Report of the Secretary General

ATHENS COUNCIL - Peace, Democracy, Solidarity: among peoples, across cultures, 30-31 January 2006

 

INTRODUCTION

I am pleased to make my report as we gather for our Council meeting here in Athens and thank all those in the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK, for their welcome, their commitment and contribution to the holding of this meeting, and I would like to thank in particular its President, George A. Papandreou, for his unwavering support for all that this International does and represents. PASOK has proved to be a steadfast member of our global social democratic movement, participating with solidarity and enthusiasm in our numerous activities around the world. This is the second Council held in Athens, as we met here in 1993, when we enjoyed the warm hospitality and friendship of the well remembered and emblematic leader, Andreas Papandreou.

In the years since, and into this new millennium, the world has experienced an intensification of forces and conditions that divide people. Today more than ever an embrace of common values is needed, the foundation necessary for building the bridges of cooperation to face the challenges of today. Bringing people together within our social democratic movement will be at the centre of our deliberations on the main theme of the Council, "Peace, Democracy, Solidarity, among peoples, across cultures."

The ideas we develop with regard to the main theme will help to inform our panel discussions on the challenges and changing situations in two critical regions of the world where we remain deeply involved, the first panel under the heading, "For a peaceful, stable and integrated Balkans: The Social Democratic Approach," and the second on "Working for Peace and Democracy in the Middle East." In the third and final panel we will continue our work on "Overcoming poverty and inequality: Global priorities for our movement today."

 

ELECTING A NEW PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL

At this Council we will be electing a new President of the Socialist International. The process began last year with the departure of António Guterres to take up the position of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. On 13 June, two days before he assumed his responsibilities with the United Nations, a special meeting of the elected members of the SI Presidium was convened in Madrid, hosted by SI Vice-President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain and Leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSOE.

The Presidium appointed a special Commission, chaired by Zapatero, which included leaders of SI member parties from each region of the world, to receive and consider candidatures for President. The Commission reported back with the name of George Papandreou as candidate for President of the Socialist International, which will be voted upon by the member parties of the organisation here in Athens.

This is a very special moment in the life of our International because it is the President who brings to our movement the vision and the horizon for our global family of political parties, it is the President who at the service and on behalf of our collective identity inspires the movement to carry forward its work to deepen and strengthen social democracy, and it is the President who with their leadership helps us to advance a better future for people everywhere.

 

OUR ACTIVITIES IN DIFFERENT REGIONS OF THE WORLD

The Middle East

Since our last Council in Tel Aviv and Ramallah we have maintained our focus on contributing to the efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the region, particularly with regard to ongoing developments in Palestine and Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and the recent, unsettling trends in Iran.

In August the International expressed our hope that Israel’s difficult yet crucial disengagement from Gaza and some West Bank settlements could become a solid step towards putting the peace process back on track. We joined Palestinians and Israelis in believing that it was a decisive measure, one that demonstrated that further and other necessary ones could be made towards peace through a process of negotiation, compromise and concessions from both sides.

 

Observing the Palestinian legislative elections

Continuing our efforts to move things in a positive direction in the region, we organised an observer delegation to the Palestinian legislative elections held last week on 25 January, as we did for the election of the President of the Palestinian Authority a year ago. Members of the delegation visited polling stations in the Northern West Bank, in the Southern West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and in all these places witnessed an orderly and peaceful voting process in which election officials and party representatives at the stations and the voters themselves carried out their civic duties in a responsible manner.

The SI delegation declared the elections to be free and fair and extended congratulations to President Mahmoud Abbas, to the Palestinian Authority, the Central Elections Commission and the Palestinian people for the commendable way in which the elections were carried out, particularly under the difficult circumstances of conflict in which they had to be held. While noting that the necessary standards for a free and fair vote were met, the SI observers regretted the exceptional conditions in which the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem had to exercise their right to vote.

The delegation reiterated our hopes that the government that results from these elections will continue on the path of negotiations and the search for peace. It underlined that a two-State solution based on mutual recognition, the renunciation of violence as a political option, the continuation of the peace process begun in Oslo in 1993 and the implementation of the Roadmap remain the only way forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a goal the International will continue to work for tirelessly. The SI observers also reaffirmed the confidence of the International in the Palestinian political institutions and expressed out support for President Abbas, who articulates and represents the democratic will and aspirations for peace of the Palestinian people.

For the International, the strengthening of social democratic and progressive values and policies in this region remains crucial for the success of the efforts to achieve peace, and how to advance our work in this regard will be part of our discussions here in Athens.

