It is a pleasure to present my report to the SI Council in Santo Domingo, the site of our first Council meeting in the Caribbean. This is as it should be, because it was the struggle for democracy in the Dominican Republic led by José Francisco Peña Gómez and the Dominican Revolutionary Party, PRD, which made it possible for us to gather here. Indeed, Peña, our dear friend and comrade, who lived by the words 'Primero la gente!' - The people first! - embodied the work of our International for democracy, human rights and social justice throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the world.
We were proud, and many of us were here in support, when the PRD won the elections in 2000. And while challenges remain, the government of President Hipólito Mejía continues moving forward, inspired by the hopes of the Dominican people, and providing as well a steadying hand after the tragedy that recently befell so many Dominicans returning from New York to their homeland. I would therefore like to thank President Mejía, PRD President Hatuey DeCamps and the entire PRD family for hosting our meeting, and to also express the solidarity of our International with all Dominicans in their time of mourning.
We gather, in fact, in a season of grief, for it has been only a few months since 11 September and the horrible events which changed the world. The International immediately condemned the attacks in the United States as 'an assault on the entire world democratic community' and advocated that no effort be spared by the international community 'to bring to justice all those responsible for these atrocities and rid the world of the scourge of terrorism'.
We continue our focus on 11 September in this Council, where the opening theme is 'Working for a more secure and fairer world', a task which includes three principal aspects: 'Responding to terror', 'Resolving conflicts' and 'Relieving poverty'. The Council will also concentrate on Latin America and the Caribbean, addressing the priorities of 'deepening democracy and ensuring social justice'. Social democracy today has a presence, in government or in opposition, in nearly every country in the region, and the goal now is to strengthen the democratic institutions necessary for further advances.
For the Socialist International, the struggle against terrorism has become part of who we are, and we will be in the forefront in this effort just as we have been in the forefront in the fight for peace, freedom, and social justice. Because the Socialist International embraces people from every region of the world, from different cultures, with different religious beliefs, bringing them all together based on our shared social democratic values and the belief in a common humanity, a common civilisation, the foundation for achieving a better world.
OUR WORK ON GLOBAL ISSUES
The Kyoto Protocol and Related Environmental Issues
The International has continued its work on a number of global issues and some important strides have recently been made, particularly on the issue of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. When the Bush administration withdrew the United States from the treaty last March, the SI declared this to be unacceptable and vowed to do everything possible to keep Kyoto alive.
Since then, SI member parties, following on the work of the SI Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol and Related Environmental Issues, chaired by Siri Bjerke, the former Norwegian Minister of the Environment, pressed for during the international negotiations in Bonn in July and Marrakesh earlier this month, and in many cases participated directly in, the agreements which preserved the Kyoto treaty. The SI, as agreed at our last Council, will now focus on advancing the ratification process and working toward further progress in combating global warming at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit.
The SI Campaign for the cancellation of the debt of the poorest countries
The Socialist International also has continued working for the elimination of the debt of the world's poorest nations, one of the four SI Campaigns which also include: Fighting poverty in Africa - Stopping violence against women - Abolishing the death penalty.
On 5 October in Paris the International held a special event, hosted by the French Socialist Party, which underlined the cancellation of the debt as critical to the prospects for development in many parts of the world. Workshops and a round table chaired by François Hollande, the First Secretary of the PS and head of the Campaign, featured participants, including a number of NGO delegates, who represent various perspectives on the removal of the debt burden. The day's discussions concluded with contributions from Pascal Affi N'Guessan, Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, and our President, Prime Minister António Guterres.
The SI Executive, meeting in Paris, then issued a statement which emphasised that resolving the debt of developing countries is a principal test of global solidarity in the new millennium, that cancellation 'must be seen in the clear political perspective of financing development'. The SI Executive also agreed a programme of activities which includes initiatives by our member parties in their own countries, closer SI cooperation with civil society and SI missions to international financial institutions, the UN and the WTO to further advance our proposals for cancelling the debt.
Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment
Our International's promotion of global solidarity was also at the fore when the SI Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment met in Mexico City on 1-2 October to develop ideas for constructing 'Bridges across the digital divide: the role of education in the 21st century'.
The gathering, hosted by the Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, and chaired by Committee Chair Christoph Zöpel, considered the various dimensions of the digital divide, both at the international level and within countries, as well as the generational and gender gaps in the use of and access to the new technologies.
