1. Response to the Asian Tsunami
1.1 The first half of the year 2005 was overshadowed by the Asian Tsunami disaster. About 300,000 people died and more than 1.5 million people lost their homes and often their livelihoods. The Socialist International expresses its condolences and deepest sympathy to the peoples and governments of the afflicted countries, as well as to all the families of victims in Southeast Asia, East Africa, Europe and elsewhere.
1.2 Even though it sounds paradoxical, the tsunami disaster has left a positive message. The world's response to it has shown what can be done when everyone simply decides that other people's suffering is intolerable. This disaster focused global attention on the need for aid to the world's poor. The enormously generous response to the tragedy sent a powerful message that ordinary citizens in wealthier societies and states support such aid if they clearly see the need and if they believe the funds they provide will reach and help the people in need. There has been an unprecedented outpouring of support for the affected regions.
2. 2005: a key year for the fight against poverty
2.1 This powerful message is particularly meaningful in the year 2005. Natural disasters cannot be prevented. What can be done is to learn the lessons from them, so that the consequences from other disasters may not be so bad. Poverty on the other hand is not a natural disaster. The fight against poverty is a question of political will that must initiate and strengthen ecological resources and the engagement of the civil society. Today 1.2 billion people still live on less than US$1 per day and 28,000 children die from poverty-related causes everyday. 2005 is a key year in the fight for the eradication of extreme poverty until 2015 as world leaders will have three major opportunities to make decisions that could considerably impact the world’s poor.
2.2 The first opportunity, the G8 Summit, will take place this July in Scotland. 2005 sees the coincidence of the United Kingdom’s chairmanship of both the G8 and, in the second half of the year, the European Union. Tony Blair has made Africa the focus of both. The Socialist International welcomes this focus. The challenges facing Africa are complex. It needs more aid and better access to world markets, particularly agricultural markets where African foodstuffs could be competitive if rich country subsidies were cut. If the global community does not act, Africa will fall further and further behind, with millions dying of AIDS and other preventable diseases, and hundreds of millions living in abject poverty.
2.3 In this context, the Socialist International welcomes the report of the Africa Commission established by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and its call for action. The Commission was set up to respond to positive changes taking place on the continent, such as the leadership shown by the AU and NEPAD, and to produce clear recommendations for the G8, EU and other wealthy countries as well as African countries. The Commission’s report is based on an analysis of the causes of the problems Africa faces, and the actions needed to bring change. It argues for a comprehensive package, proposing actions which will need to be implemented together, for success. Governance and security are at the heart of the proposals, with a strong raft of measures for investing in people, generating growth and poverty reduction. This will require a major increase in resources. The report proposes an increase in aid of US$25 billion a year by 2010, and a further of US$25 billion by 2015. After this, the Commission would expect another US$25 billion to be generated within Africa. Negotiations should be opened, the report says, on an international arms trade treaty by 2006 and aid should be provided to help African societies and states resolve and prevent conflict. There should be funding for a million doctors and nurses by 2015, extra money to provide quality education for all children and investment in infrastructure projects like roads and airports. An extra $10 billion should be provided a year to help prevent, treat and care for people with HIV and AIDS. The report also contains proposals to increase trade and cancel 100 per cent of debt in sub-Saharan Africa. If the recommendations are delivered, the Commission argues, Africa will become a more equal partner in the global community. The Socialist International calls on the G8 to take up the Africa Commission´s call for action.
2.4 In September, the special assembly of the United Nations "MDG +5" will be held to discuss progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals. These Goals, which include halving the number of people living on less than US$1 per day and making sure that all children have access to primary education, were agreed to five years ago by 189 countries. Although some progress has been made, the international community is falling short of the Goals for the target date of 2015. The SI expresses its hope that the summit will help catalyse world support for a grand bargain between global poverty reduction and security. It calls for a firm commitment from rich and poor nations alike that policy reforms and the genuine efforts to eradicate poverty within developing nations will be met by promised trade and debt concessions and assistance from the developed countries. Taken in parallel with the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Security Threats, this offers the world a new start on this critical inter-connected agenda: security and development.
