The Congress took place in the historic city of Cartagena from 2 to 4 March 2017, hosted by the SI member party, the Colombian Liberal Party (PLC), and was inaugurated with the participation of His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Colombia and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who delivered a special address to the gathering.
The opening session of the Congress included four speakers, the secretary general of the Socialist International, the co-leader of the host party, the president of the International, and the president of the Republic of Colombia.
The SI Secretary General Luis Ayala welcomed participants and expressed the SI’s pride to be in Cartagena where the global social democratic movement had convened to demonstrate its support for the process for peace and reconciliation in Colombia, and solidarity with its people. SI parties from other regions represented at the Congress were also trying to achieve peace and bring an end to conflicts in other parts of the world, and the Peace Agreement signed in Colombia and now being implemented, was a source of inspiration for our global family. Our agenda would also address other crucial issues of concern, that of inequality in the world economy, the need for greater solidarity within and between nations, and our collective response to those promoting agendas centered on self-interest, populism and nationalism, against multilateralism and international cooperation..
Horacio Serpa, co-leader of the host party PLC, extended to all a warm welcome to Colombia, a country of 1,140,000 square kilometres, with 49,000,000 inhabitants who were a combination of indigenous people, mestizo, black, white, mixed race, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, Catholics, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Muslims, Jews, all coexisting under a constitution that respects gender equality, religious freedom and sexual diversity. He spoke of the advances they had made towards overcoming poverty and inequality, the achievement of the long-awaited peace agreement, and how Colombia should keep its doors open to migrants who are subject to persecution in their country of origin. As members of the Socialist International, he said, we believed that a world in peace was possible with the right to freedom, social security, employment and bread.
SI President George Papandreou, addressing the Congress, emphasised the solidarity felt with Colombia and with the efforts, courage and determination of President Santos and his government to bring peace. National reconciliation is a fragile and difficult process, he said, but was the way to a lasting and just peace. At a time when many leaders are choosing politics of polarization and fear, here was an example of leadership bringing peace and reconciliation. In outlining basic challenges in the world today, he underscored our capacity to overcome these with a response that was not based on isolationism, hatred, nationalism, walls, authoritarianism or dogmatism. Though diverse, our global family was united by its common values and beliefs in peace, cooperation, respect, dignity, tolerance, sustainability, democracy and equality.
The XXV SI Congress listened to His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Colombia. Welcoming delegates, friends and guests, he underlined the importance of rights, freedoms and democracy to the people of Colombia. Peace, he stressed, was more than the silence of weapons, but needed consolidation through equality, and this he hoped could be a model for others in a world that was sadly polarising. He spoke of the struggle between love and fear in today’s world. The human race was a single unity of all races, and it was love that helped us to understand suffering, tolerance, respect and the value of diversity as a treasure of humankind. Fear on the contrary, he said, generated threats from a lack of knowledge, which in turn became a reason for violence. The challenge was to recover unity, tolerance and love, which have been driven away by fear, and the inspiration for this could be found through the ideas, values and principles that characterize organizations such as the Socialist International.
The agenda of the Congress covered three main themes, reflecting the priorities of the movement: “Building a more peaceful world: resolving conflicts and preventing new ones”; “Achieving greater equality in both the national and the global economy”; and “Solidarity within and between nations: a fundamental pillar of our International”.
Building a more peaceful world: resolving conflicts and preventing new ones
Juan Fernando Cristo, Minister of the Interior of Colombia, who currently plays a key role in the implementation of the peace agreement reached with the FARC, delivered the first key-note speech on this theme, focusing on the experience of his country in bringing to a close a more than 50 year old armed conflict with rebel groups. It had been a difficult and protracted process, and continued support and encouragement was needed to see through the implementation of the agreement, a crucial part of which had commenced while the delegates to this Congress had been in Cartagena, with the demobilisation and the initiation of the hand-over of arms by the FARC to the United Nations.
Many participants at the congress took part in the discussions under this theme, with contributions illustrating their experiences in widely varying contexts. These included Julião Mateus Paulo, (MPLA, Angola); Carlos Eduardo Vieira da Cunha and Carlos Lupi (PDT, Brazil); on the search for peace in the Middle East the Congress heard from Colette Avital (Meretz, Israel), Nabeel Shaath (Fatah, Palestine) and Gal Raij (Israel Labour Party); Henry Ramos (AD, Venezuela); Guo Yezhou (Vice-Minister from the CCP, China), who addressed a special greeting to the Congress; Rubén Berríos (PIP, Puerto Rico); Ouesseini Hadizatou Yacouba (PNDS-TARAYYA, Niger); Miguel Vargas, (PRD, Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic); Mario Jiménez (PSOE, Spain); Mikalai Statkevich (BSDP-NH, Belarus); Mustapha Ben Jaafar, (Ettakatol, Tunisia); Shazia Marri (PPP, Pakistan); Mario Nalpatian (ARF-D, Armenia); Zharmakhan Tuyakbay (OSDP, Kazakhstan); Ryoichi Hattori (SDP, Japan); Araz Alizadeh (SDPA, Azerbaijan); Sadi Pire (PUK, Iraq); Khalid Azizi (KDP, Iran); Pia Locatelli (PSI, Italy); Dahan Alnajjar (Yemen, YSP); Andres Esono Ondo (Equatorial Guinea, CPDS); Saleh Mohamed Moslem (PYD, Syria); Limam Ahmed (RFD, Mauritania); Umut Oran (CHP, Turkey); and Carolina Ordoñez (PLC, Colombia).
