I am pleased to make my report to our Congress in São Paulo, this vibrant city at the heart of Brazil, Latin America's largest country and one of the most dynamic in the developing world.
I would like to thank the Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT, and all its leadership and members, for hosting this Congress. The PT has been involved in the activities of our International for a number of years and they have made us feel very welcome. And I must underline that what really made possible our Congress here was the decision of the people of Brazil, exactly one year ago, to elect Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva as President, to embrace the new direction that he represents, not only for Brazil but for all Latin America and the developing world. Which makes it all the more appropriate, as Brazil today moves forward at home and its influence rises on the world stage, that our Congress opens on the first anniversary of that political milestone.
This is the first Socialist International Congress of the new millennium, in a world still coming to grips with the terrorist attacks on 11 September two years ago, unsettled after the conflict in Iraq last spring, and facing fundamental global problems exacerbated by unilateral actions and policies that have caused grave concerns and dismay throughout the world and made people feel even less secure.
Our International, a family of political parties and organisations that spans the globe and will continue to grow during this Congress, is a political movement well equipped to overcome obstacles and dangers and lead the effort to create a new architecture for global governance. As social democrats we are convinced that we can prevail over the narrow and heartless neoliberal emphasis on self-interest and short-term profit that worsens the divisions both between and within nations. For if we embrace a new internationalism based on multilateral efforts and human solidarity, we will be able to build the structures of true and effective international cooperation, bringing people together to find common solutions for a better future.
The International has remained determined to keep an active and positive approach in the Middle East, to continue searching for concrete measures to keep alive the hopes of the people of the region for an end to the violence and for peaceful coexistence. The International has also stood out because we include within our family the voices of both Israelis and Palestinians. When progress has been made toward resolving the conflict, the International has been part of the effort. When things have taken a turn for the worse, we have been among those stepping forward, in close contact with our member parties, the Labour Party and Meretz of Israel and Fatah, the largest Palestinian organisation, to try to get the peace process back on track.
Since the resurgence of conflict in September 2000, the Middle East has been going through an especially difficult time and our International has responded in a number of ways to move things in a more constructive direction. In October 2000, soon after the latest cycle of violence began, we organised an SI delegation to the region, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chair of the SI Middle East Committee, SIMEC, and a member of the Mitchell Commission, to meet with the leaders of our member parties, and with officials of the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority, to urge that a path for negotiations to resume the peace process be secured. A few weeks later, on 2 November 2000, SIMEC met in Oslo, hosted by the Norwegian Labour Party, DNA, and agreed on a number of points, including the need for measures to rebuild confidence in the peace process among both the Israeli and Palestinian people.
Following a decision of the SI Executive, François Hollande, First Secretary of the Socialist Party of France and an SI Vice-President, and I traveled to Tel Aviv and Ramallah on 24 June 2001 for talks with the leaders of the SI member parties. This opened the way for both Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority and President of Fatah, and Shimon Peres of the Israeli Labour Party and then Foreign Minister, to come to the SI Council in Lisbon, hosted by the Portuguese Socialist Party in June 2001, choosing the International as the framework in which to restart relations and contributing to our debates that resulted in the establishment of a Permanent Contact Group, consisting of Jagland, Hollande and myself, to support a return to negotiations.
At the end of 2001 the International appealed to both sides to put an immediate end to the violence and resume peace talks. We condemned the terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in Jerusalem and Haifa, reiterated our call for the Palestinian Authority to control armed groups and, at the same time, stated that the Israeli government had to understand that its attacks on the Palestinian Authority only served to exacerbate the situation.
On 14-15 March 2002, we organised a two-day SIMEC meeting in the region, gathering on the first day in Ramallah with the participation of Yasser Arafat and on the second in Tel Aviv where Israeli Labour Party and Meretz leaders addressed the delegates. We welcomed the new UN Security Council resolution that called, for the first time, for a Palestinian State, which, along with security for Israel, are the pillars we believe crucial for securing a lasting peace.
The following month, amid a particularly horrible surge in violence, the International issued an Urgent Appeal to both sides to redouble efforts to find grounds for a ceasefire. On 23 April 2002 the SI Executive held a special meeting in Madrid, hosted by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSOE, which included the participation of Shimon Peres and Hanni Al-Hassan in representation of Yasser Arafat. Five main points were agreed upon, opening the way for the historic resolution unanimously agreed by our Council in Casablanca on 31-May - 1 June 2002, in which the International announced that its three member parties in the region agreed that 'the mutual recognition of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, as two states to live side by side, should be the initial commitment before negotiations start between the two peoples'.
