Working for a world in peace

XXIII Congress of the Socialist International, Athens, 30 June-2 July 2008

Our commitment to peace is the hallmark of our movement. This permanent concern of the Socialist International is evident in different regions of the world where peace is fractured or under threat. Peace is a fundamental value which guides our political action.

Faced with those who extol difference and confrontation, social democrats promote the peaceful solution of conflicts, tolerance, the respect of human rights and democracy.

Social democracy strives to overcome the social and economic causes of international, national and local conflicts; with a belief in global justice and in the importance of achieving institutions up to the task of resolving conflicts peacefully around the whole world.

Multilateralism, dialogue and negotiations should be the way forward where peace and stability are at risk. The fundamental role of the United Nations on peace and security should be strengthened at this time of global threats to peace and of interdependence. A fair international economic and democratic political order is, for democratic socialism, a crucial foundation upon which to sustain peace and security.

The breakdown of peace, wherever this happens, not only touches upon the political engagement of every social democrat, but also has a direct impact on people everywhere as we live in an era marked by conflicts without borders.

The SI remains committed to the struggle for non-proliferation and de-nuclearisation and for policies that contain the dispersion of weapons of mass destruction. The SI believes this is a major priority to ensure peace in the world.

The work of the Socialist International in the search of peace in the Middle East has been constant. The solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains crucial to secure peace and stability in the whole region and beyond. The negotiations should lead to a lasting peace based on the solution of two States.

The Socialist International welcomes the recently established cease-fire agreement over the Gaza Strip mediated by Egypt and hopes that it will be followed by additional confidence-building measures so that tranquillity can prevail on the border and that it could be extended to include the West Bank.

The SI calls for the expansion of this agreement in order to bring about the speedy release of the Israeli soldiers held captive in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as well as of the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The launching of rockets onto Israeli territory and the siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip must stop immediately. Security can only endure if there are tangible prospects for political progress towards the end of occupation and the long-delayed establishment of an independent, democratic, peaceful, viable and sovereign Palestinian state.

The SI calls upon both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet their obligations under Phase I of the Roadmap, with particular emphasis on the complete freezing of all Israeli construction (including “natural growth”) beyond the Green Line, taking into account the settlements and construction of the Wall inside the Palestinian territory which undermine the credibility of the peace process and the concept of the two-state solution itself, feeding despair and extremism, and on the unifying of all security forces under one single authority on the Palestinian side – an authority that will have a monopoly over the use of power and work to prevent all acts of terror.

The SI urges the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to complete negotiations on the permanent status agreement as early as possible, and in any event before the end of 2008.

For the agreement to be possible, measures must be taken by each side to ensure that an easing of the freedom of movement will be met with efforts by the Palestinians to ensure security for the Israelis.

The SI calls upon Hamas to renounce violence, recognise Israel and join the political process under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas.

The SI calls upon Israel to release all imprisoned members of the Palestinian Legislative Council held by Israel since January 2006.

The SI welcomes the Palestinian decision to call for anticipated Palestinian elections and create, through democratic dialogue, the political conditions to put an end to the present institutional division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Annapolis commitments and promises should be kept, and not be allowed to join an already long list of unimplemented obligations. Tangible changes on the ground must take place while Permanent status negotiations must progress on the core issues of conflict – borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem.

The SI urges the international community to pursue its efforts in regard to the economic development of the West Bank.

The SI assures its Palestinian member party, Fatah, of its support in their current efforts at internal reform and democratisation.

The Socialist International expresses its support for the negotiations between Israel and Syria, which are being mediated by Turkey. A peace agreement between Israel and Syria could be reached only if it will be based on the commitment of both sides to avoid all use of violence, whether direct or indirect, against each other, and on the end of Israeli occupation.

The SI calls upon Israel and Lebanon to begin negotiations aimed at reaching a peace treaty between them.

The SI calls for negotiating the implementation of the Arab League Initiative of 2002 as a historical milestone, and calls upon all members of the Arab League and Israel to realise its potential by normalising relations between them following the conclusion of peace agreements between Israel and Palestine, and between Israel and Syria.

The SI calls for the convening of international conferences on the basis of international law to accompany the political negotiations in the Middle East. These conferences should focus on the financing of the peace agreements; on the mandate and structure of the multinational forces that could be deployed as peace observers with the completion of such agreements and on the various options available in the search for a fair, realistic and agreed upon solution to the refugee problem.

The SI views a comprehensive agreement in the Middle East as an enormous opportunity for international support and investment aimed at improving regional infrastructure and minimising existing social gaps throughout the Middle East.

