pride. The Serbian government's decision prevented them from enjoying the freedom of expression alongside those who wanted to march."
"LI will use the available means to address this issue in front the UN Human Rights Council where it enjoys consultative status."
Liberal International Marks International Day Against Homophobia
London, 17 May 2013
In commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, LI LGBT Rights Working Group Chair Frank van Dalen stressed that liberals and LGBT activists and organizations from around the world should work together in order to promote the emancipation of LGBT people and combat violence and discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
At last year's Congress in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberal International brought together, for the first time, grassroots African LGBT activists who shared their visions with liberals from around the world, including many African politicians. LI was active in lobbying the UN for international coordination to promote equality and to pressure and condemn those states that continue to persecute and discriminate against the LGBT community. Liberal International was the only political international present at the world conference of the International Gay and Lesbian Association, where we offered a workshop and connected with hundreds of LGBT activists from around the world.
Today, as the world marks International Day against Homophobia, LI is preparing next steps in the long fight against bigotry and discrimination against the LGBT community. LI's leadership calls for unity and partnership between liberal politicians and LGBT activists around the world.
As LI Deputy President Dr. Juli Minoves (above left) put is, “A strong network of liberal parties and LGBT organizations can advance the work of brave LGBT rights activists. Liberals and LGBT activists should join forces. Liberal International offers its commitment to such partnership.”
Or as LI LGBT Rights Working Group Coordinator Frank Van Dalen (left)announced today, “It is time to recognize that it is our duty to promote and foster partnerships between liberal political parties and LGBT organizations, as it is these kinds of partnerships that can really make a difference. While some LGBT activists in certain countries have challenges connecting with political parties, some politicians are equally afraid of being identified with LGBT themes. We have to tackle these obstacles together, as it is only by overcoming them that we can generate new pro-LGBT possibilities; especially in countries with state-sponsored homophobia.”
Liberal International is pleased to present the first Annual Report Human Rights Committee Report. This document covers the activities of the Committee for the calendar year of 2012, which was the first operational year of the Committee following its renewed mandate at LI's 187th Executive Committee Meeting in London in October 2011.
The Liberal International Human Rights Committee would also like to thank our sponsers for their kind support:
LI VP on the Bureau and LI HRC Chair, Abir Al-Sahlani MP, has strongly condemned the recent constitutional changes in Hungary which have led to an ever increasing concentration of power in the hands of the ruling conservative Fidezs party and PM Victor Orban. She expressed concern that such changes will undermine the democratic processes in the country and will lead to instability in the region. Commenting on the occasion she said:
“Hungary must observe the democratic principles that it vowed to respect upon joining the European Union. Political processes in Hungary need to be transparent and balanced. A well-functioning democracy in Hungary is crucial for the stability of the entire European region. We cannot allow for the country to slip back into its authoritarian past. Hungary needs to move forward. I strongly condemn the recent constitutional changes and I call on the government of PM Victor Orban to acknowledge and respect the EU acquis. Liberal International stands firm in continued support to the restoration of the principle of the rule of law in the country“.
14 March, 2013
Note to Editors:
At the last LI Congress in Abidjan, in The World Today resolution Liberal International expressed “extreme concern over the anti-democratic developments in Hungary and called on the EU institutions to deal with these deficiencies in a more effective way”.
On 8 March we celebrate International Women's Day: a day when we acknowledge the role of women as pillars for the functioning of our communities. As we rejoice and honour brave and courageous women, we should constantly aim to achieve the advancement of their rights as women's rights are first and foremost human rights.
This week the UN Commission on the Status of Women met to discuss preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. UK liberal Minister Lynne Featherstone MP spoke of the importance of addressing the root causes of such violence, namely gender inequality and traditional “rules in society.” We echo the Minister's message: cultural or religious factors may not prevail and permit customs such as female genital mutilation or honour killings.
As we reflect on the importance of this day it is important to remember that many countries still lack laws against domestic violence while maternal death remains as a challenge due to poor healthcare systems around the world. As liberals it is our duty to ensure that no female voice is ever forcibly silenced and that no woman or girl is ever denied the right to live and enjoy the life that she envisioned for herself.
But the battle cannot and must not end here: we have to empower women by giving them the right tools. Let us:
- Start by allowing for women to take their future into their own hands and securing their access to education - Continue by providing them with a safe and nurturing environment where they are cherished, respected and loved - Make sure that women are no longer victims but rather active agents of change. - Work together in order to ensure that women's rights are enshrined in national legislations and that all violence against women and girls is criminalized.
For fifty percent of the population on this planet this is certainly a battle worth fighting for.
We can't celebrate knowing that there are still many women around the world for whom this day is nothing more than a distant dream. We need to all move forward and ensure that courageous steps taken by girls like Malala are not forgotten or lost.
LI VP on the Bureau and LI HRC Chair Abir Al-Sahlani MP commented on Israel's decision not to participate in the workings of the United Nations Human Rights Council by stressing that Israel's concerns have to be addressed within the United Nations system not outside of it.
