XXIV Congress of the Socialist International, Cape Town
For a new internationalism and a new culture of solidarity
30 August-01 September 2012
The XXIV Congress of the Socialist International met in Cape Town, South Africa, on August 30 - September 1, under the heading "For a New Internationalism and a New Culture of Solidarity". Bringing together leaders and delegates of member parties from around the world, including a number of heads of state and government and specially invited guests, the event was attended by representatives of 130 parties and organisations (List of participants)
The African National Congress (ANC) hosted the event in the centennial year of its foundation. It was the first Congress in the history of the International to take place in Africa.
The agenda comprised four key themes that are of central importance to the Socialist International today: ‘For an economy with jobs, growth and social protection: the social democratic response to the financial crisis’; The struggle for rights and freedoms: strengthening representative democracy and gaining new democracies in the world’; ‘For a common road to peace, sustainability and cooperation: the need to secure multilateralism’; and ‘For a new internationalism and a new culture of solidarity among people and between nations’.
A minute of silence observed in memory of John Atta Mills, Ghana’s inspirational late president, whose work remains a testament to the achievements of the social democratic movement in the continent.
Introducing the proceedings, SI President George Papandreou thanked the hosts and expressed gratitude for the welcome and warm hospitality members had received in Cape Town.
Deputy President of South Africa and of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe, opened the Congress with a welcoming speech. He thanked George Papandreou, SI Secretary-General Luis Ayala, and all the delegates and guests present, on behalf of the ANC and his democratic nation, for holding the meeting in Africa. Motlanthe conveyed his appreciation for the continued support of the SI in the struggles of the African people against colonialism and racism, highlighting the significance that the event took place during the ANC’s centennial celebrations. He remarked on the similarity between the foundations of the ANC and the SI, both being inspired by the desire to change the world for the better, for freedom, social justice and solidarity. The ANC, he said, places great emphasis on internationalism, working with other democratic organisations in the pursuit of the renaissance of the African continent. Challenges we all now face, he explained, include reducing the control of wealth by transnational corporations, the homogenisation of the media, and reforming a weakened system of global governance. Urging the Congress to come together to find a clear way forward on these issues, he called on the SI to continue being a force for the mobilisation of the world progressive movement for a better world and a better Africa. He concluded by observing a common saying in South Africa ‘working together, in solidarity, we can do more’.
Following on, George Papandreou gave his opening speech. He acknowledged the struggles the ANC has undergone, praising its leadership for never giving up and the proud men and women of Africa who continue to carry a deep sense of hope and vigour for change. ‘We are honoured that we are here’ said Papandreou ‘to celebrate with you, the 100 years of struggles which came to fruition under the inspired leadership of Nelson Mandela’.
Papandreou emphasised the importance of the values and commitment of the Socialist International from its inception to our contemporary global platform. Recalling the political events he experienced from his youth, he remarked upon the inspiration the SI had offered social democrats throughout its history. We must continue to fight for change, to address the problems of the global economy and restructure the market to fit the needs of all people, he said. Reminding participants that the economic crisis of 2008 should not have happened, he stressed the necessity to ensure the protection of future generations, sustainable resources and a conflict-free world. The SI must continue to work, Papandreou said, ‘to succeed in transforming our global economy into one with democratic governance and regulation that serves our people, for a just global society’.
For an economy with jobs, growth and social protection: the social democratic response to the financial crisis
The first main theme of the Congress began with a significant address on the state of the global economy by Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium and SI Vice President. Di Rupo emphasised that the financial sector is out of control, causing enormous damage to the real economy, with impunity. Stock markets are capable of destroying businesses and wiping out employment within seconds; without supervision the financial sector lies in absolute speculation. This constitutes one of the biggest contemporary challenges for the progressive movement, he stressed. States and governments should not be subordinate to financial markets. He explained that the only way to ensure greater social justice and regain prosperity for all is to take them under control. He stipulated that well thought through reforms must be applied to the financial sector. These can only be achieved, he said, by avoiding the liberal and conservative policies that currently risk steering us toward social chaos.
