Advancing social democracy, fostering cooperation and promoting dialogue in the countries of the CIS: SI Committee meets in Yerevan

11-12 June 2010

The meeting of the Socialist International Committee for the CIS, the Caucasus and the Black Sea brought together members of social democratic parties from the region and beyond in Yerevan, to discuss the role of social democracy in the changing circumstances they live in; from new emerging democracies to regimes left over from an authoritarian past, from societies that know a newly won peace to countries that live through the pain of unresolved conflicts. The meeting was hosted by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun (ARF-D), and chaired by Mario Nalpatian (ARF-D, Armenia) and Alexandra Dobolyi (MSzP, Hungary), Co-Chairs of the Committee.

The Committee addressed the need to advance democracy and stability in the region and to settle unresolved conflicts, a role which was dramatically underlined by the participation in the meeting in Yerevan of the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (SDPA), represented by their Deputy Chair, Saladdin Hosrul oglu Allahverdiev, a first such encounter since the open military conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Welcoming the delegates to Yerevan, ARF-D President Hrant Margaryan thanked the Socialist International for its efforts in bringing together Armenia and its neighbour, expressing his optimism that their conflict could be resolved and showing the readiness of his party to welcome the delegate of the SDPA. He stressed that all present were members of the same ideological family, and that this coming together could help to achieve success. He described how the party was trying to establish a country based on social democratic principles, a society that could secure the existence and advancement of the values of our movement in the South Caucasus.

Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the SI, expressed at the opening his belief that there can be no solution to conflict without dialogue, showing his gratitude to the ARF-D for agreeing to move forward these talks, with representatives of the SDPA. This was a significant moment for the International; though this was the first official meeting to be held in Armenia, it was the result of a long history of collaboration and cooperation with the ARF-D, and was representative of the hope and aspiration social democracy brings to many people. It was, he continued, an appropriate moment to meet, both in a global and regional sense. Optimistically he observed that the SI was fostering proximity in the region, noting the strong participation of representatives from the CIS and the Caucasus.

Productive discussions were held on common issues, with representatives from each of the parties represented giving detailed reports on their national situations and responding to queries from other members of the Committee. These reports covered the recent activities of the parties within their countries, as well as their relationships with other parties of the region, and both national and regional political developments and their effect upon those parties. Throughout these presentations the theme of a desire for transparency and electoral regularity in many countries of the region was strongly communicated, with an emphasis on the role of social democratic parties to advance democracy, through cooperation between those who share similar realities and values within the Socialist International.

On the morning of 12 June, Saladdin Hosrul oglu Allahverdiev, SDPA Deputy Chair, and Armen Rustamyan from the leadership of the ARF-D presented their countries' situations, and engaged in an open and productive discussion on the issues faced by their respective nations in relation to the unresolved issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. On this question, both parties gave accounts of the views of various actors on the debate, with delegates given the opportunity to react to what they had heard, and pose questions. In this way an extremely beneficial debate was conducted on different and difficult aspects of the dispute, and the ongoing tensions and alternatives for peace were examined.

Concluding the meeting, SI Secretary General Luis Ayala treated the case of each of the countries of the region in turn, reflecting the views of the Committee members and the content of the discussions held over the two-day meeting. On Armenia, he took stock of the Committee’s solidarity with the ARF-D, recognising their role in advancing social democracy and in encouraging efforts to find peaceful and just solutions to regional conflicts, within a spirit of openness and good neighbourhood, and without preconditions. On Azerbaijan, greeting the presence of the SDPA delegate at the meeting and expressing the Committee's recognition and support of the role of social democracy there, he agreed to transmit to the authorities in that country the need for the return of former President Mutallibov, adding that the SI should organise a mission to Azerbaijan in October, before the elections to be held this year, and should hold a meeting of the Committee there in the future, with the aim of engaging in a similarly open and fruitful discussion to the one in Armenia. He added that the International, in bringing together delegates from those two countries had demonstrated the positive role of politics and the maturity and courage of both parties to look towards a peaceful future.

He welcomed the first participation of parties from Georgia in the Committee, demonstrating that they could be part of a constructive partnership in the region, and reiterated the hope expressed by delegates that an open, democratic Georgia could become a hub of stability for all. He proposed the idea of a roundtable of social democrats under the aegis of the SI in Georgia, with Armenian and Azeri participation to continue the progress made in Yerevan. The Committee, he said, after the discussions of Yerevan, remains together with the parties and people of Belarus in their struggle for democracy, and will continue to explore the possibility of meeting in Minsk. He addressed the delegates from both Belarusian parties present as the representatives of the Belarusian people, and indicated a desire to include others from that country as well in the work of the International. The current situation, he added, demands and requires that a mission of the SI visit Belarus before the next Council in the Autumn.

He described the progress made by member parties such as the SDPU in Ukraine in their efforts to increase cooperation with trade unions, saying that the International should encourage social democratic development there, aiming for a broader participation from Ukrainian parties at the next meeting. He pointed to the Committee's satisfaction with developments in the Republic of Moldova, recalling the demands for new elections last year voiced at its previous meeting, initiating a process whose next phase should be completed with a victory in the presidential elections by the candidate of the Democratic Party of Moldova. He asserted the need to add the voice of the Committee to calls for calm in Kyrgyzstan in light of the tragic events unfolding in Osh, and welcomed developments in Kazakhstan, looking forward to the attendance of the All-National Democratic Party (AZAT) at the forthcoming Council.

In the new unfolding realities of the CIS, social democracy was a growing political force, now with a distinctive presence in nine of the twelve states and this has created a new dynamic, he concluded, confirming the relevance of and need for the work of the International in this part of the world.