While our International helped to establish such a positive framework for restarting the negotiating process, the enemies of peace in the region struck soon afterward, setting off a car bomb in northern Israel that killed at least sixteen people only a few days after our Council. The International condemned this terrorist act, stating that we were more determined than ever to press forward with our efforts and to support all international efforts to promote peace. A month later, we also condemned the Israeli air strike in Gaza City that killed fifteen Palestinians, stating that there could be no justification for such actions and that only a political solution to the conflict could lead to a lasting peace. Again in September 2002 the International was compelled to speak out, condemning the suicide bombing that killed innocent civilians in Tel Aviv and strongly protesting the unjustifiable destruction of the civilian headquarters of the Palestinian Authority by Israeli troops and armour.
In December 2002, Thorbjørn Jagland and I held talks in Tel Aviv, Gaza and Ramallah with the leaderships of our member parties in the region, to hear directly of the latest developments. In early May of this year, the International welcomed the presentation of the Quartet's Roadmap to a permanent two-state solution to the conflict, stating that we were committed to its full and effective implementation.
To underline the International's backing for the Roadmap, Thorbjørn Jagland and I returned to Tel Aviv and Ramallah in May to meet with our member parties and to encourage all possible international support for the initiative. And yet again, amidst another positive development, came a resurgence of violence, a murderous bombing by Hamas in Jerusalem, which we condemned while expressing at the same time our concern about responses to terrorism that serve only to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Determined to accentuate the positive, we organised another meeting of SIMEC in Ramallah and Tel Aviv on 23 September and reaffirmed our commitment to build on recent achievements and to stay the course for a lasting peace no matter the actions of those who refuse to accept it.
The International has consistently argued that the support of the United Nations would be necessary for any action taken in Iraq, and that a lasting solution to the crisis could only be achieved through multilateral action by the international community in accordance with a resolution of the Security Council. In this regard, on 14 March of this year, our President António Guterres and I met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the organisation’s headquarters in New York, and reaffirmed the full support of the International for the United Nations as indispensable for promoting international cooperation, peace and security in the world and emphasised the Socialist International's permanent commitment to multilateralism in addressing global challenges.
Now, more than half a year since the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, events have proven that the participation of the United Nations and a concerted multilateral approach remain essential for building democracy and ensuring security in Iraq. As the military invasion was underway, the SI Executive issued a statement deploring the so-called 'preventive' war against Iraq without the authorisation of the UN Security Council and reaffirmed our commitment to multilateralism and our intent to organise an international conference in Rome in support of Iraqi democrats. In April, the SI Executive issued a second statement, entitled "For a legitimate post-war Iraq', in which it said that the participation of the entire international community would be critical in the reconstruction of Iraq, and emphasised that the conference in Rome would focus on the development of democracy in Iraq and securing peace throughout the Middle East.
We organised an SI delegation to Baghdad from 17 to 20 June, the first visit of an international political organisation to Iraq following the downfall of the Iraqi regime, for a dialogue with all the leading political parties and groups in the country and to express the support of the International for the development of democracy, respect for human rights and freedoms and a future of peace and inclusion for all Iraqi citizens. The members of the delegation were Massimo D'Alema, former Prime Minister of Italy, of the Democrats of the Left, DS; Abderrahman Youssoufi, former Prime Minister of Morocco, of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP; Thorbjørn Jagland, former Prime Minister of Norway, of the Norwegian Labour Party, DNA; Zlatko Lagumdzija, former Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the Social Democratic Party, SDP BiH; and myself.
The SI delegation was welcomed on its arrival by a large gathering of leaders and representatives from nearly fifty different parties and ethnic and religious movements and, while in Baghdad, held a series of further meetings with many of them. These included meetings with representatives from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, headed by its leader Jalal Talabani; from the Iraqi Independent Democrats, led by its President Adnan Al Pachachi; from the National Democratic Party, led by its President Nasir Chadirji; from the Al Dawa Party, headed by its leader Ibrahim Al-Jafari; with the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, including Hoshyar Al-Zebari; a delegation of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, led by Adil Abdul Mahdi; with Nori Al-Badran of the Iraqi National Accord; of the Arab Socialist Movement, headed by its President Abdul Allah Al-Nasrawi; with a delegation of the Iraqi Communist Party headed by its General Secretary Hamad Majid Mousa; of the Assyrian Democratic Movement headed by its General Secretary Yonadam Y. Kanna; and with members of the leadership of the Iraqi National Congress. A special meeting was also held with the Iraqi Leadership Council with the participation of its seven member organisations.
During its visit, the delegation expressed the full support of the International for the Iraqi people in their efforts to build democratic institutions, and for the early establishment of an Iraqi Interim Authority leading to the formation of an internationally recognised, independent government.
The members of the delegation also met with Sergio Vieira de Mello, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Annan, to discuss the UN's work in Iraq and to reiterate the International's complete support.