Along with myself the members of the observer delegation were Jan Dhaene from the Socialist Party, SPA, of Belgium; Dimitar Ougrinov, Nevena Aleksieva and Ventzislav Kanev from the Bulgarian Socialist Party; Costas Stefanidis and Theodoros Tsikas from the Panhellenic Socialist Movement of Greece; Luciano Vecchi, Gianfranco Brusasco, Enzo Amendola, Michele Mazzarano and Giacomo Filibeck from the Democrats of the Left of Italy; Max Wieselmann from the Labour Party of the Netherlands; Odd Reme from the Norwegian Labour Party; Paloma Villa from the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party; Ann Linde and Mariam Sherifay from the Swedish Social Democratic Party; Yonnec Polet from the Party of European Socialists; and Latifa Perry from the SI Secretariat.

 

Lebanon

During the end of May and early June we followed the different rounds of the elections held in Lebanon, which marked a new democratic beginning for the country. This followed on from the special one-day meeting of our Mediterranean Committee in Beiteddine, Lebanon last April, as well as the statement made at our last Council, in support of the Lebanese people who have so courageously mobilised to fight for democracy, sovereignty, independence and the constitutional integrity of their country in the face of continuing violence and intimidation.

During the voting, SI observers were present in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and cities in the north, including Tripoli and Zgharta. SI representatives included Paulina Lampsa and Costas Stefanidis of PASOK, Luca Cefisi of SDI Italy, and myself, and we were all able to observe an electoral process free of negative incidents and, in our view, characterised by enthusiastic civic and voter participation in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect.

On the occasion of the final round of the elections, SI representatives held talks with the leadership of the SI member party in Lebanon, the Progressive Socialist Party, PSP, including its leader Walid Jumblatt and its Secretary General Charif Fayad; with the leader of the Future Movement, Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri; and with the outgoing Lebanese prime minister, Najib Mikati. At a press conference held in Beirut, we underlined the brave, peaceful and civic spirit of the Lebanese people during both the demonstrations that succeeded in bringing about democratic change in the country and the month-long electoral process. We also welcomed the outcome of the voting and the clear majority won by the Alliance, which includes the Future Movement, the SI member PSP, and others.

 

Iraq

The International continues to closely follow developments in Iraq and to support the citizens of that country in the face of daunting challenges and threats. Our hearts were therefore pained when we heard of the many people who died during the religious procession in Baghdad on the last day in August, a tragedy that only further underlined the suffering the Iraqi people must endure practically every day. The International has expressed its sympathies to President Jalal Talabani and the Iraqi people on several occasions, standing together with all those who have to live in the climate of violence and fear. We have also reaffirmed our solidarity with Iraq in its struggle to defeat terror and our complete backing for all the efforts of the Iraqi people to build democracy and strengthen its institutions, and to ensure the sovereignty of their country and a peaceful and democratic future.

 

Our continuing support for the Kurdish people

In line with the International’s support for the efforts of the Kurdish people to improve conditions where they live, the SI Working Group on the Kurdish Question met in London on 9 November. First hand reports on their respective national situations were made by delegates from the SI member parties: the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, of Iraq; the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan; and the Democratic People’s Party, DEHAP, from Turkey. Reports were also given by representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, of Iraq and the Komala Party of Iran, who were invited as guests.

Participants had the opportunity to discuss in detail the approval of Iraq's draft constitution in the 15 October referendum; the implications for the Kurds in Turkey of that country’s membership negotiations with the European Union; and the grave situation of the Kurds in Iran following the latest repressive actions by the Iranian government.

The Working Group recognised the key roles played by the Kurdish parties in Iraq in the development and strengthening of democracy and expressed concern about the ongoing terrorist activities designed to destabilise the country, and welcomed the advances made by the Kurdish political forces in Turkey toward uniting to form a single party, the Democratic Society Party. It also deplored the latest acts of aggression and grave human rights violations by the Iranian government against the Kurdish population, while welcoming the increased cooperation among Iranian Kurdish groups and the formation earlier in 2005 of the Congress of Nationalities for a Democratic Iran.

