It is with pleasure that I present my report to the Council in Rome, where our International has organised numerous previous meetings and activities. This is a tribute to the longstanding solidarity of our two member parties in Italy, the Democrats of the Left, DS, led by Piero Fassino and the Italian Democratic Socialists, SDI, led by Enrico Boselli, and I would therefore like to thank them not only for hosting this Council but also for all their contributions to the work of the International.
We gather in Rome at a time when the world is confronted with choices, decisions on peace and security, the world economy and the future of democracy that will affect the global landscape for years to come. Our Council will address many of these issues in Rome. The Council's agenda is structured with three main themes and we have included panel discussions, along with keynote addresses, aiming to stimulate more inclusive and deeper deliberations. In this regard, I would also like to thank all those who answered positively to our requests to be here to participate in the debates.
The first main theme is 'For a More Equal Global Society: Governance • Sustainability • Social Justice'. We have organised a panel discussion under this theme entitled 'Our Message to Davos and Porto Alegre', and we will produce a statement that outlines the positions of the International towards the forthcoming World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum that open later this week.
'For a World More Peaceful and Secure: Iraq• Middle East • South Eastern Europe • Africa • Central and South Asia' is the second main theme, with keynote speakers on Iraq and the Middle East, and a second panel discussion on 'Peace and stability in the Balkans'. The Presidium will propose to the Council a common position on the urgent issue of Iraq, the response of the international community and problems of global peace.
The third main theme is 'Our Democratic Commitment: Defending Democracy around the World' and the panel discussion under this theme is entitled 'Working for democracy where it is most at risk'.
We are convinced that Rome will provide the opportunity for social democracy to once more leave its imprint and to project a message to all those who share the values and principles that are at the centre of our family and our determination to ensure that people come first in this time of great global change.
OUR ACTIVITIES AROUND THE WORLD
Following our last Council in Casablanca, the Socialist International has carried out a number of activities in Africa in support of peace, democracy and respect for human rights. SI member parties are currently in government in eleven countries in the region and are the principal opposition forces in a number of others. As noted during our recent gatherings in Africa, this provides today a strong foundation for deepening the efforts of our International on behalf of people throughout the continent.
The first meeting of the SI Africa Committee during this period was held on 26-27 July in Luanda, Angola, where a negotiated end to armed conflict, long supported by our International, was finally achieved. It was therefore appropriate that the main theme of our debate was conflict resolution and the building of a common future of peace. The other two themes were promoting and strengthening democratic governance, and continuing the fight against poverty and advancing sustainable development.
Delegates from every part of Africa participated in the gathering, which was hosted by our member, the MPLA. After detailed discussions the Committee, whose Chair is Ousmane Tanor Dieng, PS, Senegal, adopted a Declaration that emphasised the need for greater involvement of non-governmental institutions, civil society and the wider participation of women at all levels of the process of conflict resolution. The document also detailed the key elements for strengthening democratic governance, such as the regulation of political party finances, and reaffirmed, with the then upcoming World Summit in Johannesburg in mind, the important ways and means for promoting sustainable development and fighting poverty in Africa.
The International responded quickly to the armed assault on the constitutional order in Côte d'Ivoire. On 19 September, the day the attacks began, the International condemned the violence and other acts against the democratic rule of law, and reiterated our firm support for the President of the Republic, Laurent Gbagbo, and for our member, the Ivorian Popular Front, FPI.
The International then organised an urgent meeting of our Africa Committee on 18 October in Abidjan, a concrete expression of our stand in favour of constitutional rule in Côte d'Ivoire. Following an opening address by President Gbagbo and extended discussion by SI member party delegates, the Committee agreed a Declaration that reaffirmed that democracy is the only guarantee of progress, peace and cooperation among citizens and among peoples, and condemned the attacks on the constitutional order and the attempts to seize power. Since that time we have remained in contact with President Gbagbo and the FPI, and have continued to support the regional and international efforts to end the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire.