In an unprecedented move yesterday Israel boycotted the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council by refusing to participate in the Universal Periodic Review: a procedure mandatory for all UN member states. The move was promoted by criticism the Council has voiced over Israel's continued West Bank settlements.
Reacting to the announcement, LI Vice-President on the Bureau and LI Human Rights Committee Chair, Abir Al-Sahlani MP, said: “As a shining example of democracy in a region where there is no functioning democracy at all Israel has chosen to turn its back on the basic principles guiding the work of the UN Human Rights Mechanisms. If a democracy acts like this then what is to be expected from non-democratic states? It is important to remember that above all the United Nations Human Rights Council was not created merely to name and shame: it was created as to foster mutual dialogue and cooperation in order to tackle the gravest of human rights violations. While the Israeli state has the right to defend its policy this must be done within the United Nations system not outside of it.”
30 January, 2013
Note for the Editors:
Liberal International enjoys a consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council which allows it to actively participate in the work of the UN Human Rights Council where it has raised various issues of concern such as the rights of human rights defenders, LGBT Rights, the universal abolition of the death penalty and many more.
On the occasion of 10 December, the International Human Rights Day, Abir Al-Sahlani MP, Vice President on the Bureau of Liberal International and Chair of LI Human Rights Committee stated: 'Today we mark a Day when we honour what defines each of us as a human being: the entitlement to defend our human dignity by exercising our inalienable fundamental rights. The Liberal International Human Rights Committee that I chair is determined to continue the global fight to stop human rights violations. We have a clear agenda focusing on the protection of core human rights such as women's rights, LGBT anti-discrimination, and the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect at a time when the need to recognize and most importantly advance these rights is as strong as ever.'
She continued giving an accent to some of the most important issues of today: 'Throughout the course of this year we have witnessed that the Arab Spring has not given the results that the revolution and the young people have voiced for: freedom and liberal democracy is yet to flourish, as populists have used the vacuum. LI won't stand by and will continue to be an active actor. Next LI Executive Committee in the region, in Lebanon, is a clear testimony to our determination to help the people. I expect our members to do the same, by doubling their assistance not to miss this historic opportunity for the people of the Arab world.'
Abir Al-Sahlani recalled the LI statements of 2012 at the UN Human Rights Council: 'I want to pay a special tribute to the many human rights defenders and political prisoners who remain in detention simply because they have spoken out. While it is important to ensure their protection, it is equally important to hold states that have failed to protect them accountable for such actions. We must not rest assured until all prisoners of conscience have been released.'
Liberal International has long advocated the importance of ensuring equal access to education for all girls and women as a fundamental step towards the elimination of gender discrimination. Addressing that priority, LI Human Rights Chair said: 'The fourteen year old Malala was the best example that we could learn from. Women's rights have to be enshrined in the national legislation of every single country around the world. There cannot be compromise on that - women should take their future into their own hands.'
Abir Al-Sahlani called for an action among LI members and liberals across the world: 'We have to turn written commitments into action and ensure that injustices are fought. Laws which ensure equal rights for all must be introduced all around the world. Injustices are best fought by taking action together. Let us name and shame all countries which continue to violate the rights of their own citizens. We have to appeal to our respective foreign ministers about the deteriorating human rights situation in many countries, such as Belarus, Nicaragua and Syria by pressing them for concrete action.'
The LI Human Rights Committee convened for its 4th meeting in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire in the context of LI 58th Congress to discuss LGBT rights with local activists and liberals from around the world. The session was chaired by Markus Loening, Federal Commissioner for Human Rights (FDP, Germany) and newly elected Vice President on the LI Bureau. Speakers included Naomi Blumenthal, Former Deputy Minister for National Infrastructure (Israeli Liberal Group), Danko Runic, Director of the Agency for European Integration of the City of Belgrade (LDP, Serbia),Frank Van Dalen, Coordinator of the LGBT Rights working group within the LI HRC (VVD, Netherlands) and representatives from two local LGBT Rights NGOs: Alternative Cote d'Ivoire and ARC EN CIEL PLUS respectively.
Both panellists and participants agreed that more information is needed on the causes of homophobia in the first place so that discrimination against LGBT individuals is tackled in a solution-oriented way. Among the conclusions reached were that in order to fight homophobia homosexuality needs to be decrminialized along with ensuring equal rights for LGBT individuals by pushing for internationalization of laws protecting LGBT people.
Below are excerpts from the different speakers who took part in the panel:
Danko Runic: 'The banned Belgrade Pride Parade is a signal that wrong policies are currently being implemented in Serbia especially in the sphere of education. The truth is that the majority of people in Serbia are not xenophobic but the very absence of a clear policy from the national institutions on the issue is a problem. Thus, continued cooperation with civil society organisations from around the world is key.'
Alternative Cote d'Ivoire: 'Africans view homosexuality as a western issue and unfortunately in Cote d'Ivoire there is still a lack of legal framework protecting the rights of LGBTI people. The only way forward is for LGBT Rights to be recognzied as Human Rights in the constitution of Côte d'Ivoire.'
