Upon invitation of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation's Regional Office, the President of NAL Mr. Mohammad Tamaldou and the Secretary General of Liberal International Mr. Emil Kirjas, came together in Cairo on Thursday April 2nd for a forum on the political role of regional and international liberal networks. The seminar, which attracted over 70 participants, was moderated by Dr. Osama El Ghazaly Harb, president of the Democratic Front Party of Egypt.

The talk spurred serious engagement on the part of the audience on topics such as liberalism and poverty, dialogue and freedom of speech, the liberal discourse on Palestine and the reciprocal benefits of cooperation for liberal parties and international liberal networks.
From left to right: Mr. Emil Kirjas, Dr. Osama El Ghazaly Harb, Mr. Mohammad Tamaldou, and Dr. Ronald Meinardus

During the event, Dr. Osama EL Ghazaly Harb formally announced that his party will host Liberal International's World Congress in Cairo in October of this year.

"The presence of these regional and international liberal alliances strengthens local liberal forces, and that the effect is reciprocal" said Dr. Osama El Ghazaly Harb, whose party is a founding member of NAL and is also affiliated with LI. On his part, Mr. Emil Kirjas, the Secretary General of Liberal International explained that liberalism adapts to all contexts, including the Arab world with its particularities, pointing out that "Liberal forces all over the world have consistently supported the struggle of Palestinians for a state." He expressed his happiness at the success of NAL’s recent Amman meeting. Mr. Mohammad Tamaldou, President of NAL, stated that NAL stood for the rule of law, equality and free market institutions: "Words such as democracy and participation have become empty and meaningless in the Arab reality. But we seek to end a period in our political life where talk was just talk," adding that the idea that liberalism comes from abroad is "intellectual protectionism which is only rejection of reform." Tamaldou concluded that it has been proven in the Arab world that conservative societies do not lead to stable governance.



 

In cooperation with the Jordanian Free Thought Forum, one of the member organizations of the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL), and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF), senior members of NAL member parties met in Amman from March 30th to April 2nd for their first event in the Hashemite Kingdom. Under the title "The World Economic Crisis: Impact on the Arab world and Homegrown Solutions," The delegates discussed the impact of the world economic crisis on the Arab world, and proposed ways to overcome it.

The delegates represented NAL member parties, member organizations and observer organizations from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.
NAL members at the Amman workshop

On the first day, the workshop featured distinguished panelists and speakers, whose backgrounds ranged from academic to governmental as well as entrepreneurial, including former Jordanian minister Mohammad Halayqa, senior scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, Dr.Ibrahim Seif, Economics professor at the American University in Beirut Dr. Jad Chaaban, as well as Jordanian entrepreneur Mr. Khalid Al Kurdi. The second day saw the presentation of NAL-moderated country reports by the member parties and organizations. The workshop culminated in a group discussion and brainstorming session moderated by Mr. Wael Nawara of the Egyptian Ghad party, which resulted in a number of policy recommendations made by NAL on the economic crisis.

"This crisis demands that we clearly articulate our values as Arabs and as Liberals and that we are honest with our constituencies regarding how the crisis will affect their lives," said NAL president Mohammad Tamaldou, expressing a general sentiment among NAL members. The workshop coincided with the G-20 summit held in London to discuss the world economic crisis and presented a number of alternative scenarios for the impact of the crisis on the region.

H.E. Mr. Mohammad Halayqa presenting his analysis of the crisis

On the sidelines of the workshop, the NAL leadership held its first Executive Board meeting of the year, during which important decisions were taken regarding strengthening the network and solidifying its presence as well as possible acceptance of new members. Among these decisions was the appointment of Mrs. Margaret Azer, Secretary General of the Egyptian Democratic Front Party, as the Treasurer of NAL and the launch of a NAL periodical newsletter.



 

With the cooperation of the Liberal Democrats, the liberal party of the UK, who also provided two experienced trainers, women from the member parties and organizations of NAL met in Cairo from March 11th through the 14th 2009 for a hands-on training for women in politics.