As part of the International's continuing work to strengthen the social aspects of the global economy, particularly in terms of education and training, the participants agreed a detailed document which emphasised that 'Human creativity, human knowledge and human intelligence are the key productive forces of the future'. In this respect, it was recommended that greater and more equitable investment be made in the development of human resources, and that states as well as private actors must play active roles in funding programmes and expanding opportunities for technological advancement.
The role of social democratic governments and SI member parties was also underlined, particularly in helping technologically disconnected countries to narrow the divide through greater international cooperation in providing high-quality training, and in urging international institutions such as the UN and the WTO to do more to ensure that the digital revolution benefits all the world's people.
The World Trade Organisation
The SI Working Group on the World Trade Organisation is meeting here in Santo Domingo on the eve of our Council, following its work during the SI Council in Lisbon last June, when the International called for the WTO to be reformed and enhanced so that it can realise its potential for expanding the benefits of globalisation for all.
The gathering here, to be chaired by Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, Chair of the Working Group, will address the matter, in a statement to be issued by the Council, following the new round of world trade talks agreed just weeks ago by the WTO's 142 members in Doha, particularly in light of the new global landscape after 11 September.
Moving forward with our work in dealing with globalisation at the local level, the SI Committee on Local Authorities gathered in Mexico City on 23-24 July to advance the process of developing a Charter for Cities Governed by Socialists. The meeting was hosted by the Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, and was chaired by Hermes Binner of the Popular Socialist Party, PSP, of Argentina, Chair of the Committee and Mayor of Rosario.
Mayors and local authority representatives from Africa, Europe and Latin America, discussed the issues of fiscal autonomy and indicators of the quality of urban life. They agreed a document entitled the Declaration of Mexico, which emphasised the incorporation of the opinions of all citizens, men and women, in the planning, implementation and control of public policies.
This distinctly socialist approach will be incorporated into our Charter for Cities Governed by Socialists, as will be our social democratic position, reiterated in the Declaration of Mexico, that 'Human beings are at the centre of our concerns and we want to measure progress in terms of increased life expectancy, lower infant mortality, access to education, health care, food, housing, and in terms of job creation, greater public safety and environmental protection'.
The work of the Committee on these and other issues contributed to the International's preparation for the III World Conference of Mayors in Athens on 7-9 December, which will bring together mayors, municipal authorities and councillors from SI member parties around the world. The gathering, to be hosted by the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK, will build on the two previous Conferences held in Bologna in 1995 and Fez in 1998.
The main task of the Conference will be to complete and adopt the Charter for Cities Governed by Socialists, and there also will be discussions on three sub-themes - 'The City as a leading actor and decision-making centre in the 21st century', 'The City as a promoter of solidarity, inclusion and integration', and 'The City as a force for sustainable development and manager of resources' - which will be discussed in depth in three working groups.
OUR ACTIVITIES AROUND THE WORLD
Central and Eastern Europe
The considerable efforts of the Socialist International on behalf of peace, democracy and respect for human rights in the Balkans are well known. It was therefore very satisfying when the SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, met in Belgrade on 17-18 September, the first SI meeting ever to be held in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia following the country's peaceful democratic revolution last year.
The meeting was chaired jointly by Piero Fassino of the Democrats of the Left, DS, Italy, and László Kovács of the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP, Hungary, Co-Chairs of the Committee, and brought together delegates from numerous SI member parties throughout Europe as well as an array of participants from the FRY including, among many others, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
The gathering focused on the latest developments in the Balkans, the prospects for enlargement of the European Union and other issues currently of concern in Central and Eastern Europe, and issued the Belgrade Declaration, a detailed document which, among other points, welcomed the remarkable progress achieved by the FRY on its road to democracy and urged the international community to aid in the process in every possible way. The declaration concluded by expressing our full solidarity with all parties of social democratic and socialist inspiration in Central and Eastern Europe and reaffirmed the commitment of our International to the spreading of social democratic values throughout the region.
Regarding further activities in the FRY, I am pleased to report that I had the opportunity, as part of our efforts to deepen relations with parties close to us there, to participate in October in the Congress of the Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Djindjic, and the Congress of the Social Democracy Party.
Elsewhere in Europe it was also good to see social democracy moving forward, as I was able to participate in a number our party congresses, including those of PASOK, which was held in Athens on 11-14 October, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, SAP, which took place in Västeras on 5-11 November, and Democrats of the Left, DS, held in Pesaro, Italy on 16-18 November. Our sincere congratulations go to Piero Fassino, who was elected leader of the DS at the Congress in Pesaro.
