Secretary General's Report to the Council

MONTENEGRO COUNCIL - Working for a new global framework for the world economy, peace and security, democracy and the environment, 29-30 June 2009

 

Introduction

I am very pleased to present this report to the first Council of our International held in this region and in the new Republic of Montenegro. I would like to register first of all my deep appreciation on behalf of us all to both our members in this country, the Democratic Party of Socialists and the Social Democratic Party for welcoming us and for the warm and fraternal hospitality with which they are hosting this meeting. I particularly want to thank Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and President of Parliament Ranko Krivokapic who, from the first moment have assumed this undertaking with great enthusiasm and commitment.

As the main theme of the Council indicates, the world economy, the search for peace and security, our continuous work for democracy and to face the challenges to our environment, today at the centre of our discussions here in Budva, have been at the heart of our work during this last period since the previous Council.

 

The World Economy

In the days leading up to the G20 meeting in London, we organised a meeting of the SI Commission for Global Financial Issues on the 31st of March at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Chair of the Commission, led a discussion on the global social democratic response to the crisis. Considering the effects on the emerging and developing economies and the urgency of the situation affecting many people around the world, the Commission agreed on a message to the leaders of the G-20 calling for decisive collective action by the international community.

Criticising the failings of unregulated economic policies and decisions, resulting in greater inequality around the globe and further damage to the environment, the Commission called for a new set of rules for the world economy. Demanding immediate action from global leaders to restructure, re-regulate, and reform the global financial system. The Commission called for new standards to govern financial activities, the establishment of mandatory new standards for transparency and timeliness, as well as the chartering of a new World Finance Organisation to advance regulation and globalise enforcement. The Commission also called for the closure of tax havens.

The G20 framework crisis was a step forward in the search for coordinated global responses by the international community, but the Commission agreed that the aim in future should be to engage other nations as well in a broader context, in the pursuit of common solutions to this crisis.

A week later, we held a meeting of the SI Committee for Economic Policy, Labour and National Resources at the Houses of Parliament in London. Reacting to the G20, the Committee welcomed the agreements reached on expanding regulation, the support for the Financial Stability Board within the IMF and World Bank as the first step in creating the new World Finance Organisation we have called for. Discussing the efforts of the G20 to promote good governance and offer incentives for regulation, the Committee added that it was important to ensure more effective oversight of the activities of Credit Rating Agencies.

On developing nations, the Committee praised a pledge by G20 members to meet the Millennium Development Goals and a commitment to sub-Saharan Africa as necessary for the protection of developing nations, underlining that it was unacceptable for governments to use the financial crisis as a pretext to delay financial aid. Suggesting that the G20 format still excludes the poorest states, the committee called on both the UN and the G20 to support regional integration and to accept the participation of regional representatives in the global decision making, as well as for the creation of a new United Nations Security Council on Economic, Social and Environmental issues – a Council for Sustainable Development.

The SI Committee on Economic Policy, Labour and National Resources met again in Stockholm on 11-12 June 2009 to examine the Nordic experience in their discussions on building a Global Welfare Statehood as agreed at the last SI Congress and to agree the Committee’s contribution to this Council meeting.

With representatives from the Nordic labour movement, SAMAK, the Norwegian Labour Department, and the Labour Movement Economic Council of Sweden, members of the Committee engaged in an in-depth and wide-ranging debate on the various dimensions of the Nordic experience comparing it to the different national realities and cultural traditions in their respective countries. The concept of a Global Welfare Statehood, combining market competition with social integration by decent work and public social security systems, can substantially draw from the experience of the Nordic countries and a specific paper on this issue has been agreed by the Committee, along with a text which would form the basis of the Committee’s proposal for a draft resolution to be presented to the Council by the Chair of the Committee, Christoph Zopel.

That the market is not a self-regulating organism and that governments cannot abdicate from the responsibility to set rules and intervene to restore economic stability is very much at the centre of our debates and has been once again reiterated strongly throughout this period in all the SI has been doing on the world economy.