Many of the leaders and representatives we met with in Baghdad participated in the Socialist International Conference 'Building Democracy in Iraq - Working for Peace in the Middle East' held in Rome on 18-19 July. A number were members of the newly formed Iraqi Governing Council, including Adnan Al-Pachachi, Naseer Al-Chadirji, Hamid Majid Mousa, Yonadam Y. Kanna, Ibrahim Al-Jafari, Samir Shakir Mahmoud Sumaiday and Jalal Talabani, who is with us here in São Paulo and as one of the nine rotating Presidents of the Governing Council will be assuming that position during the month of November. Other participants included representatives and delegates from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP; the Arab Socialist Movement; the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, the Iraqi National Congress; the Assyrian Democratic Party; the Turkoman National Democratic Party; and the Turkoman Brotherhood Party.
Israeli and Palestinian political leaders and delegates were also present to address current developments and prospects for moving forward the Middle East peace process. The Conference, hosted by the Democrats of the Left, DS, whose delegation was headed by its General Secretary Piero Fassino and President Massimo D'Alema, and the Italian Democratic Socialists, SDI, led by Chair Enrico Boselli, consisted of a series of panel discussions. The first day of debates continued the dialogue undertaken by the SI delegation to Baghdad in June on the essential elements for building democracy in Iraq. The first panel concentrated on 'From dictatorship to democracy: creating the new institutions’, the second on 'Guaranteeing human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Iraqis', the third was 'Civil society and women’s participation in the political process', the fourth 'For a future of inclusion: empowering people in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society', and the fifth on 'Regional and International perspectives for the new Iraq'.
The conclusions of the first day, 'A strategy for a sustainable democratic, free and united Iraq', were presented by Massimo D'Alema, who emphasised the solidarity of our International with all democratic forces in Iraq, the common will to engage the entire international community in supporting the democratic process in Iraq and the need to enhance the role of the United Nations.
Discussions on the second day, focusing on 'Working for Peace in the Middle East', were introduced by Piero Fassino and Thorbjørn Jagland, Chair of the SI Middle East Committee, and counted with the participation of Shimon Peres, Chair of the Israel Labour Party; Yossi Sarid, Leader of Meretz, and Nabil Shaat, Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority, as well as representatives of other SI member parties.
The first two panel discussion addressed 'The way forward for peace: the Roadmap' and 'Implementing peace in Israeli and Palestinian societies'. The third dealt with 'Civil society and communities advancing peace and cooperation', with contributions from Israeli and Palestinian Mayors and local authority leaders; and the fourth examined 'Promoting peace: the role of regional and international actors'.
Sergio Vieira de Mello sent a message to the Conference in which he saluted the members of the Governing Council, who were representing Iraq in the international arena for the first time in the nation's new history, and noted that the formation of the Council was a first major step to fulfilling UN Security Council Resolution 1483 for the quick establishment of Iraqi self-rule.
Tragically, Vieira de Mello was killed a month later in the horrible bombing attack on the UN offices in Baghdad. The International immediately expressed its strongest condemnation of this act of terror, which also took the lives of many others of the international community who were contributing to the cause of peace and cooperation. Before he died, Vieira de Mello said, 'Don't let them pull out the mission', an expression of his abiding faith in the work of the United Nations, a faith shared by our International.
The work of the International on issues related to the Kurds continued during the period, and our efforts, engagement and commitment proved to be timely and valuable given the events this year in Iraq.
The SIMEC Working Group on the Kurdish Question gathered in Brussels on 16 March 2001, hosted by the Socialist Party, PS, of Belgium, to review the latest developments regarding the situation of the Kurdish people with representatives from the SI member Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, PDKI, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, of Iraq, and from the People’s Democracy Party, Hadep, from Turkey. It was agreed to send a mission to Northern Iraq, which the International organised on 17-23 June 2001. The members of the Mission were: Conny Fredriksson, Chair of the SIMEC Working Group on the Kurdish Question, and Morgan Johansson, from the Swedish Social Democratic Party, SAP; Karim Pakzad, from the Socialist Party of France, PS; and Karl Schramek, from the Social Democratic Party of Austria, SPÖ. The Mission met the leaders of the two Kurdish parties: Jalal Talabani of the PUK and Massoud Barzani of the KDP, and observed the level of political and social organisation of these parties in their areas of Iraq.
The Working Group met on 22 February 2002 in Brussels, again hosted by the Socialist Party, PS, of Belgium, to review a report from the delegation to Northern Iraq. It gathered again on 27 August of that year in the context of a seminar organised by the Olof Palme Foundation on 'National Minorities, Regional Self Government and Democracy in Iraq, Iran and Turkey' on 26-27 August 2002 in Sweden. The Committee underlined our support for the Iraqi people in their desire for change and presciently emphasised that building a future democratic Iraq must include the participation of all sectors of the population.
With regard to the situation in Iran, the International, at our Council in Rome on 20-21 January of this year, adopted a resolution on the Iranian Kurds in which we condemned the violations of human rights committed by the opponents of reform in Iran, including the death sentences and executions of Kurdish militants, denounced the repression against the Kurds in the country generally and reaffirmed our support for the legitimate rights of the Kurds in Iran and our solidarity with SI member Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, PDKI.
