In April VVD international went to Azerbaijan for a three day training on liberalism and human rights. The group consisted of around 20 participants with different backgrounds, varying from NGOs to young journalists. The purpose of the training was to share knowledge in an interactive way, by making posters, videos and debating.

The training was a cooperation between the VVD and the German FNF. On the first day we discussed liberalism. What is the difference between modern and classical liberalism? What are the origins? What can we do with liberalism today? The participants were extremely active in the discussion “Why do we need a government at all?”, was one of the questions asked by a more libertarian participant. After discussing liberalism in general, liberalism in the Netherlands and liberalism as a global movement, it was time for an assignment. To what extend is Azerbaijan a liberal country? Even though Azerbaijan is an Islamic country, women are not obliged to wear a headscarf, participants argued. Also, alcoholic beverages are legal, which is a major difference to their neighboring country, Iran. However, others argued that the freedom of speech and the freedom of demonstration in Azerbaijan are under pressure and corruption is widespread.

Liberalism is a global movement. But all countries have a different starting points and diverse political issues that are on top of the people’s interests. A liberal political movement in the Netherlands might be different from a political campaign in Azerbaijan or any other country. Therefore, participants had to work in groups and identify issues that are important for both liberals and the people in Azerbaijan. Later, in a debate, the participants had to argue why the Netherlands is not a liberal country.

Before the participants started working on their campaign video, we debated human rights in relation to a democratic society. A democratic society is much more than just having free and fair elections. To what extend the government can govern the country effectively is an important indicator. Additionally, the personal freedoms that are described in the European Convention on Human Rights is a fundamental part of a democratic society. Since Azerbaijan committed itself to the Council of Europe, the participants debated to what extend the human rights are implemented in Azerbaijan.

The training ended by making campaigning videos. There were four groups of participants and they all had their own perspective. One group presented a diverse group of young people, all different but united by liberalism. Another group showed a demonstration where people were arrested. “Our basic freedoms are being violated by the government”, the video stated. Furthermore, discriminated disabled people were addressed by one video. The last group included a funny video stating that we grow up too fast.

The training was held by Kamran Ullah (journalist) and Lennart Salemink (policy advisor VVD) from the VVD, Friso Rip was the International Officer.