I am pleased to report to this first SI Council meeting to be held in India, hosted by the Janata Dal party, the leading force of India's United Front coalition government. At this important moment, the Socialist International shares in the celebrations marking India's fifty years of independence. I want to thank Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, as well as all those of Janata Dal concerned in the holding of the Council, particularly Sharad Yadav, who was elected President of the party during an election at which I had the honour of being present. We welcomed Janata Dal as a member of the Socialist International last year, and the party is playing a key role by hosting our meeting, whose theme is "Social Democracy and Asia Today: Developing Common Policies for Global Change."
The presence of the Socialist International in India underlines the cooperation between socialists both regionally and worldwide in addressing the challenges of today's globalised world. In many countries of Asia and the Pacific, a region of ever increasing political and economic importance, these challenges have been taken up by SI member parties in government as well as by those in opposition. At the same time, the Socialist International continues to support the development and strengthening of democracy in the region, to promote more just and inclusive societies and to lend solidarity to those still struggling for basic democratic freedoms. The holding of our Council in New Delhi underlines our commitment to these aims and the new profile of our International as a truly global organisation.
Since January, our Secretariat has been acting upon the decisions taken by our International at the last Council in Rome and coordinating and implementing the activities of our regional and thematic Committees.
Following the historic occasion when Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat met for the first time as fellow members of the International in Rome, meetings of the SI Middle East Committee, SIMEC, were held on 14 May in Ramallah, in the Territories under Palestinian Authority, and in Tel Aviv on 15 May. These meetings were chaired for the first time by its new Chair, Bjørn Tore Godal of the Norwegian Labour Party, DNA. In Ramallah, the Committee was hosted by Fatah at the seat of the Palestinian Legislature, where Yasser Arafat, Leader of Fatah and President of the Palestinian Authority, addressed the participants. The Committee was hosted in Tel Aviv by the Israel Labour Party and Mapam/Meretz. The Committee condemned the settlement policies of the present Israeli government, and called for every effort to be made to revitalise the peace process and for the Oslo Accords to be respected and fully implemented by both sides.
With serious problems continuing to threaten the peace process, a second meeting of the SI Middle East Committee was held in Oslo on 31 October, hosted by the Norwegian Labour Party. The Committee reviewed recent developments with great concern in preparation for discussions by this Council.
Threats to peace and democracy were also on the agenda when a meeting of the SI Mediterranean Committee was held in Tangier on 21-22 March. The meeting was hosted by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP, of Morocco and chaired by the Committee Chair, Raimon Obiols, PSOE. The Committee, in advance of the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Malta, noted with satisfaction the persistence and development of the Euro-Mediterranean dynamic launched by the 1995 Barcelona conference, but regretted delays in the concrete application of the principles of the Barcelona Declaration. In examining the situation of the media in the region, the Committee underlined the importance of the struggle for a new information order which will allow equal access to global information and knowledge, and expressed its intention to promote the participation of women in all areas of social, economic and political life.
The SI Mediterranean Committee adopted a declaration on Algeria, which will help inform our discussion of this critical matter at the Council in New Delhi. Following a report by Hocine Aït Ahmed of the Socialist Forces Front, FFS, of Algeria, in which he described the spiral of violence and human rights violations in that country, the Committee called for free and fair elections in accordance with the Algerian people's clear desire for peace. However, our hopes regarding the vote were unfulfilled and subsequent events were marked by continuing violence, presenting a clear challenge to international institutions to take action. After New Delhi, we are set to hold a meeting of the Committee in Rome, which will provide an opportunity to follow up on the decisions of the Council.
On 27-28 June, delegates representing nearly 40 parties and organisations gathered for a meeting of our Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE. The meeting was held in Rome and chaired by Piero Fassino, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Italy, PDS, and Lászlo Kovács, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hungary, MSzP, Co-Chairs of the Committee. The Committee adopted a Declaration in support of continuing integration through enlargement of the European Union. The Declaration emphasised security and stability, which could best be achieved through economic, social, environmental and political means, as well as through the phased enlargement of NATO and the Partnership for Peace, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, and other organizations of regional cooperation. It further stressed that fundamental social and democratic rights must not take second place to economic modernisation. The Committee agreed to hold in Tbilisi, Georgia, a working meeting of social democratic parties of the Caucasian republics, and to carry out a number of other missions in the region. The next meeting of the Committee will be held in Sarajevo early next year.