2.5 In this context, the Socialist International welcomes and supports the announcement made by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Germany is prepared to support the proposal to increase the funding required to meet the Millennium Development Goals through an International Finance Facility during the UK Presidency of the G8. He also supported taxation on cross-border speculative financial transactions. The Socialist International urges the governments of the richest countries in the world to take decisive steps towards a sizeable increase of stable and predictable resources for development financing with a particular emphasis on programmes aiming at helping the poorest countries reach the MDGs. The SI also urges them to cooperate to develop innovative approaches in order to mobilise resources. In this context the SI underlines that fiscal military assistance given by highly developed countries cannot be counted as development assistance.
2.6 The SI stresses the role of multinational companies, especially oil companies, in the imbalances in the world and especially in Africa. Everything possible must be done to fight against those imbalances of resources between the concerned countries and against the corruption induced by those companies.
2.7 The Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation will meet in Hong Kong in December to discuss international trade regulations and standards. With trade liberalisation having the potential to lift 300 million people out of poverty, the decisions made at the WTO can have significant impact on the poor. The Socialist International calls on all parties involved not to fall behind the WTO framework agreement of 31 July 2004 and to find the compromises needed to conclude the Doha Development Round before Hong Kong. Further concessions are now needed to turn the Doha round into a real "Development Round".
3. Reforming the United Nations - For a new global Agenda
3.1 Shortly after the last Council meeting of the SI in Johannesburg in November 2004 the Report of the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (UN-HLPTCC) was presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the public. It formed the basis of a report by the Secretary-General in March 2005 and will be discussed by world leaders in the summit to take place in New York in September 2005. The reform of the United Nations system is regaining a strong sense of urgency. As stated in its position paper "Reforming the United Nations - For a New Global Agenda", the Socialist International supports the main recommendations of the UN-HLPTCC and Secretary-General's reports but, recognising their limits, intends to go beyond them by defining some other objectives and main actions.
3.2 The report of the UN-HLPTCC served as the basis of a report by the Secretary-General entitled "In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All". The Secretary General´s report proposes an agenda to be taken up and acted upon at the summit that will take place in New York in September 2005 to review progress since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration. The main message of the report is that the aims of the declaration can be achieved, but only if the member states are willing to adopt a package of specific, concrete decisions this year. The SI warmly welcomes this report because above all it constitutes a strong appeal against unilateralism and for a boost to multilateralism under the umbrella of the United Nations. The following quote from the report summarises Kofi Annan´s appeal: "In a world of interconnected threats and challenges, it is in each country´s self-interest that all of them are addressed effectively. Hence, the cause of larger freedom can only be advanced by broad, deep and sustained global cooperation among states. Such cooperation is possible if every country´s policies take into account not only the needs of its own citizens but also the needs of others."
3.3 The Socialist International supports the agenda proposed by Kofi Annan because it contains policy decisions and reforms that are actionable if the necessary political will can be garnered. The report is divided into four main sections. The first three set out priorities for action in the fields of development, security and human rights, respectively, while the last deals with global institutions - mainly the United Nations itself, which must be, as the Millennium Declaration says, "a more effective instrument" for pursuing those priorities. The first part, entitled "Freedom from Want", proposes specific decisions for implementing the bargain struck three years ago, in Monterrey, between developed and developing countries.
In the second part of the report, entitled "Freedom from Fear", all states are asked to agree on a new security consensus, by which they commit themselves to treat any threat to one of them as a threat to all, and to work together to prevent catastrophic terrorism, stop the proliferation of deadly weapons, end civil wars, and build lasting peace in war-torn countries.
In the third part of the report, entitled "Freedom to Live in Dignity", all states are urged to agree to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and democracy in concrete ways. The final part of the report on "Strengthening the United Nations" sets out proposals for making the UN the instrument through which all its member states can agree on the strategies outlined in the first three parts, and help each other to implement them. The recommendations the report makes include replacing the Human Rights Commission with a senior Human Rights Council, the setting up of a Peacebuilding Commission, strengthening the Economic and Social Council, a commitment to a timetable to increase Official Development Assistance to 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2015 as well as debt cancelling for the highly indebted countries.