Senior and junior women members from NAL member parties in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt came together for an intensive two day workshop on how to be effective as women in politics. Under the title "Women in Politics: A Hands-on Training," the workshop encouraged participants to push their own limits regarding how they engage with politics and helped them identify and analyze problems of communication, leadership and organization as active women in politics and gave them the tools to face the political arena in their respective countries.
Participants of the workshop
 
 

"Reinforcing the role of women in Arab politics is an essential step on the road towards democracy and pluralism" said Margaret Azer, Secretary General of the Democratic Front Party of Egypt. The training in Cairo was a follow up to a workshop in Tunisia in October 2008 during which senior party members of NAL discussed the role of women in political parties in the Arab world.

On the side lines of the training, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which helped organize the workshop, organized a book launch for an innovative publication entitled "Women and the Mirror" which included a collection of studies written by prominent female intellectuals. The signing and discussion of the book which featured prominent women's rights activist Dr. Fatma Khafagy attracted over 100 participants. Workshop participants Fetta Sadat, a member of the Algerian RCD party and Daad Azzy, a member of the Lebanese National Liberal Party, both participated by bringing to the discussion the experience of women in their respective countries.

The President of the Network of Arab Liberals Mr. Mohammad Tamaldou sent a congratulatory letter to Dr. Ayman Nour, the founder of the Egyptian liberal Al Ghad Party upon his release from prison. Al Ghad Party is a founding member of NAL, the party is also represented in the Executive Board.

In his letter, Mr. Tamaldou wrote the following:

"It is my pleasure to offer you the warmest congratulations on behalf of myself and all the members of the Network of Arab Liberals and its Executive Board on the occasion of your release after long years of imprisonment which, no doubt, constrained your movement, but which surely did not affect your faith as a liberal who believes that human beings cannot live except with freedom and the responsibility which comes with it and in the necessity of disseminating and promoting these values as widely as possible. I am certain that your struggle for freedom of thought is proof of the perseverance of all those who aspire to create a society where all views coexist in a framework of dignity, respect for human rights, the rule of law and the establishment of democracy. I am also certain that your suffering is that price which all Arabs must generously accept to pay whenever circumstances require it."

Meanwhile, Lord Alderdice, the President of Liberal International, called the release of Dr. Nour "fantastic news". In a press release, the head of the world federation of liberal parties said the following:

"The release of Ayman Nour is fantastic news. First and foremost for his own freedom and well-being, but also as an inspiration for liberal and democratic forces in Egypt. Mr. Nour's courage and determination in speaking out for the freedom of speech, democracy and political freedoms in Egypt, even at the sacrifice of his own personal freedom, have been an inspiration to many. His intended return in politics is a particularly encouraging sign for liberals in the Middle East, who have so successfully established the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL) over the last few years in which Mr. Nour’s party is an active member. As members of the Liberal International across the world, we will continue to actively support Mr. Nour and other liberals in the region."

NAL-President Mohamed Tamaldou
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International

The Network of Arab Liberals (NAL) has announced the appointment of Yosra Sultan as the new Program Officer of the Network. Ms. Sultan’s experience includes work with civil society and student organizations in the Arab world to promote civic awareness and participation as well as human rights advocacy. She graduated from the American University in Cairo (AUC) with a degree in political science and a specialization in Middle East politics and has extensive experience in writing and editing for various newspapers, blogs and magazines.

Meanwhile, the Cairo-based Network announced a series of planned activities aimed at strengthening the bonds of liberal parties in the region and enhancing political dialogue among Arab liberal forces: From March 11 through 14, 2009, a hands-on workshop for women leaders of NAL-member parties will be held in Cairo. Entitled "Women in Politics," the three day event is sponsored by the Liberal Democrats of the United Kingdom in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF). The workshop aims at bringing together women politicians from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and the host-country Egypt. Just two weeks later, the leaders of the Arab liberal network are planning to convene in Amman, Jordan for a workshop to discuss "Liberal Responses to the Global Economic Crisis". While in Amman, the NAL leadership will also assemble for its bi-annual Executive Committee meeting.

Finally, delegates from youth wings of NAL member parties are planning to hold the inaugural gathering of what has provisionally been termed the "Union of Liberal Arab Youth" (ULAY) in Egypt in late April 2009. The preparatory discussions for the establishment of this regional liberal youth network have been laid at a workshop in Beirut in October of last year.

Program Officer Yosra Sultan