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Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights

There is rise in terrorism across the world, especially the Islamic State, which have taken over large tracts of territory in Syria and Iraq. This has led to the refugee crisis – millions of people seeking refuge in European countries including Germany, the venue of the seminar. The future of the Eurozone is in jeopardy. The European Union is grappling with one crisis after another. As a reactionary force, there appears to be a rise in right-wing forces in Europe, in countries such as Poland and Hungary, and elsewhere too; the fear being that long-cherished Democratic rights of the people could be a casualty. There are various other developments all across the world which are threatening the very survival of the little man, the little voter, the little citizen – with a free voice.

And against this tumultuous backdrop, a group of young lawyers, politicians and activists from 23 countries descended at Gummersbach for the IAF Seminar on Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights: the Liberal Approach. It was like getting a bird’s eye view of world affairs and then testing the times against the concepts of Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights.

We tend to become too practical and concentrate on actions without pausing to think about and clarify our understanding of concepts which ought to be the driving force behind our actions. What our very skilful moderators and the group discussions did was to clarify my own concept of what Rule of Law means. We learnt the various concepts of Rule of Law, from the thinnest (Rule by Law) to the thickest (Social Democratic Rule of Law or the fattest, as our liberal moderator preferred to call it), Rule by Law having hardly any safeguards and Social Democratic Rule of Law being a point where the State itself assumes the role of the Father, mother, guardian and regulator. The liberal approach is to prefer a liberal Rule of Law where the State is neither too intrusive, nor too withered away. The citizens are allowed to breathe and grow – the State only creating the fertile ground. I seemed to agree to the approach to a great extent.

The work group requiring us to explain the Rule of law and fundamental rights situation in our own countries enabled me look at India, my country, with an objectivity which I hitherto lacked. I returned as a citizen of my country and much in love with it, yet with the awareness of its deficiencies.

The discussions on fundamental rights and the three generations of Human rights was the one I greatly enjoyed. We poured all our ideas on to the floor and with the help of efficient marshalling of discussions by the mdoerators, we educated ourselves about democracy and democracies and rights and their extents and the general world situation of rights. What I learnt was that the liberals vouch for the first generation rights first and later move on to the second and third generation rights. I disagreed with Dr Rolf, our moderator and said that in my opinion, the first and second generation rights should go hand and hand. What the discussion culminated into is not important – but I took away from the debate a far enhanced understanding of the essentials of democratic thought and endeavour and I am much grateful to our erudite moderators. (Doctor and I have promised to continue our debate by email). To aid our understanding we were introduced to the Rule of Law Index published by the World Justice Project and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, both of which will be of great help to me in future.

The underlying issue which overshadowed the seminar was the refugee crisis. Important questions about the right to freedom of movement (how free and unrestricted is it) were raised and we deliberated on them. Coming from a country having its own share of migrant and refugee problems, I was able to share my inputs. How far should refugees be allowed unrestricted access to countries like Germany? How far will they be able to blend with german culture? What could be the repercussions if they couldn’t. What security risks could be posed by refugees (with reference to the recent Paris Terror Attacks). We analysed threadbare, the problems – and possible solutions – rationing of refugees, establishing camps in their own countries run by the more developed countries. We also considered the legal aspects, which have helped sharpen my own understanding of refugee and migrant issues, being a lawyer engaged in refugee related work in India.

For 12 days, we were like family. It seemed barriers between cultures, religions, territories had all melted and the fact that we were all human beings possessing the same characteristics of humanity took precedence.

The excursions to Cologne and Strasbourg only increased the bonhomie and also gave us a chance to explore new places, meet new people and witness cultures first hand. We also made an interesting visit to the International Institute of Human Rights where we also became aware of the obstacles language could pose when working in the field of human rights. There can be no Rule of Law and fundamental rights without people. The food and lodging were excellent to say the least. Apart from the seminar proceedings, we had freewheeling yet engaging discussions at the bar and while travelling, sharing experiences from our respective countries. In the modern world, learning is exchanging.

The best aspects about this seminar were its emphasis on practical realisation of all that we were discussing and secondly, the freedom of expression it gave us. The world is becoming intolerant towards diversity and conflict thought yet here we were given an absolutely free forum where we could simply explain and express ourselves in the manner we liked.

