Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 4th November, 2015
Mexico City was an inspired choice as the venue for Liberal International’s 60th Congress, not just because it culminated in the national festivities of the Day of the Dead — one of Latin America’s great folkloric celebrations — but also because this was the first such Congress in the region. Our host party, Nueva Alianza, did us proud, as did a partner organisation Caminos de la Libertad. The latter invited everyone to their annual awards ceremony, at which the former US presidential candidate Ron Paul was the main laureate. His speech helped me to understand why he is a libertarian and I am a Liberal.
Much more palatable was the keynote speech by another former US presidential hopeful, Governor Howard Dean, who is one of those rare politicians to whom one could happily listen for hours. He stressed the central importance of values in political messaging, something the Liberal Democrats could have usefully borne in mind during this year’s general election campaign. Key issues at the LI Congress were migration and populism, prompting very lively debates, which cannot possibly be summarised in a short blog item (though it will be worth keeping an eye on LI’s website for reports). There was an active fringe programme, including some unusual but stimulating topics such the impact of German reunification on Germany, Europe and the world. The former Foreign a Minister of Andorra, Juli Minoves, pictured here with Howard Dean, was re-elected President of LI and a very well deserved decoration of President of Honour was bestowed in absentia on the former LI President Lord (John) Alderdice.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Howard Dean, John Alderdice, Juli Minoves, Liberal International, Mexico City, Ron Paul | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 13th April, 2013
Today at the Liberal International Executive in Beirut there was a special session on Syria, its title asking the provocative question whether the crisis and the international community’s failure to find a resolution to it signals an end to the Responsibility to Protect. Keynote speakers included former LI President John Alderdice, who I have often worked with, and former Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who I had dealings with when I was doing project evaluation and training for his Democrat Party in Bangkok a few years back. I not surprisingly agreed with almost everything John said though I argued that to call R2P a “doctrine”m as he did, was unfortunate as it is rather a principle of evolving International Law. Kasit, as a good Buddhist, argued that the lessons from Indonesia (Suharto) and Burma (the military junta) suggest that we should not seek revenge for what Bashar al-Assad and his family and cohorts have done, but rather show forgiveness. I countered that the Syrian regime’s crimes have been so heinous that for justice to be done he and his brother Maher should be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague (which got a gratifyingly hearty round of applause from the Lebanese present, in particular). I maintained that Western military intervention in Libya had been correct, under R2P, even if the outcome is not entirely smooth, whereas I fear any Western military intervention in Syria would only make things worse. Instead, the Arab League — possibly with the addition of Turkey — should take the lead and try to convene a workable peace conference, though in the meantime considerable diplomatic pressure needs to be brought to bear on Russia and China, two of Syria’s strongest allies.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Bashar Al-Assad, Burma, Indonesia, John Alderdice, Kasit Piromya, Lebanon, Liberal International, Maher al-Assad, R2P, Responsibility to Protect, Suharto, Syria, Thailand | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 11th January, 2013
Ever since the revolutionary train swept across North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) pundits have been asking whether Turkey could offer a model for post-Revolution Arab states to follow, so maybe it was not so surprising that the Turkish Review (for which I occasionally write) should highlight the issue at its UK launch at the House of Lords earlier today. Three very diverse speakers were on the panel (chaired by the LibDem peer and former President of Liberal International, John Alderdice): the journalist Kerim Balci, the young Oxford academic and political writer Miriam Francois-Cerrah and Gulnur Aybet, who teaches at the University of Kent, as well as in Turkey and the United States. Each put a totally different slant on the subject, Kerim Balci claiming (with some justification) that the so-called Arab Spring actually started earlier than in Tunisia in December 2010, in Kyrgyzstan, and that it is mirrored in various parts of Central Asia, China and India. What we are dealing with has a universal dimension, he argued. Miriam Francois-Cerrah declared that the majority of Arabs do see Turkey as a role-model, largely because it is a secular state that has nonetheless accommodated a variety of parties, including the AKP, with its Islamic origins. Gulnur Aybet emphasized that Turkey is seen by the West as a strategic partner in dealing with the MENA region, which maybe leads to a certain degreee of wishful thinking as to how much of a model it can be. More a source of inspiration, stated Miriam Francois-Cerrah, echoing a line I have often taken. But in the meantime Turkey has itself all sorts of internal contradictions to overcome; Gulnur Aybet deplored the growing polarisation she has noticed. Certainly Turkey has an enviable economic growth rate and has many things going for it, but it is by no means a perfect state that others might necessarily try to emulate.