Dr Juergen Martens leads the German Group of Liberal International (DGLI) as its president. Liberal International (LI), as the world federation of liberal political parties, is committed to building and safeguarding free, fair and open societies. Human rights and free trade and development are other areas of its focus. Nepal Live Today caught up with Dr Martens to discuss various issues while he was in Kathmandu last week to participate in the Regional Conference on Rivers as Lifeline for South Asia hosted by the South Asia Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) in collaboration with the Embassy of Germany in Nepal, Samriddhi Foundation and German-Nepal Friendship Association. Excerpts:
How does it feel to be here in Nepal?
This is my first trip to Nepal. But I have been really impressed by everything here. It’s really interesting to see the country and to see how the country has embarked on a new development path. I am particularly fascinated by the people of Nepal. They are open-minded, friendly and hospitable.
You were here to participate in the Regional Conference on Rivers as Lifeline for South Asia. Can you tell us about Liberal International and how it supports countries like Nepal?
Working on saving rivers is one part of the journey of our work in India and Nepal. We cooperate with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and are working on this. So we had the opportunity to come and contribute to this conference. But we are not limited to one issue.
Liberation International was founded in 1947. It’s a London based political organization of liberal and progressive democratic parties. Our aim is to foster democracy and liberal values, rule of law, freedom of speech and market economy. We have a number of member organizations all over the world. Our committee on human rights is one of the committees which is somewhat like Amnesty International which defends the human rights of political prisoners. That’s a very strong commitment we have. We support Nepal at a political level through organizations like FNF. We support civil society to encourage people to engage themselves as citizens in development and empowerment of women to act in politics. LI tries to empower political organizations to promote human values, to have international exchanges and support.
How do you assess the situation of human rights and democracy in Nepal and in South Asia?
Human rights situations differ from one state to another and one region to another. But if you compare to other countries in the region, say for example, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even India, you see a marked difference in Nepal. Nepal is really open and welcoming and there is religious tolerance among different faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism and Christianity here. People here are very much concerned about their cultural and religious connections. They respect the faith of each other while preserving their own. This is quite a liberal approach which you would not see in all other places of the world. In this sense, Nepal is a special country.
Some raise the concern that Nepal could face challenges to democracy and human rights because of its geopolitical situation. What do you say?
We should be clear that geopolitics has nothing to do with human rights. A country should not abstain from democratic values like human rights simply because some of its neighbors or other countries do not like it or have different ideas about it. It should not abstain from rule of law and human rights and freedom of speech. In my view, geopolitics should not impinge on human rights and democratic values. We will be supporting Nepal and Nepali political parties in further enhancing human rights and liberal values.
Like I said, Nepal stands out from the rest of the countries in South Asia in terms of human rights and liberal values and religious tolerance. I am not very much familiar with every aspect of Nepali society but this is what appears to be at the first sight. Talking to the people here, I get this impression. As I said before, Nepal is a special country in terms of values of tolerance. That said, there are problems here but I hope that Nepal will be able to tackle those problems and Nepal will emerge as a prosperous country.
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