"Pluralism enables resilience and hope" – Acosta

You are I and I am you". These were the words of Hon. I Made Mangu Pastika, Governor of the Province of Bali, when he formally opened the CALD Bali Conference 2011 with the theme "Pluralism and Development in Asia: Issues and Prospects". He was describing a Balinese philosophy that when one hurts others, he also harms himself. This value of respect for others, he said, becomes integral in building and sustaining a modern civilization.

Held on 04-07 November 2011, the conference was hosted by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-Perjuangan). Unarguably, Indonesia was the most appropriate venue for such conference because of its success in building a national identity based on pluralism.

Delegates from CALD member organizations attended and served as resource persons for this conference. Also present were high-ranking officials of CALD's most valuable partners, including Dr. Wolf-Dieter Zumpfort, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty; Hon. Hans van Baalen, MEP, President, Liberal International; and Hon. Niccolo Rinaldi, MEP, Vice President, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. The National Democratic Institute and International Network for Liberal Women were also represented.

The first session tackled incentives and constraints to building and strengthening pluralistic societies. "The state cannot be completely neutral, but it must be against all forms of discrimination. That should be the role of the state", van Baalen said. "Pluralism brings a basis for stability because the state protects its citizens. It is a basic liberal instinct", he added.

Hon. Kasit Piromya, MP, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, called upon fellow liberals to be brave enough to fight the negative aspects or interpretations of religious teachings. Mr. Win Htein, Senior Adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, shared on the political situation of Burma and what CALD and the international community can do for and with them. Dr. Makmur Keliat of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs answered questions like whose responsibility it is to preserve and promote the idea of a pluralistic society, how to measure a regime's respect for pluralism and why the idea of democracy is not necessarily in line with the idea of a pluralistic society. Hon. Rajiva Wijesinha, MP, CALD Chair, emphasized the need for a system that does not compartmentalize, which means that benefits should be uniform and not provide undue advantage to the powerful.

"Pluralism implies diversity but does not exclude unity," said Hon. Sam Rainsy, MP, during the second session. The topic was on pluralism and political development, and tackled political competition, public accountability and popular responsiveness.

Bringing their perspectives to the table were Rinaldi, as a representative of a European regional liberal organization; Hon. Marutei Tsurunen, MP, who considered himself as an example of pluralism in Japan as he is a foreign-born, naturalized Japanese citizen who now is a member of parliament; and Mr. Lau Hoi Keong, speaker of the youth wing of the Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, a multiethnic political party.

Session three was on how pluralism and human development work together in order to ensure economic growth, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. CALD Secretary General, Hon. Neric Acosta, also an expert on environmental policy, discussed the principles of symbiosis, resilience and justice. According to him, when tackling rights on respecting majority and protecting minority, the right of nature to exist must also be upheld. Also speaking on the subject of environment was Hon. Hugua, Regent of Wakatobi, Indonesia. Environmental balance is the basis for policymaking in his regency.

Ms. Maysing Yang of the Democratic Progressive Party talked about Taiwan's journey from being an authoritarian state to one that practices democratic pluralism. She described Taiwan now as an open society working toward immigrant integration in areas like employment and education. Hon. Mu Sochua, MP, Chairperson of the CALD Women's Caucus, discussed land issues while Hon. Eva Sundari, MP of PDI-Perjuangan talked about how to increase the quality of democracy and make it go from popular to substantial.

The role of Islamic pluralism in fostering development was the last topic of the conference. "Diversity is a fact. Pluralism is not," said Dr. Luthfi Assyaukanie of the Liberal Islam Network, Indonesia. Common misunderstandings of pluralism are: that it is synonymous with relativism, that it is a belief that considers all religions as the same, and that it threatens Muslim religious identity. To ameliorate this situation, Luthfi said that there must be civic education in schools, and the proscription of hate speech and intolerant fatwa.

Hon. Hadjiman Salliman, MP of the Liberal Party of the Philippines, talked about the situation in Muslim Mindanao (southern Philippines) and how, in order to attain peace, the military must show the citizens that that they are protectors and partners in development, rather than oppressors. Mr. Zia Banday of the Liberal Forum, Pakistan, ended the session on a hopeful note. He observed that majority of Muslim countries are well-integrated in the global economy; public support for religious-based violence has declined in Muslim countries; and the Arab Spring has given a democratic path to power for moderate Islamists. However, he added that it would be politically incorrect for a Muslim living in a Muslim country, like him, to embrace everything coming from the West.

Acosta summed up the conference by emphasizing that pluralism enables resilience and hope. It allows for the capacity to absorb conflict without destroying systems. Furthermore, it allows individuals and groups to envision themselves as agents, not victims; and as self empowering citizens, not objects of development.

During his closing keynote address, Zumpfort stressed that pluralism is a pre-requisite for development. He observed that it is also something that liberals favor, the same way they favor social markets that are dynamic and open, because they want as many people as possible to benefit. "Everybody wants development, especially development for themselves," he pointed out. "Pluralism, on the other hand, goes beyond self-interest."

The conference also included a CALD Executive Committee meeting, CALD Women's Caucus forum, and a tour and cultural performances to better understand the heritage and culture of the island.

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