In response to appeals for support from democratic forces in Serbia at the SI Council in Rome, meetings of our Committee on Local Authorities, chaired by SI Vice-President Philippe Busquin, were organized in Arad, Romania, and in Subotica, Serbia, on 16-18 May. The meetings were planned by a Committee working group which had met in Bucharest in March with the participation of SI President Pierre Mauroy. In Arad, the Committee was hosted by our two member parties in Romania, the Democratic Party, PD, and the Social Democratic Party, PSDR, both members of the coalition government elected in November 1996. In Subotica, the Committee convened as guests of the town council and the Union of Free Cities and Municipalities of Serbia. The theme of the gatherings was `Building a Better Future Together: strengthening local democracy - advancing local priorities - delivering local services'.
The meetings in Arad and Subotica, in which SI delegates were joined by nearly 40 Serbian mayors and municipal councillors from 22 towns and cities governed by the opposition coalition, were a concrete manifestation of the International's support for democratic change in Serbia. Committee members deepened their knowledge of the challenges faced by Serbian municipal authorities in building democracy under a national regime which rejects democratic norms, and resolved to bring the concerns of those they had met to the international arena. Also attending the meetings were representatives from the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation of Germany, the Jean Jaurès Foundation of France, the Olof Palme International Centre of Sweden and the National Democratic Institute of the United States.
A second meeting of the SI Committee on Local Authorities was held in Niterói, Brazil on 11-12 July, hosted by the Brazilian Democratic Labour Party, PDT. SI delegates from Europe, Latin America and Africa were welcomed by PDT Leader Leonel Brizola and by the Mayor of Niterói, Jorge Roberto Silveira. The Committee addressed the theme, `Solidarity between cities - Solidarity within cities'. It also examined the role of local authorities in education and in the provision of social services, and discussed preparations for the Second Socialist International Conference of Mayors to be held in 1998. José Manuel Conde Rodrigues of the Portuguese Socialist Party, PS, was elected Vice-Chair of the Committee, and he will later be joined by other Vice-Chairs representing the various regions of the world.
Nearly 150 delegates attended the meeting of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, held in Santiago, Chile on 30-31 May. The gathering was hosted by our three member parties in Chile, the Socialist Party, PS, the Social Democratic Radical Party, PRSD, and the Party for Democracy, PPD, all of which are members of Chile's coalition government. The Committee was welcomed by the president of Chile, Eduardo Frei, and the meeting was chaired by Committee Chair and SI Vice-President José Francisco Peña Gómez, Leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, PRD. The agenda focused on two principal themes, `The State and the Market: Latin America and the Caribbean and Globalisation' and `Governability and Democratic Institutions'.
The SICLAC meeting was attended by many party leaders including the former president of Argentina, Raúl Alfonsín, whose Radical Civic Union, UCR, joined the Socialist International at our Congress last year. The Committee adopted the Santiago Declaration, which recognised the existence of a profound and complex process of globalisation and the adverse effects of neo-liberalism in Latin America and the Caribbean. The participants called for economic systems which promote both sustainable development and decent jobs, the preservation of basic social rights, the strengthening of democratic institutions and equality of opportunity for men and women. The next meeting of the Committee is being planned for Panama in early February.
I would like to report that on my trip to Latin America in July I had the privilege of accompanying José Francisco Peña Gómez on his return to the Dominican Republic, where hundreds of thousands of people turned out to welcome him home after an extended absence for medical treatment. We wish him the best of health and thank him for his continuing work as Chair of SICLAC. I was also privileged to address a rally in Lima to commemorate Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre, founder of the SI-member Peruvian Aprista Party, PAP. The event was one of many mass demonstrations recently held against the anti-democratic actions of the government in Peru.
`The Democratic and Humanitarian Challenges Facing Africa - the Social Democratic Response' was the main theme of the meeting of the Africa Committee organised by our International in Dakar on 25-26 July. The gathering was hosted by the ruling Socialist Party of Senegal, PS, whose First Secretary, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, chairs the Committee. The meeting was addressed by the Prime Minister of Senegal, Habib Thiam, and attended by SI President Pierre Mauroy and a number of party leaders from the region. The participants adopted a Declaration which reflected the Committee's detailed discussions and our International's commitment to strengthening efforts to consolidate the process of democratisation and to establish peace and security in regions afflicted by crisis and violations of basic human rights and freedoms. The Committee also adopted the report of the Joint Working Group set up by the Parliamentary Group of the Party of European Socialists, PES, and the African and Caribbean members of our International. The missions we are going to send to Equatorial Guinea, Niger and Togo, and the observer delegation we are looking to send to Kenya for the forthcoming elections there, are evidence of our concrete support for those struggling for the values of social democracy in Africa. The next meeting of the Committee will be held in the first quarter of 1998 in Mali.