 

Iran

We were deeply disturbed by the ugly outburst of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in October, when he said that Israel should be "wiped off the map." The International condemned his statement in the strongest possible terms, characterising it as offensive, dangerous and completely unacceptable, noting that it threatened to undermine the hopes of people throughout the region for a more peaceful and democratic future. Having always promoted peace based on principles of common and collective security, international law and the United Nations Charter, the International then called upon all in the international community to unite in adamantly rejecting the statement and to take the steps necessary to ensure that Iran acts responsibly as a nation of the world, in both its actions and its words. Subsequent developments in Iran, particularly with regard to mounting concerns about its nuclear programme, have made that task all the more urgent, and we will continue to pay close attention to ongoing diplomatic efforts to get Iran to comply with international norms regarding the use of nuclear energy.
 

The Mediterranean

The International continues to view the Mediterranean as a region of great opportunity and we fully believe that a large majority of the peoples of the region are seeking to overcome the challenges they face to achieve a future of peace, freedom, development, prosperity, respect and solidarity. It was in that spirit of optimism that representatives from Socialist International member parties from the Mediterranean and beyond gathered in Valencia, Spain, on 24-25 October for a meeting of the SI Mediterranean Committee, hosted by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, PSOE.

The critical place the Mediterranean holds in the world was underlined during the opening of the meeting, which included addresses by Joan Ignasi Pla, Secretary General of the Socialist Party in Valencia; Leire Pajín, State Secretary for International Cooperation; Bernardino León, State Secretary for International Affairs; Trinidad Jiménez of PSOE and Chair of the SI Mediterranean Committee; and myself. As the discussions moved forward delegates reiterated the need to give renewed energy to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership ten years on from the Barcelona Conference, and reaffirmed the commitment of the International to advancing peace, security, trade, cooperation and cultural agreements throughout the region.

Following debates on the range of issues affecting the Mediterranean, participants agreed a Declaration emphasising the key challenges for social democracy in the region, including the strengthening and deepening of democracy as a necessary foundation for peacefully resolving conflicts, and the need to redouble efforts to ensure respect for human rights and freedoms, promote gender equality and abolish the death penalty. Underlined as well was the expansion and revitalisation of democratic politics as a way to rein in and counter fundamentalism, ultra-nationalism and the use of terrorist actions.

In the Valencia Declaration the SI Mediterranean Committee also affirmed its full support for the Alliance of Civilisations, an initiative of Prime Minister Zapatero, which has great resonance in the region and connects directly to the principles and objectives of the Barcelona Process.
 

Europe

The International has continued with its extensive work to strengthen democracy, peacefully resolve conflicts and advance social democracy in the key regions of Europe. As part of these efforts, the SI Committee for the CIS and the Caucasus met in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on 16-17 December. The well attended gathering was hosted by the Socialist Party of Ukraine, SPU, which forms part of the country’s government and holds several ministerial positions in the ruling coalition, and the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, SDPU, and included leaders and representatives from all of the SI member parties within the CIS and the Caucasus region, as well as delegates from other SI member parties belonging to the Committee from other parts of Europe.

The meeting, which began with contributions from Oleksandr Moroz, leader of the SPU, Yury Buzdugan, leader of the SDPU, and myself, was chaired by Alexandra Dobolyi from the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP, which holds the Chair of the Committee. Participants assessed the current situation of social democracy in the region, including the positive developments in Ukraine, where SI members were protagonists in the peaceful ‘Orange’ Revolution the year before, and in Armenia where social democrats also are in government.

Discussions also centred on the deficit of democracy in the region, particularly in Azerbaijan and Belarus, and the delegates agreed declarations on both countries. With regard to Azerbaijan, the Committee strongly condemned the use of violence by police against demonstrators peacefully protesting the extensive fraud that occurred during the elections there in November, called upon the international community to take a firm stand in favour of democratisation in Azerbaijan and reaffirmed its full support for its member party, the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, and all the political and civic forces in the country continuing to struggle for democracy and respect for human rights.

The Declaration on Belarus deplored the climate of fear and intimidation imposed by the government of Alexander Lukashenko with the approach of presidential elections in 2006, and called upon SI member parties, the European Union, Russia and international organisations that promote democracy to take a firm stand for free and fair elections and democratic reform in Belarus. It also condemned the arrest and imprisonment by Belarusian authorities of demonstrators in Minsk, including Mikalai Statkevich, Chair of the SI member Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada), and members of other opposition parties, and called upon the government to immediately release all those detained.

