The way forward for Africa - The spirit of Maputo

The Council of the Socialist International meeting in Maputo on 10-11 November 2000, under the main theme ‘The Way Forward for Africa: a worldwide commitment for development, peace and democracy’, declares, with regard to the future of the continent, its refusal to succumb to Afro-pessimism, even as it is aware that much hard work remains ahead if its hopes and those of Africa are to be realised.

The Socialist International refuses to succumb to Afro-pessimism because:

• the African people remain determined to improve their lives and those of their children and future generations, despite the enormous odds they face. The inventiveness, tenacity and cooperation demonstrated by people in everyday life - for example, by the women who are the driving force of informal economies in country after country, or by the way the people of Mozambique have persevered in building their country in the wake of disastrous floods - show that even in the worst of conditions the citizens of this continent are among the most dynamic and resourceful anywhere;

• the Socialist International itself becomes stronger and more inspired when the challenges we face are the most difficult. We did not waver during the most difficult times in the battle against apartheid in South Africa, we were resolute throughout the struggle for democracy in Eastern Europe and today, despite unfavourable developments in the Middle East, we have stepped up our efforts towards achieving peace, and

• we see with great clarity and fully recognise the enormous challenges Africa faces, a necessary prerequisite for responding effectively, and because, as a global movement rooted in every region of the world and spanning North and South, we are well positioned to help advance Africa's future. Moreover, Africa is asking not for commiseration, but solidarity, the very pillar of social democracy.

As a continent, Africa has benefited the least from globalisation and has suffered the most from the injustice of this process and, in an increasingly unequal world, particularly in terms of mounting poverty, the spread of devastating diseases such as AIDS, the loss of human resources through the so-called brain drain, and the negative impact of the weight of the external debt. All of these elements then contribute to the perpetuation of political violence and ethnic conflict, which, in turn, stand further in the way of economic and social progress.

To reverse this negative trend requires a sustained worldwide commitment, preceded by sustained efforts at the local, national and regional levels, for democracy, peace and development in Africa. These objectives must also be pursued simultaneously because the preservation of each one depends on the existence and sustainability of the other two. The commitment to achieving them, not only in Africa but everywhere, is what binds us together in our International and is why more people each day are sharing our values.

Our commitment to democracy in Africa

The Socialist International support free and fair elections and is heartened by the spirit in which the people of the region go to the polls when they have the opportunity, but in far too many countries that right continues to be denied. The SI is also encouraged by the determination with which people defend their right to vote, even in the face of violent repression. In this sense, it notes with great satisfaction the recent victory in the presidential elections in Côte d' Ivoire of Comrade Laurent Gbagbo, President of the Popular Front, FPI.

The Socialist International, in view of the continuation of electoral fraud in certain countries and authoritarian practices in others, calls upon all its member parties, particularly those in government, as well as all other democratic forces in the world, to act with even greater urgency and firmness when democratic rights are denied. And it supports all efforts for orderly democratic change in Zimbabwe in the face of state-inspired political violence and intimidation.

The Socialist International also condemns the parody of a trial to which Alpha Condé, of the Assembly of the Peoples of Guinea (RPG), was subjected and demands his freedom. It condemns as well the decision of the government of Mauritania to dissolve the Union of Democratic Forces (UFD) and demands that this party’s rights be reinstated.

The existing threats to democracy require careful monitoring not only of the vote, but also of electoral campaigns, vote counting procedures and other essential elements of the electoral process, including the existence of fully independent and neutral electoral authorities to conduct it. Whenever possible, the Socialist International will organise more election monitoring missions in Africa, because initiatives such as those have already proven to be effective in supporting the democratic process, the full and equal participation of all citizens including women and youth, the equal access to the media and the practice of democracy within political parties.

It calls on the Socialist International to offer technical support and assistance to member parties in Africa in order to work with them in developing their party structures in the context of consolidating their democratic institutions.

The commitment of the Socialist International to democracy includes:

• support for a rule of law which is fair and just and to which governments and citizens are held equally accountable. Democracy is not only about freely choosing who will rule, but also ensuring good governance, transparency, respect for human rights and the security of all citizens once those elected have taken office;

•increased vigilance and heightened efforts by our member parties, through the media and all other available channels, to ensure that corruption, the violations of human rights and other unlawful acts are comprehensively denounced and subjected to international sanction, both by governments and competent regional and international bodies, and

• a firm belief in the universality of democracy, and the rejection of the idea that there could be some differing forms of democracy, specific to a particular region of the world, which are not based on or do not fully conform to universal democratic principles, for example, the acceptance of the alternation of power through free, just and fair electoral competition.