On 22 May our newly formed Committee, the SI Committee for Social Cohesion, Poverty and HIV/AIDS met for the first time to advance our arguments in the face of the financial crisis for a world economy which should be fairer, more inclusive, and with opportunities for all. Meeting at the Austrian Parliament, chaired by Barbara Prammer, Chair of the Committee and Speaker of the Austrian Parliament, from the Austrian Social Democratic Party, the Committee addressed an agenda which looked closer at the human impact of this crisis on people and on poverty.

In its discussions, the Committee emphasised the need today for policies giving priority to the creation of new jobs, fostering education and training, protecting workers in the informal economy, and to a global new deal including adequate regulation, agreements for fair trade and decent work.

The serious situation facing Haiti was presented as a case study in the need to solve the inter-related problems of poverty, discrimination and disease, especially HIV/AIDS. The plight of women was singled out as they were extremely vulnerable in all these areas.

Participants concurred that tackling poverty, social cohesion and HIV/AIDS is at the very core of social democratic values which places human beings at the centre of the development agenda. They also agreed that in overcoming these challenges, a high level of representative and participatory democracy is required in both developed and developing countries as well as consistent international solidarity and cooperation.

In its future meetings, the Committee will focus on specific situations and countries, drawing on their experiences and proposals in dealing with the issues on its agenda.

Dr Kwabena Adjei, Chair of the National Democratic Congress of Ghana, was elected Vice-Chair of the Committee.

 

Peace and security

The Socialist International’s work for a peaceful and secure world community was strengthened with the first meeting of our SI Committee on Disarmament, which took place in Berlin on 21 April hosted by the Social Democratic Party of Germany under the heading, ‘Common Security through Disarmament’. Among those participating from the host party were German Foreign Minister and SPD candidate for Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier and SPD Chairman Franz Müntefering.

Convening in Berlin, a city that triumphed over the divisions caused by the Cold War, added a particular significance to the proceedings. In these new times in which we are left with the nuclear weapons from a previous era of confrontation and authoritarianism, the key issues at the centre of our agenda were disarmament and arms control.

Both Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Franz Müntefering captured in their interventions the need to come up with new common initiatives in this field as the system of nuclear deterrence was obsolete and also a risk to world peace if not changed. Optimism generated by the US President’s emphasis on new arms control, in conjunction with positive signals from the Russian President were welcomed and it was stressed that in the pursuit of the target of ‘Global Zero’, the burden had to be shared and others had to play their part too. In this, the Socialist International stood ready to contribute to this process. It was clear to all that the security of one nation could not be achieved through the insecurity of another.

Contributions to the discussions, which included participants from a broad range of countries directly concerned on this issue, covered most aspects of the current disarmament agenda, and the Committee agreed a 10-point plan which called for a strengthening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a zero solution to tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, a strengthening of multilateral controls through better verification and the multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle, a new arms control agreement on missile defence, an effective control of carrier technologies, a strengthening of the chemical weapons ban through disarmament and driving forward the Biological Weapons Convention, conventional arms control and overcoming the crisis in the CFE treaty, protecting the civil population by banning especially pernicious weapons and establishing controls of small arms and light weapons, getting regional initiatives for disarmament and security underway, and overcoming the blockade at the Geneva Disarmament Conference.

In his summing up, the Committee Chair Rolf Mützenich elected at the last Council, noted consensus on the key questions and the will by all those participating to undertake the substantial common programme of action, which is now before you at this Council meeting in Budva.

Willy Brandt’s vision and example, and enduring contribution to peace and security was once again being taken up with vigour by the SI, in rising to meet new challenges.

 

Democracy

A meeting of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean was organised in La Antigua Guatemala, on 23-24 March to address issues of major concern to the region: Latin America and the Caribbean in the world financial crisis; how to reaffirm the role of state and government institutions from a democratic and progressive perspective; and a social democratic strategy for integration in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Hosted by the National Union for Hope, UNE, leaders and representatives of some 35 political parties and organisations from across the region and beyond were welcomed by the President of the Republic of Guatemala, H.E. Alvaro Colom Caballeros, who inaugurated the meeting.

Participants developed a common approach to the economic crisis, in which Latin America and the Caribbean is greatly affected. The role of social democracy in protecting the poorest and most underprivileged and in promoting public policies centred on people as fundamental to comprehensive development, including universal access to basic services such as health, education, housing, decent work and facilitating credit to benefit the most needy, was emphasised.