Congratulations are also in order for the Democratic Left Alliance of Poland, SLD, which came first in an unprecedented landslide in the 23 September elections, which I had the pleasure of observing. Following the vote, SLD leader Leszek Miller became Prime Minister at the head of the new SLD-led government.
Latin America and the Caribbean
The long and extensive work of the Socialist International in the Western hemisphere continued with the meeting of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, held in Managua on 20-21 October. The gathering was hosted by the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, FSLN.
Delegates from throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe addressed two principal themes - 'Strengthening democracy and its institutions' and 'Building and ensuring an economy with opportunities and progress for all'. Following extended discussions the Committee issued the Managua Declaration, a document which underlines how SICLAC draws on and contributes to the overall work of our International.
With regard to strengthening democracy, the Committee took as its starting point the work of the SI Committee on Local Authorities to emphasise the importance of strengthening local government in Latin America and the Caribbean through administrative decentralisation. The Declaration also affirmed that fair and sustainable economic development could not be achieved in the region without 'relief from the suffocating problem of external debt'. In this regard, it stood behind the increasing efforts by the International on the debt issue.
The Committee issued a resolution on Haiti, which condemned the increasing violations of the rights of journalists and opposition political activists, and called for continued negotiations to resolve the political crisis in the country. A few months earlier, in August, I went to Haiti and found that, despite the tremendous complexities involved, our member parties - the Party of the National Congress of Democratic Movements, KONOKAM, the Revolutionary Progressive Nationalist Party of Haiti, PANPRA, and the Organisation of the People in Struggle, OPL - and like-minded political groups remained determined to find a peaceful, democratic resolution.
Also agreed was a resolution on Puerto Rico. The Committee welcomed the release from prison of Rubén Berríos Martínez, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP, following a four-month sentence for acts of peaceful disobedience, and associated itself with the demands of the people of Vieques, who voted in a referendum on 29 July, by a 70 percent majority, for an end to military exercises on that island.
I had the pleasure, too, of attending a number of events which highlighted the work of SI member parties in the region as they move forward in the new millennium. I was in Panama in August for the Congress of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, PRD, and in November, on the eve of our Council, I attended the Congress of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, in Mexico City.
On 27 October, I participated in the national meeting of the Liberal Party of Colombia, PLC, in which Horacio Serpa was unanimously nominated as the party's presidential candidate for the elections scheduled for this coming spring. During his acceptance speech, he reiterated the party's commitments to alleviating poverty and unemployment and securing a political solution to the conflict in Colombia, all of which will help inform our discussions here in Santo Domingo.
In the Caribbean, we congratulate the People's Electoral Movement, MEP, of Aruba, for their election victory on 28 September. MEP leader Nelson Oduber became Prime Minister as our party won a clear majority in the parliament, the first time a party had gained full control of the island's legislature in more than two decades. The MEP's success followed on the decisive election victory last spring of the Unity Labour Party, ULP, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the swearing in of ULP leader Ralph Gonsalves as Prime Minister.
Also on the electoral front, a Socialist International delegation was in Nicaragua to observe the elections on 4 November and to express our support and solidarity with the FSLN following their narrow and particularly difficult loss, an outcome from which the FSLN is already rebounding and which does not change the party's role as an influential social democratic force in the region.
The concern of our International for the heightened importance of regional issues and developments after 11 September was evident during the 29-30 October meeting of the SI Mediterranean in Seville, Spain, where the first theme on the agenda was, 'Political, economic and security consequences for the Mediterranean in the new international context'.
The meeting, which was hosted by the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party, PSOE, and chaired by Trinidad Jiménez, counted on the participation of SI member parties from the European, African and Middle Eastern countries which encircle the Mediterranean. Participants also engaged in discussions on 'Socialist Strategies for taking forward the Euro-Mediterranean partnership' and 'Migration in the Mediterranean'.
Following its deliberations, the Committee issued the Seville Declaration which included the delegates' ‘strongest condemnation’ of the 11 September attacks, and underlined the belief of our International that 'only through dialogue between different cultures, guided by a willingness to understand each other's different sensitivities, and through a firm commitment to democratic principles and sustainable and balanced economic and social development', can the fears and wounds which characterise the current international crisis be overcome.
The Committee also called for the European Union, together with the Mediterranean countries, to further implement the principles expressed in the Declaration of Barcelona regarding politics, security, economics and finance, as well as on social, cultural and human questions.
