Making the case for meaningful agreements at COP17

7-9 December 2011

The President of the Socialist International George Papandreou, the SI Secretary General Luis Ayala and the South African Minister of Home Affairs and member of the SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society (SWS Commission) Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma took part in a series of special meetings on 7-9 December during the high-level segment of the COP17/CMP7 summit in Durban, to advance the views of the social democratic movement on climate change and in line with the strong commitment of the organisation to a future of a low-carbon society with the concept of climate justice at its heart.

On Thursday 8 December, the SI hosted a meeting of ministers and government representatives from SI member parties present in Durban, at which the state of the conference negotiations were examined with participants from all continents and regions, in both developed and developing economies. Drawing on the conclusions and discussions of the recent gathering of the SWS Commission in Johannesburg, this meeting allowed for fraternal and fruitful exchanges on the main concerns set out by the social democratic movement on this crucial issue in a spirit of cooperation.

At the COP17, the SI President and Secretary General discussed the priorities of the Socialist International with the President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, and met with other delegations and representatives of global NGOs and civil society, including Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace.

On Friday 9 December, a press conference was held at the venue of the UN Conference with the participation of George Papandreou, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Luis Ayala under the title ‘Durban: An opportunity for climate justice’, at which the SI vision for meaningful agreements at COP17 was outlined.

The ongoing commitment of social democrats to a future secure from the dangers of climate change was further underlined at this press conference, with the SI President stressing the need for increased attention to climate change during a period of financial crisis. Green growth, he argued, provides employment, innovation, investment in infrastructure, education and training at a time when these are crucial to economic development in many countries.

Minister Zuma spoke of the priorities for developing countries faced with the consequences of climate change, arguing that finances and technology were needed to ensure that their economic growth did not produce the same negative environmental consequences as the industrial revolution had in the developed world.

The SI Secretary General presented an overview of the work of the International in Durban, also drawing attention to the important work in recent years of the SWS Commission, a body that brings together high-level representatives and personalities from the Socialist International to shape climate change debate both amongst social democrats and in the wider international community.

With calls for humanity to unite to avoid a crisis that many continue to overlook, there was an acknowledgement that COP17 represented a vital opportunity to set the world on the track of tackling climate change, and that to delay decisions needed today would result in action taken in the future that would achieve too little, too late.