3.4 Recent security and environmental issues are putting a new spotlight on UN reform, but they should not overshadow the other relevant issues of sustainable development, social justice and democracy. By the same token, the debate on this reform should not be confined to the reform of the Security Council. What is at stake is to launch a reform process of the general UN system with a view to fostering a new global agenda and building a new world order based on multilateralism, the rule of law, peace and more social justice. Kofi Annan's report gives equal weight and attention to the three great purposes of the UN: development, security and human rights, all of which must be underpinned by the rule of law. The SI welcomes this comprehensive strategy. It underlines that humanity will not enjoy security without development, it will not enjoy development without security, and it will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.
3.5 During its XXII Congress meeting in São Paulo in October 2003 the Socialist International has underlined the need to establish a new United Nations Security Council on Economic, Social and Environmental issues - a Council for Sustainable Development. It should be in a position to improve coordination between international economic, financial, social and environmental policies. Disasters such as the Asian Tsunami show the need for such a Security Council. Tragic events such as these need to be seen as an opportunity and commitment to better organisation and coordinated action inthe event of a disaster. Such events can be addressed only in a global way, at a global level.
4. Climate Change
4.1 The Socialist International has repeatedly drawn attention to the threat of global warming. The signals about the impacts and risks of climate change are worrying. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most up-to-date scientific research suggests that humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will raise global average temperatures by 1.4 - 5.8°C by the end of the century. They will also affect weather patterns, water resources, the cycling of the seasons, ecosystems and extreme climate events. Scientists have already detected many early signals of global warming, including the shrinking of mountain glaciers and Arctic and Antarctic sea-ice, reduced ice cover on lakes and rivers. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls attention on the fact that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events may increase.
4.2 The Socialist International therefore warmly welcomes the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in February 2005. The Protocol’s innovative use of market-based mechanisms to control greenhouse gas emissions will write a new chapter in the history of environmental agreements. The Protocol also sets up a solid system of support for sustainable development in developing countries, for example through the Clean Development Mechanism. The Socialist International will closely watch these processes and urges the governments involved to make them work. The longer-term challenge is to promote the use of low-carbon energy sources, low-greenhouse gas technologies and renewable energy sources. In developed and developing countries alike, there is a need for development strategies that are more climate-friendly.
5. UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014)
The Socialist International welcomes the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development launched in March 2005. Education as the foundation of sustainable development was reaffirmed at the Johannesburg Summit. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation establishes the linkages between the Millennium Development Goals on universal primary education for both boys and girls, but especially girls, and the Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All. The creation of a gender-sensitive education system at all levels and of all types - formal, non-formal and informal - to reach the unserved is emphasised as a crucial component of education for sustainable development. Education is recognised as a tool for addressing important questions such as job creation, rural development, health care, community involvement, HIV/AIDS, the environment, and wider ethical/legal issues such as human values and human rights. The Decade focuses on Education for Sustainable Development in all parts of the world, developing and developed countries, in equal measure. The Socialist International underlines that the messages of sustainable development, as a global concern, are equally urgent in developed as in developing countries. The SI calls on all countries to prepare their own action plan on Education for Sustainable Development. The impact of over-consumption and wasteful lifestyle patterns wherever they occur make a strong argument for increased attention to Education for Sustainable Development.