The International has also stayed close to the situation in Equatorial Guinea, where SI member the Convergence for Social Democracy, CPDS, continues the struggle for democracy and human rights under extremely difficult and repressive conditions. The International denounced the trial against opposition forces as 'a travesty of justice', condemned the sentencing to prison of Plácido Micó, Secretary General of the CPDS, and urged the UN Human Rights Commission to renew the mandate of its special rapporteur on Equatorial Guinea. Micó and many of the dozens of other people who were sentenced last year remain in jail and we have continued to call on the entire international community to redouble efforts to have them freed.
SI Mission to Nigeria
A very important initiative of which we are proud was the Socialist International mission that we organised to Nigeria from 16 to 20 October to address Sharia court sentencing. The mission reflected the serious concerns of everyone in the International about the sentencing to death by stoning of women and other alarming cases of the application of new Sharia-based penal codes in the northern states of Nigeria. This was directly in line with the International's campaigns to abolish the death penalty and to stop violence against women.
The SI mission to Nigeria was composed of Professor Perry Wallace of the Washington College of Law, of the American University, United States of America; Professor Abdelouab Maalmi of the Faculty of Juridical, Economic and Social Sciences, of the University Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco; and Dr. Gabriel Lansky, an Attorney at Law and human rights expert from Austria.
We organised a wide programme of meetings for the delegation, including with members of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, members of the National Assembly, the Nigerian Human Rights Commission and representatives of non-governmental organisations, including women's lawyer groups, and also arranged for meetings in Kaduna State in the north of Nigeria where Sharia law is in effect.
Among the principal impressions and conclusions of the mission were that the application of the new Sharia penal codes in Nigeria have strongly and disproportionately affected the human rights of women; that the issue is at the centre of the major political conflicts in this ethnically diverse nation; that those in Nigeria who fight against the inhumane aspects of Sharia penal law face great difficulties; and that the International can provide effective support to such efforts because of its long commitment to both diversity and universal values.
The Middle East
The International has remained a strong and consistent voice in support of a peaceful resolution to conflict in the Middle East and, during the most difficult periods when others despair, the Socialist International continues to reaffirm its commitment to pressing forward in whatever ways possible in pursuit of peace.
In June and in July the International condemned both the car bomb attack in northern Israel and the Israeli air strike in Gaza City. The bombing came only days after the International, at our Council held in Casablanca on 31 May-1 June, unanimously adopted an historic resolution, based on a consensus between our Israeli members, the Israeli Labour Party and Meretz, and our Palestinian member party, Fatah, calling for 'the mutual recognition of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine' as the initial commitment toward a restarting of peace negotiations.
In September we again expressed our strongest condemnation of the killing of innocent civilians, this time as a result of a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The International also strongly protested the unjustifiable destruction by troops and armour of the civilian headquarters of the Palestinian Authority.
We were in direct contact with President Arafat when the Palestinian Authority compound was under siege and, in a series of communications between parties of our International, worked to clear the way for an SI delegation to visit the region. Unfortunately, circumstances on the ground at the time prevented agreement on the scope of such a mission.
In the midst of all these developments, we also took a clear stand in support of the UN Security Council resolution that called for an end to all acts of violence, terror and destruction.
In December Thorbjørn Jagland, Chair of the SI Middle East Committee, and I visited the region and held talks in Tel Aviv, Gaza and Ramallah with the leaderships of our Israeli and Palestinian member parties on the current situation. We held meetings in Tel Aviv with Amram Mitzna, Israeli Labour Party leader and candidate for Prime Minister in the forthcoming 28 January elections; with Shimon Peres; Ophir Pines Paz, General Secretary of the Party; and Colette Avital, International Secretary. In Tel Aviv we also had discussions with Yossi Sarid, leader of Meretz, and with Yossi Beilin; with Meretz International Secretary Monica Pollack and with Roy Yellin.
On the second day we held talks in Ramallah with Yasser Arafat. We also met with Hani Al-Hassan, Palestinian Minister of the Interior and responsible for international affairs of Fatah, in Gaza, and with Yasser Abed Rabbo, Minister of Information.
