Liberal Democrat International Office’s Highlights of 2015

It is the goal of the Liberal Democrat International Office to support liberal parties to champion liberalism in their home countries and strengthen our relationships with the party’s international partners.

With the current turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa and the rise of nationalism across Europe, the need for a liberal voice in politics has never been greater. It is the goal of the Liberal Democrat International Office to support liberal parties to champion liberalism in their home countries and strengthen our relationships with the party’s international partners. Our work ensures the Liberal Democrats remain at the forefront of the battle for liberalism both at home and abroad.

The International Office team (left to right: Harriet Shone, Isabelle Pucher, Nick Thorne, Derya Ozgun and Iain Gill) at the ALDE Congress in Budapest, managing Baroness Ros Scott’s successful election campaign as ALDE Vice President.

2015 has been a busy and successful year for us, despite closing in April and May to campaign actively during the General Election. And with Head of the International Office, Iain Gill, appointed as project manager of the LibDem EU referendum campaign, we are heavily involved the movement to keep Britain in the European Union. Across our projects in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, we have continued to deliver cutting-edge technical support to liberal sister-parties overseas, strengthening the Party’s ties with our international partners and forging new relationships.

Building on a long tradition of engaging with sister parties at LibDem Conferences, we hosted two international delegations this year. At the Spring Conference in Liverpool, the International Office brought a delegation of 20 campaigners from sister-parties around the world. After taking part in a series of trainings and masterclasses, the participants put theory into practice and actively campaigned in Watford, Maidstone, Sutton, Carshalton and Wallington. In Bournemouth, we brought 8 young liberal rising stars from countries including Ghana, Palestine and Georgia, for a leadership programme designed to empower them as political candidates.

2015 has also been a landmark year for the Africa Liberal Network (ALN), originally established with Liberal Democrat support in 2003. With 44 member parties across 30 countries, the ALN has grown to become the largest and most influential political network on the continent. After three years as ALN Coordinator in which she achieved huge progress in professionalising the network, Aimee Franklin moved on to work for the Democratic Alliance in South Africa. We now have a new ALN Coordinator in Luke Akal, managing the Secretariat in Cape Town. In just a few months Luke has already organised the first ever ALN election observation mission in Tanzania, and made preparations for the upcoming ALN General Assembly which will be held in Johannesburg from 27 to 31 January 2016.

In Serbia, we worked with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to promote rights for the LGBTI community, building on our previous work with them to reach out to women and youth. This year we reached a major milestone as we helped the LDP to set up a Human Rights Council (HRC), formally launched in February, as a vehicle for advancing LGBTI rights, the first of its kind in the Balkans.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we worked with our sister-party, Nasa Stranka, to promote gender equality in politics. To this end, we are providing technical support to female councillors and candidates ahead of the municipal elections in October 2016, working on public speaking, policy development and testing out campaign techniques to engage with voters on the streets of Sarajevo.

Meanwhile in South Africa, we continued to work with the Democratic Alliance through the long standing Young Leaders Project (YLP), with the aim of creating a pool of knowledgeable, articulate and emotionally intelligent individuals who can one day lead the party and country at senior level. This year we reached another landmark with the development of an alumni programme for top graduates of the YLP, with the long-term aim of establishing an Advisory Youth Council to lead on youth issues within the Africa Liberal Network.

The International Office team (left to right: Nick Thorne, Isabelle Pucher, Harriet Shone, Derya Ozgun and Luke Akal) at the Autumn Conference in Bournemouth.

In September we launched a new joint project with VVD, one of our Dutch sister-parties, and the Republican Party of Georgia (RPG). To prepare for the national elections in 2016, the Liberal Democrats have assisted the RPG in carrying out polling to identify the key issues on which the party will campaign.

The Liberal Democrats have also continued to be active within the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party in Brussels. At the 2015 ALDE Congress in Budapest, Baroness Sal Brinton led the LibDem delegation in the policy working groups, and we successfully campaigned for the election of Baroness Ros Scott as ALDE Vice-President, ensuring that the Lib Dems continue to play an influential role in the ALDE party. We look forward to supporting Ros in her new role next year!

With the upcoming EU referendum and elections for many of our liberal sister-parties in countries including South Africa, Ghana, Bosnia and Georgia, 2016 is shaping up to be another important year for liberals around the world. Through sharing ideas and strategies, liberal parties can learn from each other to grow and gain strength within their respective countries.
A huge thank you to all who have worked with us in 2015, and we look forward to continuing our projects next year!

By Liberal Democrat International