Speech of Marta Suplicy, Mayor of São Paulo and Vice-President of the Worker’s Party
XXII Congress of the Socialist International, São Paulo, 27-29 October 2003
I welcome you all to the city of São Paulo.
First of all, I would like to thank the organization committee for having chosen the city of São Paulo to host this congress.
We are very proud that São Paulo will be the stage for important discussions during the next three days. In this case, it is not only a great and important congress but much more than that. We are experiencing a happening. Here today there are party leaders from hundreds of countries committed to the struggle for social justice. We are facing a historical event in Brazil and a decisive moment for Latin America and the World.
I would say that this SI Congress shall find the answers to the new challenges imposed by globalization which has neo-liberalism as an hegemonic force. Thus, what is at stake are not only the strategies to defeat it, but also and most of all, the building and consolidation of new ways for a globalization accepted by all peoples.
We need rules that put public interest in its right place, social justice, the battle against the unacceptable inequality that divides the world in such a cruel way, and above all, the relentless fight for peace and against hunger.
Neo-liberalism caused us to defend ourselves and to delay our historic fight against the logic of wealth appropriation by an infinite minority, leaving the majority of the population in absolute poverty. But it was not able to keep us from our utopia.
Modern socialism continues to be an instrument to reach this utopia: in a democratic world free from exploitation and oppression of workers and people.
We are experiencing a moment of expectations and hopes, despite all the great difficulties. And Lula´s victory for the presidency of Brazil is certainly one of the symbols of these new times.
New challenges, because the social and environmental problems that shake the world urgently call for global governance, built from local parties and the peoples sovereignty.
And it is an opportunity because, after all, socialist parties were the first ones to raise the flag of internationalism, ever since its origin, in the middle of the 19th century, with a great spirit of human solidarity instead of predatory competition.
I have no doubt that everyone present here will agree that the battle for social justice requires strong international activity. We are before market forces that while creating new wealth and technology tend to accelerate social and economic inequalities when they are free from the regulating action of the State. The demand, is more than ever for social rules that control the market and correct inequalities.
The neo-liberal globalization created a world in which civilization and barbarism do not exclude one another, but live side by side, especially in big metropolises.
Against this, we must propose and build a world order in which political will is present. Nothing is more appropriate therefore, as the chosen title of this congress: 'The Return of Politics: For just and responsible global governance - For globalization governed by the people'.
For a globalization governed by the people in defense of a depolarized world, where wild economic competition will give place to interdependency and collaboration among countries.
This also implies sharing our access to existing technology and knowledge needed to quickly solve the most outrageous problems of humanity, such as hunger and precarious housing.
The existing multilateral structures simply cannot handle this challenge. I do not believe that the imposition of politics will occur through the armed forces or occupation of countries alleging a supposedly crusade for freedom.
The battle against terrorism, religious fanaticism, racism and xenophobia constitutes a bigger priority of our time. However, if the disastrous invasion in Iraq could teach the world a lesson, it would, exactly in the sense that it is necessary to accomplish a vast reform of the United Nations system and the rejection of unilateralism as a condition to true democracy in international relations.
Similarly, the failure of the WTO negotiations in Cancun, shows how much we still have to make progress in the direction of a world system in which values such as fair trade, solidarity and humanism prevails.
In this sense, the responsibility of this Congress is not a small one. We must take into consideration an accumulated experience here and also consider the political will to move on into this direction. Thus, we will be certain that this Congress not only should but will help the search for new ways encompassing the issues proposed to the debate that in fact are central topics for today’s world.
In this battle, SI is no longer alone and can make use of the debates held in the form of World Social forums organized in Porto Alegre for the past years and which next year will be held in Bombay, India.
Undoubtedly, there’s an open field to articulate even more the energy that spur from social movements and from progressive political parties. This demands to break way from any ambiguity and situate the SI´s combat in the new field of questioning the unjust order, abandoning any social-liberal intention, which is nothing more than a pure and simple adaptation to the neo-liberal order.
The transition of the model we have to the one we want and that the most desperate population aspire, goes through not only the formulation of nation projects internationally articulated, but also demands an enormous participation of local authorities.
Especially for being close to suffering and insecurity caused by injustice, several important experiences emerged from local authorities fight for social inclusion.
As the mayor of the largest city in Latin America, elected by the Worker’s Party in a vast front of democratic and progressive forces, I follow what I consider democratic and reforming values.
To transform a city like São Paulo in a better place to live, change has to reach everyone, specially the ones left aside up to now.
This is not only about an enormous challenge to humanity. But above all, an obligation of the public power, that should accept the responsibility to fight against this situation.
Our administration has accomplished an investment never seen before in social inclusion, at the same time redirecting this expense to the population of lower income brackets. And to do this in a metropolis like São Paulo, has been to promote a totally inversion of priorities regarding to previous governments.
To recover the social function of the metropolis promoting infrastructure development, we stimulate popular participation on public policies and we have created integrated social inclusion policies.
Our action is directed to citizen integration and to guarantee the rights of excluded sectors of society. It is not only important to manage well, but to know whom we are directing our efforts and scarce resources to.
This is why São Paulo has built the largest income distribution program ever adopted by a single city. Social programs have benefited today, more than 288 thousand families or 1.2 million people. In every two poor families, one is already benefited by programs of income supplementation.
We have proved the thesis that social investments, besides being a moral obligation, can also sustain a policy of economic growth.
But what I see as the greatest contribution is the investment in the future, in education. We make education a tool to reduce inequalities. We are building and concluding in the out scripts of the city the Unified Educational Centers, which are schools with quality public equipment as theaters, libraries, Internet rooms, swimming pools, sports areas, open to the local communities. We are transforming our municipal education network, which is not only to keep children at school, but to guarantee high quality education.
This promising experience also brings a large improvement in the self-esteem of needing people, which stimulate the participation of the benefited ones. Without them, no transforming process is possible. In fact, in my experience, the participation of population has been an essential factor.
Next year the city of São Paulo will celebrate its 450th anniversary. The celebrations will have their peak on January 25th, which is the official date, but they will also be extended along the rest of the year. Not only in celebrations for the population and cultural activities, but also with international events to discuss the subjects that we think are priorities.
Among these, I would like to highlight the World Forum for Education, to be held next year in São Paulo; the World Forum for Culture, and URBIS 2004 — which is a Fair and International Congress of Cities to be held in the scope of the IX UNCTAD, which will have as the subject "Metropolitan Regions and Megacities: strategies for development".
And at last, I would like to wish you all an excellent Congress. I am certain that in the next three days there are going to be top quality debates, based on concrete experiences, with only one goal: to find creative and daring alternatives, that will make living conditions more dignified.
This is why I would like to remind you of the words of the Latin-American writer, Eduardo Galeano that described utopia as something that should always be present in our horizon:
When I walk two steps, it takes two steps back. I walk ten steps, and it is ten steps further away. What is Utopia for? It is for this, for walking.
Thank you very much, and a good walk for all of you!