Vaira Vike Freiberga, new Club de Madrid President

The Riga-born leader will start her mandate the first of January of 2014 after being elected today by the Club de Madrid’s General Assembly. Vaira Vike Freiberga (1 December 1937) has an remarkable political trajectory and a strong commitment to democracy and civil rights She succeeds former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Wim Kok, who ends a productive fou- year period as President of the Club de Madrid.

The 1st of January of 1945 Vaira Vike Freiberga and her family fled Latvia to escape the Soviet occupation. This next 1st of January of 2014, 69 years after her exile years in Canada started, Dr. Freiberga becomes the first female to be elected President of the  largest forum of democratically elected Presidents and Prime Ministers, dedicated  to the support of democratic values and democratic leadership around the world.

President Freiberga is a founding Member of the Club de Madrid, having participated, then as sitting President of Latvia, in the 2001 Conference on Transition and Consolidation of Democracy which gave rise to the organization. Since then she has actively participated in many of its projects and missions such as Women’s Political Participation in Africa, Democratic Consolidation and Ethnic Reconciliation in Kyrgyzstan and the I South Caucasus Forum in Azerbaijan.

During her time as Latvian President she fostered Latvia’s NATO membership as well as its accession to the European Union, which the country joined under her leadership in 2004. A profound believer in citizen’s engagement in public affairs and political processes, she initiated a discussion to introduce compulsory voting in general elections. In April 2005, then United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, named Vaira Vike-Freiberga as a member of his team of global political leaders helping to promote his comprehensive UN reform agenda. Dr. Vīke-Freiberga has been a member of the Council of Women World Leaders since 1999, of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation and of the European Council on Foreign Relations. She is also a regularly invited participant to the World Economic Forum (Davos) and co chairs the Nizami Ganjavi International Center in Azerbaiyan.

During her years in Canada Vaira Vike Freiverga obtained a B.A  and a M.A  in Psychology at the University of Toronto. She then went on to earn   a Ph.D in Experimental Psychology from McGill University in Montreal. In 1998 Dr Freiberga returned to her homeland to lead the Latvian Institute, an organization devoted to promoting Latvian awareness abroad and a year later, in June 1999, she was elected President of Latvia.

Williem Kok was elected President of the Club de Madrid in 2009, a position he held for four years. Under his leadership, the Club de Madrid broadened its global representation and the scale and scope of its action with the establishment of the World Leadership Alliance, a new structure aimed at deepening and extending the Club de Madrid’s current sphere of influence into the “new world” of emerging powers, allowing for greater collaboration between its Members, and the also prominent business and  corporate leaders of the World Economic Council,  a recently  created organization with nine regional conventions in all major regions of the world.

Additionally, the number of Club de Madrid Members has increased from 70 in 2009 to 95 in December 2013.

Along with the appointment of Vaira Vike-Freiberga as its new President, the Club de Madrid General Assembly has approved the election of seven new Members, two of them as Honorary Members:

Honorary Members:

  • Javier Solana; former Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1995-1999) and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union (1999-2009)
  • Enrique V. Iglesias; Secretary General of the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB) and former President of the Inter-American Development Bank (1998-2005)