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Meeting of the SI Council at the United Nations in Geneva

12-13 December 2014

Latifa Perry

The Socialist International held its second Council meeting of the year on 12-13 December at the United Nations, Geneva (UNOG). The main theme on the Council agenda was ‘International peace and security: the resolution of conflicts and countering terrorism’. Discussions were also held on our work to gain new democracies and strengthen democratic governance and on the human dimension of migration and the plight of refugees (list of speakers).

The SI Secretary General Luis Ayala, in opening the meeting, expressed that the UN was a particularly fitting venue for these discussions, as it shared many of the values and principles of the Socialist International. He reflected that the agenda of the meeting would touch themes that were at the centre of the global agenda, with particular focus to be paid to the resolution of conflicts. It was therefore important that many directly affected by these conflicts were taking part in the discussions to give their first-hand insights – among them representatives of SI member parties and guests from Iraq and Syria, Israel and Palestine and others from other regions facing conflicts in the world (list of participants at the Council).

Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations in Geneva, warmly welcomed all participants and underlined his wish to see a closer relationship between the UN and policy makers, parties and parliaments. He reflected on an era of greater global insecurity, with a growth in inequality and a corresponding lack of participation and increase in discontent. He therefore spoke of the need for shared values and principles, to get beyond the paradigm of ‘might equals right’. In the fight for solidarity, equality and justice, he argued, the UN could be counted on.

The Council was next addressed by António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former President of the Socialist International. He reported on the scale of the crisis facing the world, due to the rapidly increasing flows of people newly displaced. The largest mandate of the UNHCR was the Syrian ‘mega crisis’, but crises such as those in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Nigeria continued to cause great suffering to those affected, wreaking great destruction upon the people of those countries. He warned that the humanitarian system was reaching breaking point, with a shortage of resources for food support to refugees, the great losers in a conflict without winners. He stressed the need to tackle the root causes that create humanitarian problems, which urgently needed to be addressed from a political perspective.

SI President George Papandreou referred to the strength of the ongoing partnership between the SI and the UN as he addressed the opening of the Council. He highlighted the importance of social justice and equality to the global social democratic movement, characterised by the fight for freedom, democracy and human rights around the world. This was increasingly important in an era of challenges – violence and sectarianism, the politics of fear and anger, the global refugee crisis, the scourge of Ebola and the persecution of those fighting for democracy. The SI President underlined that the politics of the organisation represented both the need and the possibility to cooperate to deal with these global challenges in an equitable and global way, guided by the principle of solidarity.

On the main theme of ‘International peace and security: the resolution of conflicts and countering terrorism’, the Council heard from a number of actors from the front line of the rapidly developing conflict in Syria and Iraq. Hadi al Bahra, President of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces addressed the meeting and called on the international community to play an important part in bringing a solution to the Syrian crisis, though long-term peace would need a national political solution. He stressed that the majority of the Syrian people wanted a free, democratic and inclusive society and he presented a vision of a government for all Syrians of all ethnicities and religions.

With regard to the fight against ISIS and its terrorist insurgency in northern Iraq and Syria, representatives from the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, and political parties representing the Kurdish population in northern Iraq and Syria addressed the Council, giving details of their recent efforts to face the terrorist forces and prevent their advance, calling for assistance from the international community in bringing an end to the conflict. A declaration on terror in Iraq and Syria was adopted at the close of the meeting, reflecting the exchanges on this deeply violent and troubling conflict.

Discussions were also held on another unresolved conflict in the Middle East, the question of Israel and Palestine. Representatives of Meretz (Israel) and Fatah and the PNI (Palestine) took part in the discussions, and were able to reach an agreement during the course of the Council on a declaration on peace in the Middle East, reflecting the commitment of the SI and its Israeli and Palestinian members to a two-state solution and the recognition of a Palestinian state.

The rich contributions on the main theme were encapsulated in a declaration of the Council on conflict resolution, which emphasises the role of social democracy as a movement for peace and the fundamental importance of global governance in the quest to eliminate war and violence.