Phil Angelides, Chair of the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, from the United States Democrats, was a specially invited keynote speaker on this highly pertinent theme. Angelides gave a thought-provoking speech on the roots of the financial crisis and power structures in the current global financial sector. Global unemployment levels, he said, clearly demonstrate the ramifications of the crisis are far from over. Angelides warned that conservatives wishing to disassociate their market practices from blame could rewrite history, implying the crash could have happened at any time, or have been a result of over spending on welfare. The crash, he explained was due to ruthless risk-taking at the expense of innocent people. We must now ensure greater market regulation and accountability, he said, and further we must address both the global economy and climate change, investing in energy efficiency for a green economy. A truly democratic economic system with opportunities and financial justice for all can be achieved, he concluded, if we are able to learn from the previous mistakes.
A further contribution on this theme was heard from Ségolène Royal, SI Vice-President (PS, France). Other speeches were given by Trevor Manuel, Minister of Planning of South Africa; Kemal kılıçdaroğlu, SI Vice-President and leader of CHP, Turkey; Alfred Gusenbauer, SI Vice-President, (SPÖ, Austria), Sergei Stanishev, President of the PES; Beatriz Paredes, SI Vice-President, (PRI, Mexico); Hannes Swoboda, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament; Ouafa Hajji, the new President of SI Women; Carlos Eduardo Vieira da Cunha, SI Vice-President, (PDT, Brazil); Fatallah Oualalou, former Finance and Economy Minster of Morocco (USFP, Morocco); Manuel Laguarda, (PS, Uruguay); Purificación Causapié, (PSOE, Spain); Ousmane Tanor Dieng, SI Vice-President (PS, Senegal); Christoph Zöpel, (SPD, Germany); Liu Jieyi, Vice-Minister, (CPC, China); Svetlina Yolcheva, (PBSD, Bulgaria); Manuel Rosales, leader of UNT, Venezuela; and Rafael Michelini, (NE, Uruguay).
Following discussions on this first theme, a resolution outlining the SI’s priorities was unanimously adopted. The statement stressed that a lack of action would slow global economic growth, widening inequalities between countries, and threatening the progress and implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals. The SI supports a progressive and integrated approach to the crisis, with financial, economic, social, and environmental concerns given equal importance. Further, those accountable for the crisis must take responsibility for the rectification of its consequences. A more progressive fiscal strategy would stabilise the economy and protect the future and this can be achieved through financing tools such as the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax. It was again recognised that austerity cannot be the remedy for the crisis but instead a new paradigm is needed to secure growth and shield the economy against speculative attacks. Transparent, effective regulation must be ensured in the banking sector and a new multipolar Global Financial Architecture should support these goals, reduce injustice and guarantee inter-generational fairness.
SI members at the Congress in South Africa took part in an electoral process introduced for the first time in the history of the Socialist International.
Following the decisions taken by the Council in the January 2012 meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, the vote would be formal, competitive and open to all full members of the Socialist International that had complied with the statutory requirements. The registered candidates would further be elected by a secret ballot.
The election of the SI President took place first. President George Papandreou, the sole candidate, was unanimously re-elected by a show of hands and he graciously accepted the vote for his continued presidency.
Votes for the Secretary General and the Vice-Presidents followed. Candidates for the post of Secretary General were incumbent SI Secretary General Luis Ayala and SI Vice-President Mona Sahlin from the SAP, Sweden. Both candidates were first given the floor for a presentation to the Congress, to detail their ambitions and goals for the future of the organisation.
Member parties cast their votes for the positions of SI Secretary General and those for the Vice-Presidents in a ballot box. This was overseen by an Electoral Commission that comprised representation from all continents: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, former Prime Minister of Mali, Martín Torrijos, former President of Panama, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, from PPP, Pakistan, Achim Post, International Secretary of SPD, Germany, and Tero Shemeikka, International Secretary from SDP Finland, who headed the commission. After votes were counted, the head of the Electoral Commission, Tero Shemeikka0, from the Finnish Social Democratic Party, announced the results. Luis Ayala was re-elected with the majority of the votes, which he warmly accepted. Ayala gave his thanks to Mona Sahlin for her commitment to the SI.
Thirty-three Vice-Presidents were elected from a ballot paper including candidates from all regions through a system that secured a fair geographical representation and also ensured gender balance as stipulated in the Statutes. The Congress mandated the next Council to elect three Vice-Presidents for the remaining three posts open in the Presidium. (Members of the Presidium elected by the XXIV Congress)
The struggle for rights and freedoms: strengthening representative democracy and gaining new democracies in the world
The second theme of the Congress, strengthening global democracy, opened with a special address by the President of the Republic of South Africa, and of the ANC, H.E. Jacob Zuma. The President gave a warm welcome, thanking all the members present and expressing his honour that South Africa was hosting the event and pride that it took place in the ANC’s centennial year. He expressed particular thanks for the solidarity that had been extended by SI parties to the oppressed South African masses during the struggle against colonial oppression and apartheid. Confirming the importance of the Congress, he explained that an effective response to all the challenges discussed during the event, in line with the main theme of the Congress, would pave the way for our common objective: a new internationalism and a new culture of solidarity.