Naomi Blumenthal: 'How do we succeed in implementing LGBT Rights in countries where it is difficult to talk about the issue? In Israel we succeeded by combining quiet work inside the parliament with a publci display of homosexuality by organizing gay parades.'
Frank Van Dalen: 'More than 400 million people around the world are LGBTI people. There are 6 countries that still have the death penalty for same sex relationships. Even in Europe there is still a long battle to be fought. We need to create a force of global support for the LGBT world movement as currently it is poorly organised due to a lack of funding and moral support. A little known fact is that LGBT people who can be themselves represent a positive value to society which in turn contributes to a better overall economic development.'
ARC (see PowerPoint presentation attached):
'LGBT People in Cote d'Ivoire are currently facing many challenges among which the following:
-Penalty for same sex relationships under article 360
-Lack of training for LGBT Rights activists in terms of advocacy.
-Stigmatisation is a big issue.
-Lack of access to healthcare for LGBT People
-Rejection from within the family system
-Discrimination at the work place
-Absence of means for defence
-Lack of information within the local community on LGBT Rights'
The panel was preceded by the administrative session of LI HRC where among other issues LI HRC Chair and Vice-President on the LI Bureau, Abir Al-Sahlani MP, presented the conclusions of the questionnaire on the work of the Committee (available to download below).
Commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, LI Vice President on the Bureau and Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Abir Al-Sahlani MP, expressed the historical progress made by the international community in recognizing homosexuality but she also cautioned about the many countries around the world which still criminalize same sex relationships.
"On 17 May each year we celebrate the International Day against Homophobia when the World Health Organisation acknowledged for the first time that homosexuality is not a disease and took the decision to remove it from its list of mental disorders.
It was also on this day 7 years ago that LGBT celebrations took place and organizations in more than 70 countries included the International Day against Homophobia as part of their annual mobilization plan.
As we commemorate this day however let us not forget that there are still many countries around the world which consider homosexuality illegal and which choose to punish LGBT individuals for exercising their sexual orientation including by capital punishment.
As Liberals, we strongly believe in open and inclusive societies, where people are free to choose their own destiny. This naturally concerns their education and jobs, but it also concerns fundamental values like freedom of religion and sexual orientation. We would like to stress that we condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of negative discrimination — including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Liberal International supports UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his appeal to end discrimination towards LGBT individuals. In his speech Ban Ki-Moon stressed that “any attack on LGBT individuals is an attack on the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.” He also spoke of tackling the violence, decriminalizing consensual same sex relationships, banning discrimination and educating the public as a way to eliminate LGBT discrimination. As we recall his message “The Time Has Come” we must remember that it is our duty, as liberals, to show to the world that all human beings are entitled to the same individual liberties and LGBT individuals are no exception.
Liberal International also supports US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her testament that “all human beings are born equal in dignity and in human rights and thus human rights are not conferred by governments but they are the birth right of people.”
In my capacity as Chair of the Liberal International Human Rights Committee I echo the words of both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that LGBT rights are Human Rights. As we celebrate today the historical progress made by the world community to recognize homosexuality we also remain concerned about the human rights abuses that continue to occur on a daily basis against LGBT individuals in many parts around the world.
As Liberal International, we stand firmly behind the many people who cannot freely express their LGBT sexual orientation and we pledge our support to continue to fight for their fundamental rights."
Following the 188th EC Meeting in Barcelona, LI Human Rights Committee took a decision to get involved in two key Human Rights Campaigns: Removing the World Ice Hockey Championship from Belarus in light of the poor human rights situation in the country and Raising the awareness about the many political prisoners in Azerbaijan in light of the upcoming Eurovision Song contest in Baku.
The Chair of LI Human Rights Committee and LI Vice-President on the Bureau, Abir Al-Sahlani MP, has sent a formal appeal letter to the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation ahead of the organisation's meeting in Helsinki later this month. Addressing the lack of democracy and the poor human rights record in Belarus Al-Sahlani said:
“We share the sentiment of many international organisations and institutions of deep concern about the government's tight control over the political and journalistic activity in the country including the constant legal proceedings against political opponents of the authoritarian government and civil activists.
Based on information of Belarusian human rights organisations at least 13 people were sentenced for political reasons to prison terms from 2 up to 8 years at the moment. There are reports that several of the prisoners were tortured and ill-treated.
As freedom of expression, association and assembly are a core value for all who believe in open international cooperation and exchange, including in the field of sport, we believe that every individual should have the right to express freely his or her political convictions. We also strongly believe in open and inclusive societies, where people's fundamental choices are protected and where there is a strong sense of respect for basic democratic values.
We are convinced that the current conditions in Belarus described above, constitute a serious risk for organising a credible and open international sports championships in the country. All indications point out that this sports event can and will be used by the authorities to further suspend freedom of expression and assembly. We are aware that instead of sports fans and ordinary citizens, only government apparatchiks will be allowed to celebrate and watch the sport competitions in order not to disturb the authorities.
In my capacity as Chair of Liberal International Human Rights Committee I sincerely urge IIHF and the representatives of the national IIHF member organisations to suspend its plan to hold the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus.
