Meeting of the SI Presidium and Heads of State & Government, United Nations, New York 2017
21 September 2017
The Presidium of the Socialist International gathered at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on 21 September 2017 for its annual meeting in conjunction with the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly. The main items on the agenda of this meeting were the pursuit and maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development, issues which are central to the work of the SI and its members. As in previous years, the members of the Presidium were joined by a number of heads of state and government from SI member parties, senior representatives of SI member parties in government and specially invited guests. The substance of the discussions and perspectives heard on the issues on the agenda were reflected in a statement issued following the meeting.
The meeting was opened with an expression of sympathy and solidarity to the victims of the major earthquake that had struck Mexico two days prior to the meeting, and those who had been and continue to be in the path of the powerful hurricanes that had caused such destruction across the Caribbean. Outlining the agenda of the meeting, SI President George Papandreou underlined the importance of the United Nations for social democrats who wanted and needed a world based on the values of cooperation. The SI Secretary General Luis Ayala introduced the discussions, adding that as the largest global political family, with close to 50 member parties in government, the SI had a unique ability to influence the global debate on these questions.
On the theme of international peace, the Presidium closely examined the threat posed to regional and global stability by North Korea. Joining the meeting for these discussions was Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia and president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, who presented his expert opinions on potential future scenarios and the ways in which a diplomatic solution might be achieved. Rudd outlined the framework for a diplomatic initiative to resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula and bring an end to the nuclear programme of North Korea. The first step would be that the Korean armistice agreement could be turned into a peace treaty and official US recognition of the North. This would be accompanied by external security guarantees for the North Korea state and regime, from China, the US and Russia, followed by a staged withdrawal of US military from South Korea based on the verifiable elimination of the nuclear arsenal.
Members of the Presidium had the opportunity to put forward their own impressions of the situation during in-depth exchanges, and solidarity was expressed with other peoples and countries of the region directly affected. Of concern was the controversial and challenging rhetoric emanating from North Korea and the US Administration, as well as the potential for South Korea and Japan to develop their own nuclear deterrent in response to the threat from the DPRK. The prevailing sentiment was of a need to be creative and optimistic, to be ambitious for peace and foster the role that the UN could play in facilitating a freeze in the conflict.
The ways in which insecurity and conflict affect a number of countries where SI member parties are in government were described by heads of state and government in attendance. President Alpha Condé of Guinea thanked the SI and its members for their support in the past when his country had been dealing with the Ebola crisis. He underlined the extent of the problem of terrorism in Africa and, as Chair of the African Union, he emphasised the need for African solutions to African problems. His sentiments on the need for inter-African cooperation were echoed by his counterpart from Burkina Faso, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, attending his first UN General Assembly meeting as the head of state of his country. President Kaboré explained that Burkina Faso was at the epicentre of terrorism in the Sahel region, and called for support of all countries and the UN for the newly-established G5 Sahel task force. He underlined that action to eliminate poverty and youth unemployment was indispensable in the struggle against terror.
Prime Minister Pavel Filip explained that Moldova was a young country with a history of conflict. He wanted to see the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Transnistria region, as peace and security were preconditions for development and economic success. Another perspective came from Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who explained how an opportunity for a meaningful solution under the auspices of the UN to half a century of conflict had ended without any positive outcome. He expressed his determination to persist in the quest for a solution as long as the problem continued to exist.
Contributions made on the themes of the meeting from presidium members encompassed the situations in their respective countries and the wider global threats and opportunities. A view shared by many was that the world needed a strong United Nations to work for common rules and principles, with solidarity and human rights. Multilateral initiatives were more important than ever to resolve conflicts, to address poverty and inequality, to promote sustainable development and to secure the future of the planet through concerted action on climate change.
The members of the SI presidium that participated in the meeting were George Papandreou, SI President; Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General; SI Vice-Presidents Victor Benoit (Haiti), Elsa Espinoza (Mexico), Eero Heinäluoma (Finland), Janira Hopffer Almada (Cape Verde), Chantal Kambiwa (Cameroon), Shazia Marri (Pakistan), Attila Mesterhazy (Hungary), Rafael Michelini (Uruguay), Mario Nalpatian (Armenia), Umut Oran (Turkey), Julião Mateus Paulo (Angola), Alexander Romanovich (Russia), Nabil Shaath (Palestine), Ousmane Tanor Dieng (Senegal), Bokary Treta (Mali); SI Honorary Presidents Mustafa Ben Jaafar (Tunisia) and Tarja Halonen, fomer President of Finland. They were joined by the President of Guinea Alpha Condé, current Chairperson of the African Union, the President of Burkina Faso Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, the Prime Minister of Moldova Pavel Filip, Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia and President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, Miguel Vargas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic and President of the PRD, Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Mustafa Akinci, Turkish Cypriot leader, and officials of the governments of Mozambique and South Africa.