The Socialist International has never flinched nor turned away from Africa, no matter how difficult the challenges. We remained firm during the bleakest periods in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and we refuse now to submit to the pessimism with which much of the world views the continent. Rather we clearly perceive and acknowledge that Africa has gained the least from globalisation and suffered the most from the injustice of an increasingly unequal world economy. At the same time, we recognise that the people of Africa, despite the worst of conditions, remain among the most dynamic and resourceful in the world and, if given the opportunity in an atmosphere of international solidarity, can move forward to provide a better future for themselves and for coming generations.
The commitment of our International to Africa, and to ensuring that Africa and other parts of world establish and strengthen mutually beneficial relations, has been evident in a number of ways. These include special SI missions and delegations to the continent, keeping in close contact with our member parties as they carry out their work and struggle against difficult odds in Africa's various subregions and organising meetings of the International that extend our influence in Africa and enhance the interaction and cooperation between our growing number of member parties there and elsewhere in the world.
The SI Council meeting in Maputo on 10-11 November 2000 brought together hundreds of delegates for an indepth discussion on, 'The way forward for Africa: a worldwide commitment for development, peace and democracy'. The meeting, following on our Council in Cape Town in 1995, was hosted by Frelimo and its leader President Joaquim Chissano. Participants considered the international actions necessary to promote development, peace and democracy in Africa, and emphasised in a wide-ranging declaration that all three objectives had to be pursued simultaneously because no one of them can exist without the other two.
Working toward the Council in Maputo, we organised meetings of the SI Africa Committee in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on 30 June - 1 July 2000, and in Praia, Cape Verde, on 30-31 October. The gathering in Yaoundé was chaired by Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Socialist Party of Senegal, and Chair of the Committee, and was hosted by the Social Democratic Front, SDF of Cameroon, and its National Chair, John Fru Ndi. Participants addressed the need for strengthening democratic institutions and electoral processes in Africa and ways to advance the International's global campaign to fight poverty in Africa, and agreed in a declaration that democracy, good governance and social justice were necessary conditions for peace.
The host of our gathering in Praia was the African Party of Cape Verde's Independence, PAICV, and much of the focus was on Côte d'Ivoire where only days earlier the electoral system, through which Laurent Gbagbo, leader of the SI member Ivorian Popular Front, FPI, was elected President of the country, had come under threat. The International, in constant communication with President Gbagbo and FPI representatives, issued a statement on 24 October condemning the violent interruption of the vote counting process by military authorities and the attempt of General Robert Guei to retain power illegitimately. In Praia we were happy to salute the people of Côte d'Ivoire who had mobilised to successfully defend the election and called on the international community to support the process of strengthening democratic institutions in the country.
On 1-2 June 2001, we organised the first ever meeting of the International in Niger, as our Africa Committee gathered in Niamey, hosted by the SI member Party for Democracy and Socialism of Niger, PNDS. Delegates from across the continent addressed a number of issues, including the challenge of resolving armed conflicts that continued in a number of countries and subregions, which was of particular relevance as we prepared for a major SI initiative in the Great Lakes Region.
The Socialist International Mission to the Great Lakes Region was carried out from 18 to 23 February 2002 and included Ousmane Tanor Dieng; Nanié-Coulibaly Safiatou, a member of the FPI leadership; Steen Christensen, Social Democratic Party of Denmark; and myself. At a time of heightened concern about increasing violence in the Great Lakes area, the Mission visited Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Angola as part of the International's backing for peace efforts throughout Africa and to support in particular the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.
After preliminary discussions in Abidjan with President Gbagbo, the members of the Mission flew to Kinshasa, where we met with key figures in the Congo peace process, from both the government and opposition sides and from civil society, then went to the Burundian capital of Bujumbura, where they expressed to political leaders of the country the International's backing for the peace process following the agreement of August 2000. In Luanda, the Mission met with leaders of the governing party, SI member Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA, and underlined our support for dialogue and national reconciliation following the end of civil war in that country.
At the SI Council in Casablanca three months later, we expressed satisfaction that significant progress had been made towards peace in Congo, and fully supported in particular the efforts of the United Nations there. Today we are continuing to closely follow the situation in the Great Lakes, in communication with member parties and other contacts established during the SI Mission, and remain concerned about recurring violence and setbacks, all of which requires that we continue to be steadfast in our support for peace efforts in the region.
The International continues to speak out on behalf of political prisoners in Africa and other regions. On 10 June 2002, we denounced the sentencing to long prison sentences of Plácido Micó, Secretary General of the SI member Convergence for Social Democracy, CPDS, and dozens of others in Equatorial Guinea on questionable charges of being involved in an alleged coup plot, and urged the UN Human Rights Commission to renew the mandate of its special rapporteur on Equatorial Guinea. We had similarly denounced the imprisonment in Guinea in 1998 of Alpha Condé, leader of the SI member Guinean People's Assembly, RPG, and were pleased when he was released in March 2001 and was able to participate a few months later at our Council in Lisbon.
