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LISBON COUNCIL - Socialist International's 50th Anniversary

29-30 June 2001



Social democracy is a global movement that has grown steadily since the Congress of the Socialist International in Frankfurt in 1951, providing common ground for all who seek progress and fairness in society, and the affirmation of the rights of the individual and the community alike. Our family now includes more than 140 social democratic, socialist and labour parties and organisations active in nearly every nation on every continent, and with each passing year numerous other likeminded political parties and organisations are aspiring to become members.

The growth and dynamism of the International stems from our long adherence to a set of fundamental values — including first and foremost, solidarity, the deepest expression of our belief in a common humanity, rooted in our compassion for and actions on behalf of all victims of injustice. As we stated in the Declaration of Principles of the Socialist International adopted at the XVIII Congress in Stockholm in 1989, ‘In the present era of unprecedented interdependence between individuals and nations, solidarity gains an enhanced significance since it is imperative for human survival’.

Solidarity is about putting people first. The International believes that the people of the world must be in charge of shaping the future, with people working together across the street and forming bonds across the oceans. They must be able to do so in freedom, with full respect for human rights — rights guaranteed equally for men and women, including basic social, economic and labour rights — rights for which we have always stood.

Our solidarity has always been with people seeking to be free from all forms of domination. During the 20th century, social democratic governments led the effort to promote national independence in the colonised areas of the developing world, as was underlined in the SI Declaration issued at the Council Conference in Oslo in 1962. Our support for self-determination has since continued, along with our belief that democratic governance — with political rights, justice and equal economic opportunity — must be the cornerstone of nationhood everywhere.

During the 1970s, the worldwide expansion of the International accelerated in line with our priority for North-South solidarity as more and more people turned to us in their hopes for a better future. In Latin America and the Caribbean we were always in the forefront in the struggle against dictatorships and in support of human rights, and today we carry on our work to deepen democracy and promote positive social change.

The influence of the International expanded in the Middle East as well, not least because of our promotion of dialogue and international cooperation, as essential to easing that conflict. We welcomed new member parties from the region, redoubled our efforts to build the bridges between people necessary for peace, and have remained steadfast during the most difficult periods.

After encouraging and giving hope to democratic forces in Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War, the International stepped up its work in support of the historical democratic transitions we were always confident would come about. Our efforts since 1989 have resulted in the increasing strength of social democracy throughout the region.

The International, a leader in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, has also extended its work across the African continent. We have placed heightened emphasis on conflict resolution, support for multi-party democracy and equitable integration of African nations into the world economy, and what we do and say today matters to people throughout the region.

We have spread our message widely in Asia and the Pacific, too. The International, in addressing key issues in the region — such as the rights of women and the common struggle for development and democracy — brought together in our movement parties and organisations from throughout this vast area, and social democracy has become a leading political choice for the people of Asia and the Pacific.

The International has long perceived the Mediterranean as critical for developing regional and inter-regional cooperation, and is a principal supporter of a dynamic and deeper Euro-Mediterranean partnership. The work of our member parties from the African, European and Middle Eastern nations that surround the Mediterranean toward this goal is a concrete expression of our belief in the shared future of the people on all shores.

As new priorities have emerged in a changing world, we have also focused with renewed emphasis on economic and environmental matters; peace, democracy and human rights; and local government. This is part of the International’s wide ranging efforts to address globalisation in a positive way, from the use of technology to the migration of people, from the world economy to the importance of civil society. While we recognise the potential of global change, we also believe that change must be guided, openly and democratically, through national and international institutions, so that threatening trends — the concentration of wealth, persistent poverty, inequality, insecurity, and environmental degradation — are reversed.

If social democracy was born in response to injustice and conflict in some parts of the world, today we are a global movement responding to worldwide developments that affect all humanity. If in the past, the ownership and control of land and industry was at the root of inequality and injustice, today it is the ownership of knowledge and control of the flow of information.

The Socialist International is therefore committed to enhancing the talents and capabilities of people — the building of human capital — so that all can take advantage of the opportunity to participate in global economic growth. Investing in people, particularly in education and health, is one of the highest forms of solidarity today, and the best way to ensure that development is fair and therefore sustainable.

If in the past we worked to end the dangerous polarisation that drove the Cold War, today we are committed to resolving the newer forms of national and regionally based conflicts, recognising as always the critical relationship between democracy and peace. In 1996 we underlined our faith in international cooperation for peace by holding our XX Congress at the United Nations in New York, where we reaffirmed the leading role of that body in addressing the world’s conflicts and promoting reductions in nuclear and conventional weaponry.

Faced with many violent confrontations that involve ethnic, racial and cultural differences, the Socialist International actively defends minority rights and the democratic rule of law in ensuring them. As we stated at the XIX Congress in Berlin 1992, ‘Minority rights represent a fundamental principle of free, democratic societies. Their protection is one of the basic principles of human rights’.

At the same time, we have undertaken to address some of the most pressing forms of injustice in the world today. The four Socialist International campaigns — combating violence against women, making the fight against poverty in Africa a priority, securing debt relief for the poorest countries and abolishing the death penalty everywhere — are concrete forms of global solidarity that can make a difference in people’s lives.

Despite the enormity of the challenges ahead, we remain confident in the path we have chosen. Social democracy is now inspiring and shaping political life in all our countries because of our ability to translate and apply our principles to a constantly evolving world. We take pride in our ability to reach out and to give voice to people's hopes, across the borders between nations and beyond the barriers of language and culture. Our social democratic solidarity, based on the embrace of fundamental values and strengthened by our diversity, has been and remains unwavering. It is therefore with renewed determination and initiative that we move forward, working to ensure freedom and social justice for people everywhere.