Holding its second yearly meeting in conjunction with the opening of the general debate of the General Assembly at the United Nations, the Presidium of the Socialist International, together with a number of Heads of State and Government, Heads of international institutions, and the members of the SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society and the SI Commission on Global Financial Issues, met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 23 to address two of the major issues on the international agenda today: Climate Change and The Global Financial Crisis.
Amongst the Heads of State or Government and Ministers joining Presidium members at the meeting were Tarja Halonen, President of Finland; Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq; Toomas H. Ilves, President of Estonia; Alvaro Colom, President of Guatemala; Boris Tadic, President of Serbia; Navim Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius; Laurent Gbagbo, President of Cote d’Ivoire; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Home Affairs Minister of South Africa, Mohamed El Yazghi, Minister of State from Morocco; Maged George, Environment Minister of Egypt; Marco Hausiku, Foreign Minister of Namibia and Abdelwaheb Abdallah, Foreign Minister of Tunisia.
Also taking part, as guests, were Juan Somavía, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO); Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Alicia Bárcena, Director of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The meeting was opened by SI President George Papandreou, who chaired the proceedings, underlining the importance of this moment and of the contribution of social democracy in shaping policy on the key issues we face on the international agenda. In introductory remarks, the SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, gave an overview of the work of the organisation on both themes of the meeting.
The way forward on climate change
The SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society, established by the Socialist International to further a common social democratic vision and address the new global environmental and political challenges of today, presented its Report, 'From a high carbon economy to a low carbon society', in line with its programme of work, following the extensive activities it had carried out over the last two years. This Report was introduced by Commission Co-Chair Ricardo Lagos, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Climate Change and former President of Chile. Commission members Sergei Mironov, Chairman of the Council of the Russian Federation and Chair of the Just Russia Party; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister; Beatriz Paredes, President of the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico, and Mohamed El Yazghi, Moroccan Minister of State, added to the presentation of the Report which covers a range of issues, including the immediate need for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the setting of criteria for carbon emissions reduction by country; reducing greenhouse gas emissions in energy consumption; reversing deforestation through preservation and reforestation; technology transfers and capacity building with regard to mitigation and adaptation; funding for technology transfers and capacity building; procedures and mechanisms relating to compliance; education and reaching the people at local, national and international levels, and redefining and reforming global governance and international institution building.
In the debate several speakers took part, including President Laurent Gbagbo, Prime Minister Navim Ramgoolam and UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, as well as SI Vice-Presidents Ségolène Royal (France), Nouzha Chekrouni (Morocco), Victor Benoit (Haiti) and Chantal Kambiwa (Cameroon). It was clear to all that political will and mutual understanding would be required for any meaningful agreement to be reached at the climate change conference in Copenhagen this coming December, and that the challenge would continue beyond whatever agreement was reached, since, as stated in the SI Commission’s Report, ‘in the end humanity will answer for itself on the question of how in the future it will live in relation to the Earth and whether the Earth will remain hospitable’.
Tackling the financial crisis
In addressing the current phase of the global financial crisis and the upcoming G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, the Presidium received a report on the work of the SI Commission on Global Financial Issues which had held its most recent meeting in New York two days before, on 21 September, under the chairmanship of Professor Joseph Stiglitz. Delivering the Commission’s report, SI Vice-President and former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer, a member of the Commission, highlighted the priorities from the social democratic perspective with regard to the present phase of the crisis and the G20 Summit. In the context of this debate, ILO Director General Juan Somavía presented his organisation’s initiative for a ‘Global Jobs Pact’ and the meeting was addressed by President Tarja Halonen.
Commission members and SI Vice-Presidents Elio di Rupo, Leader of the Socialist Party of Belgium; Eero Heinaluoma, from the Social Democratic Party of Finland, Martín Torrijos, former President of Panama and Leader of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, and Pia Locatelli, President of SIW, also contributed to the presentation of the Commission’s work. SI Vice-Presidents Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq; Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the PES; Pascal Affi N’Guessan (Cote d’Ivoire), Manuel Laguarda (Uruguay) and Juliao Mateus Paulo (Angola), as well as Miguel Vargas (Dominican Republic), and Alicia Bárcena from the ECLAC, added to the exchanges on this subject.
The Presidium’s discussions concluded with the adoption of a Statement on the Global Financial Crisis and the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.