Socialist International Special Committee on the Arab World Istanbul, 23-24 March 2012

The Socialist International Special Committee on the Arab World gathered in Istanbul for its second meeting on 23-24 March 2012 to discuss ways to empower the progressive actors to secure the success of the transitions, and addressed the humanitarian and political crises in Syria; maintaining the momentum for change; defining the social democratic blueprint for the success of these transitions; and enhancing cooperation between social democrats in the region.

With regard to Syria, we have followed with anguish and deep consternation the massacres that take place on a daily basis, as the Assad regime refuses to accept that change is inevitable. We stand firmly on the side of the Syrian people in their fight for democracy and human rights and again condemn the brutal actions of the regime. Consequently we have fully backed the efforts of the United Nations and the Arab League for an end to the killing, for the protection of the lives of Syrian citizens and a humanitarian response which we see as a fundamental imperative.

We support the six points outlined in the presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council on 21 March 2012 related to the search for an inclusive Syrian-led political process; to bring an end to the fighting and to achieve a cessation of armed violence; the timely provision of humanitarian assistance; freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists; and the respect of freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully.

To ensure an effective and decisive role of the international community to save lives and to implement without delay the democratic demands of the citizens of Syria we call on the Security Council of the United Nations, and in particular Russia and China, to act in line with the overwhelming sentiment of the international community to protect the Syrian people.

As social democrats we are convinced that any solution offered should avoid violence and should immediately open the way for free and fair elections in Syria as the ultimate objective.

With regard to the need to keep the momentum for change, the committee took note of the current work of the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia, chaired by Mustapha Ben Jaafar, leader of SI member the FTDL, and called on all political stakeholders to ensure that the objectives of the democratic revolution be fulfilled. In particular that the new constitution should reflect and acknowledge the equal rights and inclusion of people of all genders, religions and ethnicities, as well as minorities, is paramount.

Equally, with respect to Egypt, the committee underlined the need to keep alive the spirit of Tahrir Square and the demands of the people who drove the movement for change. The committee expressed its concern for the restrictions faced by democratic activists, bloggers and members of civil society engaged in the political process and expects that the presidential elections scheduled for May and June of this year will be held under free and fair conditions. Anything less would be a betrayal to the Egyptians who made such sacrifices for change.

The committee welcomes the removal from office of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s authoritarian ruler, after more than a year of massive popular protest and demands for democracy. We congratulate the Yemeni people and Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) on the installation of new authorities following the vote for a new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and express our hope for the success of the national dialogue to be launched to search for consensual solutions to the pressing problems faced by the country.

In Morocco, elections have taken place under the new constitutional framework, which grants more power to elected representatives. The USFP, an experienced and recognised social democratic force which chose to be in opposition, will be taking the opportunities provided by the new constitution to hold the government to account.

Forthcoming elections in Algeria will be a measure of the democratic rights and freedoms of the Algerian people. In this context, we welcome the decision of the FFS to participate in the electoral process after 15 years of abstaining from doing so as a result of a lack of confidence and trust in the democratic conditions. Our International will closely follow these elections which need to be free and fair.

We recognise and support the determination of President Abbas in holding Palestinian elections this year. We call on the political actors in Palestine to ensure that this fundamental democratic requirement be fulfilled and to allow for the unity of the Palestinian political institutions, a necessity for the urgent realisation of a viable and independent State of Palestine, and in this context we reiterate SI calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem.

The committee is encouraged by plans to hold elections to a new Constitutional Assembly on 20 June in Libya. In this context it is crucial that all Libyans and all regions are duly represented and included in the process of defining a future democratic Libyan State.

We support the demands of the Assembly of Democratic Forces and its allies in the Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) in Mauritania for the installation of a transitional government to ensure that parliamentary elections comply with democratic standards of transparency and fairness. Equally important to guarantee free elections are the existence of an Independent Electoral Commission and a proper Constitutional Council.

The ongoing detention of those democratic activists arrested during last year’s demonstrations in Bahrain is unacceptable. Ebrahim Sharif, secretary general of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) and all political prisoners should be released immediately. The recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry must be implemented without delay. We express our continued solidarity with the Wa’ad, its members and all democrats in Bahrain.

The committee urges Morocco and the Polisario Front to continue to negotiate a peaceful and lasting solution to the Western Saharan conflict under the auspices of the United Nations and reiterates its support for the rights of the Sahrawi people to self-determination as expressed by the SI Council ın Athens last year. The Socialist International will continue to work with all actors in favour of democracy and human rights.

On the eve of the Arab summit to take place in the coming days in Baghdad, the committee transmits its support and solidarity to President Jalal Talabani and the Iraqi people and condemns unreservedly the recent bombings targeting innocent civilians in Iraq. These attacks will not weaken the resolve of our members in that country to achieve peace, stability and economic prosperity for the people.

Our International, which has been in contact and engaged with democratic actors of all the revolutions and uprisings over the last fourteen months and widened its circle to include today political parties and movements from 15 countries in the Arab World has continued to develop its blueprint for democratic, fair, inclusive and lasting transitions which need to be true to their origins in the aspirations of the people of these countries.

The success of these transitions will be measured against their ability to bring about free and fair democratic elections; justice for those persecuted under authoritarian regimes; comprehensive rights and freedoms for all citizens; equal rights for women and men in politics and society and the inclusion of women in government; equal rights and inclusion of minorities; open and transparent political institutions to create the conditions for social; and economic development and opportunities for all. To achieve these ends, the Socialist International will continue in its partnership and cooperation with all those who share these goals, in a true spirit of solidarity, sharing the experiences of all those in our movement who have led and experienced successful transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy. The Socialist International will also explore the creation of a women’s network among the progressive socialist and social democratic parties in the region.

In concluding their discussions, the committee members recorded their deep appreciation of the warm hospitality accorded by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to all participants and expressed their wishes of success for the efforts of the party to ensure that Turkey guarantees freedom of expression to all its citizens and respect the independence of the judiciary, a fundamental condition of a democratic political system, and in their advancement of their social democratic vision of a Turkey for all its citizens.