The 2014 IIHF World Championship should only take place in Belarus after the Government of Belarus has: -released all political prisoners unconditionally -introduced a moratorium or abolished the death penalty -stopped the use of violence, ill-treatment and torture against peaceful protestors and prisoners -abolished criminal code article 193.1 -stopped the persecution, harassment and intimidation of dissidents -fully rehabilitated all those prosecuted for political reasons -introduced democratic reform and free and fair elections -observed the basic tenets of democracy and human rights
To hold the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus would support and legitimatise a regime which violates the human rights of the people of Belarus in an alarming way.”
A full version of the letter can be found below.
Liberal International (LI) is supporting the official “Don't play with the dictator” Campaign which was put together by several international NGOs and which aims to remove the Ice Hockey World Championship from Belarus due to the human rights situation in the country.
LI has also joined efforts with ELDR in order to raise awareness about the lack of basic civil and political rights in Azerbaijan. A link to ELDR's “Douze Points for Freedom” Campaign can be found here.
The newly reinvigorated LI Human Rights Committee met for the second time in Barcelona, Spain within the framework of LI's 188th Executive Committee Meeting. The meeting was held under the theme “Strong Women as a Force for Change: The Arab Spring and Beyond” and it was chaired byLennart Nordfors, Chair of the Swedish International Liberal Centre. Among the issues raised was the impact of the Arab Spring on the role of women and the possibility for advancement of women's rights across the region following the people's revolution. Below are excerpts from the three speakers who took part in the panel:
“Egyptian women have always participated actively in the civil society by protesting and demonstrating even before the Arab Spring. Women from all ages and from all backgrounds were present in many Egyptian squares apart from Tahrir. They were not just marching but also controlling security check points and nursing the wounds of the sick and injured. They participated not just as individuals but also as parts of NGO groups working shoulder to shoulder together” Dr. Hoda Badran, President of the Egyptian Feminist Union and the Arab Alliance of Women.
“Women hopes for a better future are not different from those of men. However, very often women are left behind. Women rights are also not just women's rights: they are human rights. Equal opportunity for women means that the whole society will benefit from this: men and women” Anne Brasseur, President of ALDE in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“Young people and women are the biggest losers in the MENA region following the Arab Spring. Women Rights are Human Rights but the problem in the region is that they are not recognised as such. Without female representation in the political parties in the region women's rights cannot be guaranteed.” Abir Al-Sahlani MP, LI Vice-President on the Bureau and Chair of LI Human Rights Committee.
The panel was preceded by the administrative session of the Human Rights Committee which discussed the theme for LI's written statement at the 20th Session of UNHRC and possible campaigns in which the Committee can take part. It was decided that the two campaigns that the LI HRC could get involved in are the Eurovision contest in Baku, Azerbaijan and also the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus in 2014 as ways to raise the awareness about the lack of freedom of expression and assembly in these countries.
The deadline for the questionnaire concerning the work of the Human Rights Committee was extended until 15 June (see the file attached).
International Women's Day which we celebrate today marks the political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide. It is an important day because today we show the respect, appreciation and love we have towards women as we celebrate their economic, political and social achievements.
“Women and men are not valued as highly in our world. This has fatal consequences for women. Their possibility to live the life they want, and to realize their dreams, is being curtailed. In an ideal world we would not need a special day for women. But as long as the things are as they are, we need a day to remind us of the balance. It is time to go from beautiful speeches to real action and to ensure that injustices are fought and that legislation which makes it possible for women to have a better life is introduced. One important measure that would improve the lives of many women is to improve maternal health and to reduce maternal mortality, i e MDG 5. Through preventive prenatal care, better obstetrical care and broad initiatives in family planning tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths can be prevented each year”
-Abir Al-Sahlani, Vice President of Liberal International and Chair of LI Human Rights Committee.
“Although women have come a long way in gaining equal rights, there are still a number of issues that we must continue to address in public policy, such as dealing with problems of international trafficking of women, problems of domestic violence, continuing discrimination against women in the work place, as well as prejudiced roles for women in public involvement. There remains a lot of work to be done and we look forward to working with other colleagues and friends in the international community, especially around Asia, and indeed we have already formed networks among Asian political parties and women's groups in Asia to further advance the progress of women in politics in our region. We certainly hope that there will be future opportunities to continue to share our experiences in solidarity with other women around the world to achieve more prominence and greater equality and justice for gender equality and for women in politics around the world".
-Bi-Khim Hsiao, Vice President of Liberal International and Member of Parliament, Taiwan.