When the Africa Committee met in Luanda on 26-27 July 2002, hosted by the MPLA, it was the first meeting of the International to be held in Angola. The Angolan post office marked the occasion by issuing a special series of stamps depicting the images of the International's campaigns in fighting poverty in Africa, abolishing the death penalty, canceling the debt of the poorest countries and stopping violence against women.
In a particularly important initiative, the International organised a delegation of legal experts to Nigeria from 16 to 20 October 2002 in response to the sentencing to death by stoning of Amina Lawal, and previously of Safiya Hussaini, under the Sharia-based penal codes recently put into effect. The effort, undertaken amidst worldwide concern about the violation of rights of women in Nigeria and elsewhere, was part of our work on two of the International’s campaigns — abolishing the death penalty and stopping violence against women. The experts, with experience in different legal systems from around the world, included Professor Perry Wallace of the Washington College of Law of the American University in Washington DC; Professor Abdelouab Maalmi of the Faculty of Juridical, Economic and Social Sciences of the University Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco; and Dr. Gabriel Lansky, an Attorney at Law and human rights expert from Austria. The delegation met with government officials, political figures and representatives of women's rights groups and other non-governmental organisations in Lagos, held further meetings in Kaduna State in the north of Nigeria where Sharia law is in effect and underlined to everyone the deep concern of the International on this matter. We were therefore very gratified this past September when a Nigerian court of appeal struck down the sentence against Amina Lawal and set her free, and we will continue to monitor closely further developments on this issue.
On 19 September 2002 the International again responded to an attack on democracy in Côte d'Ivoire, condemning the attempted coup d'état and criminal violence involving members of the country's armed forces and other groups. We then organised an urgent meeting of the Africa Committee in Abidjan on 18 October to show our solidarity with President Gbagbo and the FPI and to back his decision to engage in an all-inclusive dialogue during the ceasefire mediated by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. Unfortunately, the situation continues to be of great concern. At our Council in Rome on 20-21 January 2003, we stated that the attempted coup in Côte d'Ivoire threatened to put a brake on democratisation elsewhere in Africa and called for a lasting political solution based on constitutional norms and international legal principles. Since then we have backed all international efforts to broker a settlement that would restore the democratic rule of law for all citizens of Côte d'Ivoire.
In preparation for our Congress, the SI Africa Committee gathered in Cotonou, Benin, on 15-16 September, hosted by the SI member Social Democratic Party, PSD. Delegates from throughout the region and beyond discussed Africa's contribution to the Congress, with particular emphasis on global governance and the need for the full involvement of Africa in the reform of international institutions.
The International has always been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Wherever dictatorships have fallen in the region, we have been there, acting in solidarity with democratic forces and bringing to bear all available assistance from the international community. We have also followed through in aiding with the no less difficult task of strengthening democratic institutions to ensure people's participation in politics and to forestall another cycle of anti-democratic rule. Enormous challenges remain in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the persistence of political violence in a number of countries and the harsh winds of globalisation that have exacerbated inequalities, increased poverty and undermined national economies practically everywhere.
Which is why the efforts of our International to meet people's demand for a workable and more just alternative to the so-called neoliberal model has great resonance in this part of the world, and particularly here in Brazil, whose great resources and enormous potential are surpassed only by the spirit and determination of its people to succeed in strengthening their democracy and building a better future for coming generations. In this regard, I would like to underline the long solidarity of our International with the Brazilian people and all their democratic leaders, particularly during the years of military rule and the transition to democracy, with our SI member Democratic Labour Party, PDT, led by Leonel Brizola, as well as with the PT since the 1980s.
In Peru, after years of working for democracy against the authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori, our International was especially pleased by the democratic transition carried out there through the holding of free and fair elections in the spring of 2001. During the crisis in April and May 2000, as the International issued statements deploring Fujimori's attempts to subvert the electoral process, I went to Peru and met with democratic opposition leader Alejandro Toledo, who would be elected President of the country, members of our SI member Peruvian Aprista Party, PAP, and representatives of other democratic forces to reaffirm the full support of the International for peaceful democratic change in the country. On 11-12 June 2001, at the meeting of the SI Committee on Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, in Buenos Aires, we expressed our satisfaction at the holding of democratic elections, congratulated Alan García on his part in them and reiterated our confidence in the PAP.
The Caribbean, with its diverse array of nations, languages and cultures, has continued to be a focus of the International's activities and, as in Latin America, we have a great presence there. This was evident when we organised a meeting of SICLAC in Kingston, Jamaica, on 1-2 September 2000, hosted by the People's National Party, PNP, and its leader Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The meeting was chaired by former President of Argentina Raúl Alfonsín, Co-Chair of the Committee, and counted on the participation of delegations from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including leaders and representatives of SI member parties in government in the Caribbean countries of St. Lucia, Dominica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic, as well as Ralph Gonsalves, leader of the SI member Unity Labour Party, ULP, who would be elected Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in March 2001.
