Senior members of Network of Arab Liberals (NAL) member parties visited Brussels and Berlin from April 20-26, 2008 for an informative program titled "Organization and Program Development of Modern Liberal Parties". In Brussels, the Arab delegation visited the European Parliament and met with leaders of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR). The NAL-delegation also got together with a representative of Liberal International, the world federation of liberal political parties. During their meetings, the Arab and European Liberals discussed the possibilities of cooperation between the various liberal networks. "There is an astonishing lack of knowledge about the Arab countries in Europe. Therefore, it is important that we Liberals engage in a dialogue," said Jules Maaten, Member of the European Parliament of ALDE.

During their visit to Berlin the NAL-delegates met senior officials of the German government and the liberal party of Germany (Free Democratic Party, FDP). In a workshop, officials of the German opposition party made presentations regarding organizational and strategic issues related to the management of modern political parties. Among the highlights of the one-week programme was a public forum in Berlin on "Challenges for Liberalism in the Arab World" co-sponsored by the German-Arabic Society. There the Arab politicians had the opportunity to present their positions to a wider German public. The NAL-delegation also had meetings with the leadership of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) who sponsored and organized the informative program.

Senior members of the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL) participated in a workshop entitled "Political Communications in the Arab World. Strategies and Policies of Liberal parties" in Beirut (Lebanon) from March 27 to 31, 2008. This activity aimed at discussing the political, socio-economic and also legal ramifications of political communications in the member states. In their meeting the delegates also discussed the communications strategies of the member organizations. The workshop also dealt with the communicative needs and related strategies of the NAL. The delegates agreed to enhance the newly established website and engage in social networking through the Internet.

Mr. Alex Folkes, campaign manager of the British political party Liberal Democrats, presented best practices of political communications and election campaigning in the United Kingdom. Also, Mr. Mohamed Ouzzine from the Moroccan Mouvement Populaire (MP) presented his party’s recent electoral campaign.

On the first day of the Beirut meeting, the delegates discussed internal organizational matters in a follow-up to the Strategic Planning workshop held in November 2007 in Egypt. During their debates, the delegates agreed on the bylaws of the Network which include regulations on membership, the structure of the leadership and financial matters. The final draft of the bylaws is to be formally adopted by the General Assembly of the Network to be held later in the year. The General Assembly will also be tasked to decide on the location of the Secretariat of the Network which is provisionally in Cairo.

Finally, the delegates discussed upcoming activities. These will include a study tour to Brussels and Berlin for the leadership of the member parties and organizations slated for late April in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty. Furthermore, leaders of the youth wings of the Arab liberal parties will participate in a training workshop in early May in Egypt and a workshop on women’s participation in Arab political parties is planned to be held later in the year in Tunisia in cooperation with the Parti Social Liberal.

Pictures of Beirut workshop

Former Ambassador Mohammed Nagui El Ghatrifi, senior member of the Egyptian Al Ghad Party and founding member of NAL, represented the Network at the international conference entitled "Strengthening Networks and Combating Human Trafficking" organized by Liberal International in cooperation with the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Taipei (Taiwan) from December 7-10. 2007.

Speaking to the delegates from all parts of the world, Amb. El Ghatrifi termed the recent creation of the Arab network is "a ground breaking move providing a forum for Arab liberals to stand united against the totalitarian regimes and their oppressive ideologies prevalent in the Arab region." He also said that the Network aims at ensuring that human rights in the Arab world are "re-established and fully protected". The Egyptian liberal stated furthermore: "We maintain that human rights are indivisible and universal".

In his well received speech, Ambassador El Gatrift presented an analysis of the socio-political conditions in the Arab world and dealt with the strategies and tactics of the "authoritarian dictatorships." He said, the Arab governments "may offer labels democratic in name but which at heart are far from liberal and democratic". He concluded by saying that "liberals in the Arab Middle East have a daunting road ahead of them."

Read the full text of the speech of Ambassador El Ghatrifi

Senior members of the Network of Arab Liberals assembled in the Egyptian resort Ain Souchna for a strategic planning workshop from November 4 to 6, 2007 in order to discuss and formulate the strategic priorities of the political group. Delegates from all member parties attended the deliberations and, following intensive discussions, agreed on a basic programmatic document.

In this, the Network states that it is committed to "the principles of freedom and responsibility, pluralism and tolerance, market economy and the secular state." The document asserts that "only strict democratic behaviour and the rule of law will avoid the further strengthening of fundamentalist and repressive regimes." It says that NAL "will support its member parties to fight for individual freedom regardless if race, gender and religion."

Following an assessment that Arab positions are not taken into consideration sufficiently and correctly in international fora, the Network declares that it aspires to become "an important factor for defending the Arab interests in the international community in order to overcome the unfair double standards oriented behaviour of some international powers".

In Ain Souchna, the delegates also discussed organizational issues of the Network such as membership, finances and fundraising, a permanent secretariat and a plan of future activities. They agreed that a provisional secretariat would be set up in Cairo and that the next activity would be held in Beirut in early 2008 and deal with political communications, and the organizational consolidation of the group.

In a congratulatory note read to the delegates at the beginning of the workshop, Lord Alderdice, the President of Liberal International, expresses support for the Network: "Liberal International highly values the efforts of each and everyone involved in NAL as you take the next necessary steps to further build the Network". The message was read by Mohand Lanser, Secretary General of the Moroccan member party Mouvement Populaire, who is a Vice President of Liberal International.

Liberal Discussions in Cairo

Following the workshop in Ain Souchna, the delegates moved to Cairo and attended an open forum entitled "Prospects of Liberalism in Egypt". At this activity, prominent Egyptian political personalities engaged in a lively discussion regarding the perspectives of liberalism in the country. The ruling National Democratic Front (NDP) was represented by the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the People’s Assembly, Dr. Mostafa El Feqqi; Wafd Party Secretary General Mr. Monein Fakhry Abdel Nour and the Secretary General of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Mr. Hafez Abou Seiada presented their perspectives.

"The lively debates are a reflection of the pluralism in the Egyptian political community," said Jordanian parliamentarian and NAL-member Mr. Mohammed Arslan, who facilitated the discussions. Both events were also attended by Dr. Ronald Meinardus, the Regional Director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, who gave short congratulatory speeches.

With the aim of defining the challenges that Liberals in the Arab World are facing today and coming up with a common understanding how best to confront these challenges,members of liberal Arab parties convened in Casablanca, Morocco, from May 27-30, 2007. for an international conference.

The liberal Union Constitutionnelle hosted the event titled "Liberalism in the Arab World. Challenges and Chances Today" at their party headquarters in downtown Casablanca. Senior members from liberal parries from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and host country Morocco attended the two-day event.

After assessing the political conditions in their respective countries and the region as a whole, the delegates stressedthe importance of regional cooperation of the liberal Arab forces. This cooperation – they said – was needed to counter the political pressure from authoritarian regimes and fundamentalist forces.

One session of the conference dealt with organizational matters of the group. The delegates agreed to change the name to Network of Arab Liberals or NAL. Also, in void of an agreed upon constitution, the delegates elected a provisional Steering Committee which would operate as an interim leadership. The delegates decided that each of the geographical sub- regions and Egypt should be represented. The following individuals were elected:

- MP Mohammed Arslan, Jordan (representing Mashreq)

- Mr. Mohammed Tamaldou, Director of the Union Constitutionnelle (representing Maghreb)

- Mr. Sameh Makram Ebeid, Vice Secretary general, Wafd Party (representing Egypt)

Mr. Jochen De Groot, Program Officer of Liberal International, and Dr. Ronald Meinardus, Regional Director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation attended the conference as observers.