Jacob Zuma examined the adverse effects of globalisation in order to illustrate this. While globalisation, he recognised, has produced profoundly positive effects, it has also caused extremely negative consequences. Three quarters of the global population have become victims of the globalisation process, and now suffer deepening poverty and inequality. Under the current political and economic scenarios the gap between rich and poor has widened, and nations are still vulnerable to military conflict. To tackle this, he stressed that lasting solutions and a democratic multilateralism were needed, rather than the increasing unilateralism that can be seen today. The Socialist International, he said, has been vital in pursuing these goals, fostering unity and achieving great strides in all regions of the world, including on the African continent.
On the theme of Democracy, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party of Mauritius, addressed the Congress giving a motivating speech on the democratic processes that he had fought for in his country. Further valuable contributions were heard from Marian Lupu, Leader of PDM, Moldova; Sukhbaataryn Batbold, former Prime Minister of Mongolia, (MPP, Mongolia); Stefan Löfven, Chair of SAP, Sweden; Yasmine Durate, (ANC, South Africa); Mian Raza Rabbani, (PPP, Pakistan); Juan Moscoso del Prado, (PSOE, Spain); Mohamed Ghaleb Ahmed Alsaqladi, (YSP, Yemen); Ibrahima N'Diaye, (ADEMA-PASJ, Mali); Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, Chair of OSDP, Kazakhstan; Zita Gurmai, President of PES Women; Marcelo Stubrin, (UCR, Argentina); Kofi Awooner, (NDC, Ghana); Omar Barboza, (UNT, Venezuela); Kalla Ankourao, (PNDS, Niger); Gaoussou Touré, (RPG, Guinea); Denis MacShane, (The Labour Party, Great Britain); Bachir Sayed, (Polisario Front, Western Sahara); Wenceslao Mansogo, (CPDS, Equatorial Guinea); Beatriz Talegón, Secretary General of IUSY; Nouzha Chekrouni, SI Vice-President, (USFP, Morocco); Ahmed Ould Daddah, SI Vice-President and leader of RFD, Mauritania; Khalid Azizi, (KDP, Iran); Martin Ziguélé, (MLPC, Central African Republic); Umut Oran, (CHP, Turkey); Chantal Kambiwa, SI Vice-President, (SDF, Cameroon); Gia Jorjoliani (SDD, Georgia); and Pia Locatelli, (PSI, Italy).
On the second main theme of the Congress, a resolution was unanimously adopted that underlined the commitment to further strengthen democracy across the globe. The resolution highlighted that currently more than 1.5 billion people – almost a quarter of the world’s population – continue to suffer daily under state-sanctioned repression, reiterating SI’s commitment to challenge undemocratic regimes. Support was pledged for the Arab Spring nations of Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Bahrain. In Africa, support was expressed for the democratic efforts in Niger, Guinea, Senegal and Zambia, while deep concern was stated over Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. In Mali, the SI expressed its full support for its member parties in restoring democracy and their efforts to secure the integrity and unity of the nation. In Mauritania, the SI denounced again the denial of citizens' right to free and democratic elections, calling for a full reinstatement of those rights. In Europe, international pressure was again called on to secure the release of all political prisoners in Belarus, where the social democratic leader Mikalai Statkevich, former presidential candidate, remains in prison. Further concern was voiced over democratic restrictions in Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and Russia. Solidarity was reiterated with the new full SI member party, A Just Russia Party. Deep concern was conveyed over the ‘parliamentary coup’ in Paraguay with a call to support those in the country seeking democracy. An SI mission was announced to visit Venezuela in order to observe the presidential elections to be held in October 2012, where SI members and other like-minded forces would be participating in a coalition with a single candidate.
