Consensus of Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES COUNCIL - Shaping Change, 25-26 June 1999

The pace of change in our world continues to accelerate: it is the task of the member parties of the Socialist International to make sure the benefits resulting from that process are fairly distributed amongst the peoples of the world.

The technical advances which have brought new technologies and advanced systems of communications offer many opportunities for social progress and wealth creation. These the Socialist International welcomes wholeheartedly.

They offer the chance of ending the poverty which has constantly haunted the human race. At the same time our International recognises that this process of quickening change offers new challenges, not least the task of moulding to new realities the principles which have always guided our strategies.

It is for that reason that our Council meeting in Buenos Aires has concentrated on the idea of shaping change in ways that give it direction and offer the promise of a better future for all the world's citizens. Furthermore we need to build an organisation that is capable of helping to deliver the International's objectives. To that end the Council calls on the Secretary General to bring forward plans to the Congress in November, based on the proposals of the Global Progress Commission to re-vamp the organisation and structure of the Socialist International so that it is able to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

The changes in the patterns of the world economy have produced results which have been mixed at best, with greater prosperity for some, deeper poverty and dislocation for others and increasing uncertainty about where all the changes are leading.

Unregulated global markets are often a key factor in the widening gap between rich and poor, continuing conflict and the increasing degradation and depletion of the world's resources.

In such circumstances it is the task of the International to ensure that we forge policies for the next century which will enable us to form the future of our new global society in a spirit of solidarity that has always been the hallmark of democratic socialism.

While much has been done to eliminate poverty this century in many parts of the world it is still a tragic fact that a quarter of the world's population lives in sub-human conditions. This fact demonstrates the inadequacy of current global financial orthodoxies. It is a matter of urgency to harness the opportunities offered by the new global phenomena to the strategy of eliminating once and for all unemployment, hunger and indigence.

The challenge is nothing less than to link material advance to social progress in a new consensus which will ensure that political considerations will take priority over purely economic ones. While the International welcomes a market economy it rejects a market society.

For the forces of change to be shaped to the benefit of all the world's citizens the processes and institutions of democracy must be strengthened at the local, national and international levels. Democratic governance has to be promoted where it does not yet exist and human rights must be enforced where they are not yet respected.

If it is to be fought with the greatest effectiveness, the fight against world poverty demands a joint effort from political parties, professional associations, trade unions, private enterprise and governments and non-governmental organisations on the basis of common interests and a shared resolve.

In the economic field in many countries of the world, particularly in Latin America, the introduction of market reforms such as liberalising foreign trade and stock markets and privatising state enterprises, has meant the postponement of vital reforms of a non-economic nature, such as the modernisation of education and health services.

In this context it comes as no surprise that democratic socialists in different parts of the world do not adopt a rigidly uniform attitude to structural reform. While in Europe, for instance, the task of promoting technological advance in order to maintain competitiveness is a principal consideration: in Latin America, with its record of great social inequalities, the question of better social integration is a topic of prime importance.

There is a need for a new international consensus to transcend the so-called Washington Consensus which stressed merely market reforms.

Europe has a Treaty which promotes monetary convergence and stability coupled with a strong social solidarity pact. In this same sense, we need a worldwide social consensus that leads towards concrete agreements for social change in addition to economic stability.

Whatever the understandable variations in emphasis among democratic socialists in different parts of the world, priority in the new consensus must be given to investment in education, the present systems of health care must be reformed; priority must be given to investment in infrastructure; the machinery of the state must be modernised; priority has to be given to the security of the citizen; greatly increased protection must be extended to the world's environment and the rights of consumers must be better protected.

In all these fields particular attention has to be given to those who are at particular risk, children and women, and therefore women must have an equal share in decision-making related to the world economy, alleviation of poverty, environmental degradation, conflict negotiation and the promotion of democratic governance.

At the same time the world's financial markets cannot be allowed to continue to put the stability of nations at risk for want of prudent regulation. The task of ensuring financial stability must be accompanied by a reshaping of the international financial institutions to make them respond to the new challenges and the new realities of the world economy. Moreover the weight of foreign debt bearing on relatively less developed countries must be alleviated in order to produce the conditions needed for social progress in all regions of the world.

Meanwhile recent experiences in the Balkans demonstrate that the ugly forces of ethnic tensions and aggressive nationalism are a continuing danger to world peace. In this context it is incumbent on the International to contribute to the strengthening of world peace by emphasising its commitment to the leading role of the United Nations in the regulation of the world's conflicts. In a related field, the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal and the bringing to justice of those responsible for crimes against humanity are projects worthy of the International's strong support.

In an era of unprecedented interdependence our vision of a democratic world society based on liberty, justice and equality provides the framework in which people can shape the rapidly changing world in which we live for the lasting benefit of all.