Meeting of the Socialist International Committee on Local Authorities, Rosario, Argentina

31 March-01 April 2000

On 31 March and 1 April, the Committee on Local Authorities met in the city of Rosario, Argentina, hosted by the Popular Socialist Party, PSP, and the Radical Civic Union, UCR.

Before the opening of the meeting a plaque was unveiled dedicated to the memory of Guillermo Estévez Boero, former PSP leader and a native of the city.

The themes on the agenda were 'Local authorities and the work market - social democratic policies for securing jobs and tackling unemployment' and 'Local democracy and citizens' participation'.

At the opening of the meeting, Hermes Binner, Mayor of Rosario, spoke of the role of the Committee and the International towards working for the "humanisation of cities", where themes such as decent housing, the protection of the environment, social security, education and solidarity between cities, and, on this occasion, work, had been central to discussions. "It is not by chance", he declared, "that the most profound cultural transformation in this globalised world has taken place in the sphere of work". The balance had changed, he asserted, from work being a "great social integrator" to the "absence of work leading to social marginalisation".

Local authorities, Binner contended, clearly had to work with national authorities in this area, but, as the experiences in Rosario showed, much could be done in supporting business, promoting employment and generating exports, and creating development agencies locally.

Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the International, underlined the importance of the theme of the discussions in Rosario. Full employment was, he said, "fundamental to our very identity". He continued: "Socialists can no longer be recognised only by their vision of principles and ideological message, but also in the actions of our governments."

In different parts of the world we were facing a common agenda "because there is only one world economy". So "the reality in which we work may be different, but the needs, the necessity for response, the challenges are common".

A challenge, Ayala concluded, for social democrats in Latin America was to increase the capacity for the integration of economies, societies and political agendas.

Rubén Giustiniani, General Secretary of the Popular Socialist Party, PSP, posed the question which had been asked fifty years ago: "Does politics still make any sense?" Socialists and democrats could answer affirmatively with all conviction, he maintained: "Today our politics has more sense than ever, because it is the way to organise life among people, the only way to organise people's lives with justice and freedom". The future of work was, he proposed, a very important theme and one that needed to be analysed through the concrete optic of the role of the municipalities.

Raúl Alfonsín, President of the Radical Civic Union and former President of Argentina, signalled the importance of municipalities in all aspects of democracy and daily life. For it was at a local level, he considered, that "this fundamental ingredient of democracy today is put into action, that is participation". In terms of work, action taken in local authorities could be indispensable, he suggested, citing examples of small and medium-sized business. In this way, he argued, municipalities could fight social exclusion through work.

Cesare Salvi, Minister of Labour, Italy, spoke of the dramatic changes in the area of labour where such far-reaching globalisation went hand in hand with the technological revolution. Globalisation was however, he stated, "not a completely new phenomenon. It is a tendency which belongs to the history of capitalism and the market economy. The tendency of markets to expand beyond city, regional or national limits began many centuries ago". However, local authorities could have a concrete role in harnessing the potential of the 'new economy', he maintained. For example by having adequate infrastructures for new technologies of information and communication for all citizens, strengthening and modernising educational systems, creating networks of training and information centres, as well as networks of collaboration between small and medium-sized businesses.

Alberto Flamarique, Minister of Labour, Argentina, reflected that it was in local government where "the confrontation of opportunities, challenges and threats brought by globalisation produces the most tension" and which had to deal with the daily concern of such a conflict. The task today was how to introduce, within the framework of labour reforms, new ways of thinking about work, he stated, particularly in relation to the growing phenomenon of collectivity. In terms of the realities of the new forms of work, there were real questions to be asked about legislation and protection in the increasingly autonomous "electronic economy".

He further asserted that "social cohesion has to be present in globalisation. Globalisation cannot be achieved at whatever cost. Globalisation does not have to be a force which is detrimental to civilisations and cultures, of one over another. Globalisation has to be a phase of greater progress, equality and social justice for all humanity".

At the conclusion of the proceedings, the Committee adopted the Rosario Declaration, with the subtitle 'Local Authorities and the Labour Market: Social democratic policies to ensure work and to tackle unemployment', which stated that "the resulting challenge for cities is that of complementing the development of business with civilised forms of public-sector policies which have an immediate effect on unemployment and promote new social practices". The Declaration noted that there were clearly no "magic recipes" to increase employment and "the answer must come from active policies exercised in a committed way by different levels of government and strongly stimulated municipally".

These active policies included: the exercise of the autonomous rights of local governments; the income and expenditure policies of the municipality; the refining of special employment programmes and the creation of new urban skills; technical assistance backed by universities to new entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses; the commitment of the whole formal system of education to the training of the workforce; the generation of local conditions for the growth of investment and application of technological innovation; the encouragement of jobs which allow part-time work and job sharing so as to foster employment opportunities for women, young people, the disabled and workers approaching retirement.

The Declaration went on to state that two considerations followed the call for active policies. Firstly, that they entailed explicit costs, which could not be financed exclusively by means of the efficient use of existing resources: "That is why municipal autonomy and budget policies are so important", it declared. It went on to propose that "the de-centralisation towards the cities of social programmes and programmes of infrastructure is a more effective way of insuring that employment opportunities are given to those that need them most".

Secondly, the exercise of active policies depended on the design and the application of appropriate institutions where public and private agents could cooperate, and thus allow greater citizen participation and greater decentralisation of decision making: "Thus, an active policy in the city is not the exclusive responsibility of the municipal government, but a task to be shared by those citizens who wish to participate in the shaping of a humane and fair city founded on work".

The Rosario Declaration pointed to the need "to foster the spirit of local association, decentralised cooperation and international solidarity in order to generate institutions in cities able to promote policies for the generation of employment and for remunerated work", insisting on the compelling need to create a Network of Socialist Solidarity among Cities (NSSC) for initiatives aimed at generating remunerated work in the short term.

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