Our work will continue in Rome, where once more we will be able to provide a forum in which both Israelis and Palestinians can always come to voice their concerns, hopes and visions for a future of peace and security. The Middle East will be specifically addressed in the Council under the second main theme, 'For a World More Peaceful and Secure', with keynote speakers from the region.
As I noted earlier, the Presidium will be proposing to the Council a common position on the urgent issue of Iraq, the response of the international community and problems of global peace. The Socialist International, which has been a movement, a great party for peace, today has a responsibility to contribute at this critical time for the world a perspective toward a fair and just outcome of the present crisis.
The International has also continued its work on issues affecting the Kurdish people, who may have to endure even greater difficulties if the situation in Iraq deteriorates further. The SIMEC Working Group on the Kurdish Question has been active during this time and held a meeting in Sweden in August 2002.
On the eve of the Council, SIMEC will be meeting to consider recent developments in the Middle East and will also receive a report from the Working Group on the Kurdish Question.
Central and Eastern Europe
The advances in democracy, human rights and stability in the Balkans have been notable. They reflect the wide and growing influence of social democracy throughout the region, and here in Rome we will hear from many of the key people in the SI family who continue to contribute to progress in each country.
With peace and stability in the Balkans as the main focus, the SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe gathered in Ljubljana on 12-13 July 2002, for a first meeting of our International in Slovenia, hosted by our member, the United List of Social Democrats, ZLSD, whose leader, Borut Pahor, is President of the National Assembly.
Piero Fassino, Co-Chair of the Committee, on the occasion of this meeting in Slovenia, underlined on behalf of all of us the historic challenge for social democrats that EU enlargement represents and the task of bringing together the continent in peace and democracy.
In relation to this, László Kovács, leader of the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-Chair of the Committee, emphasised the key role of social democratic parties today in his own country, in the Czech Republic and in Poland.
The Committee adopted a Declaration that reiterated the firm commitment and will of the International to make democracy, justice and solidarity the principles upon which to meet the challenges of globalisation. The document recalled that peace and stability require that all citizens - women and men, whatever their ethnicity, cultural background or religious beliefs - be equal under the law, and called on all member parties of the International to enhance their support and cooperation with social democratic forces in the region.
In the Declaration, the Committee reiterated our alarm and condemnation of the ongoing persecution of the opposition, media and non-governmental organisations in Belarus and reaffirmed, in line with the SI mission to Minsk last April and the Resolution on Belarus adopted by our Council in Casablanca, the willingness of the International to continue working in support of fundamental freedoms and democracy in that country.
With regard to future activities, I was in Bulgaria in November where I had meetings with all those associated with our International and we are planning, together with the Co-Chairs of SICEE, to hold the next meeting of the Committee in Sofia shortly.
Latin America and the Caribbean
The principal focus of the work of our International in this region today is to advance the social democratic response to the pressing political, economic and social challenges, and to ensure that democracy is strong and lasting and that conflicts are peacefully resolved.
The SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Caracas on 19-20 July to address the challenge of strengthening and defending democracy. The meeting, which included the participation of delegates from SI member parties from all over the region and from Europe, as well as representatives and guests from political and trade union organisations from Venezuela, was a concrete expression of support by the International for efforts toward a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela.
Among those from Venezuela who contributed to the discussions were Rafael Angel Marín, General Secretary of our member party, Democratic Action, AD; Felipe Mujica, President of the Movement to Socialism, MAS; Antonio Ledezma, leader of the 'Bravo Pueblo' Alliance; Miguel Henrique Otero, President-Editor of the Venezuelan El Nacional newspaper; and Manuel Cova, General Secretary of the Confederation of Workers of Venezuela, CTV.
