The XXVI Congress of the Socialist International was held on 25-27 November in Madrid, Spain, hosted by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSOE.
The Congress opened on the afternoon of 25 November and was attended by more than 450 participants from close to 100 delegations from all continents. Participants included heads of state and government, party leaders and specially invited guests.
SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, warmly welcomed all participants. He touched on key moments and issues in the life and history of the organisation, underlining the SI’s importance in today’s world and for the challenges ahead.
Benedicta Lasi, NDC, Ghana, spoke next, honoured to be standing for election as the next Secretary General, also as the first woman and coming from Africa, affirming her commitment to the values and principles of the Socialist International.
Pedro Sánchez, President of the Spanish Government and Secretary General of the host party, PSOE, gave a welcoming address. He expressed his honour in standing as candidate for the new President of the Socialist International, acknowledging that the SI was more essential today than ever. He recalled that across the world social protection systems were being dismantled and democracy weakened, but that social democracy was alive and it was time to change the world. Gender equality, climate change, a commitment to peace and democracy, fair and inclusive economy and the defence of the rights of workers were goals at the heart of the agenda. Pedro Sánchez also assured delegates that he would give continuity to the legacy of Luis Ayala and George Papandreou that has inspired our global family.
George Papandreou, SI President, spoke next indicating that we had to continue incorporating more voices and democratic parties into the work of the SI, and he welcomed the candidacies of Pedro Sánchez as the new President of the organisation and of Benedicta Lasi as Secretary General.
After the opening speeches, elections for the positions of SI President and SI Secretary General for the next inter-Congress period were held. Pedro Sánchez was duly elected for the post of SI President, and Benedicta Lasi, NDC, Ghana, was elected for the post of SI Secretary General.
Warm thanks and applause were given for both the outgoing SI President George Papandreou and Secretary General Luis Ayala.
In order to honour those SI member parties that had paid their membership fees in their entirety and on time, the leadership of the Socialist International presented them Solidarity Awards.
Main themes of the Congress
After the opening proceedings, the Congress turned to hear addresses from delegates and guests on the main themes of the Congress: Securing peace and strengthening democracy; Working for equality between women and men; Halting and reversing climate change; Achieving a fair and inclusive economy; and Labour rights and digitalisation.
The Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama; Milo Djukanovic, President of Montenegro, DPS; and Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo, Vetëvendosje, spoke first, as well as special guests Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, former President of the Spanish Government, PSOE. Further contributions and addresses were also heard from the Chair of the SI Africa Committee Bokary Treta, RPM, Mali, the Chair of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean Miguel Vargas, PRD, Domincan Republic, and other SI members and Vice-Presidents on all the themes of the Congress (list of speakers).
Delegates highlighted the importance of the Socialist International in today's ever-evolving world for strengthening democracy in the face of growing populism, authoritarianism, and conflict. In Africa, it was stressed that conflict had long been suffered throughout the continent and it continued to be exacerbated by the challenges the region already faced such as food insecurity, the effects of climate change and the spread of weapons. It was emphasised that people must be at the heart of our project, to defend the values and principles for which we stand together, and greater solidarity was sought by all parties from the global social democratic community. In the context of global warming and the climate crisis, the Congress also heard from delegates from Pakistan, Nepal and Costa Rica. In Europe, deep concern was expressed for the ongoing conflict forced upon Ukraine, and the continuing deaths, human displacement, and the destruction of infrastructure and livelihoods.The Congress reiterated its previous commitment in relation to an initiative between its Turkish and Armenian member parties, as expressed in a declaration in Cartagena in 2017, and reaffirmed its readiness to work on its implementation in close collaboration with the relevant parties. Discussions included the Middle East where greater support was needed in the ongoing efforts for peace. The SI called for an international conference for the Middle East peace process based on UN resolutions, international law and the Arab Peace initiative. The Congress pledged their support for all those peacefully protesting for democracy and freedoms in Iran, remembering Mahsa (Jina) Amini, and all those who have lost their lives or been arrested in the demonstrations, and expressed support for the rights of all the Kurdish people. Solidarity with the Yemeni people was expressed in their efforts to bring a just and lasting peace to the country, as well as for the imprisoned leaders of our member parties in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. Regarding Latin America and the Caribbean, satisfaction was expressed for the renewed peace process in Colombia, calls were made for solidarity with Haiti during this difficult time it was going through since the assassination of President Moise in 2021, a commitment was renewed to continue accompanying all efforts leading to the democratic and peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan crisis, and there was a reiteration of support for all the rights of the people of Puerto Rico.
The common objective throughout the Congress by all member parties was the will to continue forging the path of social democracy, building mechanisms that protect everyone, strengthening our democratic institutions, ensuring gender equality and the rights of women, and the protection of human rights and freedoms across the world.
The Congress received a great many proposals and requests for declarations, statements and resolutions on the themes of the Congress and the national situations affecting SI member parties, which were discussed and adopted on the final day of the meeting.
Many delegates expressed their recognition and gratitude for the work of Secretary General Luis Ayala, and President Pedro Sánchez announced that Ayala will continue to actively contribute as High Commissioner of the Socialist International and Advisor to the presidency.
The Congress agreed on an Honorary Presidency for George Papandreou, as well as for Miguel Vargas and Eero Heinaluoma.
As chair of the Electoral Commission, Eero Heinäluoma addressed the Congress on the election of the new SI Presidium, which was carried out in line with the geographical and gender criteria previously agreed. An objection was registered by the BSP of Bulgaria concerning the exclusion of their candidate, with a request for it to be taken up by the Ethics committee.
In closing, the Congress heard speeches from the new president of the Socialist International Women, Janet Camilo, and the new SI President and Secretary General, both of whom conveyed their hopes for the future work of the Socialist International and their commitment to the organisation and all its members.