For a common road to peace, sustainability and cooperation: the need to secure multilateralism
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, newly elected Chairperson of the African Union Commission, gave a keynote speech on the third main theme on the Congress Agenda. Speaking on the importance of multilateralism, she described how humanity could find solutions to common problems through cooperation. Paying tribute to the work of the United Nations, Dlamini-Zuma observed that it represents ‘the greatest collective achievement of humankind’. She stressed that the reform of the UN and the Bretton Wood’s Institutions must be at the top of the agenda and, that by defending and strengthening the United Nations we can advance an inclusive multilateralism. There has never been a better time to move for change, she explained, and we must now unite around these issues, as we have done around the debt crisis and the isolation of apartheid. The multilateral approach she called for would confront injustice and promote peace, as development is not sustainable without justice. She emphasised the difference the Socialist International could make in promoting and securing multilateralism and concluded by acknowledging the sense of urgency the SI Congress must convey, to translate our words into action and move our values to centre stage.
The Congress heard further contributions on the importance of multilateralism and a sustainable world from Satyaurat Chaturvedi, (India National Congress); Hermes Binner, (PS, Argentina); Sergey Mironov, leader of A Just Russia Party, Russia; Nabeel Shath, (Fatah, Palestine); Avshalom Vilan, (Meretz, Israel); Mustafa Bargouthi, (PNI, Palestine); and Hikmet Mohammed Kareem, (PUK, Iraq).
On this theme, a resolution was adopted underlining the necessity of multilateral efforts to construct a sustainable, prosperous, just and peaceful world society. In this text, a number of regional issues are included and among them deep concern was expressed over the situation in Syria, where the Assad regime refuses to accept change. A call was made to end hostilities and begin a Syrian-led process of transition to democracy. Support was given for a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The SI further decided to re-establish a Special Working Group on the Kurdish Question with the aim to advance and protect, in accordance with international law, the rights, the security and the improvement of the living conditions of the Kurdish people.
The situation in Western Sahara also featured among the issues addressed in the resolution, reflecting the involvement of the International in the search for a just, peaceful and lasting solution to this conflict. Other themes included in the resolution were the situation in Cyprus and the Falklands/Malvinas conflict.
For a new internationalism and a new culture of solidarity among people and between nations
The final theme of the Congress underpinned the discussions held during the event. Ibrahima Boubacar Keita, former Prime Minister of Mali and Leader of the RPM, Mali; João Ribeiro, (PS Portugal); Lise Christoffersen, (DNA, Norway); Viviana Piñeiro, (IUSY); Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, SI Vice-President and Secretary General of SWAPO, Namibia; Gültan Kisanak, Co-Chair of the BDP, Turkey; Nicos Hadjistephanou, (EDEK, Cyprus); and Esther Mordoch, (Meretz, Israel) gave speeches on the importance of a renewed solidarity between people and nations.
Contributions emphasised that a renewed internationalism should ensure progressive change, spread democracy, enhance cooperative security, share collective burdens and strengthen democratic international institutions. Calling for greater world governance, it was not only stressed that organisations such as the IMF, World Bank and the World Trade Organisation need strengthening, but that there is also a need for social and cultural reforms. The need to advance with a new internationalism will allow for more responsible political systems, democracy and freedom for the people as emphasised by former Prime Minister Keita, or the need for more foreign policy and less foreign affairs as underscored by Ribeiro.
The Congress reaffirmed the need to prioritise solidarity in facing challenges such as the consequences of the financial crisis, deepening global inequalities and the abuse of human rights and freedoms in regions across the world. 'A New Internationalism and a New Culture of Solidarity', in conclusion, together constitute the central pillar not only to find solutions to today’s problems but also to promote new opportunities and development for every country. In short, this new internationalism and new culture of solidarity forms both the road and the requirement to achieve a just global society of rights and freedoms for all.
The Congress confirmed membership decisions taken by the Councils in the inter-Congress period and adopted changes to the Statutes to reflect the decisions on SI reforms agreed by the previous Council held in Costa Rica in January 2012. The Congress also agreed to empower the next Council to take decisions on membership with full effect in the current inter-Congress period.
As the Congress concluded, President Jacob Zuma addressed the gathering with a farewell speech, emphasising the increasing role of Africa in the world. He expressed his belief that the SI will provide even greater leadership in determining what type of democratic world we can live in and that its voice will be heard now more than ever.
George Papandreou, in closing the Congress, thanked all the members for their constructive and vital contributions to the debates. We will continue, he said, to be active in the global arena, and to create greater dialogue and understanding. The Socialist International is now stronger than ever before and this has been demonstrated in the internal democracy shown in this Congress.