After extensive deliberations, the Committee adopted a 'Declaration on Strengthening and Defending Democracy and its Institutions', which reaffirmed political democracy as a core value, and underlined the importance of connecting directly 'with people’s desire to live in liberty, to be sovereign within their own countries'. The document also focused on strengthening democratic institutions throughout the continent and adapting them 'to the challenges created by globalisation'.
The Committee approved a resolution on Venezuela that expressed concern about the 'atmosphere of social and democratic insecurity and instability in that country'. It reaffirmed our support to AD and the Coordinadora Democrática, made up of Venezuelan political parties and non-governmental organisations, in the effort to defend democracy, and emphasised the readiness of the International to offer its good offices to facilitate negotiations between the opposition and the government.
The situation in Venezuela continues to be of great concern throughout the region and internationally and it will be a focus of our discussions here in Rome, where we will hear from representatives of our member party and others from Venezuela who are closely involved in seeking a resolution to the crisis.
In line with our priorities the Committee in Caracas reaffirmed the support of the International for a negotiated end to the armed conflict in Colombia. It also condemned violations of the rule of law in Haiti, protested against acts of violence against the opposition, called for a negotiated political accord in line with Organisation of American States, OAS, resolutions and reiterated our support for SI members KONAKOM, PANPRA and OPL. Regarding Panama, the Committee, sharing the concerns of the SI member Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD, of Panama, urged the government and political parties to maintain the independence of judicial and electoral bodies.
During the meeting we paid tribute to the memory of Anselmo Sule, President of the Radical Social Democratic Party, PRSD, of Chile, and Co-Chair of the Committee, who passed away in early June. His son Claudio Sule and Senator Rafael Michelini, leader of the New Space Party of Uruguay, spoke for all of us in honouring Anselmo’s legacy as a steadfast advocate for deepening democracy through greater citizen participation.
The Committee, looking ahead to future activities, agreed unanimously to hold a meeting in Cuba, amidst the Cuban people and with the presence of their leaders and representatives, to address the issues of concern to the people of Cuba, issues that are shared by our International.
Turning to the good news in the region, the overwhelming victory of Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva and the Workers' Party, PT, in the second round of presidential elections in Brazil, with the tremendous turnout and determination of Brazilian citizens, represented a significant moment for politics, democracy and progressive forces and ideas throughout the world.
On 1 January of this year our President and I had the honour of attending Lula's inauguration, during which we were able to witness the great enthusiasm in Brazil for their new President and the hope for a better future that he represents. I am pleased to report that our relationship with the PT continues to develop, our cooperation is deepening and a representative of the party will be on the first panel under the first main theme here with us in Rome.
In other positive news in the region, the sociaIists in Argentina successfully completed their unification and I had the opportunity to visit that country and associate the International with the process. This also allowed me to work with Raúl Alfonsín, Chair of SICLAC, on further developing our common activities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The role of political parties in strengthening democracy is a key issue in the region and in August I participated on behalf of the International in an OAS roundtable in Santiago on democratic governance, and later in an OAS hemispheric gathering in Vancouver in December.
Further on our relations with other international organisations, I participated in June, along with representatives of the Christian Democratic and Liberal Internationals, in a meeting on political party development hosted by the National Democratic Institute in Washington, with whom we maintain close cooperation. I also had the opportunity in September to be a guest at their well attended annual W. Averell Harriman ceremony.
THE WORK OF THE INTERNATIONAL ON GLOBAL ISSUES
Sustainable Development and Social Justice
Much of our work in 2002 focused, first, on the International Conference on Financing for Development that was held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March, and later, on the World Summit for Sustainable Development, WSSD, held in Johannesburg on 26 August - 4 September 2002.
Following discussions in Casablanca last year in preparation for the Johannesburg Summit, the Council agreed a platform - 'Global Governance and Global Sustainability: The Goals of Global Social Democracy' - that included specific proposals agreed by our member parties.