Many illuminating interventions were heard on the theme of our work to gain new democracies and strengthen democratic governance, including the presentation of a report by the SI Special Envoy to Caracas, Venezuela, José Antonio Viera-Gallo. Unfortunately, there remains far too high a number of committed democrats around the world who are made to suffer for their beliefs. This message was candidly conveyed to the Council, through special addresses from Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo López, leader of Voluntad Popular and imprisoned in Venezuela since February, and Marina Adamovich, wife of Mikalai Statkevich, the leader of the SI member opposition party BSDP in Belarus, who has been incarcerated since 2010. The Council adopted declarations on democracy in Venezuela and Belarus, which call for the release of Lopez, Statkevich and all the other political prisoners in those countries. It equally endorsed a petition to the government of Bahrain calling for the release of Ebrahim Sharif, an opposition leader currently serving a five-year sentence.

The Council equally adopted a declaration on democracy reflecting the deep and fundamental commitment of the Socialist International to the establishment, development, strengthening and protection of democracy, having heard contributions and perspectives on the theme from all regions of the world.

On the theme of the human dimension of migration and the plight of refugees, the Council heard a report on the recent activity of the SI Committee on migrations, presented by Marco Di Lello (PSI, Italy), vice-chair of the committee, which last met in Catania to continue its work on elaborating a Migrants’ Charter. This charter will provide a common platform on migration for socialists from both the north and south of the world, putting emphasis on the dignity, rights and freedoms of migrants.

A number of interventions over the course of the meeting referred to the continuing health emergency in countries affected by the Ebola epidemic. One strongly shared sentiment was the need to isolate the virus and not those countries affected by it. The Council adopted a resolution on Ebola to reflect the position of the SI on this crisis of public health.

The report of the Ethics Committee was presented by its chair, Gilles Mahieu. The committee has continued its work, undertaken since the last Congress, of assessing the many new applications for membership received by the organisation. The chair reported that the committee proposed to admit the Indian National Congress (INC, India) and Voluntad Popular (VP, Venezuela) as new full members, the All Progressives Congress (APC, Nigeria) as a consultative member (awaiting rapporteur's report), the Unified Lumumbist Party (PALU, DR Congo), Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KPIK, Iran), and Komala Party of Kurdistan (KPK, Iran) as observers, and the Euro-Latin American Forum of Progressive and Socialist Parliamentarians, as an associated organisation. The recommendations of the committee were agreed by the Council.

The co-chair of the SI Finance and Administration Committee, Maurice Poler, presented the report of the committee and the budget for 2015, which was adopted. Following the decision of the previous Council to enforce the statutes in regard to non-payment of membership fees, he presented the list of parties and organisations that would cease to be members of the SI with immediate effect, having not paid their fees for three or more years. The decisions were adopted unanimously.

Miguel Vargas (PRD, Dominican Republic), chair of the Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean gave a report on the work of the committee, with particular reference to the last meeting held in Washington at the headquarters of the Organisation of American States.

Elections were held to fill two vacant positions on the SI Presidium. Following a vote in the Council, Pedro Sánchez (secretary-general of PSOE, Spain) and Umut Oran (CHP, Turkey) were unanimously elected. The Council also endorsed the nomination of Carme Chacón (PSOE, Spain) to become the new chair of the SI Mediterranean Committee. It was further announced that the Mediterranean committee would undertake a mission to Western Sahara and presents its findings in a report to the Council.

The Council also adopted a declaration on Uruguay and a statement of solidarity with the relatives of the Mexican students who disappeared in September. The Council recognised that a large number of parliaments around the world have voted on declarations recognizing the Armenian genocide and decided to put this issue on the agenda of the first Council in 2015, one hundred years after this tragedy.

List of speakers

List of participants at the Council

Minutes of the meeting of the Council
Declarations adopted by the Council:

Declaration on the conflict in northern Iraq and Syria

Declaration on Peace in the Middle East

Declaration on resolution of conflicts

Declaration on democracy

Resolution on Venezuela
Report by the SI Special Envoy to Caracas, Venezuela, José Antonio Viera-Gallo

Declaration on Belarus

Petition for the release of Ebrahim Sharif in Bahrain

Resolution on Ebola

Declaration on elections in Uruguay

Declaration of solidarity with the students of Ayotzninapa, Guerrero, in Mexico

Press coverage of the meeting
Activities and Statements of the Socialist International from the Mexico Council in June 2014 to the Geneva Council in December 2014