In line with our expanding activities in Africa, SI President Pierre Mauroy and I attended in July a series of meetings in Mali, Senegal and Gabon. In Mali, we held talks with President Konaré, Prime Minister Keita and other leaders of the SI-member ADEMA-PASJ, and met with leaders of all the opposition parties. The main subject of the discussions was the electoral process and the International's support for the continuing consolidation of democracy in Mali. In Senegal, as well as taking part in the meeting of the SI Africa Committee, we met the President and Socialist Party Leader, Abdou Diouf. Travelling on to Gabon, we met with Okawe Agondjo, president of the SI-member Gabonese Party of Progress , PGP, and with the President of the Republic, Omar Bongo, for talks on the situation in the Great Lakes area and the region as a whole.
The Global Progress Commission held its first meeting in Madrid on 5-6 March, chaired by SI Vice-President Felipe González, the Chair of the Commission, and attended by ten of the Commission's members and myself. Following an exchange of ideas on the mandate of the Commission, the participants discussed priorities and a strategy for action. They agreed that along with the meetings of the Commission itself, thematic seminars in which a number of experts would be invited to participate and a series of five regional meetings involving our member parties and special guests would be held. The most recent seminar was held in Santiago, Chile, with the participation of the Commission Chair, on 10-11 October. The principal theme was "Economic Growth and Social Equality'. This gathering followed the Commission's first seminar which was held in Costa Rica in June on `Governability, Democracy and the Market'. In agreement with the Chair of the Commission, the first of these regional meetings which will be organised by the SI Secretariat will involve our African member parties and be held in Dakar on 11-12 December, hosted by our comrades of the Socialist Party of Senegal. In the first half of 1998, regional meetings will be held in Asia and Europe, and in the second half of that year they will be held in Latin American and North America. Also in line with the decisions taken in Madrid, and at the request of the Commission and its Chair, I have agreed to prepare a paper on how to enhance our organisational capabilities for responding effectively to the new challenges we face. Regarding this issue, I will be soliciting contributions from our member parties.
The Socialist International's global approach has been enriched by the work of the SI Committee on Economic Policy, Development and the Environment, SICEDE, whose Chair is António Guterres, Prime Minister of Portugal and SI Vice-President. The Committee is set to develop regional perspectives on the world economy. The Committee's work in this regard will begin with a meeting to be held in early 1998 in Addis Ababa in close cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Organization of African Unity.
European security after NATO enlargement was a focus of the SI Peace, Security and Disarmament Committee, SIPSAD. A meeting on the subject was held in Budapest on 8 October, chaired by the Committee Chair, Günter Verheugen, Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD. The meeting was hosted by the SI-member Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP, whose Leader, Lászlo Kovács, the Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, opened the discussions. This meeting was also addressed by Yuri Deryabin, Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, who attended as a guest. The Committee adopted a resolution on European security policy which welcomed the development that allowed the NATO summit in Madrid to invite Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join NATO. The Committee also adopted a resolution on anti-personnel landmines, which expressed support for the Ottawa process, and another on small arms and light weapons disarmament. All three resolutions will be presented to the Council in New Delhi.
The SI Committee on Human Rights, SICOHR, has been working to identify a strategy and tactics which will advance the progressive and comprehensive human rights agenda adopted by the Socialist International at our Congress in New York in 1996. The Committee, chaired by Clare Short, the British Secretary of State for International Development, met in London on 20 October, hosted by The Labour Party, Great Britain. Four criteria were suggested as a strategic framework within which to prioritise action by the SI on human rights issues: a commitment to greater coordination between member parties and non-governmental organisations, a new priority for economic and social rights, a need for self-assessment and dialogue amongst member parties and a capacity for more effective intervention in defence of human rights. A paper prepared by the Chair and incorporating the views from the Committee will be made available to the Council.
There were a number of election successes for SI parties in the period since our last Council, particularly in Europe where social democracy has made substantial gains.
