I am proud to announce that the Jonge Democraten (The Netherlands), IFLRY Full Member, has nominated me to run for President of the International Federation of Liberal Youth for the 2009-2011 Bureau. I have worked with great pleasure and commitment as Secretary General of the Federation for the past four years and would be greatly honored to take up this new position for another two. In this letter I want to outline some of the main achievements of our Federation over the past years, as well as identify the challenges to be tackled. Knowing that most of my readers are very busy people, I will try to keep it as dull and technical as possible.
Our Federation has been changing a great deal over the past couple of years. Whereas all high-points have their temporary low-points, I firmly believe that the general direction of the Federation has been going positively upwards. Let me list in random order a selection of some of our main achievements in order for you to get an understanding of where we are now:
- Manifesto: at the upcoming General Assembly, for the first time in more than 15 years, we are presenting a full-fledged revision and modernization of the IFLRY manifesto.
- Official structure: the introduction of Standing Committees, the establishment of regional membership including the regional Bureau representative, and the creation of a Treasurer in the Bureau are just a couple of the significant improvements we made to our Statutes and Rules of Procedure;
- Communication: with regular newsletters, MO mailings, online liberal news center, and coordinated use of social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter we are reaching a greater amount of young people around the world than ever;
- Political profile: we’ve been taking a proactive approach on ongoing topics through statements and targeted lobbying in combination with our communication tools and in partnership with member organizations to grow our political profile; also, by speaking out at different international conferences – like this year’s Geneva Summit – young liberals have gained a strong and credible reputation in global civil society;
- Accounting: particularly after the installment of new accounting software and as a result of the professional work of our office we can boast a clean multiannual record of our financial accounts; in addition, newly adopted control and accounting rules as well as officially adopted membership fee guidelines have increased transparency;
- Statutory events: a greater emphasis on political and skill-related topics through panels, workshops and other side events have made our statutory events more inspiring and rewarding for all, with the EC in Lebanon as a high point;
- Seminars and trainings: specialized training programmes in Western Europe, the Caucusus, the Middle East and South America have made major contributions to the spread of liberal values; moreover, for several years our seminar proposals and reports have received very high marks from our participants and sponsors;
- Partners: strong relationships based on mutual interest with major international partners like FNF, SILC, NDI and Freedom House has enlarged our scope of work and the benefits offered to our membership; notably, the partnership with SFP from Finland has led to our very successful internship programme;
- Liberal solidarity programmes: we have taken strong stances and provided useful support to those young liberals in parts of the world where democracy and human rights cannot be taken for granted; coherent, strategic programmes ensure that our work in this field is effective and efficient;
- Programme managers: the Bureau has appointed three highly qualified and motivated programme managers this year who are showing impressive results for the Federation as a whole;
- Regional development: liberal breakthroughs have been made in, particularly, the Caucasus and the Middle East with high visibility of IFLRY; also, a first pan-African young liberal event in many years was also organized with our support;
- International platforms: engagement with high-level diplomatic initiatives, like the UNFCCC, the Alliance of Civilizations, Council of Europe, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN ECOSOC gives member organizations the opportunity to gain international political experience;
My role over the past years has been one of instigator in some cases, and enthusiastic supporter of new ideas, professionalization and out-of-the-box thinking in others. I have consistently kept my belief in the need to broaden our Federation from one singularly led by the Bureau to one where the member organizations and its representatives take central stage, as reflected in the installment of project managers, the Manifesto revision process and the implementation of the Standing Committees.
Nevertheless, despite this progress, there are several crucial challenges to be tackled by the next Bureau in order to sustain and improve this progress, particularly when it comes to fundraising and the development of a more comprehensive strategy for the Federation in general.
Over the past years I have often met representatives who had a hard time explaining to their organization what IFLRY is about and why it is useful for them to pay membership fees and attend events. These are very reasonable concerns and are an indication of the need to work according to more comprehensive, explicable strategies which directly target the needs and interests of IFLRY’s member organizations. While I believe the IFLRY Bureau has done its best in order to work in the interest of its members, it has not done enough in clearly laying out the purposes of IFLRY and hence the benefits of IFLRY membership to its members. Moreover, it should counter the sometimes prevailing perception that IFLRY’s long-time members in democratic countries have little to gain from their membership and are only contributing in order to help young liberals in other countries.