The Committee also agreed a programme of work for 2006, which is to include, among other initiatives, identifying partners and organisations in countries where the International as yet has no members; broadening contacts by recognising and involving in the work of the International other like-minded forces in the countries where we are already present; and carrying out SI missions in the region in support of democratisation, free and fair elections and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

 

SI Consultations on Kosovo

Support for democracy and conflict resolution, along with the particular challenge presented by multi-ethnic societies, was high on the agenda as well during the Socialist International round of consultations on the future of Kosovo that took place in Sofia on 30 November. The gathering provided an opportunity for the parties directly concerned to address this challenging and delicate issue. Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, President of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, acted as the host of our discussions. Among participants were the Leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, who will also join us for our discussions here in Athens, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Democratic Party, Serbia, Vuc Jeremic; the Prime Minister of the FYR Macedonia and SDUM President, Vlado Buchkovski; leaders and representatives of our parties in Albania, Romania and the President of PASOK, George Papandreou, and myself.

During the discussions participants underlined the importance of the parties concerned being involved themselves in finding solutions to problems related to Kosovo, and focused on points of agreement, among them, the essential need for a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo in which the human rights of all citizens are respected, and a Kosovo integrated in the region and within Europe, with economic opportunities for citizens and the means to combat organised crime.

It was further agreed that instability must be avoided in Serbia and Montenegro, and warned of the multiplication of secessions and the creation of "greater" nations, for they can lead to human rights violations, ethnic cleansing, extreme politics and politicians and further instability. Participants emphasised that real security required policies of inclusion that benefited all, and that the development of a common European perspective and the role of the European Union in achieving this were essential.

The gathering emphasised, too, that the International would keep working to support the political forces in Kosovo and Serbia and Montenegro which share our social democratic values, and would step up efforts to promote a climate of trust and create further opportunities for dialogue with and between the parties concerned. Our work on the future of Kosovo and its neighbours will continue at our Council in Athens during a special panel to address peace, stability and integration in the Balkans.
 

Latin America and the Caribbean

Haiti has always been a great concern of ours and we have been following closely the developments in the difficult situation there. As it has in the past, the International will be organising a delegation to observe the upcoming elections in Haiti, which as of now have been rescheduled for 7 February. We have been in close contact with our member party in Haiti, the Union of Haitian Social Democrats, which will be participating in the elections. The party was formed last year by the coming together of the two former SI member parties KONAKOM and PANPRA, along with another like minded organisation, at a Congress in Port-au-Prince in which I had the opportunity to participate on behalf of the International. We have also been in close contact with the United Nations and the Organisation of American States and others playing key roles in Haiti, following the meeting we organised close to a year ago of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean in Port-au-Prince as an expression of our solidarity with the Haitian people in their efforts to build and strengthen democratic institutions.

We will be organising the next meeting of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean in Montevideo in March, hosted by our two member parties in Uruguay, the New Space Party, PNE, and the Socialist Party of Uruguay, PSU. In this year of numerous critical elections in Latin America and the Caribbean which will be shaping a new scenario, member parties will be participating in these and we look forward to the opportunities for our movement to advance our agenda of deepening democracy, overcoming inequality and furthering social democratic policies in the region.

The elections in Chile were held just recently and we were enormously pleased with the victory in the presidential vote of Michelle Bachelet, the candidate of the Concertation of Parties for Democracy. The International has long been active in Chile and the Concertation includes our own member parties, the Socialist Party of Chile, PS, the Party for Democracy, PPD, and the Radical Social Democratic Party, PRSD, all of which also made substantial gains in parliamentary elections in December, and now together with our allies for the first time we hold a majority in both Houses of Parliament. The Concertation now begins its fourth consecutive administration, testimony to the social and economic advances it has made since it was first elected to office after leading, fully supported by the International, Chile’s return to democracy. The International was doubly pleased with the results because Bachelet, of the PS, becomes the first woman to be elected President of Chile.

 

OUR WORK ON GLOBAL ISSUES

World Trade

The International has continued its work to ensure that the expansion of global trade benefits all the people of the world, a goal that requires a concerted effort by all involved. On 12 December, the eve of the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, we organised a meeting of representatives of our International from around the world in Hong Kong to review the priorities of the social democratic movement in relation to the issues to be addressed by the WTO.

The Director-General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, who was specially invited to the meeting, engaged in an open exchange with the participants that centred on opening trade within a multilateral, rules-based system to achieve the objectives of the Doha Development Agenda.

During discussions we reiterated the necessity to advance toward a free and fair global trading system that can meet the urgent need for economic and social development worldwide which should be at the heart of the work of the WTO. It was also emphasised that trade as a development tool should be oriented towards fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, with the priority being to reduce and eliminate poverty, and in this sense we welcomed the newly found voice and assertiveness of developing countries in the negotiations and recognised that special attention must be given to the particularly needs of the least developed countries.

