Liberal International’s African Reach

When Liberal International was founded in Oxford nearly 70 years ago it was very much a European affair. With the noble exception of Canada, Liberal parties and values were largely confined to northern Europe, but since then the picture has changed dramatically. As we in Britain lick our wounds from the double whammy of the Brexit vote and the triumph of Donald Trump in the United States let us take comfort from the fact that the Liberal family is growing worldwide. This was dramatically illustrated by the Liberal International (LI) Executive in Marrakesh, at which five new African parties – from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Madagascar, Senegal and Somalia – were welcomed into membership last weekend, which means that LI now has almost 50 member parties from Africa alone.

The Marrakesh gathering was timed to coincide with COP22, the latest in a series of global conferences following up on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. So it was hardly surprising that environmental issues figured prominently in LI’s discussions this time. Indeed, one of the keynote speakers was Morocco’s Minister for the Environment, Hakima el Haite, who belongs to the Moroccan party that was one of our hosts, le Mouvement Populaire. Human rights were also very much on the agenda; to a large degree they are LI’s USP, as none of the other political internationals address them sufficiently seriously. Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape in South Africa (which LI member party, the Democratic Alliance, controls) gave a particularly inspiring address relating to gender equality.

For much of 2016 a working group has been writing a Liberal Manifesto which aims to be a campaigning tool for Liberal parties worldwide. This was also discussed at Marrakesh and a final version should be ready in time for the organisation’s 70th anniversary next year. 2017 will see crucial elections in both France and Germany, in particular, and as the forces of illiberalism rally to fight those it is vital that the Liberal International’s member parties, including the Liberal Democrats, are in fine fettle to take them on.

Jonathan Fryer is a former Chair of London Liberal Democrats and is a member of the LibDems’ Federal Executive

* Jonathan Fryer is Chair of the Federal International Relations Committee.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.
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One Comment

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Nov '16 - 1:25pm

    Well said , Jonathan ! It is a wonderful thing , and the sister party in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance , also shows that , while not an early member of LI, certainly , its predecessor parties were there , and involved, from the years of Alan Paton and Helen Suzman, from all I have read .

    My view is the US Democratic party , always so broad , rather than the myth of it being more right wing , it takes in a stance or stances from the Major wing of the Tories , through much of our party , to the left ward Labour wing , a a result of keeness to fit in somewhere with like minded colleagues, should have gone more down the L road. Its youth wing , Young Democrats , tend to be far more like other liberal and Liberal youth groups , and as a result , is in Liberal International, while the Democratic National Committee has opted for the Progressive Alliance !

    We need more contact with our fellows in the US , something , as someone with personal as well as political interest in the country , I want to be involved with , in these times of Trump onwards !

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