“According to Oxfam, women undertake two-thirds of the work in the world yet earn just 10% of its income and own just 1% of the means of production. If women fare badly economically, they fare little better in political life: so that female leaders remain the exception not the rule, with LI Prize for Freedom Laureates Aung Sang Suu Kyi and Shirin Abadi two shining exceptions, albeit not in elected office. Like in two of the world's largest emerging economies, India and China the phenomenon of ‘missing girls' is an acute problem. Liberal International's decision to make women's rights a key plank of its human rights work is to be much applauded. International Women's Day offers a chance to reflect on the many achievements made by women across the globe, whether they are widely acclaimed like Suu Kyi and Abadi or known only to those closest to them.“
-Dr Julie Smith, Chair, Liberal International British Group
“On a day like this there are many equality issues worth to highlight, issues we must work with on a daily basis. Women's positions and power in the business sector is one. As a green liberal, I don´t see allocation of quotas as a solution, there are other, more modern ways to achieve equality. The competence is there, the studies showing that companies with at least 30% women in the board will lead to better economic growth, is also there. It is time the companies take their responsibility and stop saying no to economic growth by obtaining these old-fashioned structures. Sweden, nor any other country, can afford that.“
-Annie Lööf, Leader of Center Party, Sweden
“International Women's Day is an anniversary that marks the position of women in the world. It is an international historic day with Danish roots, the idea of International Women's Day was made at an international women's congress in Copenhagen in 1910. Since 1977, the UN has recommended that the International Women's Day marked. It's good, because there is still much to fight for.”
-Margrethe Vestager, Leader of Det Radikale Venstre, Denmark
“As a human rights activist, former political prisoner and now acting chair of the DPP, I strongly support the empowerment of women's participation in politics and civic society. Today women have achieved leadership roles in all walks of life in Taiwan. We have 38 out of 113 seats in Legislatures go to women, a figure higher than many of the democracies in the world. We understand that there is more to be done, we have indeed made tremendous progress in Taiwan. The DPP is also the first major political party to elect a woman leader who later became the first woman presidential candidate in Taiwan, and this brought a new level of momentum that encouraged more women to gain interests in politics and to play active and prominent roles in Taiwan's political arena.”
-Chen Chu, Interim Chair of the Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan
“On this International Women's Day, we honour the efforts and courage of women such as Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Helen Suzman and Albertina Sisulu, who all contributed greatly to a society where women are free to access the opportunities which were so long denied to them. For many of our country's women, however, many of the most basic rights remain theoretical, as freedom from oppression is a reality for only a fortunate few. For the vast majority, challenges such as the scourge of sexual and family violence are their reality. Women still lack satisfactory access to the jobs and economic opportunity that flow from having equal access to skills development and training; women remain more at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS than men, and women in rural South Africa remain at a huge disadvantage compared to their urban counterparts. It is the daily struggle endured by so many of the world's women which we must remember this International Women's Day. Those of us who form part of the fortunate few beneficiaries of the struggle for equal rights must remember today that freedom is indivisible, and women's rights are human rights.”
-Lindiwe Mazibuko, Leader of the Opposition in South Africa, DA
Following the release of Egyptian blogger and political prisoner Maikel Nabil, LI Vice President, and Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Abir Al-Sahlani MP has expressed satisfaction over his release, but remains concerned with the on-going treatment of political prisoners in Egypt.
“Today, the international liberal family — alongside all those who fight for freedom of speech — applauds the release of Maikel Nabil. Following the tireless efforts of prominent liberals from around the world, the Egyptian government has released a young man who did nothing but question the worrying trends associated with the interim military administration in Egypt. However, our pursuit for freedom of speech in Egypt is far from over. Maikel Nabil, a civilian tried by a military tribunal was not released because his critique of the military was deemed valid — rather he was pardoned by the Supreme Military Council. His alleged crime, criticism of the government, remains a punishable offence. Liberals and democrats must continue to apply pressure to ensure that Egypt transforms into a country the democracy that those who overthrew the Mubarak despotism intrepidly fought for.
I call on the Egyptian authorities and the new parliament to change the legislation so that the military can no longer prosecute civilians in tribunals for expressing their opinions and beliefs freely. As Liberal International we stand firmly behind Maikel Nabil and his demands so that true democracy can finally triumph in Egypt.”
Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil was released from prison on Tuesday (24 January) after spending 10 months jailed by the interim governing Supreme Military Council. 1,969 political prisoners were also released. 25 January 2012 marks the first year anniversary of the uprising that eventually saw the ousting of former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.
LI President Hans van Baalen MEP has posed questions to EU High Commissioner on External Affairs, Baroness Ashton, asking whether the EU is aware of the latest cases of mass-killings in Burundi, particularly in the areas where the opposition has strong support. Referring to President Nkurunziza's pledges of dialogue with the opposition, Van Baalen asked: “Are you aware if any steps have been made from the side of the Burundian authorities to implement the so-much-needed dialogue? How is the European Union going to influence that the dialogue will take place without out further delays and with tenable results?” Calling for EU aid to Burundi to be determined by political reforms in the country, Van Baalen reminded that since the presidential elections of June 2010 virtually all opposition leaders have been living in exile, as their lives cannot be secured in Burundi. Among them is the former Vice President of the Republic Mrs. Alice Nzomukunda, Leader ofAlliance Democratique pour le Renouveau, LI Observer, currently based in Tanzania.
NB. Please look below for action on this issue taken by other LI members and reprepresentatives.
