Statement: Overcoming Conflict: Strengthening democracy and security
PARIS COUNCIL: global economy - climate change - resolution of conflicts, 15-16 November 2010
Gathered in Paris on 15-16 November, the Council of the Socialist International turned its attention to the strengthening and defending of democracy everywhere.
For free and fair elections
Noting the challenges and opportunities presented to our member parties by the numerous elections being held in Africa, the Council reaffirmed its solidarity with and full support for the leaders of SI member parties engaged in often very difficult and delicate electoral processes, in particular in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and the Central African Republic.
We are greatly encouraged by the peaceful conduct of the first round of the Presidential Election in Côte d'Ivoire, where the SI sent an electoral observation mission, and strongly believe that the clear commitment of the people of Côte d'Ivoire to the democratic process could be a catalyst for the advancement of democracy in the region.
We applaud the citizens of Guinea for their patience and perseverance faced with the long delays prior to the second round of the presidential election, and praise the peaceful manner in which this election was held on 7 November. We also call for calm and responsible behaviour from all parties following the publication of the provisional results which declared the victory of Alpha Condé, candidate of our member party, the RPG.
We fully support the restoration of democracy in Niger following the adoption of the constitution of the 7th Republic on 31 October, and are anxious to see the Nigerien people express their political will in the forthcoming presidential elections in which the leader of our member party in that county, the PNDS-Tarayya, is a candidate.
We call on the authorities of the Central African Republic, where the necessary conditions for a transparent electoral process are far from present, to respect the electoral code of that country during and in the approach to the presidential elections of 23 January 2011.
Elections are also scheduled to take place in the not too distant future in Cameroon, Mali and Senegal. In all these cases we call on the African and international community to remain engaged and support democracy, remembering that past flawed elections in Africa account for a loss of public faith in the political process.
In these countries it is democracy that has the potential to change the lives of the people for the better. True democracy incorporates the principles of representation, dialogue and compromise, and in Africa we are seeing truly historic elections which have the power to transform nations and consign the threat of military rule, dictatorship and political oppression to history. In order to avoid the pattern of post-electoral violence that is all too familiar in Africa, we urge governments in these countries to guarantee the rights of their citizens to free, fair and transparent elections, and ensure a level playing field for all parties to the electoral process.
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In other parts of the world elections have also been taking place. In Venezuela we are encouraged by the recent holding of parliamentary elections, at which the SI was present in an observer capacity. Though the presidential majority in parliament remains, it is not a reflection of their share of the popular vote, a fact which underlines that reform is necessary to secure fair representation. We are also concerned by reports that some citizens who were elected to parliament while in detention, continue imprisoned and we call for their legal, political and civil rights to be respected.
We consider unacceptable the recent declarations of a senior officer of the Armed Forces, General Rangel Silva, Chief of the Strategic Command, in which he expressed his solidarity with the President of the Republic on national television, saying that “the Venezuelan Armed Forces will not accept an electoral result which gives victory to the opposition forces”.
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December will see a Presidential election in Belarus and we will closely monitor the situation in that country, where unacceptable repression against political opponents remains a common occurrence. Civil and political rights go hand in hand and the current regime has severely eroded both these rights. The Council reiterates its support to the All-National Social Democratic Party 'AZAT' in Kazakhstan in its efforts to officially re-register with the relevant authorities, and to the SI member party Ata Meken in Kyrgyzstan, which has contributed actively to the development of democratic institutions in that country and recently won representation in parliament.
For stronger democracy
We welcome the release of SI Honorary President Aung San Suu Kyi and hope that this can be a turning point for democracy in Burma, though we reject completely the outcome of the illegitimate elections held on 7 November in which opposition parties were persecuted and the people of Burma were once more denied the opportunity to express their democratic will.
A new phase in the political history of Burma can and must now be opened. For this to happen, it is essential that the international community mobilises in order to free all political prisoners and to bring an end to the harassment and oppression against ethnic communities.
Above all, it is crucial that a true and sincere dialogue is initiated between all sectors of Burmese society – the authorities in power, the democratic opposition, ethnic communities – to achieve national reconciliation and a transition to democracy.
The SI and all its member parties affirm their solid and unwavering support to all those who fight to guarantee freedom, democracy and progress in Burma.
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In Iran we see the consequences of a powerful undemocratic regime and its effects on regional stability. We express particular concern with regard to human rights in that country, and call for the release of all political prisoners and an end to discrimination and oppression against ethnic groups. We remain committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, and Iran's development of nuclear capability is an issue of grave concern for our organisation and the wider international community.
For conflict resolution
The Socialist International has maintained a commitment throughout its existence to the resolution of conflict through dialogue and negotiation, and there are many cases where this approach is needed to bring solutions to long-standing conflicts.
Greatly encouraged by the meetings held by our International this year in Yerevan and Baku, where Armenian and Azeri representatives from our member parties were able to engage in unprecedented dialogue over their differences and visions for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, the Council extends its recognition to our member parties and to the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan for hosting the delegates of SI member parties from the other country, and view this as an extremely positive step. We now see an opportunity and a need to make use of the foundations that have been set, to build dialogue and confidence both within our International and on the wider political stage in those countries.
It is crucial to advance in the resolution of the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh to ensure peace and stability in that region. The Socialist International, which has launched its initiative for peace, will persevere and continue its efforts to advance in:
a) formalisation of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and a final status for the region that is acceptable to all;
b) establishment of the rights of displaced persons on both sides;
c) calling for respect of the 1994 ceasefire agreement and refraining from all types of ceasefire violations, including sniper fire;
d) calling on the parties of the conflict to display political will to reach an agreement on mutual, commensurate, equal and concurrent concessions to address the main questions of the conflict;
The international community must be actively involved in the resolution of this conflict, working with Armenia and Azerbaijan to encourage a peaceful solution.
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The Council reiterates its statement on the Middle East approved by acclamation at its previous meeting in New York and our organisation will continue to work with all parties in the region in the months ahead to advance in the search for peace.
We recognise the current crises, both political and security, existing in Yemen, and support the continuation of a comprehensive dialogue between the authorities and opposition parties to overcome the enormous challenges faced.
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Democracy is not simply an end in itself but is a means to resolve conflict and improve the lives of citizens. Through strong democracy, effective institutions and fair social policies, problems faced by our societies today become resolvable, and lives are improved. As Socialist International we once more raise our voice to call for the defence and promotion of democracy across the world. Only through free and fair elections and democratic representation will we achieve fairness. Only through dialogue will we build understanding. Only through democracy will we overcome conflict.