The Committee forged a consensus on a number of issues. A Resolution on Guatemala expresses the Committee’s support for the government of the UNE, highlighting the initiatives introduced in favour of the poor. In a Resolution on Haiti the Committee called on US President Barack Obama to postpone a decision of the Bush Administration to deport 30,000 Haitian citizens. A Resolution on Venezuela expressed concern at the political situation in that country and agreed to send a mission to gather information and promote dialogue. The Committee also supported the request by the UN Special Committee on Decolonization for the UN General Assembly to examine the case of Puerto Rico and concerning Cuba, called for an end to the blockade by the United States.

A further resolution, directed at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago on 18-19 April 2009, called on all the Heads of State and Government at the Summit to advance a new dialogue and relationship with the United States to confront the pressing global crises and other issues of regional concern.

The Committee elected a new Chair, H.E. Martín Torrijos, President of the Republic of Panama and General Secretary of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD.

Following its establishment at the last SI Council meeting in Mexico last November we held a meeting of the SI Committee for the CIS, the Caucasus and the Black Sea at the Palace des Nations in Geneva on 16-17 April to discuss the advancement of democracy in the region, the contribution of the International to the peaceful resolution of existing regional conflicts, and strategies for strengthening social democracy. Chaired by Committee Co-Chairs Alexandra Dobolyi of the MSzP, Hungary and Mario Nalpatian of the ARF, Armenia, and with the participation of numerous delegates from the region the Committee addressed on the first point of the agenda the situation in Belarus, expressing its grave concern at the total lack of democratic progress in that country and the persistent violations of human, civil and political rights. It expressed full solidarity with the Belarussian democratic forces, underlining the importance of continuing to work together with these to secure a progressive and democratic option for the future. The visit of an SI delegation to Minsk in the forthcoming months was agreed.

Concerning the past elections in Moldova, the Committee deplored the evident deficits in the electoral process which led to a serious lack of credibility in the results and called on the Moldovan authorities to respect the people’s democratic rights and commitments. With respect to the second point of the agenda, the Committee declared its readiness to work for an easing of tensions in the Caucus. In particular, to act in favour of a negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict and toward dialogue and negotiation between Armenia and Azerbaijan; to promote an open and unconditional rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia; and to send an SI Mission to Georgia to establish dialogue with like-minded political forces to consolidate the centre-left in that country and promote initiatives which would, within the framework of international law and a respect for the human, political and civil rights of the people, overcome recent tensions.

It was further agreed by the Committee, to extend its fullest solidarity with and support to social democratic forces in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, and others in that vast region of the CIS, recognising that their contribution to the political life of their countries has been vital to their being more democratic, more free and with greater opportunities for all its citizens.

In advance of the Council in Montenegro, we held a meeting of the SI Africa Committee in Dakar on 19-20 June, bringing 25 parties from across the African continent together with representatives of other member organisations under the main theme of: “From a time of crisis to a new era of inclusive partnership”. The meeting was hosted by the Socialist Party of Senegal and chaired by Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Secretary General of the party and President of the Committee. Discussion centred on the African response to the global financial crisis, policies to promote the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), to restore the democratic project in Africa to prevent the danger of despotism, and to include Africa as a protagonist in a new global democratic governance.

Addressing the current financial crisis, the meeting recognised that the Socialist International had already foreseen the future consequences of a globalisation too focused on an ultra-liberal model as early on as the SI Congress in 19956 Now that the world has suffered an unprecedented financial crisis, it was noted that those who defend liberalism are today actively promoting the measures that the SI were proposing 20 years ago. The Committee referred to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), and the view was raised that though the Doha negotiations have reached an impasse due to the issue of subsidies from industrialised countries, Doha will lead the African economies to bind themselves stronger to the economies of the industrialised countries. Discussing how lessons can be learned from the financial crisis, the meeting acknowledged that this had given rise to anguish for many, but when we confront this new sequence of problems it would be wrong to consider the crisis as an unstoppable fatality. Participants affirmed that a shared sense of cooperation and social inclusion were essential in politics at the service of human progress.