6. UN Decade for Water for Life
The Socialist International welcomes the proclamation of the period from 2005 to 2015 as the International Decade for Action, "Water for Life". The goals of the Decade should be a greater focus on water related issues at all levels and on the implementation of water-related programmes and projects, while striving to ensure the participation and involvement of women in water-related development efforts, and the furtherance of cooperation at all levels, in order to help to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals contained in:
• Agenda 21
• the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21
• the United Nations Millennium Declaration
• the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
7. Beijing + 10
Pursuit of gender equality is central to sustainable development. Worldwide consensus has built around the idea that empowering women is the most effective tool for development and poverty reduction, and that remaining obstacles to gender equality can be overcome. The fundamental right of women to equality has been affirmed and reaffirmed repeatedly by governments in international treaties, declarations and conferences, as well as in domestic constitutions. Unfortunately, a two-week meeting in March 2005 to review progress made since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 10 years before concluded by underscoring the need for governments to do more to achieve gender equality and facilitate the advancement of women. This review calls attention to the many areas where women’s equality is still not a reality - continuing high rates of violence against women in all parts of the world including in armed conflict, increasing incidence of HIV/AIDS among women, gender inequality in employment, lack of sexual and reproductive health rights and a lack of equal access under the law to land and property, to name a few. The Socialist International calls on governments around the world to fulfil their commitments towards gender equality made 10 years ago.
8. Alliance of Civilisations
The Socialist International has taken on the proposal of an Alliance of Civilisations between the Western world and the Arab and Muslim worlds, with the conviction that dialogue with others, respect for differences and the universal application of human rights must be the hallmark of all human relations. Within the framework of the United Nations a series of concrete measures in political, cultural, economic and security areas have been adopted which contribute to this bringing together of civilisations. In short, we support the multilateral Plan of Action which improves understanding in a concrete way and which accepts citizens as they are, and not simply as members of a determined culture or religion.
9. Elections in Ukraine, Palestine and Iraq
9.1 The Socialist International extends its congratulations to the Ukrainian, Palestinian and Iraqi people for the political reform processes they have achieved. The Socialist International expresses its support in moving forward the democratic agenda of the people of these countries after their elections - one of the fundamental preconditions for building democratic societies and states. The SI also expresses its support to the democratic forces in Lebanon in their will to reaffirm the democracy, sovereignty, independence and constitutional integrity of their country for the holding of free, fair and transparent elections in the forthcoming month of May.
9.2 The SI registers with satisfaction the evolution of the democratic process in certain regions of the world. The SI wishes to express its support to all people, who have achieved in an autonomous and independent way a process that has enabled them to organise free and transparent elections.
10. 5th World Social Forum in Porto Alegre
10.1 The 5th World Social Forum (WSF) that took place in Porto Alegre in January 2005 once again exceeded the considerable magnitude of its predecessors. The Socialist International held a series of events in the context of the WSF. With a view to supporting the efforts of President "Lula", President Lagos and Prime Minister Zapatero against hunger and poverty, a special meeting was organised by the SI on the "International Action against Hunger and Poverty: The Search for new financing mechanisms for development". SI President António Guterres also presented for debate a first version of a position paper by the Socialist International on the reform of the United Nations. The Socialist International welcomes the WSF as the only high-visibility meeting point for groups critical of globalisation and as a forum for debate and political exchange with them.
10.2 The Global Progressive Forum, the joint initiative of the SI, the PES and its Parliamentary Group, organised a successful seminar on the "Social Dimension of Globalisation" together with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the World Confederation of Labour (WCL), Solidar, Social Alert as well as members of the ILO World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. The seminar was attended by a multitude of participants and NGOs. A declaration (open to signatures) was launched by the initiators of the seminar (www.Globalprogressiveforum.org).
10.3 Among the items at the top of the political agenda in Porto Alegre were the Reform of the United Nations, combating poverty, peace and above all the water question. To step up the pressure on politicians prior to various international conferences this year, many NGOs have joined the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. It intends to encourage more efficient coordination and greater visibility for a number of activities, e.g. the trade campaign, the education campaign and the campaign against HIV/AIDS. President Lula, who spoke in Porto Alegre as a "guest" of this initiative, urged NGOs to use the Global Call to channel more activities towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. A very important theme in Porto Alegre was the campaign against the privatisation of water. Next year (2006) the Forum is to be "regionalised", and in 2007 the Forum will take place in Africa.