At the Summit we organised a major presence of our International and a number of activities in which I had the opportunity to participate together with delegates of numerous member parties including the MPLA, Angola; ALP, Australia; FPI, Côte d'Ivoire; SDP, Denmark; SDP, Finland; PS, France; SPD, Germany; PASOK, Greece; MSzP, Hungary; DS, Italy; SDP, Japan; PRD, Mexico; PRI, Mexico; PS, Portugal; PD, Romania; ANC, South Africa; PSOE, Spain; SAP, Sweden; and the International Union of Socialist Youth, IUSY. Other Summit participants from member parties also joined us in some of the activities of the delegation in Johannesburg.
On the occasion of the Summit itself, our President addressed a letter to leaders of our International, calling for a new effort of socialists and social democrats to integrate economic, social and environmental concerns, and declaring the Summit to be a crucial moment to set the basis for a 'New Global Partnership' for sustainable development.
In Johannesburg we met with a number of ministers of the South African government and leading figures of the African National Congress, including the Minister of the Presidency, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Mayor of Johannesburg and Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, who will be with us in Rome, at a special gathering organised by the ANC to welcome us.
SI representatives joined the activities of national delegations, were among participants at NGO forums, took part in meetings of parliamentarians and other groups, and followed the proceedings of the Summit. Discussions were also held with the Special Envoy of United Nations Secretary-General to the Summit, Jan Pronk, to evaluate the outcome of the WSSD.
To evaluate the outcome of the Summit, the SI Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment gathered in Geneva at the headquarters of the International Labour Organisation on 13-14 December 2002. The Committee, chaired by Christoph Zöpel, Germany, SPD, who will be a keynote speaker here in Rome, agreed a Statement on the outcome of the Johannesburg Summit that welcomed the new impetus to global action to fight poverty and protect the environment, but regretted the less than hoped for results with regard to global governance and other issues. The Statement will be introduced to the Council here in Rome. A further text on the global economy will be discussed by the Committee in Rome and considered by the Council.
Following discussions of the first main theme, it is planned that the Council will consider for adoption a draft message to Davos and Porto Alegre.
I should also mention that I represented the International at a UN conference preparatory to the World Summit on the Information Society. The first phase of the Summit is scheduled for 10-12 December 2003 in Geneva, with the second phase in Tunis in 2005. The digital divide and how to bridge the global gulf between those with and those without access to information and communication technology are already high on our agenda, and the upcoming Summit will increasingly be a focus of our attention.
FURTHER ACTIVITIES OF THE INTERNATIONAL - OUR MEMBER PARTIES IN ACTION
Our International, constructed through the experience and involvement of every one of our member parties, each responding to the new realities emerging in every region, helps to bring the world together. Our parties, coming as they do from many different places, enrich our International through the diversity of their histories and their perspectives.
Every day in different parts of the world our International lives through the activities of our member parties and organisations through their election campaigns, conferences and other activities. Many of us share in the experiences of our global family.
For my part, during the last period I had the opportunity to join others in attending the conferences of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, the British Labour Party, the Norwegian Labour Party and the 51st Conference of the African National Congress.
At the same time, I was able to be present in Berlin for the electoral success of our German comrades last September and to follow the outcome of the elections in Morocco that confirmed the USFP as the leading political force in the country.
I was also very pleased to be able to participate along with our President at the last IUSY Council in Lisbon, and to be with comrades of our two member parties in Albania last November.
REMEMBERING WILLY BRANDT
On 8 October 2002 we marked the tenth anniversary of the death of Willy Brandt, whose vision inspired the expansion of the Socialist International around the entire world, the planting of seeds of political progress that have grown and continue to mature on every continent. On that day our President and I stood among SPD comrades at his graveside in the German capital.
The values of peace, democracy and social justice are recognised today everywhere as the core of our identity. They are the foundation upon which we continue to face the challenges of the 21st century, acting together within nations and among nations based on the solidarity that unites people of all languages, all histories and all cultures.
Willy knew that these values are universal, that they will endure for generations to come. For no one was more forward looking than Willy Brandt. To remember Willy Brandt is to look to the future. He envisioned what the International could become and what it can be in making ever greater contributions to this, as he put it, the only world we have.