Our commitment to peace in Africa

The Socialist InternationaI holds a firm belief that support and acceptance of dialogue is fundamental to the resolution of any form of violent conflict. Moreover, it recognises that it is often extremely difficult to bring the two sides closer together in order to begin a dialogue, being also difficult to maintain the confidence necessary to sustain it.

It therefore calls for greater dialogue and heightened efforts on the part of international bodies - at both regional and global level, and particularly by the United Nations - in those conflicts that have proved so difficult to resolve. The Socialist InternationaI will step up its efforts and coordinate the actions of its members and of other democratic forces to ensure that the momentum towards peace in the various conflictive areas is maintained.

With regard to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

• the Socialist International reiterates its strong and urgent call for the comprehensive implementation of the Lusaka Agreements, which provide for the holding of talks among the Congolese, the bringing into force of a ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign forces, the deployment of a UN military force, a new constitution and the holding of elections, and

• the Socialist International believes that it is necessary to give more attention to the political and social forces who work towards peace and democracy in this country.

With regard to Sierra Leone:

• it welcomes the agreement signed recently in Abuja, to bring a halt to the conflict in Sierra Leone and to support the democratically elected government.

With regard to Angola:

• the Socialist International calls for greater efforts by the UN Sanctions Committee to ensure the implementation of the United Nations Resolutions on Angola and the pursuing and sanctioning of any violations.

With regard to Mauritius:

• the Socialist International supports the efforts of the Mauritian government for the immediate return of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius.

With regard to the Comoros:

• the Socialist International supports all efforts for the resolution of the crisis in this country.

With regard to the United Nations:

• The Socialist International believes in the reform of the organisation in ways that will make it more democratic, give it more authority to intervene and also make it more effective through the creation of a permanent, multi-national peace-keeping force.

• The Socialist International also further affirms the importance of deeper regional and sub-regional integration in the approach to conflict resolution. Earlier and more effective responses to problems at the regional and sub-regional levels can help to keep conflicts from spreading. It therefore advocates greater and more sustained efforts among its members to strengthen regional institutions on the continent, as well as their interaction with regional bodies elsewhere, so that initial intervention in areas of conflict can be carried out in a more concerted way.

Our commitment to economic development in Africa

The Socialist International supports the integration of Africa into the global economy in ways which are fair, equitable and effective, and which will enhance and increase the opportunities for all African people to benefit.

This implies a diversification of the economies of the African continent, which cannot continue only as mere providers of raw materials, risking their continuing marginalisation in the global economy.

The Socialist International therefore calls for a greater recognition of and a more substantial response to the situation of Africa. Two of our four recently initiated campaigns are concretely related to this effort. First, we are working to make the fight against poverty in Africa an urgent priority.

This is being done in a number of ways:

  • • by our member parties individually or in the framework of cooperation;
  • • using to the full the media and other channels to influence international bodies;
  • • coordinating the campaign with non-governmental organisations in Africa and around the world, and
  • • highlighting energetic governmental and popular efforts to alleviate poverty.

Everything should be done to avoid the new form of exclusion arising from the risks of digital divide, mainly by promoting considerable investment in people.

The Socialist International initiated a second campaign directly related to Africa which calls for the cancelling of the debt of the poorest countries, providing them with unrestricted market access. In Africa, the debt represents nearly 60 percent of gross national product and clearly cannot be repaid, while debt servicing is year by year causing greater suffering.

The Socialist International affirms that ending the debt burden in Africa would free funds to finance basic social services, particularly education and health. These would be used as direct investments in human resources, providing the basis of empowerment so that Africans can fulfil their potential and contribute fully to the development of the continent. Consequently, the Socialist International calls for an end to protectionist policies in developed countries that also have hindered Africa's integration into the world economy. Conditionality in structural reform programmes should take into consideration the economic and social conditions of each country and not merely financial criteria.

The Socialist International recognises, with regard to health, that even debt relief will not be enough to face effectively the spread of deadly diseases, particularly AIDS which is now taking an ever greater toll of women and children. The drugs to lessen the impact of AIDS exist but are available only at a cost beyond the reach of most Africans, creating a situation described as pharmaceutical apartheid, a situation which needs to be resolved through constructive dialogue to include discussion on intellectual property rights.

Finally, the Socialist International calls for a better structured world with a global economy that enhances the prospects for Africans and all the world's citizens, in which development can be shaped by people for people, rather than simply by markets on behalf of capital. There is a need for a global social consensus that ensures that priority status is given to specific groups at risk — women, children and older people - as well as regions that also are threatened such as Africa. This is an enormous and long-term challenge, but the Socialist International is a family and whenever anyone in our family is in pain, we come together in solidarity to ease their suffering.

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