Finally, we were asked to prepare project proposals to enhance Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights. We presented our proposals. The moderators were very appreciative.

I went to Gummersbach as a citizen of India and returned as a conscious and vigilant citizen of the world. My outlook has been broadened, the knowledge has deepened, and seeds of truly liberal thought have been planted in my being. I only expect it to grow and guide me in my actions and endeavours towards making the world a better place for ourselves and others.

I am grateful, IAF.

 

by Deepan Kumar Sarkar

 


 

Some impressions from our excursion to Strasbourg and Karlsruhe

 

International Visiting Program with delegation from Tunisia

A delegation consisting of seven representatives from the Tunisian liberal party “Afek Tounis” recently came to Germany to participate in a study trip on “New perspectives for Tunisia – EU/Germany relations”. The aim was to discuss the international relations with Tunisia with German experts in order to establish new contacts and networks for future cooperation.

The program covered several visits to institutions and think-tanks in Brussels and Berlin. At the German Federal Foreign Office the group met with Barbara Wolf, director of the Maghreb-division, to discuss the current state and future of German foreign policy towards Tunisia. Among the focal points in the debate were initiatives like the partnership for transformation and Germany’s diplomatic reactions to the revolution. This topic drew lots of questions from members of the delegation who were questioning Germany’s foreign policy strategy in comparison to the U.S. or Great Britain.

At the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development the delegation had the chance to exchange information and experiences with Christiane Bögemann-Hagedorn, Deputy Director General for North Africa, Middle East, South Eastern and Eastern Europe and Latin America. Dr. Martin Henkelmann, director of the German Chamber of Commerce abroad in Tunisia and his colleague, Philipp Simon Andree, head of division for North Africa at the Federation of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), analyzed the pitfalls and potentials for ever closer economic relations between Germany and Tunisia during a working lunch. The topic was continued during a discussion with the experts Alexander Knipperts, Patrick Meinhardt and Rainer Ptok from the trade association (Unternehmerverband Deutschland).

German, European and American policy towards Tunisia was intensively examined from a scientific perspective during a meeting with Isabelle Werenfels, director of the study group on the Middle East and Africa at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP).

Ulrich Niemann, head of the international division of Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation for Freedom and Beate Apelt, director of regional division North Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe, welcomed the group in the FNF-headquarters and gave a presentation on the international work of FNF in North Africa and in the world.

 

 


More information

➤ Tunisia – has the city on the hill lost its shine? – by FNF Europe

Website of FNF Tunisia

 

 

 

Liberals and Education in the 21st Century – Common Woes and Diverse Solutions

 

Enlightenment, participation and progress—these three powerful words were not just the title of the workshop on Education at the IAF. They also represented what the participants felt were the key objectives of education in the 21st century. And in light of increasing intolerance and radicalization, they added a fourth—peace.

Heated arguments, passionate discussions and intensive sharing characterized the event that brought together 18 participants from 15 countries, an event that hoped to find some light at end of the tunnel on a topic that was very much close to their hearts. While 11 of the 15 countries had adult literacy rates of over 90%, the quality left much to be desired. The event didn’t begin in Gummersbach but online almost three weeks before. The online phase enabled participants to connect not just to each other but also with the topic in a deeper way. Participants shared their perspectives on the fundamentals of education, collated relevant country wide data on education, and also offered ideas on how they would address the most critical problems they see in their countries.

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Overall the participants were connected by their anger and frustration about the existing state of education in their countries and general mistrust in the state as the only solution—the low and declining standards, lack of quality education universally available to all, low quality teaching, low prestige and lack of interest in supplying vocational training services and the lack of political will to improve education systems. At the same time they were hopeful about innovative civil society solutions (from small budget private schools to publicly listed education providers) and reviving the tradition of civil society provision of education (something that was wiped out with the advent of compulsory education by the state 1)James Bartholomew, Education Without the State: British private and charitable schooling in the 19th century and beyond and James Tooley, RTE & Budget Private Schools-What would Gandhi Think? ). Almost every region showcased inspiring stories of edupreneurship (India, Egypt, Brazil)—individuals who despite the domineering state and the existing conditions were breaking new ground and showing that quality and cost do not always mutually exclude each other.

 

The WHY AND WHAT of education: purpose of education is primarily self development!

1Apart from equipping people for employment in a constantly changing environment dominated by technology and information (the information society), very important functions of education include the ability to learn and think for oneself, to develop one’s powers of reason, to be able to interact with other members of society peacefully and productively, to be able to resolve conflicts using peaceful means, to participate in democracy and public decision-making processes, to share knowledge and work cooperatively in groups. So education serves to meet ALL three objectives—social, political and economic. Seen together, these transcend the classroom and education can thus be seen as part of a life-long learning process with equal importance attached both to early childhood education and adult education. Therefore, the objectives of education are manifold, there cannot be a single definition of “quality” or the “best school or university”.

In order to be successful education must also be a pleasurable experience. More attention needs to be given to incentives not only for learners but for all stakeholders. The focus of all educational institutions should be to encourage independent thought, innovation and excellence.

 

Liberal Values: The Foundation of a Good Education System

2Participants agreed that education plays a very important role in liberal thought and that all values that are important for liberalism have implications for education. For instance, tolerance often needs to be taught. When you talk about choice you cannot exclude education (Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “…Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”). There is no one “best school” for all. Subsidiarity as a liberal value implies a decentralized system of education. Reason demands that pupils and student develop their ability to think critically. The idea that every one is equal under the law implies that access to (quality) education must be open to all.

The desire for the respect for individual rights also raised some questions. Can the parents’ judgment about their children’s education always be trusted? Must the state make choices instead, choices for the purported good of children? What if parents send children to schools that are academically poor, but offer other important things like safety, community spirit? And what if parents don’t want to send their children to school and teach them privately instead? Such questions suggest a paternalistic approach liberals do not share. Choice for liberals is an important end in itself even though it may not always lead to the “desirable outcomes” social engineers would like to see. The liberal approach is “to let many flowers bloom.”

 

The HOW of an Effective and Efficient Education System

3The education system of the 21st century must satisfactorily tap into the number of opportunities for education, opportunities that technological and economic progress bring forth in terms of greater demand for skills, greater financial resources for investment, the emergence of edupreneursip, greater access to content, specialization, and an increase of diversity in the classroom. At the same time there are worrying threats to education today that need to be addressed: increasing costs, declining standards, extremism, radicalization, technology overload.

No matter how much one believes in the role of the state in education, private schools and universities are a reality and also reflect parents making conscious choices towards accessing quality education for their children. Teachers of tomorrow, in responding to such challenges, will have to play a greater role as facilitators, coaches, mediators and mentors.

Though there was universal agreement on the objectives of education, it was in the HOW that differences lay: How much of a role should the state and civil society play in critical functions of education? There are radical approaches, e.g. privatization and decentralization of the education system and moderate approaches that are incremental in nature, e.g. how to increase competition in the interests of increasing quality. This is something that was emphasized by Sascha Tamm, an expert working for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). There was an overwhelming agreement that the state has an umbrella role in policy making, financing and regulation and that civil society, on the other hand, must play a leading role in the delivery, curriculum 2)An example of government indoctrination of children from Argentina highlighting the danger of government’s role in curriculum design and assessment. Overall the state and civil society need to work together and cooperate in using each other’s experiences and know how, even in matters such as teacher training.

There was agreement that the principle of subsidiarity must apply to education. There are many examples showing that successful schools are schools that cater to local needs. This is also the case of Germany where school facilities are provided by the municipalities and the legal framework, curricula, and teachers are provided by the individual state governments. The federal government plays a very minor role.

Read the rest of this entry »

References   [ + ]

1. James Bartholomew, Education Without the State: British private and charitable schooling in the 19th century and beyond and James Tooley, RTE & Budget Private Schools-What would Gandhi Think?
2. An example of government indoctrination of children from Argentina highlighting the danger of government’s role in curriculum design

Readings on Education

In our current IAF seminar on Education Policies we also distributed a variety of publications on various topics on education. Please feel free to download them here as pdf versions as well:

 

 

 

 

 


 

Human Rights and Child Protection

On October 20, 1989 the United Nations General Assembly approved the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC. On September 2, 1990 it became effective. This document defined for the first time a worldwide standard for child protection and rights. 195 out of 197 countries endorsed the convention. An approval that largely outreaches all other UN conventions. Thus the convention acquired almost universal relevance.


The legal scenario, threats and protection possibilities regarding minors were also core elements of the course held this year on international law in terms of human rights delivered by the René Cassin International Institute for Human Rights (Institut International des Droits de l’Homme– René Cassin) in Strasbourg. This 3-week course allows each year the conveyance of current knowledge and topics concerning international law in terms of human rights, based on international conventions and mechanisms. Around 300 participants from numerous countries attended this meeting that offers each year a venue for intense learning and engaged debates. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom invited 9 experts in human rights from Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali and Turkey to take part in the course and acquire updated knowledge. The purpose is that knowledge and contacts should be useful for those projects in which participants are actively engaged.

Introductory seminar on July 5, 2015 with seminar facilitator, Enikö Gal

Introductory seminar on July 5, 2015 with seminar facilitator, Enikö Gal

In the topic courses the notion of “child” was addressed from the most varied perspectives: children in violent conflicts, protection of children against sexual exploitation, religious practices and children’s rights, children as victims of human rights abuse in wars and civil wars, children’s rights and criminal law related to young offenders, legal scenario regarding international kidnappings, protection of non-accompanied children during migration, child protection and new technologies, fight against forced labor of minors.


Particularly current in the last decades was the issue concerning the recruitment or forced use of “child soldiers”. Unfortunately, many countries and militias involved in war or civil war conflicts do not want to leave the practices of recruiting children and teenagers for fighting purposes. The UN child convention prohibits their direct and active engagement in violent conflicts. However, their provisions are not accurate, mainly as to age limits. This was one of the reasons why the USA, almost in solitaire, did not endorse the convention. (Another reason probably lies on the prohibition of death penalty for children.) The practice of military schools to recruit extremely young candidates would particularly collide with the convention.

The core question “What is a child?” is replied in the convention with a “mild” answer. A child is a person who has not reached 18 years of age, provided the states’ national laws do not determine otherwise. Establishing an age limit is thus left to discretion of the national law, which –regarding the recruitment of child soldiers– leads to extremely unsatisfactory results. Some verdicts of the International Criminal Court and other courts have restricted even further the engagement of children and teenagers in combats. According to the statute of the special court for Sierra Leone, engaging child soldiers is considered a war crime.

Summer course participants in front of the Strasbourg University School of Law

Summer course participants in front of the Strasbourg University School of Law

A few years after the Convention was approved, it was generally agreed that protection-related provisions were not enough to control the acute threats faced by children. Therefore, three additional protocols were signed:

1. Additional protocol against child exploitation, child prostitution and child pornography (2002)
2. Additional protocol about children in armed conflicts (2002)
3. Optional protocol on individual appeal procedures (2002)

An interesting aspect in the evolution of documents refers to the fact that –unlike the Convention– the additional protocols were endorsed by the USA.

From the extensive provisions set forth in the Convention, five basic core rights for children are derived:

– The right to survival
– The right to development
– Non discrimination
– Advocacy of children’s interests in all relevant decisions thereof
– The right to participation

All the contractual parties in the Convention are committed to use their available resources to enable the children’s development (education, instruction, health) and gradually engage them in social processes.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) considers the possibility that a state could ratify a treaty without granting its agreement to the contents, but only “under reserve”, which restricts the engagement. This option has led to a generalized practice of restricting the rights granted by the Convention by means of extensive restrictions. Thus Iran endorsed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the condition that the sharia and the national criminal law should remain unaffected. That is why a 9-year-old child in Iran can still be sentenced to death. Singapore endorsed it with the exception of its national law; Saudi Arabia did it under reserve of the sharia. In Brunei, the Convention is only valid if it does not interfere with the Constitution and Islamic law. That means, a generalized tendency to subordinate the bonding nature of the international conventions to national law can be perceived. An evolution that does not precisely benefit the children’s development opportunities and that infringes the Vienna Convention’s spirit. There is still a lot left to do!

For the Foundation’s participants, efforts have resulted worthwhile. Despite a heavy workload under summer temperatures of up to 44 ºC and in spite of Ramadan, which Muslim attendants abided by, almost all the participants passed the difficult final test.

 

by Dr Gabriele Thöns

Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s participants at the European Council

Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s participants at the European Council

 

 

 


 

Visit: 50-Year Diplomatic Relationship between Germany and Israel

From May 14 through May 19, 7 representatives and officers of the HaTnuaParty, the Foundation’s counterpart, visited Berlin.

The visit was conducted under the theme “50-Year Diplomatic Relationship between Germany and Israel” and concluded with the solemn inauguration of the photo show “Religion*Freedom*City”. Pictures were chosen from a photo contest held by the FNF in Jerusalem.

An intense program was conducted in Berlin covering political informational conversations and a deep examination of the Jewish history and life in Berlin.
During two days of the program the participants visited the FDP federal convention in Berlin. Once there, they had the opportunity to become thoroughly familiar with the work of the Liberal Youth and the FDP municipal politicians, as well as to analyze the relevance of these political organizations and the own party structure.

FNF fellow workers explained to the visitor group the positioning of the FDP within the political party spectrum, both in Germany and in Europe, as well as the work performed by the FNF both in Germany and abroad.

Visitors were particularly interested in getting acquainted with Jewish life in Berlin. Talks held with a board representative of the synagogue located at Oranienburgerstraße and a representative of the Central Jew Council, as well as a visit to the synagogue offices, were highly enlightening. A city round trip was especially dedicated to Jewish life in Berlin before and during the Nazi regime. Meetings with German-Jewish society representatives and the European-Jewish ELNET network focused on the enhancement of relationships.

 

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German Federalism – A model for the Arab world?


Arab mayors, congressmen and judges visiting trip on decentralization

It is a great surprise: Eric Weik (FDP), mayor of Wermelskirchen at North Rhine–Westphalia, declares that he can only implement what the city council decides. He was asked: “But, as a liberal mayor don’t you automatically obtain a majority at the council that votes for your project?” “No, that is why I have to fight each time for a majority and convince people”, explained Weik. This has little to do with the arbitrary conduct of dignitaries in many Arab countries. A local government has, at the same time, own incomes, for example, from the trade tax – and the young liberal mayor delights with his great achievement: When he lowered the trade tax, the town attracted numerous companies and therefore, greatly increased its trade tax derived income. Mayors, members of parliament, politicians and judges of six Arab countries that participate in the information trip to Germany, are fascinated by this degree of municipal self-management.

BM-Eric-Weik-02_med
There is enormous interest in the subject. The majority of Arab countries are now experiencing a period of upheaval and transformation, in which the centralist order of the State is also critically assessed. In Morocco, the first decentralization bill, which was announced years ago, is circulating these days. In Tunisia, after the revolution, new non-party mayors were partially assigned and new State building laws are now being generated. But Lebanon and Jordan are also thinking about generating more municipal self-management. In this regard, the German federal system becomes an interesting model – even if its complexity represents a challenge. The visits and conversations –at the Federal Parliament and Federal Council, the Regional Parliament of Düsseldorf, two municipalities with liberal mayors, the Cologne Municipal Congress, the Ministry of Economy of North Rhine-Westphalia and the State representation of North Rhine-Westphalia in Berlin- illustrate and exemplify the delimitation and cooperation of the different levels.

bundesrat_bundestag
The liberal spokesperson of the Committee for Europe and One World at the regional parliament of Düsseldorf and former minister, Ingo Wolf, masterfully presented the historic evolution of the German model and also disclosed its weaknesses: excessive mixed financing at all levels. His advice from the liberal point of view: “In case of financial compensations, there must exist sufficient incentives and the overcompensation of differences must be avoided”. And: “Define objectives, but provide the greatest freedom possible on the way to achieve them.”

Ingo-Wolf-02_med
The conversation held at the German County Association in Berlin resulted to be very confusing for the Arab guests: the participants asked about the origin of this level in this three-structured system and its purposes. It is highly probable that this institution will not find followers in the Arab world – but some tools regarding civic participation, municipal self-management and federal structure will be integrated to the proposals and discussions in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

 

by Andrea Nüsse, FNF Project Director Morocco

 


 

More information

>> Website of FNF Morocco

>> Facebook Page of FNF Marocco

 

 

 

 

It’s Liberals’ Time to Think

06

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

– A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Never has an opening paragraph of a Dickens classic resonated more with liberals around the world, because let’s face it: it has not been an easy time for most of us. With populism, nationalism and extremism on the rise, times have been tough for those committed to realising more freedom, more choice, more equality, more human rights. Not only have times been tough, votes have been few. This rather stark reality is particularly present when 25 liberal young leaders gather from across the world at a single seminar, their country’s flags on the table in front of them an unambiguous reminder of the difficult reality they face.

There is practically no region in the world right now not dealing with a growing connectedness and a deepening divide, of more entrenched human rights and increased brutality and volatility. The reality is, we live in a time of paradox and complexity, and our inability as liberals to respond to it with clarity, have cost us votes. While the power of the individual lies at the heart of what we believe to be true, I believe that it is our behaviour towards each other that hamper us most from crystallising a compelling message to our voters, that stops us from being a powerful force of positive change for the world.

But, back to the seminar for a moment. What happens when liberals from 25 different nations join minds during a 12-day seminar, some of whom hail from countries where the ideas liberalism represent are under immense threat, or not at all allowed. Having taken the first step of moving them from their usual environments to a neutral place, and the second step of surrounding them with fellow inspiring minds, how do you then best get them to interact with their own challenges?

Well, you give them time to think. And the best way to give a group of highly opinionated individuals time uninterrupted time to think, is within the framework of Nancy Klein’s body of work, The Thinking Environment.

At the heart of the profoundly life-changing Thinking Environment lies this premise: The quality of everything we do depend on the quality of the thinking we do about it first.

If we can presume that to be true, and most people do, we need to ask the logical follow-up question: If the quality of everything we do depends on the thinking we do about it first, under which circumstances are people able to think best for themselves? And the truth, Nancy has discovered, is that our ability to think well for ourselves depends almost entirely on the way we are treated by those around us. In other words, if we can create a particular type of environment for people, they will think well for themselves.

Enter the 10 components of the Thinking Environment, the mighty protectors of our ability to think well:

  1. Attention;
  2. Equality;
  3. Ease;
  4. Appreciation;
  5. Encouragement;
  6. Diversity;
  7. Information;
  8. Feelings;
  9. Incisive Questions; and,
  10. Place.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, lie the behaviours we have come to know as normal:

  1. Constant interruption: technological or human;
  2. Explicit power differentials;
  3. Urgency, crisis mode, haste and unease;
  4. Constant criticism;
  5. Competition and envy;
  6. The denial of diversity;
  7. Trying to think without having the necessary information at hand;
  8. The denial of feelings;
  9. Limiting assumptions; and,
  10. A place that says ‘you don’t matter’.

These are the enemies of the ability to think well for ourselves. And when they manifest in our own behaviour as leaders, they cause those around us to be unable to think well for themselves.

One of the building blocks taught as part of the Thinking Environment, is the thinking pair. This powerful tool seems deceptively simple in theory, yet in my experience remains one of the elements of the Thinking Environment that people struggle with most. Why? Well, because the Thinking Pair lives at the opposite end of our usual behaviour towards each other.

Here’s how it works. In a thinking pair, one person is the thinker and the other’s role is to offer their attention while the thinker is thinking. The thinker therefore receives a set amount of time during which they have an uninterrupted opportunity to think around a topic of their choice, with the thinking partner’s only role being to provide his or her generative attention as a tool to ignite the thinker’s freshest thinking. Once the thinker has completed their turn, the pair will swop roles.

For most, quite strangely so, the thinking partner is not listening to understand, to respond or to offer advice, the very reasons that often lie at the heart of why we listen to others. In a thinking pair, the thinking partner’s only role, simply and truly, is to offer their best generative attention. Attention that ignites. Attention that is interested in what the thinker is thinking now and where they will go next with their thinking. Attention that is uninterested in interrupting, in offering advice, in responding. The principles underlying this incredibly powerful, and deceptively difficult tool, lies at the heart of the Thinking Environment. It is this knowing that you will not be interrupted, that the thinking partner does not have to understand what you’re saying, that brings an incredible sense of ease during the thinking session and contributes to the thinker’s ability to go where their thoughts have not previously gone. To access fresh thinking.

Back to the seminar. Because of the incredible diversity present in our seminar, participants were paired in Thinking Pairs where no participant had a partner who spoke the same mother tongue. This meant that the person offering their generative attention did not understand what the thinker was saying at all, and could not offer anything else than their most powerful and present attention to the thinker. What magic in this paradox, this ability to give nothing but your genuine interest, and through that immensely powerful way of being both incredibly important in the process and not at all important, ignite in someone else previously unthought-of thoughts.

itsliberalstimetothink

Upon reflection, this short session of thinking pairs at a seminar in Gummersbach provides a glimpse of what is possible for liberals around the world. The 10 behaviours known as the 10 components of the Thinking Environment, give us an opportunity to behave in a different way towards each other in the world. To start being differently towards each other so that we’re able to reconnect with our purpose and access our freshest thinking.

What we need most now, is to think well.

Can liberals offer each other this type of leadership, this set of behaviours to access the new ideas and thinking we so desperately need?

Can we step away from our own need to be right about what we believe about the world, our tendency to interrupt, the unease we’ve created for ourselves in the immensely volatile world we live in to a place where our best thinking prevails?

Can we meet each other in the Thinking Environment, as equals, with a genuine interest in going somewhere our thinking have not gone before? Are we brave enough?


by Marike Groenewald, 
Cape Town
October 2014

Marike Groenewald

Marike Groenewald is the Director of Strategic Markets at the Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s second largest political party and the Official Opposition in Parliament. In this role, Marike is responsible for engaging with a number of strategic voter markets, including people with disabilities, young professionals, South Africans living abroad and the LGBTI community in the run-up to the South African General Election taking place in 2014.

Marike is also the Director of the DA’s Young Leaders Programme, the party’s flagship political development programme, aimed at developing highly skilled, self-aware political leaders who are in future able to be senior leaders of the Party and of South Africa.

Over the past 6 years, Marike has served in many capacities at the DA’s National Head Office in Cape Town, most of which have been centred around organisational and people development for the Democratic Alliance and focussed on structuring innovative, relevant programmes and courses developing the Party’s talent.

Marike holds a Masters of Law degree, specialising in Intellectual Property and Labour Law, from the University of Stellenbosch and is a published poet.

 

Religious Power and Politics: An international liberal debate in Germany

 

The International Academy for Leadership – or IAF – is the most valuable and arguably also the most popular of the many international programs sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). Over the years, a large number of young and also senior leaders from India have attended the courses in the Western German city of Gummersbach. FNF New Delhi’s Omair Ahmed was invited to join the recent workshop titled “Religious Power in Politics. Political Power through Religion?” as a co-moderator. We asked him to share his impressions.

 

“The seminar was filled with argumentative, boisterous and convivial discussions.”

This was only to be expected with such a sensitive topic, and with people from the Arab Spring countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, as well as from countries as varied as Mexico, Malaysia, Russia, Tanzania, the United States, Ukraine, the Palestinian Territories, and India. All of the participants felt strongly about the issue, some of whom asserted that they were ‘fundamentalist’ in their interpretation of faith, though not in a militant sense, while others stated their own ‘fundamentalist’ belief in atheism or non-theism.

The discussion was ably assisted by Arno Keller, a former country director for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), and assisted by Sagarica Delgoda, another former country director for FNF. They brought in a great deal of personal experience, from countries as diverse as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Germany, trying to get at the root of the idea of secularism and what it means in the modern world. Referring to the multiple ways that ostensibly secular countries such as the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom have official religions, collect religious taxes, have religious political parties and a host of other practices, Mr Keller demonstrated the confusion on the very idea of “secular” for most everyone. Instead he encouraged the participants to discuss the issues and get at main principles and themes. Ms Delgoda spoke about Buddhism as a meniator of values, and how even such a religion could be manipulated for nationalistic sentiments.

While participants from the Arab countries, who had seen revolution and radicalisation recently, were often vocal in their fears and opinions, the important stories of the experience of minority communities in Malaysia and the role of religion in war-making rhetoric in the Ukraine-Russian crisis also figured in the discussion. An exercise by the participants, in which five groups were asked to list the basic values of liberalism, Christianity, Islam, non-theistic Humanism, and Hindu & Buddhist thought threw up a host of overlaps, showing the participants visually how much they had in common. The exercises were an important part of the seminar, as was the trip to Cologne and an interaction with the Rabbi of the Synagogue there. Each member of the group pledged to complete a particular assignment within three months of the end of the seminar, and when they parted, it was with a great deal of new thoughts, as well as with a number of new friends from across the world.

by Omair Ahmed, Delhi/India

 


This article first appeared on www.southasia.fnst.org: “Religious Power and Politics: An international liberal debate in Germany”,
7 October 2014.