Stockholm, 01 September, 2011
Dear Ambassdor Mr Mohamed Osama Taha Elmagdoub
I, the undersigned member of the Swedish parliament, would like to express my great concern regarding political activist Maikel Nabil for his actions as he has gone on hunger strike since the 26th of August 2011. Maikel Nabil has gone on hungerstrike with no food or water of medicine. This is of great concern for me both as a parliamentarian and vice president of the Liberal International.
As the Arab spring took it course, many of us, especially the Swedes of Arabic origins, brought a great hope back to life. The democratization in Egypt is vital to the whole of the Middle East, the importance of Egypt as such is not a secret. What happens with the democratization in process will set its footprints on the region. All eyes are on the interesting process. At the same time I understand that the road towards democracy is not an easy one. It's a long and difficult road, but there is no other path for Egypt and its people to walk. I'm convinced that freedom and democracy is what the people of Egypt want and will make happen.
We have been reached by the news of the arresting and imprisonment of the one of the resolutions sons, Maikel Nabil. This is very concerning, democracy as such allows for people to write reports and publish them, neither politicians or the police or the military have the right to stop people from thinking or expressing their opinions, even if these opinions might be considered as lies or truthless. It is essential for the credibility and legitimacy of the political process.
I therefore urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Maikel Nabila, as he is imprisoned solely for exercising his rights of speech and freedom of expression
Yours sincerely, Abir Al-Sahlani Memeber of Parliament, Swedish Centre Party Vice President of Liberal International Sweden
Liberal International joined the regional office for the Middle East and North Africa of theFriedrich Numann Foundation and ALDE Group in organizing a regional Conference on 5-7 May 2011 in Cairo, Egypt on "Transition to Democracy in the Arab world. Historic Challenges and Liberal Responses."
LI President Hans van Baalen MEP had high profile during the event. He offered an official reply to the welcome address by the leader of the LI full member Democratic Front Party Dr. Osama Harb during the welcoming reception and spoke at the formal opening of the Conference, first in line from the international speakers. During his speech LI President pointed out: - 'The Arabs, just like many of us in Europe or other parts of the world, have democracy and human rights close to their heart. And they have shown it by winning the battle in Egypt and in Tunisia. Soon, they will win in Libya, Syria and other Arab countries will win' - 'We are here to support you and share with you our examples. Central and Eastern Europe is one example. The transition to democracy in Spain is another example. But, it is on you to decide how you will define your own countries and democracies' - 'Two years ago, when LI held its Congress in Cairo, Mubarak's National Democratic Party had its Congress. Number of socialist leaders was here to support, as NDP was proud member of Socialist International. We will not forget that. We should not forget that' - 'I have a very clear message to you: unite, get together and make sure that you win the battle on the next elections too'
Liberal International was also represented by Secretary General Emil Kirjas, who coordinated the discussion on what should the outside world and the international liberal movement do to assist the democratic transformation and what do the Arab liberal forces expect. Lamine Ba, LI Vice President and Chairman of the Africa Liberal Network addressed the meeting on the importance of the Arab spring for Africa and the possible impact on continental level.
The most important international liberal organizations assembled in order to deliver a clear message: the international liberal movement supports the popular uprisings and revolutions in the Arab world. Present at the three-day conference were the leaders of Liberal International, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, the European Liberal Democratic Reform Party (ELDR), the world federation of liberal youth IFLRY, the African Liberal Network (ALN) and - as co-organizers - the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL).
The high-level meeting was the first of its kind after the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year and the first time the leaders of the most important liberal political parties got together to discuss the situation, exchange information and experiences and talk about joint strategies for the future.
More on International Liberal Support for Arab Revolutions
"The notion that the Arabs are not fit for democracy has been refuted for all times", said Guy Verhofstadt, the ALDE President who had come to Cairo with a delegation of members of the European Parliament. It was the second time that Verhofstadt, a former Belgian Prime Minister, visited Cairo after the revolution. On the sidelines of the conference, the European Parliamentarians met Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Essam Sharaf to present the liberal concerns in this time of transition.
All the international speakers voiced their support for the Revolution and spoke of a new beginning in the relations between the Arab world and Europe. The President of Liberal International, Hans Van Baalen, said that unlike the conservatives and socialists, the international liberal forces had established bonds of friendship with their Arab liberal counterparts long before the revolution. Liberal International - he reminded the audience - had held its' world congress in Egypt just two years ago.
New appreciation for liberalism
"It is easier to start a revolution that to bring it to a successful ending", said Wael Nawara, President of the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL). Since its inception some three years ago, NAL has become the most important regional partner of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) in the Arab world - with member parties or organizations from many countries. For the first times delegates from Iraq and Saudi Arabia joined a NAL-sponsored event in Cairo. Other parties and groups have shown interest to join. "There is a new appreciation for liberalism in the Arab world after the revolution"; said FNF's Regional Director Dr. Ronald Meinardus.
Among the highlights of the two-days conference was the speech of Egypt's Vice Priime Minister Yehia Al Gamal. Just how much Egypt has changed may be seen at the person of Dr. Al Gamal, who just a few months ago was a staunch critic of the regime and is now the government's second most senior official. Dr. Al Gamal focused his speech on a clear message. Religion, he said, should not be misused for political ends. I am against a religious state and I am also against non-enlightened Islam, he said in a speech that caught much attention in the media.