The Committee in Dakar also focussed on the need to re-launch the democratic project in Africa, where alongside decisive advances like in Ghana, where our member party won elections early this year, new fundamental challenges to democracy were posed in countries such as Niger, Mauritania, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Members of the Committee defined the notion of Governance as associated with democracy and concerning the legitimacy of political institutions and the functioning of national and international organisations.

The wide-ranging discussion of the Committee culminated in the adoption of the Declaration of Dakar, which calls for measures of financial stabilisation, regulatory measures for the financial system in the region as a whole and in the sub-regions, and measures for the promotion of a diversified partnership between emergent countries and deprived nations. It was stressed that the EPA must focus on the reworking of multilateralism based on an awareness of the concerns of African and European parties, and the Committee called for strengthening and success of sub-regional and regional integration and an equal partnership which is the key to success.

Free and fair elections are one of the key elements at the heart of the democratic system. Socialist International has been active in observing elections worldwide within the last few months. I observed the local and regional elections in Venezuela last November and the referendum held there in February. An SI delegation observed the democratic success of the elections and of our party the National Democratic Congress and of President Atta Mills in Ghana in January, and an SI delegation monitored the elections in El Salvador in March which resulted in a victory for our friends of the FMLN.

 

Environment

Since our last Council, the Socialist International has continued with its intense programme of activities and dialogue with key actors of the international community through the work and meetings of the SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society, while it has been advancing its final report which will be presented at the United Nations later this year in September.

Leaders and ministers from governments led by Socialist International member parties in Southern Africa including the then- President of the Republic of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe and the now President of the Republic and a Vice-President of Socialist International Jacob Zuma, were united in their message at the meeting of the SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society held in Cape Town, South Africa, on Monday 2 March. While being the least responsible for climate change and global warming, the African continent was suffering the most from its effects, they declared, and the way forward in the global climate change negotiations required increased solidarity from North to South in order to assist it to adapt to face the new challenges.

Addressing the fact that Africa was the most affected by environmental changes and also the least able to afford the costs of adaptation required to alter behaviour and halt the damage, Kgalema Motlanthe emphasised that only once adaptation was accorded a higher priority in the international community’s deliberations could any agreement on the strengthening of the International Climate Architecture be considered balanced. Jacob Zuma stated that all nations of the world have to play their role to prepare for a sustainable future, and this includes tackling the conflicts that have been so detrimental to the continent, as well as developing the infrastructure necessary for Africa to cope.

The Commission also recognised that the international agenda was quite different from when it had began its activities. Co-Chair of the Commission Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile and a Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Climate Change commented that putting aside climate change issues due to the global economic pressures would be a recipe for disaster and a choice none of us should make. Co-Chair of the Commission Goran Persson, former Prime Minister of Sweden stated that although the United Nations Copenhagen Conference in December this year was scheduled to come at a time of deep economic recession, there was an opportunity to present new political initiatives and take responsibility to effect change in their own time and for future generations. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, a member of the SWS Commission and then Foreign Minister of South Africa described the difficulties facing the southern tip of the continent, and detailed the national environmental policies being carried out by her government. Other African Ministers from Angola, Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique and Namibia participating in the discussions shared their countries’ experiences of tackling global warming and climate change and the continent’s perspective on the current global negotiations. The need for low cost technology transfer, political willingness and education, the provision of assistance in harnessing natural energy resources and the importance of strengthening regional, continental and international coordination were all raised by representatives of parties from across the continent.

In Cape Town I presented the first draft of the Commission’s Report. The activities of the Commission had been, and would continue to be, in line with those of the international community, and in this sense the report has interwoven the outcome of the meetings of the Commission with those of the United Nations. This document will reflect the SI’s ideals and values regarding climate change and seek to provide a platform where scientific facts, principles and politics find a common place.

On 14-15 May, members of the Commission held discussions in Beijing with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and leaders of the government of the People’s Republic of China as part of their agreed programme of work.

SI representatives met with the General Secretary of the CPC and President of the People’s Republic of China H. E. Hu Jintao on 15 May, and had discussions in a working session with senior members of the CPC and government officials responsible in the area of the environment. On 14 May SI representatives also held detailed talks with Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.

