Guest Authors

Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights: The Liberal Approach

6-19 July 2014, Gummersbach, Germany
by Lamiya Adilgızı, Turkey

 

I feel privileged to have participated at the 2014 International Academy for Leadership and its seminar Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights: The Liberal Approach. The program has offered me the best opportunity to study rule of law and fundamental rights interactively and in cooperation with the liberal approach.

The seminar consisting of a very diverse group including lawyers, journalists, economists, civil society workers, young politicians presented me a fantastic platform to discuss the topic both theoretically and practically. What was especially interesting for me was that on one side the lawyers coming from all over the world were urging us to understand that everything should be relevant with legal procedure although others such as human rights activists were taking the side that people’s rights and their will should be prior to the legality. On the other side, media representatives were underlining the role of freedom of speech and freedom of expression saying that they are not only watchdogs but a milestone for the implementation of the rule of law. Underlining their role in well-established democracies journalists and bloggers were saying that without their input it would be difficult to see citizens to be involved in public debates, a move that is critical for the implementation of freedoms and rule of law.

Through this kind of very interesting and informative discussions I was able to gain a wide knowledge on human rights violations and deficiencies as well as political rights, fair trial rights, property rights, minority rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expressions and etc. in different countries and I did understand that rights and freedoms, democracy and its protection are still under threat and huge risk across the world and sustainable steps are needed to put forward to protect human dignity and global values.

One of the main challenges the participants faced during the discussions was posed by me in the beginning of our tour to Gummersbach when I asked whether the global cultural diversity is a threat to the protection of human rights and whether human rights or cultural diversity should be prior and if human rights are important as a universal value then how we will be able to protect the cultural diversity. The question led to one of the most tense discussions of our group as a result of which the participants agreed that human rights should be prioritized although the cultural diversity should not be dismissed either.

I would like especially to underline the city tours we paid during the program and the guest speakers invited to deliver us lectures – which were amazing and one of the most memorable parts of the program. Visiting various European Union institutes in France’s Strasbourg as well as an LGBT organization in Cologne and also the University of Kehl was of great importance not only from the perspective of learning how different organizations are working to protect human rights but also to dive into the culture of Europe including Germany and France.

During my visit — which was my first visit to Germany — I also got a chance to talk to German people over my anticipated research topic that is about Turks’ integration into German society. The program was a fantastic chance for me to know German society well and learn a lot about German culture as well as to get a wide international network of professionals in human rights issues and rule of law.

 

Yolanda and I

by Kareen Oloroso, Philippines

News about typhoons is quite normal in the Philippines where we can almost always use up all the letters in the alphabet naming each one of them. In 2009, three days before my flight back to the Philippines after my one-year training in Germany, was a strong typhoon – Ondoy. Manila was flooded and lots of properties were damaged. In 2011, when typhoon Sendong devastated north Mindanao and parts of the Visayas, I found myself waking up from the noise of the people outside. We needed to save the chickens (fighting cocks, mostly) from drowning as the water in the nearby creek was overflowing and my friend’s backyard turned into a pool with almost a meter high of water. We have saved all the 30 chickens. We thought that was it but, when we went outside, there was panic. Some houses got caught by the flash flood and took with it some houses and some lives. That was in Negros. Sendong took thousands of lives in north Mindanao. And towards the end of 2013, Yolanda claimed more than 5,000 lives, destroyed houses, affected 13 million people, and changed the landscape of many towns in the Visayas. And this time, it got personal. More »

From Berlin with hope

by Zaidi Sattar, Bangladesh

In Berlin you come to realise that walls, no matter how high and impregnable they might be, cannot divide people. It is people who divide people — if you see what I mean! Unification of Berlin and of Germany is a glaring example of how a people can rise above all forms of repression and achieve their desire for unity which, in the German case, has also meant significantly higher economic prosperity for all Germans, particularly those who lived in the former East Germany. More »