At the SICLAC meeting in Kingston, delegates emphasised that globalisation had severely limited national decision-making capacity in Latin America and the Caribbean and had put at particular risk the small states of the Caribbean, and that in response a deepening of democracy based on social democratic values was needed. SICLAC continued its work on these and related global issues at meetings we organised in cities in each of the subregions of Latin America: Buenos Aires on 11-12 June 2001. Managua on 20-21 October 2001, Caracas on 19-20 July 2002 and in Mexico City only days ago.
On 26-27 November 2001 we organised in Santo Domingo the first SI Council ever to be held in the Caribbean, hosted by the Dominican Revolutionary Party, PRD, which had been in the forefront in the struggle for democracy in the Dominican Republic and throughout the region and was now in power following the victory of the party in the 2000 election. Our Council, coming only a few months after the horrible events of 11 September, focused on responding to terror within the framework of ‘Working for a more secure and fairer world’. The Council also concentrated on strengthening democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in Venezuela and Haiti.
In May 2002, I had the opportunity to travel to Venezuela to meet with SI member Democratic Action, AD, other political parties and Venezuelan civil society and to reiterate the position of the International that the 'deficit of democracy' in Venezuela should be overcome through inclusive dialogue. Two months later we organised the SICLAC meeting in Caracas as a concrete expression of the International's backing for efforts toward a peaceful and democratic solution to the ongoing crisis. The gathering counted on the participation of leaders and representatives of numerous Venezuelan political and trade union organisations, all of whom helped contribute to a detailed analysis of the difficult situation of democracy in their country. In January 2003 our Council in Rome adopted a resolution emphasising that democracy was in jeopardy in Venezuela and reiterating our full support for the efforts of the Organisation of American States, OAS, to promote a democratic outcome.
In the International's work to strengthen democratic institutions in Latin Americas and the Caribbean, a principal focus has been on political parties and the need to ensure that they are at the center of politics providing a channel through which citizens can express their concerns and their political will. On behalf of the International I therefore participated in an OAS roundtable on democratic governance in Santiago in August 2002 and an OAS hemispheric gathering in Vancouver in December 2002, and can report that further cooperation with the OAS on strengthening political parties is planned. I also participated in June 2002, along with representatives of the Christian Democratic and Liberal Internationals, in a meeting on political party development hosted by the National Democratic Institute, NDI, in Washington, with whom we maintain close cooperation. In September of that year I had the opportunity to be a guest at their well attended annual W. Averell Harriman ceremony, and in March of this year I went with President Guterres to Washington DC for a program organised by NDI that included a series of meetings with leading figures of the Democratic Party.
Haiti continues to present an enormous challenge and during a particularly difficult period in August 2001 I had the opportunity to meet with opposition parties there - including the SI members Party of the National Congress of Democratic Movements, KONAKOM, the Revolutionary Progressive Nationalist Party of Haiti, PANPRA, and the Organisation of the People in Struggle, OLP - as well as with representatives of the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to reaffirm the support of the International for democratisation and respect for human rights of the Haitian people. The following December the International condemned both the armed assault on the National Palace in Port-au-Prince and the subsequent attacks by government supporters against opposition parties, journalists and leading members of the Democratic Convergence alliance. We have also continued to call on the government to join the Convergence in negotiations mediated by the Organisation of American States, OAS, so that the crisis can be resolved through the holding of peaceful and fully free and fair elections.
The International has continued to express support for the decolonisation of Puerto Rico and, having maintained our solidarity with the demand of the Puerto Rican majority for a stop to military exercises on Vieques Island, was pleased when the U.S. Navy finally withdrew from Vieques in the spring of this year. Our support for the effort, and especially for the Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP, led by Rubén Berríos Martínez, an Honorary Vice-President of the International, has been constant and has included a series of statements and resolutions that emphasised our concern about the bombing exercises and deplored the arrest and sentencing of Berríos Martínez to four months in prison in 2001 for peacefully protesting the use of Vieques for military purposes.
Violence comes in different forms in Latin America and the Caribbean and the International is quick to respond when a member of our social democratic family is targeted. So it was that in April 2002 we issued a declaration condemning the brutal physical attack on Rolando Araya, an SI Vice-President and leader of the SI member National Liberation Party, PLN, and members of his family in Costa Rica following the presidential elections there, and expressing hope that those responsible would be brought to justice and that Costa Rica remain a model of democracy and respect for human rights.