In the meetings between the SI leaders and the Chinese officials, the cooperation between the Socialist International and the Communist Party of China was addressed. The crucial issues of climate change and sustainability were shared concerns and the need to bring positive change on these issues, as well as on other related matters such as the financial crisis or disarmament, was underlined. Progress made by the Chinese government in the field of environmental protection and ecological conservation, including a 10% contribution to global wind power made by China in 2008, reductions in emissions of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and levels of air pollution in Beijing, was pointed out, as was the Chinese government’s commitment to sustainability as part of their national policy. Participants in the talks agreed that climate change was an opportunity for economic growth more than simply a problem to be eradicated, a driving force for modernisation with the potential to benefit the developing world as much as the developed.

As part of the working session on sustainability, the need for a new framework and for a new model of development to manage common wealth in a way that was sustainable for the planet was raised by SI President George Papandreou, and Co-Chairs Lagos and Persson noted the responsibility of all countries on mitigation in order to lower global emissions per capita and a number of other important issues, including the prospects for carbon capture technology and reforestation programmes. Commission Member and Minister of State Mohamed El Yazghi of USFP Morocco drew parallels between the situation in Africa and Asia, arguing for a return to a ‘culture of harmony’ over a model where only economic growth is key. In addition, I presented eleven ‘Crossroads’ questions central to the Commission’s draft report currently in elaboration, and participants in the discussions presented their views on the issues raised.

Asian perspectives on climate change were also introduced by representatives of the region during the talks. U. Barsbold of MPRP Mongolia discussed the effect of global warming on mountainous countries and the effect the phenomenon had on economic and social development. Azeem Daultana from the PPP Pakistan addressed the issue of what higher temperatures would mean for low-level nations in the region. Takuya Kawai from SDP Japan highlighted the need to protect water resources and recycling systems, recalling his party’s position on nuclear issues as well as the role of his party in calling for an Environment ministry in that country.

 

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During this period I have had the opportunity to keep in touch with a great number of our member parties, developing further the bonds that hold us together as a political family. In this endeavour, I have met with numerous leaders and party representatives, participated in discussions on behalf of our International, and represented and shared the views of our organisation at a number of conferences and party congresses. From meetings in Egypt with NDP leaders to discussions with the Secretary Generals of our Nordic parties in Copenhagen in December, from talks with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai at the end of 2008 about the critical formation of a government of national unity in Zimbabwe to participating in events of the PES in the run-up to the European elections in June and attending the Conference of the German SPD in December to addressing the recent Congress of the Just Russia Party in Moscow. I also have had the opportunity to work closely with our President George Papandreou, at a time when the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK, is today the clear alternative for government and the real force for progress in his country. It was particularly gratifying for me that we had the possibility to participate together at the Progressive Governance Summit held in my country, Chile, in March hosted by H.E. President Michelle Bachelet and attended by a number of heads of government from Europe, including Prime Minister of Great Britain Gordon Brown, President of the Government of Spain Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg as well as leaders from Latin America such as Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Argentina Cristina Fernández and President Tabaré Vásquez of Uruguay, together with Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.

I also had the opportunity of moving forward the presence of our International in other international organisations, and I am very pleased to report that following our efforts to gain observer status within the Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Governing Council of that body took the decision to grant us that status at their last meeting in Addis Ababba in April.

We have also spoken clearly on many instances, from our call to a halt to the senseless violence in Gaza in January to our condemnation of the brutal assassination of President João Bernardo Vieira by members of the army in Guinea-Bissau in March, from our stance of solidarity with the Leader of the Burmese National League for Democracy and SI Special Honorary President Aung Sang Suu Kyi suffering at the hands of the Burmese regime to our extension of unwavering support to the people of Spain in light of the murder of police officer Eduardo Puelles in an act of terror in June.

Among the sad duties I performed since the last Council on behalf of our organisation, I attended the funeral of one of Latin America’s most respected leaders and champions of democratic freedoms, our comrade and friend from Argentina, former President Raúl Alfonsín who died in March. Today we pay tribute to his life and work.

Throughout this period, wherever I have had the opportunity to be present or to meet and speak with people, I have been witness to the great interest that exists in our International, about the work that we do, and the convictions that we hold. In times such as those in which we live today, when people are concerned with the consequences of the many different crises that we face, in a world every day more interdependent, and when global politics really matters, our movement, our values and our International who stand for them remain the hope for many. 

 

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