In Lebanon, following the election of President Suleiman and the resumption of the work of the parliament, as called for by the meeting of our International in Beirut in April this year, we look forward to the full institutional normalisation of the political life in the country. Three years after the withdrawal of Syrian forces, the resolutions of the national dialogue among Lebanese political actors unanimously adopted, especially those relating to Syria, must be implemented without delay. Peace in the region needs a stable, united, sovereign and independent Lebanon. As the SI has stated previously a policy of non-alignment could protect Lebanon from the consequences of the conflicts surrounding it.

The SI underlines the importance of the respect of the Taef Accords and the resolutions of the United Nations relating to the country. The SI also reaffirms its support to the efforts carried out by countries that contribute to the UNIFIL to help to achieve stability in Lebanon and in the region as a whole. The SI fully supports the work of the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon in seeking to establish responsibility for the outstanding cases of political assassinations in the country.

Despite the serious confrontations faced in Iraq every day, the country continues on the path to national reconstruction. After 35 years of dictatorship, during which basic civil and political rights were denied and ethnic and religious persecution was carried out, as well as armed conflict with neighbouring countries, the path undertaken by Iraq today to advance and consolidate their democracy and political institutions, and regaining their full sovereignty should be supported. President Talabani´s efforts to move forward a modern agenda for a unitary, federal Iraq should be supported by the international community. The SI expresses its appreciation of the determination and persistence shown by the Iraqi people to advance their efforts.

The SI reiterates its call to the states of the region to abstain from undue interference in the internal affairs of Iraq and to respect its sovereignty. At the same time, it underlines the need for the international community to continue to be mobilised and give financial assistance and support to oppose the unacceptable acts of terrorism. The SI considers the withdrawal of foreign troops as a necessary step to allow the people of Iraq to undertake by themselves the construction of their future.

The SI expresses its solidarity to its member party in Iraq and its leaders, in their efforts to advance towards a free and democratic society, to put an end to terror and to set the basis for a modern country, with inclusion and opportunities for all. The International trusts that their tireless efforts with allow for peace in Iraq, contributing to stability in the whole region.

The SI reiterates its commitment to continue its work in favour of peaceful and democratic resolutions to all international conflicts, including the Kurdish issue in the Middle East.

The SI welcomes the talks in Cyprus between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities within the framework and the decisions of the United Nations and declares that it remains committed to contribute to this process. The SI reiterates its commitment to its longstanding positions.

With regard to the situation in the Balkans, the Socialist International has been working for a long time to promote initiatives leading to peace in the region and in this endeavour it has been a positive force to strengthen democracy and to advance stability. The SI continues cooperating with its member parties, the social democratic and socialist forces in the Western Balkans, in their efforts to help build societies that are more democratic, inclusive, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and culturally open. On Kosovo, the International encourages further dialogue between the concerned parties in order to find a balanced and flexible solution and we call on all states to avoid any unilateral decision referring to Kosovo. The SI calls on all parties to refrain from violence and the pursuit of policies that hinder the consolidation of regional peace and stability.

The SI welcomes the important advances registered in the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire after the signing of the Political Accord of Ouagadougou on 4 April 2007. It reaffirms its call to the different Ivorian actors to continue their efforts to consolidate their achievements regarding disarmament and security in the whole country.

The SI encourages the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the structures involved in the electoral process to carry on working with neutrality and impartiality towards elections that are free, fair and legitimate. The SI believes that guaranteeing that the elections to take place on 30 November 2008 are carried out in a proper manner and in full normality can constitute a definite step forward in the Ivorian peace process.

The SI encourages the international community to continue its support to Côte d’Ivoire, in particular, by maintaining their financial support to the peace, disarmament, identification and electoral processes.

The SI has repeatedly expressed its deep concern about the situation in Zimbabwe and denounced the government sponsored violence that made the holding of free and fair elections impossible, in such a climate of brutal attacks and threats, resulting in the withdrawal of the opposition presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.

The SI expresses its solidarity with the forces who continue their struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe and calls on the neighbouring countries, as well as on the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations, to redouble their efforts to ensure a democratic way forward for Zimbabwe.

The Socialist International urges the world bodies to discuss and find an acceptable solution for peace in Somalia.

In relation with the situation in Darfur, the SI expresses once more its consternation for the humanitarian crisis affecting this western region of Sudan.