On 28 March 2003 the International called upon the Cuban authorities to release without delay dozens of leaders of non-governmental and other civic and social organisations who had been detained, recalling that Cuba on numerous occasions, including at regional summits, had formally committed itself to respecting internationally recognised rights and freedoms and called for the government to ensure that all Cuban citizens enjoyed freedom of expression, association and assembly. When two weeks later the nearly eighty people were given long jail sentences by Cuban courts, the SI Executive denounced as 'inadmissible and unjustifiable' the verdicts against those 'whose crime was to hold opinions different from the government's'. The SI called on the Cuban authorities to 'release without delay of all those detained'. At the same time, during the recent gathering of SICLAC in Mexico City, we rejected the destabilising measures recently taken by the United States government against Cuba, which put peace in the region at risk.
The SICLAC meeting in Mexico City was held on 17-18 October, hosted by the Party of Democratic Revolution, PRD, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI. Delegates from throughout the region identified the battle against inequality as the first priority in the effort to legitimise democracy, and underlined the dismantling of agricultural subsidies in developed countries and the restructuring of Latin America’s debt as crucial to the health of economies in the region. Also discussed were the situations of a number of countries in Latin America, including Bolivia, where we noted as positive the transfer of power within the Constitution following four weeks of intense popular and indigenous mobilisation, which opens the possibility of a fresh approach to the difficult problems faced by Bolivian society.
Our commitment to peace and democracy in Colombia
Peace, democracy and solidarity with the people of Colombia were the central themes of a special regional meeting organised by the International in Bogotá on 20 May 2002, hosted by the Liberal Party of Colombia, PLC, and including the participation of delegates from South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The gathering provided an opportunity to reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Colombia, as they struggle to find ways to end the violence in their country and secure a lasting peace, and to underline peace and democracy as fundamental aims of our SI family worldwide.
Raúl Alfonsín, the Co-Chair of SICLAC and a Vice-President of the International, emphasised that securing democracy and peace meant putting human beings rather than markets at the center of globalisation. Horacio Serpa, presidential candidate of the PLC, called for globalising solidarity to counterbalance the negative socio-economic effects of globalisation. An important conclusion of the gathering was that the Socialist International had always been committed to finding real solutions to real problems through democratic politics, something that was needed now more than ever to counter efforts to depoliticise practically everything and to cloud key issues by promising people easy ways out. It was also agreed that there must be a greater convergence of the left worldwide to better respond to the dangerous homogenisation on the right.
The International's activities in this vast, dynamic and critical region of the world have continued to center on collective support and international cooperation for peace, security and the defence of democracy, all of which has strengthened our social democratic identity throughout Asia and the Pacific. Because of our values and our solidarity with those whose fundamental rights have been deprived or are under attack, the International continues to bring together the various people of the region in our global movement of citizens working in cooperation for the common good.
On 21 May 2000 the International strongly condemned the attack on the democratically elected government of Fiji headed by Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudry, Secretary General of the SI member Fiji Labour Party, FLP, and called on the international community 'to take all necessary measures to contribute to preserving democratic rights and institutions in Fiji'.
On 7-8 August 2000 we organised a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Committee in Wellington, hosted by the New Zealand Labour Party, NZLP, and its leader Prime Minister Helen Clark, and welcomed Mahendra Chaudry to the gathering. He thanked the International for our unequivocal support during the assault on the Fiji parliament where he and others were held hostage, and called for a concerted plan of action to restore democracy and constitutional rule to Fiji. Phil Goff, Foreign Minister of New Zealand spoke for all of us in emphasising the International's solidarity with the Fiji Labour Party and with any and all of our members who come under threat. José Ramos Horta, Vice-President of the National Congress of Timorese Resistance, CNRT, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, noted how important such support was, that worldwide solidarity had been crucial in the struggle for democracy and independence in East Timor. The Committee issued a Statement that underlined the International's commitment to ending authoritarianism and dictatorship where they still exist in the region and providing sustained support for the democratic rule of law where it is threatened or under attack.
In Wellington we also expressed our dismay about the lack of a democratic opening in Burma, where the International has been firm in its support of Aung San Suu Kyi since her election was overturned by the military more than a decade ago. On 30 August 2000, the International again spoke out, condemning the actions of the military regime in Burma to restrict the movement of Aung San Suu Kyi and officials from her party, the National League for Democracy, NLD. Burma was again on the agenda at the Asia-Pacific Committee we held on 5-6 March 2001 in Tokyo, where we noted that the conditions of repression remained in force in Burma and called upon the entire international community to join us in demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.
The meeting in Tokyo was hosted by the Social Democratic Party, SDP, of Japan, and was chaired by Takako Doi, leader of the SDP, Co-Chair of the Committee and an SI Vice-President. The gathering gave a boost to the process of reconciliation between South Korea and North Korea by bringing together representatives of the ruling parties of both countries - the Millennium Democratic Party of the Republic of Korea in the South, and the Workers Party of Korea from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the North. Efforts toward reunification on the Korean peninsula have continued to be a focus of our work to promote peace and security in the region and, while bumps in the road will always be encountered, our meeting in Manila showed that progress is possible through dialogue, confidence-building and broad international support.
