The Council of the Socialist International met on 7-8 July 2022 at the Palais des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva, bringing together member parties and guests from around the world for exchanges on an agenda comprising of the challenges and major issues at the heart of the ongoing work of the organisation. The agenda was made up of three main themes, “Working for peace and international security based on common goals, shared principles and rules”, “Strengthening democracy and ensuring fundamental rights” and “Addressing global crises – the pandemic, climate change, the economy, migration and refugees”.
Opening remarks were given by the Secretary General of the SI, Luis Ayala, who expressed his satisfaction that the global membership of the SI could once more meet in person after some challenging years. He underlined the continued engagement of the SI on major issues such as the promotion and defence of democracy, and working for a world in peace. Despite the pandemic, the SI had remained active and engaged, mobilising democratic forces in different regions of the world and continuing to be a voice for peace. He reflected that it was a moment in history with a great number of global crises such as the climate crisis, pandemic recovery, and food and refugee crises, that more than ever required the multilateral approach in order to address global challenges in an interdependent world.
Welcoming delegates to the Palais des Nations, Tatyana Valoyava, Director-General of UNOG, expressed her hope that the setting of the meeting would inspire participants to work towards the goal of a more multilateral world shared by the UN. She considered that it was particularly important given the ongoing peace and security crisis, naming the devastating immediate and long term crisis for Ukraine and the world as part of a dangerous retreat from multilateralism.
Pedro Sánchez, SI Vice-President and President of the Government of Spain, expressed his pride at being a member of the social democratic family and his determination and that of the Spanish government to fight for socialist policies, proving that progressive ideas and actions were not only needed but more efficient. He called for a firm social democratic response to the Russian war, which not only was having devastating impact on Ukraine and its people but risked food security for the entire world. For him social democracy was the only way to preserve the dignity and well-being of people all over the world and it was incumbent on those present to exchange ideas and good practices in order to ensure the continued success of the movement.
SI President George Papandreou cautioned against a back-to-normal approach after the pandemic, noting that the old normal had produced huge concentrations of power in a number of different spheres. Social democrats should use this moment to be agents of change, with the need for a green, democratic and socially just transition greater than ever. The SI had rejected an irrational war in violation of international law and sovereignty and Ukraine and would continue to work for security based on solidarity and equality. The SI was going to move forward and change the world, addressing new challenges in partnership with women’s, green, youth and LGBT movements and other sharing common goals.
During exchanges on the first main theme with its focus on peace and international security, the ongoing tragedy of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and all its implications and ramifications was at the forefront of concerns expressed by many delegates. The Council heard first-hand testimony from its member party, the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, about how a country and a society built up over decades had been destroyed in weeks. Civilians, including members of the party, had been killed en masse, with many suffering brutal torture. Other SI members echoed the calls from Ukraine for urgent international action to save the lives of civilians and prisoners of war. There was particular repugnance at the use of rape by Russian forces as a weapon of war. As well as the direct humanitarian impact upon Ukraine, the Council heard of the great concern at the possibility that a protracted conflict could lead to catastrophic food shortages that could bring about malnourishment, famine and poverty,
Contributions were also made on other active conflicts in the world, where the Socialist International continues to be engaged and those present were clear that the international community and those working in favour of peace must not lose focus on unresolved hostilities that are affecting millions of people around the world. These include, but are not limited to, the situations in the Middle East, Yemen, Syria, Cameroon, the Sahel region and DR Congo.
The challenges that democracy and democratic parties continue to face in far too many countries around the world were underlined by the diverse contributions on strengthening democracy and ensuring fundamental rights from representatives of all regions of the world. The impact on a human level of the authoritarian practices employed by non-democratic regimes was made tangible through the interventions from representatives of SI member parties in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan highlighting the plight of Mikalai Statkevich and Almazbek Atambayev, who are imprisoned in difficult conditions in their respective countries and have been denied fundamental rights that should exist for all in a democracy.
Concern was expressed at the democratic regression in several countries in Africa, which has seen multiple coups and coup attempts in recent years. This gave an opportunity for representatives of the SI member parties in that continent to share their experiences in relation to democracy in the continent as a whole and within its regions, with the aim of hitting common paths forward by which a united movement of democratic actors can positively impact the struggle for this fundamental right across the continent.
On the third main theme of the Council, wide-ranging contributions were heard on the multiple crises the world is currently facing in relation to the pandemic, climate change, the economy, migration and refugees. As the first Council meeting to be held since the outbreak of the pandemic, it was an opportunity to share experiences of the difficult months and years living with the virus and its consequences, and to reaffirm the need for a social-democratic approach to rebuilding societies and safeguarding populations.
There was a clear sense among those who addressed the Council that these global crises are interlinked, and require common approaches and solutions. Social democracy has historically made great contributions when it comes to offering responses to climate change and economic injustice, challenges that can only be met through internationalism and multilateralism. Those present at the Council were determined to continue within the framework of the SI to develop and advance policies that will address the obstacles faced in every country with solidarity and fairness.
Faced with these enormous global challenges, there was a strong sense among those present at the Council of the need to convene for an SI Congress, the holding of which had already been delayed as a result of the global impact of the coronavirus. The Congress would be an occasion to define the course of the organisation over coming years, and the Council unanimously agreed to accept an offer from the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, PSOE, to host the XXVI SI Congress in Spain in the last week of November.
Following a report on the work of the Ethics Committee, the Council approved the proposal to admit the Democratic Left party (ID) of Ecuador as a full member.
The Council adopted a number of declarations reflecting the themes of the meeting and some of the discussions over the course of the two days, as well as drawing attention to some specific situations affecting member parties.
Report of the SI Secretary General
Cartagena*, 2-4 March 2017
Geneva, 01-02 July 2016
Luanda, Angola, 27-28 November 2015
New York, 06-07 July 2015
Geneva, 12-13 December 2014
Mexico City, 30 June - 1 July 2014
Istanbul, 11-12 November 2013
Cascais, Portugal, 4-5 February 2013
Cape Town*, 30 August - 1 September 2012
San José, Costa Rica, 23-24 January 2012
Athens, 1-2 July 2011
Paris, 15-16 November 2010
New York, 21-22 June 2010
Santo Domingo, 23-24 November 2009
Montenegro, 29-30 June 2009
Vallarta, 17-18 November 2008
Athens*, 20 June - 2 July 2008
São Paulo*, 26 October 2003
Paris* 7 November 1999
New York*, 8 September 1996
Berlin*, 15-17 September 1992
Stockholm*, 20-22 June 1989
*On the eve of the Congress