Convening in New York on 22 September 2022, the Presidium of the Socialist International continued its tradition of meeting during the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly after an imposed two-year hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As well as offering the opportunity for exchanges on issues of concern on the global agenda and those being addressed at this year's General Assembly, the meeting dealt with matters of particular national and international concern to members, and the forthcoming XXVI SI Congress to be held in Madrid in November.
Opening the meeting, SI President George Papandreou stressed that social democratic forces at the global level had a great responsibility to unite in response to global challenges, at a crucial time with great geopolitical tensions. The focus of the organisation needed to be on proposals for social solidarity, multilateralism and international cooperation, and maintaining peace. He highlighted the importance of the coming Congress as a moment for empowering the organisation for the times ahead.
SI Vice-President and President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, highlighted that it was important, in the face of global challenges, to renew faith in the ideology of the Socialist International, and its shared values and principles, vindicating the history of the movement and underlining the relevance and strength that social democratic parties and policies have to offer the world. He announced to the Presidium that he had decided to present himself as a candidate for the SI presidency at the Congress, and received the unequivocal support of his fellow presidium members.
The role of the SI as a platform for progressive forces on a global level was underlined by Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal. He pointed to the constant presence of the fight for democracy, freedom, human rights and peace in the history and activities of the organisation, a legacy that continues to the present day.
The SI Secretary General Luis Ayala joined in the expressions of satisfaction at once more bringing together the leadership of the SI in New York, though circumstances and logistical difficulties had unfortunately prevented the participation of a number of vice-presidents and heads of state and government who sent their greetings. He added his voice to those who believed that the social democratic family, with a common approach, could provide the answers to global challenges and his conviction that the Madrid Congress was a timely forum in which to address these vital issues.
The vice-presidents participating in the meeting held exchanges on the priorities of the SI both in relation to the current global situation and with regard to the forthcoming Congress. They reflected on the historic role of socialism and the continued necessity for the common principles of democratic socialism in order to face global challenges. These include the preservation and advancement of democracy and civil and political rights, and moving forward in line with the Global Goals that reflect so much of what social democracy stands for today.
Despite successes achieved and progress made, there was a recognition of worrying developments both on a global and regional level that require the vigilance and action of the world social democratic movement. Coups d’état in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso reversed some of the democratic progress made in Africa, and serious challenges continue in the Sahel region in terms of religious extremism, Islamic terrorism and international trafficking of arms and people. Increased tension with the potential for conflict in the South Caucasus and Central Asia was highlighted, in particular with regard to the Republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan where extra-state military forces were involved, as well as the recent tensions and conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Along with these, the devastating impact of the war in Ukraine was also reflected on and the meeting received a report on the ongoing crisis in Haiti.
Approaches on these issues needed to be incorporated into existing strategies related to the fight against climate change and work on the migratory and food emergencies, with interdependent crises requiring coordinated action at a global level. Worries were expressed about disillusionment among citizens, and the need to address their concerns and other potential causes of recent electoral setbacks for globalist and social democratic ideals, while reactionary and radical forces had advanced.
Looking ahead to the Madrid Congress, multiple interventions were made in support of a strategy to maintain and expand the capacity, influence and relevance of the Socialist International, encompassing reforms for equal gender representation and ensuring the financing of the organisation while maintaining broad participation. The chairs of the regional committees for Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean who were present at the meeting both conveyed the wish of their respective member parties that at the next Congress Luis Ayala continue as Secretary General, underlining his knowledge of the organisation and their confidence in him. They highligted the benefits of the formula of both change and continuity to face the important challenges ahead. Vice-presidents also identified opportunities presented by embracing new technologies and increasing the digital reach of the organisation and developing partnerships with other progressive forces and civil society.
The optimism and anticipation felt at the imminent meeting of the Congress, preceded by meetings of the Presidium, committees and Council was a reflection of the eagerness of all Presidium members to engage with the challenges for the organisation.
The members of the SI Presidium that participated in the meeting were George Papandreou, SI President; Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General; SI Vice-Presidents Pedro Sánchez (President of the government of Spain), Isabel Allende (Chile), Pia Locatelli (Italy), Rafael Michelini (Uruguay), Mario Nalpatian (Armenia), Kattia Rivera (Costa Rica), Jesús Rodríguez (Argentina), Bokary Treta (Mali, also Chair of the SI Africa Committee), Miguel Vargas (Dominican Republic, also Chair of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean); and Ouafa Hajji (President of SIW). The Presidium was joined by the Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa, the Minister-President of Wallonia, Elio di Rupo (Belgium), the President of IUSY, Jesús Tapia, and the President of the PS of Chile, Paulina Vodanovic.