The British Labour Party won a landslide victory on 1 May, taking an unprecedented 418 out of 656 parliamentary seats. The new government of Prime Minister Tony Blair is well along on an active programme of legislative and other reforms. The French Socialist Party, PS, also returned to government after victory in the parliamentary elections concluded on 1 June. PS Leader Lionel Jospin took office as Prime Minister on 2 June and, in accordance with PS policy, five of the 15 members of the new Cabinet were women.
A majority of European countries are now governed, either solely or in coalition, by SI member parties, which was duly noted during the third Congress of the Party of European Socialists, PES, held in Malmö, Sweden on 5-7 June.
In Albania, a new coalition government which included the SI member Social Democratic Party, PSD, took office following general elections held on 29 June and 6 July. In the case of Albania, we recognise the contribution of former Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky in his work for the OSCE on behalf of peace and the democratic process. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, our two member parties, the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina, SDP BiH, and the Union of Bosnian and Herzegovinian Social Democrats, UBSD, performed well against nationalist parties in local elections.
I was present for the legislative elections held in Burkina Faso on 11 May, the second such poll in that country since a process of democratisation was initiated in 1991. The SI-member Party for Democracy and Progress, PDP, came first among opposition parties by winning six seats.
In Argentina on 26 October, the left-wing Alliance achieved great success in mid-term elections in which the ruling Peronist party lost its majority in the 257-seat lower house. The Alliance was formed by the SI member Radical Civic Union, UCR, and the Frepaso coalition, which includes the SI member Popular Socialist Party, PSP. The Alliance won a clear majority in Buenos Aires province, the largest in the country. The outcome overall raised hopes for a strong showing in the 1999 presidential elections.
On 23 May, the SI-member St Lucia Labour Party, SLP, won 16 out of 17 seats in parliament and SLP Leader Kenny Anthony was sworn in as the new Prime Minister.
In Morocco on 13 June, in the first municipal elections held under a new system following constitutional changes last year, the SI member Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP, took 2,548 of the 24,253 municipal seats. However, the USFP stated that these elections had not seen the hoped-for break with the irregularities of previous polls.
In neighbouring Algeria, the SI-member Socialist Forces Front, FFS, led major demonstrations against gross electoral irregularities under the government of President Lamine Zéroual in the local elections held on 23 October.
In Cameroon, opposition parties, including the SI member Social Democratic Front, SDF, boycotted presidential elections on 12 October. The boycott was called when the government refused to permit the creation of an independent board to organise the election. John Fru Ndi, Leader of the SDF, with the clear support of our International, has consistently condemned the current regime's misrule and ethnic marginalisation.
We should also reflect on the losses that the SI family has suffered since the Council last met in Rome.
Michael Manley, an honorary president of the Socialist International who had several times been Prime Minister of Jamaica, died on 6 March in Kingston, the island's capital. He was a major figure in the Socialist International and the founding chair of the SI Committee on Economic Policy whose findings were published as `Global Challenge - from Crisis to Co-operation: Breaking the North-South Stalemate', often referred to as the Manley Report.
Chaim Herzog, a leading member of the Israel Labour Party who was his country's president from 1983 to 1993, died on 17 April. He was Israel's permanent representative at the UN and sat in the Knesset from 1980 until his election as head of state.
Clodomiro Almeyda, a former foreign minister of Chile and influential Socialist leader, died in August. That same month, Andor Bölcsföldi, a prominent social democratic figure in Hungary, also passed away. In October, Maarten van Traa, former international secretary of the Dutch Labour Party, PvdA, was tragically killed in a car accident near Amsterdam.
The Socialist International carries out an extensive programme of work within a Budget which increases very little. We are proud of being able to do so much. But I must stress, as I have in a number of my recent reports to the Council, that our task is made difficult by the failure of some member parties to comply with their financial commitment to the International. At the Council in New Delhi, we will receive a report from the Chair of the Finance and Administration Committee and I hope that those parties which are in arrears in the payment of fees will appreciate the need to fulfill their statutory obligations to our International.
We have an invitation from the Norwegian Labour Party, DNA, to hold our next Council meeting in
Oslo at the time of Norway's national day in May 1998, and we should take a decision on it in New Delhi. As we move forward, the Socialist International continues to gather strength. This is a result of the determined efforts of many people worldwide who, through their party activities and participation in our initiatives, give shape to what we do. The members of our International, united in a common effort, are indeed making a difference in people's lives. This gives our work true meaning and is inspiring ever more people to join us in our work to build a just and peaceful global society.