Declaration of Cotonou

Benin meeting of the Socialist International Africa Committee, 15-16 September 2003

Original: French

The Socialist International Africa Committee held a meeting in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, on 15 and 16 September 2003, hosted by the Social Democratic Party, PSD.

Four interventions were made at the opening ceremony:

- a speech of welcome by the General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, PSD, of Benin, Emmanuel Golou;

- a speech by Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International;

- an intervention by Ousmane Tanor Dieng, First Secretary of the Socialist Party of Senegal and Chair of the Africa Committee;

- a speech by Bruno Amoussou, Chair of the Social Democratic Party, PSD, of Benin.

After the opening ceremony, the Socialist International delegates met in plenary session to tackle the items on their agenda: Resolution of conflicts: the contribution of the International; Advancing and strengthening democracy in the continent; and Globalisation and governance: the perspective of Africa. Following rich and fruitful debate, it was agreed that:


1. Regarding "Resolution of conflicts: the contribution of the International":

The participants in the meeting recognised that conflicts in Africa are of two kinds: those of internal and those of external origin:

- Internal conflicts are generally the result of poor governance, that is an absence of democracy, no rule of law, poor functioning of administration and inequitable distribution of national wealth. Such conflicts may also have economic, ethnic and even religious reasons.

- External conflicts stem above all, in Africa, from border disputes of a territorial, economic or ethnic nature.

In order to forestall such conflicts, the Africa Committee reached a consensus on the need to:

- Propagate the basic values and ideas of the Socialist International, which are: dialogue, the search for compromise, social justice, human rights, redressing inequalities, recognition of the State’s role of arbitration and regulation in protecting minorities, those who are weak or threatened, and the promotion of a fair and equitable distribution of national wealth in a context of basic freedoms.

- Establish appropriate mechanisms for the prevention and solution of conflicts.

- Work towards a more just and fair allocation by the international community and the United Nations of resources destined for conflict resolution, in order to have greater resources available in dealing with crises in the South and in Africa in particular.

- Combat the decline of international law and the marginalisation of the United Nations.

- Make the protection of women and children in war situations a major priority for the SI.

- Involve civil society organisations in the settling of conflicts.

- Where necessary, involve regional and trans-regional political organisations like the Socialist International in conflict resolution efforts.


2. Concerning "Advancing and strengthening democracy in the continent":

The member parties meeting in Cotonou underlined that, in order to achieve these aims, it is necessary to:

- Ensure that modern democratic constitutions are put in place in Africa, and that governments completely respect ideals of democracy, the rule of law, and the financing of political parties.

- Defend the most basic civil rights: the right to education, the right to health and health-care, the right to employment for all, the right to information, the right to fuel and water.

- Defend the principles of equality, fairness and a just distribution of wealth.

- Contribute to political and civic education for all, by means of foundations and other relevant international institutions, and help these organisations to identify the crucial factors and to involve people in their own development.

- Strengthen the mechanisms and management of elections in order to ensure that they are fair and transparent.

- Ensure that the media and the law are independent.

- Promote the economic and social development of countries in the region.


3. Regarding "Globalisation and governance: the perspective of Africa":

and in relation to the main theme of the forthcoming XXII Congress of the Socialist International, the participants highlighted the importance of the following:

- The struggle to democratise international institutions.
Africa should take part in all actions to democratise international institutions.

- The commitment to strengthen the role of the United Nations.
Reform of the composition and mechanisms of the UN Security Council is essential. Africa deserves a seat as full member of the Security Council.

- The promotion of a Council for Sustainable Development, independent of the Security Council.
This Council for Sustainable Development could play a coordinating role in the compromise between priorities for trade, employment and the environment. Africa should be represented on this Council.

- The struggle to reform the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in terms of a change in their economic and social models.

- The encouragement of regional and sub-regional regroupings.
Such regroupings constitute responses to globalisation. They provide intermediate levels of international trade which benefit economic development in Africa.

- Laying a particular emphasis on access to new information technologies as a means of closing the current gap between Africa and developed countries.