For a civil state
The recurrent theme of discussion at the conference was how to deal with the Islamist forces which are on the rise in many parts of the region. Some speakers cautioned not to demonize or isolate them; others argued that the religious extremists pose a deadly threat to liberal democratic progress. "The best defence is a civil state and a strong constitution", said Saed Karaja, President of the Free Thought Forum of Jordan.
In light of the creation of various new liberal parties and a certain fragmentation of liberal forces, the European guests appealed to their Arab colleagues to seek unity. "It is of ultimate importance that you join forces ahead of the elections," said Annemie Neyts-Uytterbroeck, President of the ELDR Party. Among the issues discussed was also what the outside world could do to assist the Arab world. In a special session attended also by members of the Libyan opposition, the conference dealt with the situation in Libya. The oppositionists pleaded with the international guests to further ostracize the Gadaffi regime and formally recognize the National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya.
In the end, the representatives came up with a joint resolution in which they pleaded to increase their cooperation. The statement includes a recommendation for easier access to European markets and more foreign investment. The European parties would also support the development of political parties and party systems and strengthen mechanisms for continuous dialogue and mutual engagement.
Joint Statement of NAL, LI, ELDR, ALDE in regard of supporting freedom, popular uprisings in the Arab world and strengthening fora and tools for future cooperation
We Liberals assembled in Cairo,
Sharing our common values of individual liberty and responsibility working towards freedom, the rule of law, democracy, the respect for Human Rights and free markets;
Having been inspired by the recent uprisings of the Peoples of the Arab World in pursuit of liberal democracies based on freedom, human dignity and social justice;
Recognize the particular role played by the young people and women in the Arab spring
Freedom and human rights are universal values naturally pursued by all women and men regardless where they come from.
Illusions of stability built on autocratic rulers that deprive its people's of fundamental freedoms are bound to fail
Support of dictators and oppressive governments violates human rights and leads to frustration due to a lack of economic perspectives and citizens rights.
Political repression feeds nepotism not need; cronyism not competitiveness; corruption not prosperity.
Continuous dialogue and consultation will help creating a “mare nostrum”, an open Mediterranean region of economic cooperation and interaction
The uprising proved the values of freedom and democracy are compatible with religious values and practices
A new era based not on Government-to-Government but on People-to-People engagement and cooperation should be fostered and nurtured.
Have come to agree to the following recommendations:
Allow access to European markets and encourage foreign investments in order to support the creation of prospering societies while actively encouraging Arab societies to adhere to and apply international standards of human rights
Promote enhanced economic cooperation and integration among the countries from the region, based on other regional examples such as EU, CEFTA, ASEAN and NAFTA
Supporting the development of parties and party systems in new democracies should be given high priority.
Help the liberal parties and counterparts in Arab countries building solid party structures and encourage them to learn from the examples where united forces lead to political success.
Strengthen mechanisms for continuous dialog and mutual engagement
Emphasize the significance of protecting freedom of expression, association and assembly
Foster new channels of economic development and cooperation with developing countries
Establish a permanent mechanism for dialog and engagement between Arab and European liberals and democrats.
Liberal International (LI) and the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) would like to invite you to the joint LI/ALDE Conference on democracy and liberalism in Central Asia. The Conference will be followed by an awarding ceremony for the 2010 Liberal International Prize for Freedom to Dr. Shirin Ebadi — Iranian Human Rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The event will be held at the European Parliament in Brussels on 7 December 2010. The Conference will be looking at the current status and future viability of liberalism in the region of Central Asia. Special attention at the Conference will be given to the international perception of Central Asian - the energy sources and needs vs. authoritarian regimes, in particular from a European view point. The Conference will provide better insight into liberalism in Central Asia and provoke higher interest for future involvement in the region marred by undemocratic regimes where gross violations of human rights and civil liberties occur on a daily basis.
Please find below a draft programme and registration form. The working language of the conference will be English, with French translation available. Registering for the conference is without charge. To register your attendance please, fill out the registration form and send it to Linda Sandbacka (email@example.com) at the LI Secretariat. Registration closes on 2 December 2010. Please, make sure that you receive a confirmation on your registration.
'The nation is obliged, by wise and just laws, to protect the liberty, property and all other legitimate rights, of every individual which composes it.' Article 4 - The Cadiz Consitution
To mark the 200th anniversary of the first written usage of the word 'liberal' in a political document, Liberal International and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty cordially invite you to Cadiz from 19-21 March. In the presence of Iberian, Latin American and European politicians, this 2 day event seeks to highlight the importance of our common liberal roots. It also seeks to define new ways in that these partners can work together to ensure that the very basic principles of liberty continue to remain of paramount importance in the future.