As of the breaking out of hostilities in 2003, more than 300 thousand people have died and the number of displaced people is above two million. The General Peace Agreement and the national Constitution, agreed in 2005, must be fully respected without delay. They must constitute the basis for the democratic transformation process in the country and for the promotion of peace, stability and unity in Sudan.

The International reiterates its call to the government in Karthoum and to the groups in conflict to redouble their efforts in order to avoid the deepening of the serious situation, as well as to speed up the implementation of the commitments already assumed. The international community must continue to actively offer effective protection of the population in Darfur.

With regard to Yemen, the Socialist International expresses its concern regarding the arrest and the detentions of leaders of the Yemeni Socialist Party and other political activists, who are leading a democratic and peaceful struggle. The SI calls on the government of Yemen to end these political trials and to free these political prisoners.

With regard to Western Sahara, the Socialist International welcomes the direct negotiations undertaken by the parties further to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1754, in the search for a solution to this long-standing conflict. It called for all efforts to be made for the success of these talks, respecting the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the human rights of the people of Western Sahara.

We have honoured here at the XXIII Congress, the struggle, determination and leadership of Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan now enjoys a return to democracy, which her party, the Pakistan Peoples´ Party, has led. The SI welcomes the new government´s priority to strengthen the democratic political institutions there. The Socialist International, with regard to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, supports and adheres to the request, made to the United Nations by the newly elected Pakistan Parliament for a UN investigation into the circumstances of her death.

Nepal is a nation that advances its peace process in the correct direction and the SI welcomes this with special satisfaction. The peace accord signed between the government and the insurgents, besides marking the end of an armed conflict lasting more than ten years, costing the lives of thousands of people, it also opened up the possibility of holding elections and electing a new Constituent Assembly. These elections were observed by an SI delegation, as a renewed manifestation of the long commitment of the International with this Himalayan nation. The recent decision to put an end to the monarchy by the Constituent Assembly represents a historic step in the strengthening of democracy and freedoms in Nepal.

The Socialist International lends its solidarity to the people of Burma devastated by the Nargis Cyclone, urges the international community to strengthen humanitarian action and underlines the urgent need for the obligations undertaken by the Burmese authorities with the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, to be carried out, so assuring free and rapid access to humanitarian aid and rescue teams.

The Socialist International welcomes the role ASEAN has assumed in the coordination of humanitarian aid and calls on the international community to give its full support to ASEAN and its Secretary General.

At the same time – deeply concerned by the dramatic events of August and September 2007 and by the refusal of the proposals put forward by the representatives of the United Nations – the SI underlines the urgent need for Burma to open up a new political phase.

We demand the liberation of Aung San Suu Kyi and of all political prisoners. We call on the Burmese authorities to accept real dialogue with the democratic opposition, the representatives of ethnic communities and of Burmese society. Dialogue is the only way forward which can truly achieve national reconciliation and democratic transition with stability and we appreciate and support the efforts undertaken by the United Nations and its Secretary General.

We urge ASEAN, China, India, South Korea and Japan to bring a positive influence in order to promote a democratic process in Burma.

The Socialist International and its member parties express their solidarity and full support for Aung San Suu Kyi, for the National League for Democracy and for all men and women who struggle in Burma for freedom and democracy.

In Latin America, ending violence and armed conflict in Colombia remains a priority for the International. Security and peace there will contribute positively to the stability of the whole region. To achieve a lasting peace, Colombia needs to follow a path of legitimacy which will only be gained with the immediate release of all hostages, with the protection of and reparation to the victims of the violence.

The Socialist International has a long and proud tradition of safeguarding solidarity, social justice, human rights and democracy. In our declaration from the SI Committee on Peace, Democracy and Human Rights in Istanbul in 2004, we state that institutions such as the UN must have the power, resources and instruments to prevent and control conflicts, to maintain peace, to promote sustainable development, and to protect human and civil rights.

Women and children in conflict situations around the world have been subjected to widespread and deliberate acts of sexual violence. The International has followed with deep concern the reports on violence against women in armed conflict as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate and instill fear in civilians. The International strongly condemns these acts and demands an end to violence against women in armed conflicts.

The International condemns all sexual and other forms of violence committed against women and children in armed conflict. The International also stresses the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building.

On 19 June, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that demands all sides to armed conflicts stop using violence against women as a tactic of war, calling it a war crime and a component of genocide.

The International welcomes and supports this very important declaration, and is pleased that the long work to make this UN resolution come through has finally paid off. The International will work to get this resolution implemented in all member states and promote it in its international work. It is up to all of us to make the resolution known and make sure it gets put into practice.