We further underlined the important role of South-South trade in stimulating economic growth and development and reiterated that social and environmental standards and fundamental labour rights should be firmly established as part of the global trading system and promoted throughout the world. The gathering reaffirmed the International’s commitment to achieve these goals, and we remain determined to help toward the success of the Doha Round of negotiations as hopefully they move toward a final stage this year.
 

Global governance and the UN

Efforts to enhance the work of the United Nations, an essential aspect of realising a more effective and fair form of global governance, remain an important part of our agenda. On the eve of the United Nations 2005 World Summit, held in New York on 14-16 September, a number of Heads of State and Government participating in the event gathered under the auspices of the International for informal discussions that centred on the Summit negotiations, the UN reform process and the Millennium Development Goals.

Participants at this meeting, the first ever of this kind, came from the different regions of the world, and some took the opportunity to speak about developments in their respective countries. Other issues that were discussed included energy costs, agricultural subsidies, environmental policies and questions of security, as well as the overall state of North-South relations.

Also on the eve of the Summit, we issued a statement that reiterated our belief that the international community must redouble efforts to carry out the reforms necessary to strengthen the work of the United Nations, to advance the initiatives necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to ensure a world that is safer, more democratic and more fair for everyone.

The International underlined that UN member states must actively work together to revitalise this indispensable institution, that there is an opportunity now to establish global governance based on democratic interaction within the community of nations and a new multilateralism to promote peace and stability, fairness, gender equality and inclusion for all people. The keys would be to provide all states the opportunity to participate in the process, and to guarantee the application of democratic principles within the United Nations and other international organisations.

Regarding the Millennium Development Goals, the International called for a global partnership for development, which would include putting in place the institutions and mechanisms most responsive to ordinary citizens, especially the poor who are striving to improve conditions in both urban and rural areas, and fully empowering women, who are most affected by violent conflict, economic crisis and environmental degradation, and who can and should play a central role in the decision-making and development process.

The week before the summit, our International was also represented at the 58th Annual DPI/NGO Conference on "Our Challenge: Voices for Peace, Partnerships and Renewal." The event was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 7-9 September and included more than 2,000 participants representing over 1,200 non-governmental and civil society organisations from 120 countries. The Conference provided a final opportunity for formal consultation with UN member states before the World Summit about civil society's perspective on peace and security, development, human rights and United Nations reform.
 

Socialist International at the World Social Forum

For a number of years the International has actively participated and deepened our contacts with social movements and civil society organisations at the meetings of the World Social Forum, including at the events in Mumbai and Porto Alegre. In 2006, the 6th World Social Forum was organised as a polycentric undertaking, with meetings planned for Bamako, Mali, during 19-24 January; Caracas, Venezuela, during 24-29 January; and Karachi, Pakistan, in March.

Reaffirming the solidarity of the International with Africa, on the occasion of the gathering in Bamako, we organised two roundtable discussions highlighting crucial challenges facing the people of the continent. Held on 21 January, the roundtables focused on "Advancing the democratic agenda in Africa" and "Overcoming poverty and hunger, achieving sustainable development in Africa today."

The first roundtable discussion, which I had the honour to lead, included as keynote speakers Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, leader of the Assembly for Mali, RPM, and President of the Malian Parliament; Ben Ulenga, leader of the Congress of Democrats, CoD, in Namibia; Tidiane Traoré, Spokesman of the Assembly for Guinea, RPG; Gabriel Nze Angue, member of the National Executive Bureau of the Convergence for Social Democracy, CPDS, in Equatorial Guinea; Abderrahman Lamrani, MP and member of the Executive Bureau of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP, in Morocco; and Guy Labertit of the Socialist Party of France. Participants underlined that good governance, the strengthening of democratic institutions and free and fair elections were necessary for Africa to be able to stand strongly in the world and overcome the divide between North and South.

The second roundtable was introduced by Mandé Sidibé, Vice-President of Adema-Pasj and former Prime Minister of Mali, and keynote speakers included Mahamadou Issoufou, leader of the Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism, PNDS; Maria Sinaceur, member of the Executive Bureau of the USFP in Morocco; and Bakaly Keita, MP for the RPG in Guinea. Emphasis was placed on developing human resources for effective management of the economy and social development as necessary for overcoming poverty and ensuring sustainable development.

