Report of LI executive meeting in London 14-15 October 2011

As a recent recruit to Liberal International British Group, this was the first Liberal International Executive Meeting that I have had the pleasure to attend.

The first session was on a workshop for a permanent Human Rights Committee which exceeded all expectations.

It was great to seeing leading politicians like Hans Van Baalen, MEP and President of LI, and our very own LI Patron Richard Moore, making very key decisive points in an open and consensual discussion on human rights, superbly well managed by the newly-appointed Chair of the Liberal International Human Rights Committee, Swedish MP Abir Al-Sahlani.

The Human Rights Committee will be re-invigorated with funding raised by member parties to employ a permanent human rights officer for three years, Tamara Dancheva, will lead the work in this area.

The main three areas which will be monitored by the committee are: the Responsibility to Protect, a key issue for LI which formed the theme for a one-day conference the day after the executive meeting; women's rights; and LGBT discrimination.

The decision to include the third item delighted me. Many countries are far behind the UK's attitudes, and as chair LGBT+ Liberal Democrats I am acutely aware that this is an area really needs to be highlighted at the international level, and which requires serious collaboration among Liberal thinking parties across the world.

It was also agreed that work would initially focus on four countries which would be studied in depth and follow developments on the ground, for which we already have experts in place to monitor: Singapore, Ivory Coast, Nicaragua and Belarus.

I then moved to Andrew Duff MEP's concurrent meeting on the theme of Making European Elections 'European'. However, my impression was of a very productive debate regarding electoral reforms to ensure European elections having greater significance for the people, and especially the media, across Europe.

That can be no bad thing, especially in the UK, where misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the European Union is all too common.

The afternoon session essentially revolved around administrative activities of Liberal International.

For me, the most interesting part was the admission of new Liberal parties from across the globe. I was profoundly impressed at just how much these countries have struggled and fought to get to this point in their history. The Civil Will Party of Mongolia, represented by Oyun Sanjaasuren, and the eponymous Sam Rainsy Party of Cambodia, so-named to protect the name of their party from government disruption, and represented in London by Rainsy himself, were both made full members.

A new Italian Party, Alleanza per L'Italia, was given observer status, and their representative Marco Cappa received very thorough questioning into his party's principles, leaving me impressed at the level of commitment to Liberalism which LI demands of its members.

The evening started with a much appreciated visit from our deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg MP, who spoke eloquently regarding how very difficult it is for liberal voices to be heard above the cacophony of fear mongering words and actions. The presence of Liberal Democrats in government in the UK means that fundamental human rights, and freedoms are not blurred in this country, and values that belong to the Liberal family are being upheld at all costs.

Following his address, the Nick Clegg spent some time with Hans Van Baalen in a private meeting, and then held a brief discussion with the Liberal International Bureau, and those Liberal International British Group officers who were present.

Simon Hughes with reception sponsor Peter Thompson of BTP Advisors
Simon Hughes with reception sponsor Peter Thompson of BTP Advisors

The day concluded with a reception hosted by LIBG President and Lib Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes MP, very generously sponsored by BTP Advisors.

Simon Hughes address the LI executive reception
Simon Hughes address the LI executive reception

Simon thanked all those involved in organising the event from LI and LIBG, and concluded with a rousing and delightfully robust speech on how having Liberal Democrats in government meant that human rights and freedoms was top of the agenda and that Liberal International must expand their Liberal network and ensure that the media are made aware and take note of these events.

The formalities close with a special toast to the late Ronnie Fraser.

LI patron Richard Moore with former LI president Annemie Neyts
LI patron Richard Moore with former LI president Annemie Neyts at the LI executive reception

Liberal discussions continued well into the evening, as we all made new friends within the international Liberal family. Overall, I had a very enjoyable and enlightening day, and I would encourage those who did not attend, especially any young international enthusiasts, to come and join Liberal International British Group and further the cause of Liberalism on a world stage.