Background of the Cadiz Constitution
The opening session of the new Cortes was held on 24 September 1810. Several basic principles were soon ratified: that sovereignty resides in the nation (see popular sovereignty), the legitimacy of Ferdinand VII as King of Spain, and the inviolability of the deputies. The first steps towards a political revolution had been taken, since prior to the Napoleonic intervention, Spain had been ruled as an absolute monarchy by the Bourbons and their Habsburg predecessors. Liberal deputies were in the majority, and they wanted equality before the law, a centralized government, an efficient modern civil service, a reform of the tax system, the replacement of feudal privileges by freedom of contract, and the recognition of the property owner's right to use his property as he saw fit. The Cortes of Cádiz worked feverishly, and the first written Spanish constitution was promulgated in the city of Cádiz on 12 March 1812. The Constitution of 1812 is regarded as the first example of classic liberalism in Spain, and one of the first worldwide. It came to be called the "sacred code" of the branch of liberalism that rejected the French Revolution, and during the early nineteenth century it served as a model for liberal constitutions of several Mediterranean and Latin American nations. It served as the model for the Norwegian Constitution of 1814, the Portuguese Constitution of 1822 and the Mexican one of 1824, and was implemented with minor modifications in various Italian states by the Carbonari during their revolt of 1820 and 1821.
As the principal aim of the new constitution was the prevention of arbitrary and corrupt royal rule, it provided for a limited monarchy which governed through ministers subject to parliamentary control. Suffrage, which was not determined by property qualifications, favored the position of the commercial class in the new parliament, since there was no special provision for the Church or the nobility. The constitution defined the Spanish Monarchy as the union of all the Spanish possessions around the world and defined as Spaniards all persons born or naturalized in these. The constitution set up a rational and efficient centralized administrative system for the whole monarchy based on newly reformed and uniform provincial governments and municipalities, rather than maintaining some form of the varied, historical local governmental structures. Repeal of traditional property restrictions gave the liberals the freer economy they wanted.
Organised in conjunction with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the Liberal International will be cohosting an event in Brussels on 4 December that brings together politicians, academics, and interest groups to discuss what Europe can do to help ensure democracy and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe and the surrounding region.
More information will be available on this site in the next several days.
Invitation: Dear liberal friends, On behalf of Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) it is our pleasure to invite you to attend a conference on Zimbabwe titled “The future of Democracy in Zimbabwe — European Assistance under African Leadership”. The event is taking place in early December and is co-hosted by our two organisations. Held on Thursday, 4 December at the European Parliament in Brussels, the goal of this event is to identify real steps which Europeans can take to assist Africans in promoting democracy and respect for Human Rights in Zimbabwe and throughout the continent. We have attached a draft program for your perusal. Guests of honour may include H.E. Maître Adboulaye Wade (President of Senegal and Patron of Liberal International), Hon. Raila Odinga (the Prime Minister of Kenya) and Arthur Mutambara (leader of MDC-Mutambara in Zimbabwe). The event will be introduced by John, Lord Alderdice (the President of Liberal International) and Graham Watson MEP (the leader of the ALDE group). Various other academics, politicians and professionals will be participating in the panel sessions. Any further details about the event can be obtained from Malin Brännkärr (firstname.lastname@example.org) or James Patava (email@example.com), both of whom can be contacted at Liberal International secretariat in London (+44 207 8395 905). On behalf of Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, we sincerely hope that you will be able to join us and participate in this remarkable conference. We are very much looking forward to seeing you in Brussels. Sincerely,
Emil Kirjas, Secretary General, Liberal International Alexander Beels, Secretary General, ALDE Group
Liberal International decided to discuss the Madeleine Albright Action Plan 'Win With Women' and to formulate recommendations on how to ensure leadership positions for women to its member parties.
Liberal International is organising roundtable debates and training seminars for liberal women politicians from Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to encourage the active involvement of women in leadership positions in politics
The first event took place on 2-3 October 2004 in Bucharest, Romania, and the second took place on 4 November in San Jose Costa Rica. The roundtable will be followed up ideally in Africa and Asia in 2005, taking into account the possible various regional and cultural aspects of the issue.
The roundtable discussed the four planks in Madeleine Albrights Action Plan: Win With Women.
Removing restrictions on women's political participation, including restrictions on women's suffrage and candidacy
Increasing the number of women elected officials at the national, provincial and local level
Ensuring that political parties include women in meaningful leadership positions and in meaningful numbers
Encouraging greater participation of women in government decision-making and advocating for legislation that enshrines full equality of men and women.
The roundtable gave the following recommendations:
Add a fifth plank that will look at female outreach. There seems to be a dilemma in the fact that that although women fully support the idea of more women in leadership position they seem hesitant to vote for women candidates.
Monitoring. Liberal International would ask member parties to give the number of women in their party, on behalf of their party in parliament and government. This will enable LI to produce an annual report which presents the figures on women's participation of all LI member and observer parties.
Role of the political leadership. To ask liberal leaders to take genuine reform steps to encourage women's political participation and increase women's leadership in their parties.
To include on the Agenda of a liberal leaders meeting the increase of women's leadership in political parties.
To look at the mechanisms political parties have put in place to ensure a higher participation of women in leadership positions.
Inspiration through articles of influential and successful women.
The funding partners were: ELDR Party, European Parliament, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, Romanian Liberal Party PNL, the Dutch liberal parties D66 and VVD, SILBA, and the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan.