December 7-10, 2007
Strengthening Networks and Combating
Human Trafficking: LI and CALD Hold a Conference on Human Rights
(LI) and the Council of Asian
Liberals and Democrats (CALD), with the support of the Friedrich
Naumann Foundation (FNF) and the Taiwan
Fund for Democracy, organized the conference “Strengthening
Networks and Combating Human Trafficking” in Taipei, Taiwan
from December 7-10 2007. Hosted by the Democratic
Progressive Party of Taiwan (DPP), the conference was designed
to create awareness of human trafficking in Asia,
to analyze its dynamics and to work out policy responses. It also
looked at the role of liberal parties and parliamentarians in
the promotion and protection of human rights.
Resident Representative Siegfried Herzog meets Taiwan President
Former CALD Chairman and Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian contextualized
the conference by recounting how a group of human rights activists
founded the DPP 20 years ago. He also described its struggle during
martial law and reiterated its commitment to the cause of democracy
and human rights worldwide.
Lord John Alderdice, LI president, underlined the importance
of human rights promotion. He pointed out that it has become the
bedrock of the international system as humanity has seen the need
to impose restraints on its capacity for destructive behaviour.
He also voiced his concerns over the current trend to sacrifice
human rights in the war on terror.
This indifference to human rights was particularly touched upon
by former Philippine Senator and CALD Chairman Franklin Drilon.
He criticized his own country’s disregard for human rights
citing the continuance of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial
killings of activists.
share a light moment with Lord Alderdice.
The promotion of human rights was not the only issue dealt with
at the conference. Delegates also tackled the difficulty of protecting
individual rights especially in the face of human trafficking. Calling
it a modern form of slave trade
, participants discussed
the need to avoid criminalizing
its victims. They
talked about devising ways to help victims
illegality without facing instant deportation.
A possible positive step in the direction of human rights was
the recent signing of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) Charter. Many at the conference viewed its incorporation
of a human rights body as a significant step. On the other hand,
others viewed this with cynicism. They cited that ASEAN still
upheld the principle of mutual non-interference and left the foreign
ministers to elaborate on the human rights body’s terms
In the light of all this, the delegates agreed that parliamentarians
must play a bigger role in speaking up against injustice. They
can do so more forcefully than governments and are more able to
facilitate dialogue with other countries.
Senator Drilon turns over the CALD leadership to SDP Chairman
The conference ended with LI’s annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture.
Lord Alderdice devoted this to the issues of conflict resolution
and reconciliation. He stressed that more than economic or law and
order problems, it is the lack of respect
. Citing his experiences in Northern
Ireland, he said that rebuilding trust
will do more to ensure peace
than a military solution.
The LI-CALD forum also marked the turnover of the CALD leadership
from the Liberal Party of
the Philippines (LP) to the Singapore
Democratic Party (SDP). Dr. J.R. Nereus Acosta of the LP remains
CALD secretary-general while the SDP continues to face numerous