 

The future of renewable energies in Southern Asia

It has been forecasted that in the following two decades there will be a strong increase in energy demand in Southern Asia. In the largest countries, energy supply is critical. India alone, with its high demographic increase and stable economic growth, develops an increasing and permanent demand of energy. Daily power outages are today a reality in the cities and in extensive parts of the country. Many towns and regions are not connected to the power supply system.

The chronic lack of electric and gas power in Pakistan has become an everyday experience for the population and economy. Even in the capital of Islamabad, most of the time the heating system is defective during winter. Consequently, gas cut-offs occur. When gas is flowing, lack of pressure in the pipelines is hardly enough to cook. Gas stations that provide natural gas –fuel that is most commonly used– only open a few days per week due to lack of supply. Furthermore, there are outages that last hours. When spring arrives, shortage of electric power worsens with heat.

As a result, the following questions arise: Can the Southern Asian countries benefit from the German experiences regarding the use of new and sustainable energy sources? Do these offer solutions to the chronic energy shortage?

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The delegation with Milena Oschmann, German Federal Railways energy expert

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty invited a group of economy and energy experts from Southern Asia to take part in a visiting program about renewable energies in Germany. Participants came from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

Specific goals:

  1. To better understand Germany’s energy transformation (Energiewende), the plans and measures at the different State levels to reduce CO2 emissions.
  2. To develop a Liberal consciousness regarding climate change aspects.
  3. To look for market-oriented solutions regarding the production of renewable energies and greater energy efficiency concepts.

The visiting program started in Stuttgart. With a high number of successful and export-oriented companies, in the last decades Baden-Wurttemberg has managed to consolidate its reputation as a renowned economic location. Also, the Federal State is positioned on the cutting edge regarding renewable energies in Germany’s Southwest.

Dr. Till Jensen, energy expert at the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Energy Industry, explained to the guests the energy transformation that took place in Baden-Wurttemberg. The State had a greater nuclear energy dependency than the northern states. Almost half of its power was produced in nuclear power plants. In 2011 –after Fukushima– the Federal Government decided to abandon nuclear power. In 2022, the last nuclear power plant will be closed. The deficit that results from this will have to be greatly supplied by renewable energies. The State developed a sustainability strategy which, in the following decades, completely readjusts production and consumption. Photovoltaic, wind and biomass energies –to a lesser extent also geothermal energy-, are especially considered as energy sources. Measures to generate energy efficiency, mostly in buildings and traffic, should considerably reduce energy consumption.
In the three mentioned areas, the State was able to increase its renewable energy production. In particular cases, the production amounts projected for 2022 have already been reached today. However, critical questions remain unsolved.

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The delegation at the State Parliament of Baden-Wurttemberg along with Andreas Glück, congressman of the Liberal Party (FDP) and spokesperson for environmental and energy policy issues.

Obtaining green energy is subject to fluctuations and uncertainty. It is often generated when it isn’t needed and it is needed when it isn’t produced. It is tied to forces of nature such as wind and sun. Because of that, the issue concerning storage becomes very important. The development of adequate storage is still in its early stages. Therefore, the storage of – for example– wind energy to be utilized as electricity, is highly expensive. Also, existing power lines are not enough to supply energy to the desired places. While the country’s industrial core is markedly located in the south (Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg), the mass of wind energy is produced up north and there are plans to extend it by building great wind turbines along the coastline. This arises the need to build great energy supply paths from north to south. But this project hasn’t been started yet. The newly emerged deficits create a paradoxical situation in which –meanwhile– more energy is obtained from conventional power plants (carbon and lignite), which aggravates climate-damaging CO2 emissions.

These and other questions were intensively discussed by the delegation members in the following visits. The program included meetings with liberal politicians in Stuttgart and a conference about the development of electromobility, which is specially promoted in the car state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Furthermore, visits to the Federal Ministry of Economy, the Federal Association of German Industry, the German Railways and the Checkpoint Energie took place. The trip ended with a visit to the energy-autonomous town of Feldheim in Brandenburg.

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The delegation with Dr. Eberhardt von Rottenburg, energy and climate policy expert at the Federal Association of German Industry