The Committee also expressed concern that respect for human rights was still too low a priority in a number of countries of the region, and that the situation had deteriorated particularly in Algeria. But it noted as well that some countries, for example Morocco, were making good efforts to carry forward transitions to democracy, 'a positive step in the consolidation of the Euro-Mediterranean area as an arena for dialogue, exchange and cooperation'.
I am pleased to report that the International is welcoming to our Council a delegation from Frodebu, one of the most important political parties in Burundi and a key member of the historic power-sharing government between Hutus and Tutsis brokered by our long-standing friend Nelson Mandela. Having Frodebu represented here in Santo Domingo underlines our solidarity with the people of Africa and our increasingly important work, particularly after 11 September, for the peaceful resolution of conflicts everywhere.
We are also now moving forward with plans for an SI mission to the Great Lakes. The International has always recognised that resolving conflicts in Africa is a fundamental condition for progress. It is therefore with a heightened sense of determination that we prepare to support in this even more direct way the peace efforts among and within the Great Lakes nations. The mission, which will take place in January 2002, will be headed by President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with President Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d'Ivoire, one of eleven countries on the continent in which SI member parties are now in government, either alone or in coalition. Developments in Côte d'Ivoire in particular reflect the progress being made by our parties in the region with regard to democracy and strengthening democratic institutions.
Abidjan will be the venue for the first regional meeting in support of the SI campaign for debt cancellation in the first months of next year, hosted by the Ivorian Popular Front, FPI. In this way we will continue to highlight Africa’s problems as our own and promote our common global agenda as the way toward solutions. The next opportunity to build further on our work in the region will be the meeting of the SI Africa Committee planned for early next year, when we will bring together social democratic and like-minded parties that are often struggling in difficult situations, and continue making new friends in the region, some of whom are with us here.
Asia and the Pacific
An issue that has long been at the top of our Asia-Pacific agenda is East Timor, where general elections were held at the end of September under the auspices of the United Nations. I had the opportunity to observe the process along with, among others, strong delegations from the Australian Labor Party, ALP, and the New Zealand Labour Party, NZLP. After so many years of Socialist International support for independence based on democracy in East Timor, it was gratifying for all of us to see the exceptionally high turnout in the vote won by our friends in Fretilin, East Timor's principal liberation movement. The International is now continuing its full support as East Timor drafts its first Constitution, the next fundamental step toward nationhood.
In this region the International also has maintained its strong focus on Fiji, where elections held at the end of August were to be a critical step in the re-establishment of democratic rule following the violent overthrow of the democratically elected, multiethnic government of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry in May 2000. When the Fiji Labour Party, led by Chaudhry, came a close second in the August vote and was excluded by the winning party from government, the International expressed its deep concern at this breach of Fiji's 1997 multiracial Constitution under which parties are entitled to cabinet positions in proportion to the number of seats held in parliament. The Fiji Labour Party has taken the case to the courts in Fiji and the International will continue its full support for our party and its democratic struggle.
Soon after the New Year, on 8-9 February, our Asia-Pacific Committee will convene in Manila, where our host, the Philippines Democratic Socialist Party, PDSP, led by Norberto Gonzales, is in the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Committee will carry forward its work on all the key issues in the region, which include finding ways to overcome the current impasse in the reconciliation effort between South Korea and North Korea.
A LAST WORD
In these difficult days, the Socialist International continues to be defined by its commitment to resolving conflict and ensuring lasting peace. A focus of our discussions here on conflict resolution will therefore be on the situation in the Middle East. Our efforts on behalf of peace in the region are well known, as the International has been involved whenever there have been positive developments.
The International understands that conflicts can be resolved only through dialogue and negotiation. This can be a complicated process, with many ups and downs, as we have witnessed not just in the Middle East but also in Africa and in other regions.
Our International, which includes among its members the Labour Party and Meretz in Israel, and Fatah in Palestine, provides a channel and a forum for greater understanding and confidence, as was evident at our last Council meeting in Lisbon.
Our efforts will continue in the months to come through initiatives involving our Permanent Contact Group and the SI Middle East Committee - the Chair of the Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, was a member of the Mitchell Commission whose recommendations for getting negotiations back on track we fully support. Conflict resolution will also be a focus of our Committee on Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, which will be meeting next on 24-25 January 2002 at the United Nations Geneva.
As I am sure our Council will reaffirm, the International will continue to promote peace where it does not exist, respect for human rights wherever they are denied, democracy wherever it is missing, and social justice everywhere, all for a more secure and fairer world.