In the discussion on this theme of the Congress, countries and regions suffering from internal and external conflicts were identified, and their situation presented with recommendations and initiatives to overcome the challenges they faced in order to make peace a less distant goal. From armed wars to nationalism, xenophobia, corruption and the displacement of people on a massive scale, it was stressed that a constructive engagement by the international community was urgently needed, and a point of convergence by the participants was a renewed commitment of the Socialist International to continue prioritising peace, the strengthening of the United Nations as a vital institution for achieving these ends, and working with our parties in the countries throughout the world that today are suffering from conflict. The discussions underlined the need to promote and consolidate democracy and the respect for rights and freedoms for all people in order to achieve and secure peace. The strength of the Socialist International was emphasised, when working in solidarity, collectively opposing right-wing populism and nationalism, defending our values and principles in advancing international cooperation, the protection of refugees and migrants, and standing firm in support of those enduring violence, terror and oppression. A general congress resolution that was subsequently adopted, reflects these conclusions.
The decision had been taken the previous day, by the Council of the Socialist International, to appoint an Electoral Commission composed of four members from different regions, two men and two women. These were Eero Heinäluoma (SDP, Finland); Chantal Kambiwa (SDF, Cameroon); Shazia Marri (PPP, Pakistan); and Rafael Michelini (NE, Uruguay). Michelini, acting as spokesperson for the Electoral Commission, proceeded with the votes to be taken for SI President, SI Secretary General, and SI Vice-Presidents.
Only one candidate stood for the post of SI President, the current president, George Papandreou (Greece). The Congress re-elected him by acclamation. He received the vote with thanks and gratitude, looking forward to continuing his work with the SI family.
There were two candidates for the post of SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala (Chile) and Welile Nhlapo (South Africa). Rafael Michelini explained that the Commission had worked to organise the election under a strict procedure. At the time of the vote, Gwede Mantashe, ANC Secretary General, announced that the South African candidate was withdrawing his candidacy due to family reasons. Luis Ayala was subsequently re-elected by acclamation to the post of SI Secretary General. He said he was honoured by the confidence placed in him and expressed his thanks to all the many parties that had called on him to stand for election. He believed that the International would continue to be successful as long as it was democratically self-governed by its members.
Moving to the election of the Vice-Presidents, Michelini presented a list of candidates that, as agreed by the Council, also included one candidate each from Israel and Palestine. Noting that the list complied with the statutes, thirty two Vice-Presidents were duly elected by acclamation. The Congress mandated the next Council to elect the remaining four vacant posts in the Presidium, respecting the statutory requirements in regard to gender.
The Congress then approved the proposals put forward for the posts of Honorary Presidents of the SI. These were Mustapha Ben Jaafar (Tunisia); Rubén Berríos Martínez (Puerto Rico); Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (Mexico); Tarja Halonen (Finland); Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger); Lionel Jospin (France); Horacio Serpa (Colombia); and Jalal Talabani (Iraq).
Achieving greater equality in both the national and the global economy
Elio Di Rupo, Chair of the SI Commission on Inequality (PS, Belgium), introduced the second main theme with a key-note speech, focusing on the struggle against inequality, which was on the rise everywhere. Human beings must not be slaves of the economy, he said. As socialists we believed in human equality, it was at the very core of our DNA, and we would fight together for a united world because the greatest problems we face are global.
Eero Heinaluoma, (SDP, Finland), and Ricard Parker (Democratic Party, USA, Professor at Harvard University), both members of the SI Commission on Inequality, made contributions on this theme. In his speech, Heinaluoma warned against unfettered global capital and underlined that we are facing a generational challenge to our basic values and hard won achievements. Richard Parker delivered an address on the current unequal state of the global economy. On this subject, the Congress unanimously adopted a paper which centered on the forces that have resulted in such a wide economic gap between the poor majority and the wealthy few. Economic growth was now needed that produced stable, long-term output and jobs, and where profits could provide essential fiscal flows to governments for public welfare.
Contributions on this theme were presented by Bernal Jiménez (PLN, Costa Rica), Sükhbaataryn Batbold (MPP, Mongolia); Isabel Allende (PS, Chile), Gwede Mantashe (ANC, South Africa); Mani Shankar Aiyar (INC, India); Emmanuel Golou (PSD, Benin); André Figueiredo (PDT, Brazil); Roberto Marrero (VP, Venezuela); Svetlina Yolcheva (Bulgaria, PBSD); Jesús Rodríguez (UCR, Argentina), and Ouafa Hajji, President of Socialist International Women.