Both roundtables stimulated enthusiastic debate and included open exchanges between participants and members of the large audience. The following day SI African delegates participating at the WSF in Bamako gathered for informal talks and to discuss the efforts of the International on the continent. It was proposed to gather again on 18-19 March in Niger for a meeting of the SI Africa Committee, holding a meeting there as an expression of our solidarity with the people of that country. Last July, we called on the international community to do more to help Niger overcome the dramatic scarcity of food it faced following rains and locust infestation, and to stop the catastrophe spreading to other countries in West Africa. We equally emphasised the solidarity of the International with SI member PNDS in Niger and its leader, former Prime Minister Mahamadou Issoufou.
 

Local Authorities

Achieving greater cooperation and stronger networks among social democrats at the local government level remains a high priority for the International, particularly as we move toward the IV Socialist International World Conference of Mayors to be held later this year. To discuss the preparations for the gathering and the importance of advancing social democracy at the municipal level, the SI Committee on Local Authorities met in Budapest on 16-17 January, hosted by the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP.

The meeting was opened by István Hiller, MSzP leader, who welcomed the Mayors, elected local representatives, party delegates and other participants, and emphasised the importance of local government operations in the activities of his party, both socially and politically, and Elio Di Rupo, Chair of the Committee, Mayor of Mons and Leader of the Socialist Party, PS, Belgium, who paid tribute to the Hungarian hosts and the vital role they play in the work of the International, particularly in their commitment to advancing our efforts on local authorities. Hungarian Minister of the Interior Mónika Lamperth in her introductory remarks set out the challenges and key reforms her Ministry had implemented in the area of local government, with particularly emphasis on ensuring quality services for its citizens.

Our discussions considered the themes to be included on the agenda of the forthcoming World Conference. Among them was a focus on the individual at the local level, with emphasis on the task of humanising cities. Developing a more concrete approach to strengthening relations between local authorities and regional and provincial governments was also proposed, so building on the Charter for Cities Governed by Socialists that was adopted at our World Conference of Mayors in Athens in 2001. It was further agreed that working groups at the 2006 World Conference would address: sustainable development, particularly waste management, water services, recycling and alternative energy; making public services more efficient; direct and decentralised cooperation between towns and municipalities; the right to decent living standards and social inclusion, including such issues as employment, education, equality, health and security; urban planning; and deepening participatory democracy at the local level.
 

For nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and the nuclear strike three days later against Nagasaki, the International reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to promoting nuclear non-proliferation and the achieving the overall goal of nuclear disarmament. We emphasised that the continuing development and enhancement of nuclear capabilities by countries in both the developed and the developing world mean that we continue to live with the dreadful prospect that nuclear weapons might again be used. We pointed out that it is crucial that the international community renew its determination and redouble its efforts to ensure that the world today and future generations never witness the kind of horror that befell Hiroshima and Nagasaki six decades ago.
 

A Global Network of Labour, Socialist and Social Democratic Parliamentarians

Efforts to strengthen the parliamentary dimension of our work continued during this period as the International on 17 October organised its usual meeting of parliamentarians from SI member parties on the occasion of the 113th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU, held in Geneva. This followed the previous meetings which we had called of parliamentarians from our member parties in connection with the 110th, 111th and 112th IPU Assemblies held in Mexico City and Geneva in 2004 and in Manila in 2005.

During the gathering in Geneva in October, participants reviewed the issues on the agenda of the IPU Assembly; discussed proposals for advancing toward the implementation of the Global Network of Socialist, Social Democratic and Labour Parliamentarians; and exchanged views on planning for the 114th Assembly in Nairobi.
 

Further links with our members

Among all the activities of our International since the last Council, I had the opportunity to participate in a number of special moments in the life and activities of our member parties and fraternal organisations: In November, at the SPD Party Congress in Germany, and at the Socialist Party Congress in France; in September, at the British Labour Party Conference in Brighton; in July at the PRD Congress in the Dominican Republic; and in July at the SDP Party Congress in Finland; the USFP Congress in Morocco, and the PES Council in Vienna. Prior to the Socialist International round of consultations on the future of Kosovo that took place in Sofia on 30 November, I was able to meet with members of the government in Kosovo and with leaders of political parties there.
 

OUR SOLIDARITY

Social democratic solidarity holds our movement closer together and makes us different from other international political organisations. It is the concrete expression of our vision of a common humanity, our faith that diverse peoples, people with different historical identities, cultures, races, beliefs can find the common ground necessary to cooperate in the face of daunting global challenges. Achieving this is not easy, as our experience tells us. But our commitment is firm and each advance builds on the next, and our work here in Athens is an important step in that process.

 

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