Let me lay down what I believe are IFLRY’s three strategic fields of work and briefly indicate how this directly benefits all of its members:
1. Winning Elections – All member organizations are faced with often very similar challenges: mobilizing the vote of young people, developing the most effective and efficient internal structures, keeping up relations with ‘mother parties’ and coping with financial responsibilities. IFLRY is the clearing house where young liberals come together in order to exchange best-practices on how to build their organization and wage successful campaigns. There is incredibly much to learn from the successful experiences of colleagues and IFLRY is a secure and reliable platform that facilitates such exchanges among like-minded people. Specific training programmes with outside experts can be developed for your organization to benefit from. Virtually or physically, key persons within our members can be connected to exchange knowledge and experience to improve their organizations.
2. Policy Development and Dissemination – In a globalizing world, more and more issues are considered to be primarily international or global in scope, both in terms of sources and solutions. In addition, members from similar countries often have to deal with similar policy issues. IFLRY is the platform where member organizations can exchange policies and gather information about liberal perspectives on an issue and adapt them to their own national context. This improves the quality and boosts the credibility of the positions taken by young liberals within their parties as well as within their political and media context. IFLRY’s presence at international bodies, like the UN Human Rights Council, the UNFCCC, and a range of other platforms, allow us to disseminate our views at high levels as well.
3. Liberal Solidarity – In many parts of the world, young liberals are vulnerable minorities in often hostile environments. Authoritarian governments suppress democratic voices and deny young people their right to freely express themselves. Within IFLRY, we do not just talk the talk about promoting human rights, we also walk the walk. Through providing specific trainings and documentation, raising awareness among young people around the world, and targeted lobbying of officials and politicians, we hope to be of support to ‘local’ young liberals and contribute to the liberalization of their societies. By the virtue of your membership of IFLRY, you directly contribute to the promotion of liberal and democratic values across the world. Be proud of it and use it, for example, in the recruitment of new members.
I would consider it my job as the next President to continuously reiterate these strategic fields as forming the core of our work and explaining the benefits that all of you have in participating in our global project.
The second major challenge is that of our financial resources. Most, if not all, of the above-mentioned achievements have been made without the use of any of IFLRY’s financial resources and our overhead costs are very small. Over the past years, spending has been minimized, with the Bureau cutting most of its expenses to the extent that many Bureau members have contributed substantial private funds for continuing their activities. Major efforts have been undertaken to keep our projects and events running through funding from external partners and donors, with reasonable success. However, these efforts cannot ignore the fact that our financial situation has hit rock-bottom and there is a strong urgency to implement new fundraising policies that can keep the central activities of our organization running.
In close cooperation with the next Treasurer, I will therefore strongly engage myself in setting up the following initiatives and others:
i) Small Donor Programme – Via online donations, liberal sympathizers of our work can show their support by contributing one-time or regular donations; a comprehensive and targeted campaign, coordinated by the Bureau and with the support of the member organizations, should bring in an increasing amount of financial resources;
ii) Alumni & Friends – IFLRY’s history goes back to 1947 and over the years (tens of) thousands of liberals have gone through the ‘IFLRY school’ through their participation in trainings, seminars and statutory events. By providing them with a framework through which they can remain connected to our Federation, a vast pool of experience, contacts as well as financial resources can be created;
iii) Fundraising Events – Several recurring fundraising events with high-profile international speakers can not only provide for interesting meetings for liberals young and old, but can also provide a stream of income that can come to the benefit of the work of our global federation;
iv) Sponsorships for Activities and Administration – Larger donations or funding should be accessed in order to not only more comprehensively cover activities but also our overhead costs;
These initiatives will have to go hand-in-hand with a much more strict, week-by-week monitoring of expenses during the next year. The current fundraising work, specifically where it concerns the cooperation with liberal parties and foundations, should obviously be continued. With the member organizations’ support and trust, I am confident that the next Bureau will be able to pull our organization through these difficult financial times.
I believe that my four years of experience in the IFLRY Bureau has given me a wide range of skills and knowledge that will allow me to develop sophisticated tools and methods in order to build our organization further. This is why I decided to run for another term, this time for the position of IFLRY President.
I am looking forward to engaging in discussions with all IFLRY members on the future of our Federation.