For the first time in two years, due to the Covid19 pandemic, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held an in-person meeting of its Assembly, an occasion on which the Socialist International convened its usual meeting of parliamentarians from SI member parties attending that global assembly.
Extending a warm welcome to participants, the SI Secretary General noted the enthusiasm and sense of fraternity felt by all those present at being able to share this opportunity in person after such a long absence.
The agenda of the meeting included exchanges on issues to be addressed by the IPU Assembly and on the emergency items to be voted on. Equally, the meeting provided participants with the opportunity to share issues of concern in their respective countries.
Hana Jalloul, the newly elected Secretary for International Policy and Development Cooperation of the PSOE, Spain, and a Member of the Assembly of Madrid, welcomed everyone, pleased that the city was hosting the IPU Assembly. She also conveyed greetings from the PSOE leader and President of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, a Vice-President of the SI, committed to supporting social democracy around the world as the only viable response to the challenges we face.
Addressing the question of the emergency items to be voted on by the Assembly, the meeting heard from the Palestinian delegation, who informed on the current situation facing the Palestinian people affected by violent extremists attacking holy places in Palestine. It was reported that the change in government in Israel had not improved the situation and there was no plan for moving forward with the peace process. On the contrary, the eviction of Palestinians and the demolition of their homes in Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere was proceeding. It was highlighted that none of the international resolutions adopted by the UN have been implemented, and their calls continue for an end to the occupation, ceasing settlement activities, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The meeting heard from the Venezuelan participants on the current situation in that country. The member of Acción Democrática informed that their party had been seized, the report of the Electoral Observers of the EU accurately reflected that there was a lack of transparency, and the report of the UN human rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, was damning. 87% of the population was facing poverty and forced migration was chronic. They were calling on international support for the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections.
The dire situation in the English speaking part of Cameroon was a subject of great concern, where it was reported that the existing accord was being steadily eroded by the French speaking part of the country, citizens were taking up arms and demanding liberation. There were many displaced people and it was common to find corpses littering the streets while the international community remained silent. The participant from the SDF made an appeal to the IPU to address this issue as an emergency. More than half the English speaking part of Cameroon had migrated to Nigeria and to Congo while the Cameroonian government deploys arms against them.
The meeting heard from the representative from Portugal, where the Socialist Party had been in power for 10 years and the country had undergone a recovery that had sustained and enabled cohesion policies at European level, enhancing European solidarity in face of the pandemic. The country was currently in a phase of transition ahead of new elections at the end of January and the PS was hopeful that they would win. Along with Spain, Portugal counted with around 80% of their population vaccinated, enabling them to deal more forcefully with the catastrophic consequences of the pandemic. Solidarity with the developing world in terms of vaccination was essential.
The question of women’s rights and gender equality was addressed by the representative from Hungary, who furthermore pointed out that in her country there was no democracy and the situation was dramatic. Her party, the MSzP, had a key role to play, but uniting the opposition to this fascist government was a challenge. However, after 11 years of Orban dictatorship, there was a good chance of winning the next elections.
The participant from Mozambique described two particular challenges his country was facing. The threat of terrorism was growing daily and becoming more visible, the latest attack close to the border with Tanzania. International support, particularly from Rwanda, was crucial and he expressed gratitude for the support and solidarity of the Portuguese parliamentarians in the European Parliament and the members of the international socialist family. In regard to the Covid19 pandemic, his country had been unable to vaccinate half the population of about 30 million people. They joined calls for fairness in the distribution of vaccines.
The current situation in Pakistan was highlighted, where a right wing government ruled, not understanding that extremism is a menace that leads to terrorism. The economic situation continued bad and the people had not received financial relief, while poverty and unemployment were on the increase. The ruling regime had no regard for parliament. The situation of Kashmir continued of concern, the people forced to live under a curfew. The PPP leader, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, had been very vocal in questioning the Pakistani regime’s policies vis-à-vis Afghanistan, insisting on an inclusive government respecting the freedoms of all.
In regard to Cyprus, the meeting heard from representatives of both the CTP and the TDP of Northern Cyprus. Reference was made to the critical effects of the Covid19 pandemic and the current difficult situation following the international conference of 2017. It was pointed out that the longstanding dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean needed to be resolved within the framework of international law and required international support to reduce tension and should not be ignored. A call was made for greater engagement by the international community for a resumption of negotiations, and for social democrats in government to lead the way.
In Panama, where the SI member PRD was in government, there was a will to find inclusive solutions to issues affecting the country. The level of migration into the country was an increasing problem, and some of the migrants were in transit to North America. It was pointed out that all the countries involved had to face this question jointly, working together and addressing the problem in the country of origin. Concerning Covid19, big efforts had been made and there was a successful rate of vaccination. If the pandemic had shown something, it was that it was a common battle and we had to fight it together.
The representative from the USFP of Morocco described the situation in the country, where national and local elections had been held on the same day for the first time. The USFP increased its’ seats in the parliament from 21 to 40 and is today the main opposition party. For the first time there are 96 women members of parliament representing also the south and mid central regions of the country. The USFP was working to listen to the people and to ensure a caring state offering social protection.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the SI member UDPS was in government, it was reported that efforts were being made to ensure a social democratic policy that was people-centred. They had implemented a policy of free primary education, something that had taken years to achieve. A great challenge facing the country was the war in the East and they were looking to other social democratic governments for assistance and cooperation. International stability is threatened by Jihadism and a global response was needed.
In regard to Spain, it was pointed out that President Sánchez had demonstrated that social democracy was the antidote to liberal policies which had diminished people’s rights. Spain had shown the way in vaccination and in donating vaccines, as well as policies such as minimum vital wage, and social and health protection. Their policies on refugees from Afghanistan was an example that they could manage crises at international level. Social justice, a just recovery and being a government that delivers were key and they were ready to work together with colleagues in the Socialist International.
In closing the meeting, the Secretary General noted that while the pandemic had delayed our in-person meetings, it had clearly not affected our solidarity and our resolve to work together. The many expressions of satisfaction at being able to meet face to face and share experiences was a great source of encouragement. During this difficult period the SI had remained active, connected with its members, and taking a stand as necessary on matters of concern to our movement. The work will continue on democracy building, conflict resolution, solidarity, the struggle against Covid19, advocating for vaccine equality, the effort to stop climate change and protect our planet, promoting human rights, and advancing our values and principles.