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: AKP, Arab Awakening, Arab Spring, China, Gulnur Aybet, India, John Alderdice, Kerim Balci, Kyrgyzstan, MENA, Miriam Francois-Cerrah, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkish Review | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 12th November, 2012
Being a Liberal in Russia is a risky vocation, as putting one’s head above the parapet politically is an invitation to harrassment, arrest, criminal proceedings and heafty fines or imprisonment. High profile anti-establishment activists such as Pussy Riot get lots of foreign media attention and noises of sympathy from the outside world, of course, but even in their case that did not stop two of their number being sentenced to two years detention each in different gulags. Alas, as the leader of Russia’s Liberal Party Yabloko, Sergei Mitrokhin, detailed in a speech at Westminster this lunchtime, the long arm of President Putin’s law is getting firmer. He highlighted three aspects of particular concern regarding the current political situation in Russia and the crackdown against Liberal forces. First, there are the political reprisals, which have seen key Yabloko activists charged — often on false evidence — for demanding action against high-level corruption, for example. Second, Sergei stressed the hardening of laws and the suppression of civil rights under various amendments to the legal and civil codes. One good (i.e. bad) example is an amendment which will mean that Russian NGOs receiving grants from international bodies must now register as “foreign agents”. And last but not least in the litany of adverse developments, is what Sergei called the “clericalisation of the state”, in other words the way that a very conservative form of Russian Orthodoxy has now been melded into a state ideology which is dangerously nationalistic, anti-Western and anti-Liberal. Today’s gathering, at Portcullis House, was sponsored by Simon Hughes MP, Lord Alderdice and Liberal International, and in the discussion period after Sergei Mitrokhin’s speech I inquired exactly what helpful actions groups such as LI and the British Liberal Democrats can take to help Yabloko, without jeopardising its activists. Training in election strategies and techniques is something that I and others from the LibDems have done in various parts of the world, through the all-party Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and that may be the best answer — other than heartfelt moral support.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: John Alderdice, Liberal Democrats, Liberal International, Pussy Riot, Russia, Sergei Mitrokhin, Simon Hughes, Vladimir Putin, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Yabloko | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 17th May, 2008
One of the collateral benefits of Liberal International Congresses and Executives is the opportunity they provide to get to know new places round the world. Like most mainland Brits, I had never visited Northern Ireland, until I arrived in Belfast on Thursday morning. Being in Northern Ireland has certainly influenced the tone of some of the Congress debates, not least because the Congress hosts, David Ford of the Alliance Party, and his predecessor, (Lord) John Alderdice, have been so central to the process of negotation and reconciliation in the six counties.
The Congress is taking place in the Hotel Europa, which boasts the unusual distinction of being the most bombed hotel in the world (70 times), though mercifully such excitement is a thing of the past. On Thursday evening, there was a reception for the LI Executive at Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s Northern Ireland residence, where the Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, greeted us. He is, of course, used to living in comfortable surroundings, being the wealthiest of the defectors who left the Conservatives for New Labour. Then last night, we were entertained at Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly building built in the 1920s with all the pompous trimmings of a still imperial power. As John Alderdice was Speaker there at a crucial period in Northern Ireland’s development, he made the ideal tour guide.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Alliance Party, Belfast, Belfast Europa Hotel, David Ford, Hillsborough Castle, John Alderdice, Liberal International, Northern Ireland, Shaun Woodward, Stormont | Leave a Comment »