Members of the Socialist International Presidium have held their annual meeting at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York, joined by Heads of State and government and ministers from our social democratic political family. The exchanges focused on key issues of concern on the global agenda being addressed during the high-level segment of the 74th UN General Assembly, including climate change, sustainable development, and challenges that require the efforts of the International in conflict resolution, peace and democracy.
The meeting opened with a tribute to two leading figures in the global social democratic movement who recently passed away. The Presidium remembered the life and work of Dolors Renau, who was president of SIW between 1999 and 2003, and Ousmane Tanor Dieng, leader of the Senegalese Socialist Party and a long-serving SI Vice-President, who had also chaired the SI Africa Committee.
The Presidium meeting came shortly after the Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General on 23 September, and the contributions made underlined the extent to which socialist and social democratic parties continue to be at the forefront of global efforts to take all necessary steps to avert catastrophic climate change. In his opening remarks the SI President George Papandreou emphasised the role that the SI, as an international movement, has played on this issue. SI Secretary General Luis Ayala considered that the Climate Action Summit and the most recent report of the IPCC had given a deeper sense of urgency to the climate emergency the planet is facing. In regard to the forthcoming COP25, the SI will, as on previous occasions, bring together environment ministers from the social democratic family for exchanges and discussions on their priorities and expectations.
Representatives of SI member parties in government took the opportunity to outline their respective approaches on the climate emergency and the ambitious commitments that their countries had undertaken to achieve a carbon neutral society within the shortest possible time frame. Many underlined the importance of financial measures to incentivise investment in the green economy, in particular renewable energies, to ensure that targets for emissions reductions could be met.
A common theme of contributions was the priority that needed to be placed on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, which are in complete alignment with the fundamental values and principles of the SI and its members. Pedro Sánchez, President of the government of Spain and SI Vice-President, called it a purely social democratic agenda and emphasised the need for a just and fair transition to a sustainable world society. A number of attendees felt that more work was needed to communicate the importance of the SDGs to citizens on a local level, and that it would benefit social democratic parties to underline their commitment to these goals which correlate with a future that many hundreds of millions of citizens across the world wish to see.
The need to strengthen political cooperation between social democratic parties to advance their shared values and principles was a key focus of remarks made by Viorica Dăncilă, Prime Minister of Romania. She considered that this was equally the case when fighting against the impact of climate change as when strengthening political cooperation. Another leader to highlight the value of cooperation was President Milo Djukanović of Montenegro, who spoke of the problems associated with the desire of some national leaders to reduce the importance of multilateralism. He was one of many speakers who underlined the importance of regional cooperation as a force for peace, stability and prosperity. Similar thoughts were expressed by Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, who regretted that regional organisations in the Caribbean were not playing as positive role as they once had, giving added significance to the work of the SI in the region.
The need for multilateralism in the face of global conflicts was a major theme of the discussions. Many speakers underlined the unique role that the Socialist International continues to play in promoting and facilitating dialogue in order to promote new approaches to unlocking progress in the resolution of seemingly intractable conflicts. This was very much in evidence at the recent meeting that the SI held over two days in Ramallah and Tel Aviv in July, which brought together representatives of Israeli and Palestinian member parties in both countries, reiterating that the only alternative for peace is a two-state solution. By engaging in dialogue with their counterparts in a spirit of cooperation, further progress was made to reach a common position on how this could be achieved.
Perspectives were also heard from those directly affected by conflict and instability in other regions of the world. This included an update on current efforts to reach a settlement in Cyprus based on a bizonal bicommunal federation following the collapse of talks coordinated under the auspices of the UN in 2017. The Presidium was informed of recent developments in the Kashmir region and highlighted the urgent need for the international community to bring both sides to the conflict together in dialogue. On Venezuela, the Presidium heard how stability was being affected by the absence of rights and freedoms, the lack of democracy, and the ongoing tragedy of the systematic violation of human rights and erosion of quality of life in the country.
The SI Secretary General gave an overview of the coming activities of the International, which would include meetings of the Council, regional committees, the committee on gender equality, and social democratic ministers at COP25 in Santiago.
The members of the SI Presidium that participated in the meeting were George Papandreou, SI President; Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General; SI Vice-Presidents Colette Avital (Israel), Victor Benoit (Haiti), Janira Hopffer Almada (Cape Verde), Carlos Lupi (Brazil), Shazia Marri (Pakistan), Mario Nalpatian (Armenia), Julião Mateus Paulo (Angola), Alexander Romanovich (Russia), Pedro Sánchez (President of the government of Spain), Nabil Shaath (Palestine) and Miguel Vargas (Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic); SI Honorary Presidents Mustapha Ben Jaafar (Tunisia) and Tarja Halonen (former President of Finland). Among Heads of State, ministers and office holders were also President Milo Djukanović (Montenegro), Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă (Romania), Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves (St Vincent and the Grenadines), Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, Kalla Ankourao (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Niger), Tomáš Petříček (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic), Ville Skinnari (Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland), Eugen Orlando Teodorovici (Romanian Minister of Finance and Executive President of the PSD), Williams Dávila and Luis Florido (National Assembly, Venezuela) and officials of the governments of Burkina Faso and Mozambique.