On 25 September 2001 the International expressed deep concern about the breach of constitution by the new authorities in Fiji that threatened the reestablishment of democratic rule. Although the Fiji Labour Party, by coming a close second in elections and by virtue of the 1997 multiracial constitution, was entitled to cabinet seats in proportion to the number of seats it gained in parliament, it was shut out. The International reiterated its solidarity with the FLP when the Asia-Pacific Committee met in Manila on 11-12 April 2002, and since then has maintained support for the party in its continuing efforts before the courts in Fiji for the establishment of a pluralistic, multiethnic government in line with the country's Constitution.
In Manila, SI delegates from throughout the region were welcomed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who, in her address to the Committee, emphasised the integral role of our International in the long struggle for democracy in the Philippines. The meeting was hosted by the Philippines Democratic Socialist Party, PDSP, a member of President Macapagal Arroyo's government, whose leader Norberto Gonzales underlined the need for greater international cooperation against terrorist activities which presented new threats to peace and security in the region. The Committee issued a Statement that reaffirmed the International's commitment, 'in solidarity with social democratic parties in all regions, to resolving conflicts through the promotion of dialogue and cooperation, both within nations and between them'. It underlined as well the importance of promoting democracy as integral to the effort to achieve peace and security, particularly with respect to Burma, the attacks against democratic rule in Nepal and the deficit of democracy in Malaysia.
The Committee also emphasised the efforts of the International to seek greater dialogue between social democratic parties and moderate Muslim groups in Asia and the Pacific, including Indonesia, a large country undergoing a difficult period of transition. In this regard I should add that last March I had the opportunity to participate in a National Democratic Institute planning meeting, held in Frankfurt, for a Congress of Democrats of the Islamic World.
On 6 May 2002 the International welcomed the freeing from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, but called on the military regime in Burma to take further measures toward real political change, to move ahead 'to a more significant phase', as Aung San Suu Kyi put it. Unfortunately, the regime returned to heightened repression and on 3 June of this year the International condemned the detention yet again of Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as one hundred members of the NLD, and the shutting down of political party offices and universities. On 3 September we further condemned her continued detention and reiterated our call for her and all other political prisoners to be immediately and unconditionally released. The International, as always, will continue to back the struggle of the people of Burma for political freedom and fully back all international efforts, particularly by the United Nations, in support of their democratic rights and aspirations.
The International has also continued to closely follow developments in Pakistan. At our Council in Rome on 20-21 January of this year, we reiterated our concern for the lack of democracy in that country, noting that independent observers and the European Union had determined that the 10 October 2002 parliamentary elections were seriously flawed. At the same time, we viewed with satisfaction that our member Pakistan People's Party, PPP, had gained a plurality of votes despite the enormous disadvantages and electoral manipulation that it faced, and reaffirmed our support for the people of Pakistan in their struggle to restore democracy in their country.
In keeping with our concern about threats to peace and security on the Asian subcontinent, the International in May 2002 condemned the deadly attack at an Indian army camp in Kashmir and urged both India and Pakistan to do everything possible to reduce tensions, starting with greater efforts toward initiating a peace process. We also recognised the work of civil society organisations for democracy in Kashmir and reiterated our commitment to supporting all initiatives for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict.
The International remains in the forefront of the effort to expand the European community of democracies through regional initiatives and cooperation based on social democratic values, and to resolve conflicts and promote equitable economic growth and social justice. This is a combined effort of our parties from throughout the continent to ensure that European integration works for all citizens.
The International, having consistently supported democratic change in the Balkans, was gratified when the people of Serbia freed themselves from the Milosevic regime. At the time, our Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, was meeting in Zagreb, on 6-7 October 2000, and delegates from Serbian social democratic organisations participating in the gathering provided us with up-to-the-minute reports as the dramatic transition unfolded in Belgrade. The gathering was hosted by the SI member Croatian Social Democratic Party, SDP, head of the country's government, and we underlined in the Declaration of Zagreb, issued at the end of our discussions, that the new democratic phase initiated in Croatia the previous year had served to encourage democratic change in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Participants in the meeting, which was chaired by Piero Fassino, DS, Italy, and Lászlo Kovács, MSzP, Hungary, Co-Chairs of SICEE, also discussed the challenges and opportunities of European Union enlargement, and emphasised that enlargement required enhanced cooperation policies with regard to Russia.
Prior to the meeting in Zagreb, we organised a Socialist International delegation to Russia, in accordance with the decision of our Council in Brussels in April 2000, for a special one-day discussion with Russian political leaders, representatives and other personalities on 'A vision for the future - a dialogue on Social Democracy'. The SI delegation was headed by leader of the Social Democratic Party and Prime Minister of Sweden, Göran Persson, the member of the SI Executive entrusted with matters concerning Russia. The Ru