In the discussions, it was recognised that the issues of poverty and inequality were complex and multi-dimensional, and that structural change to the political economy was necessary to achieve our goals. Calls were made to governments and others to end tax havens, to take other measures to end illicit capital flows from South to North, to speed up land reform where necessary, to take stronger steps against corruption in the private and the public sector, including multi-national corporations, to strengthen gender based budgeting, to raise minimum wages, and to intensify efforts to end conflicts which undermine development and poverty reduction.
Solidarity within and between nations: a fundamental pillar of our International
Under the third main theme of solidarity within and between nations, the dramatic plight of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar was highlighted. The Congress heard an address by Maung Tun Khin, representative of the Burmese Rohingya people, on the extreme conditions his people had endured, with many killed and countless displaced in the last 5 months alone. He cited a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights dated February 2017 detailing gross human rights violations that the Rohingya people had been subjected to, indicating the likely occurrence of crimes against humanity. The Congress appealed to all governments, and to the international community at large, to put pressure on the Burmese authorities, and to take the necessary action to protect the Rohingya population and bring an end to their persecution.
Contributions on the theme of Solidarity were heard from Mala Bakhtiar (PUK, Iraq) addressing the situation affecting the Kurdish people, Iraq, and the region; from Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana (SWAPO, Namibia); Sandra Torres (UNE, Guatemala); Saleh Kebzabo (UNDR, Chad); Reijo Paananen (SDP, Finland); Chantal Kambiwa (SDF, Cameroon); Elyzabeth Reyes (UN, Bolivia); Victor Benoit (Fusion, Haiti); Jorge del Castillo (APRA, Peru); Francisco Rosales (FSLN, Nicaragua); Victor Pardo (PLC, Colombia); Roberto César Birri (PS, Argentina); and David Balsa (Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Forum).
The Congress expressions on this point reaffirmed that the Socialist International, which brings together in one organization, faith communities and cultures from across the globe, stood united by its core principle of solidarity, rejecting all false claims of clashes of civilizations. Solidarity, inspired by the values and principles that define our International, was emphasised in reference to all those opposing populism and extremism, or fighting for democracy, freedoms and rights, and our support for refugees and migrants who are victims of injustice and of the absence of those freedoms and rights that we defend. The Socialist International stood today with the peace process in Colombia, as it was equally committed to working for peace in areas of conflict or civil unrest in different parts of the world. The Congress also expressed its solidarity in combatting and adapting to climate change, renewing its call on all governments to enshrine their climate change obligations in national legislation.
Declarations and Statements adopted by the Congress
Responding to proposals and requests by SI member parties, the Congress discussed and adopted a number of declarations and statements. Along with a general congress resolution, these included a declaration in support of Mexico, in view of the segregationist and discriminatory policies of the Trump Administration in the United States; a declaration in support of the right to self-determination and independence of the people of Puerto Rico; an expression of deep concern at the ongoing political, economic and social crisis affecting Venezuela; a declaration on the question of Palestine introduced by Fatah, Palestine, and the Meretz party of Israel; a declaration in support of the struggle of its member party in Mauritania, the RDF, against changes to the constitution in that country; on an initiative of the Socialist International regarding the Armenian Genocide; and a declaration against the legal restrictions on Latin American political leaders, noting the increase in politically motivated court cases in the region and calling on the responsibility of the judiciary for the proper functioning of democracy.
There was a discussion by delegates on proposed amendments to the current statutes of the SI in relation to gender equality, an issue which had been discussed by the Council on the eve of the Congress. Amendments to the statutes were adopted to include the objective of an equal number of men and women at all levels of the organization, declaring that gender equality is an issue of human rights for the movement; and to ensure the representation of women in the SI Presidium as per the statutes, stating that in case of difficulties, the SIW would be consulted. The Congress also adopted a resolution empowering future Councils to make the necessary changes to the statutes to allow for the implementation of the principle of an equal number of men and women at all levels of the organization, and to decide on the setting up and mandate of a Committee on Equality.
Decisions on membership
The Congress endorsed the decisions which had been taken by the Council prior to the Congress to admit the Frente de Unidad Nacional of Bolivia as a new full member party, to upgrade the UNDR of Chad and the TDP of Cyprus to full membership status, and to upgrade the Polisario Front of Western Sahara to consultative status. The Congress equally ratified all the previous decisions taken by the SI Council during the inter-Congress period relating to membership. (Full list)
For a world in peace, with equality and solidarity
Achieving greater equality in the national and global economy
Declaration in support of Mexico
Declaration on Puerto Rico
Resolution on Venezuela
Declaration on the question of Palestine
Declaration on Mauritania
Initiative of the Socialist International regarding the Armenian Genocide
Declaration on legal restrictions on Latin American political leaders
Resolution empowering the Council to make changes to the statutes
Change to the statutes agreed by the Congress