REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL
We gather in Africa at a time when the challenges faced by this continent - political, economic, social and environmental - have never been greater. But rather than yield to the pessimism expressed in some quarters about the continent's future, we remain determined to find solutions, inspired by having already overcome, through sustained commitment, obstacles once thought by many to be insurmountable. The peaceful and democratic victory over apartheid in South Africa, for example, remains an extraordinary achievement and a testament to global solidarity that we were proud to acclaim at the last SI Council held in Africa, in Cape Town in 1995.
Today, the Socialist International is charting 'The way forward for Africa: a worldwide commitment for development, peace and democracy', which is the principal theme of our Council in Maputo. We would hope that international efforts could at least match the determination of Africans themselves who, as seen most recently, have mobilised to defend democracy in Côte d’Ivoire, remained resolute in their rebuilding work following the devastating floods here in Mozambique, while persevering against great odds in the struggle for social justice across the entire continent.
A key initiative of our International is 'Making the fight against poverty in Africa an urgent priority', one of the four SI campaigns we have been advancing since they were agreed at our last Council in Brussels. Reducing poverty on the continent, combined with our campaign for debt relief, is a central part of our overall aim to empower the people of Africa to meet today's global challenges. As President Chissano said to us in Brussels, it is about solidarity, fairness and also about knowledge, 'Not that knowledge should be given to us, but that we can have the opportunity to gain it for ourselves, this is the basis of empowerment'.
At the same time, we continue in the promotion of peace - in Africa, in the Middle East and other regions, as will also be discussed here in Maputo. Our efforts in this regard are also linked to our campaign to combat violence against women, who are increasingly targeted in today's types of warfare and who represent the great majority of displaced people around the globe.
And again, where others might view the problems as intractable, we believe that determined efforts to secure peace agreements can and do succeed. Our International has a proven record in helping to bridge differences and advance peace initiatives, just as we are known for our constant support of democracy, human rights and equality, and the development of common responses to common problems. All of which is why people everywhere continue turning to social democracy as the way toward a more just and stable world.
OUR ACTIVITIES IN THE WORLD
Since Brussels, our International has developed a number of initiatives and activities and held meetings in the different regions of the globe.
The SI Africa Committee, for example, which provides today a well regarded channel for the expression of popular aspirations throughout the continent, has met twice, first in Yaoundé, Cameroon, this on 30 June - 1 July, then in Praia, Cape Verde, on 30-31 October.
The gathering in Yaoundé was chaired by Ousmane Tanor Dieng, First Secretary of the Socialist Party of Senegal and Chair of the Committee, and hosted by the Social Democratic Front, SDF, of Cameroon. Our presence in Yaoundé underlined the ongoing support of the Socialist International for our member party in the struggle for free, fair and transparent elections in Cameroon. John Fru Ndi, the National Chair of the SDF, in welcoming the delegates, said that the SDF believed the meeting would help to 'determine the evolution of democratic processes in Cameroon, Africa and other developing countries'.
Following its deliberations, the Committee adopted the Yaoundé Declaration, a broad document addressing the issues of democratisation, conflict resolution and fighting poverty. The Declaration emphasised, among other key elements, the universality of democratic principles, the need for good governance and the elimination of corruption, and recommended that development aid be 'people-oriented' and that economic ties between countries 'be based on a mutually beneficial partnership'.
Our meeting in Praia was hosted by the African Party of Cape Verde's Independence, PAICV. The Committee worked on developing issues related to the main theme of our Council, received reports on national situations of countries in the region and issued a resolution on Côte d’Ivoire. The resolution expressed the Committee's 'firm solidarity' with the people of Côte d’Ivoire and their successful efforts to uphold the true outcome of the recent national elections, and congratulated our member Côte d’Ivoire Popular Front, FPI, and its leader Laurent Gbagbo on their victory and continuing efforts to strengthen democracy in their country.
The Committee also issued a resolution on Angola, which applauded the efforts of the MPLA and the Angolan Government to secure peace in that country, and the 'Praia Declaration', which covers current trends in Africa and will be part of our deliberations in Maputo.
Asia and the Pacific
The protection of democratic institutions was also high on the agenda when the SI Asia-Pacific Committee met in Wellington, New Zealand, on 7-8 August 2000, hosted by the New Zealand Labour Party, NZLP, and its leader Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Delegates from throughout this vast region denounced the violent overthrow of the democratically elected, multi-ethnic government of Fiji headed by Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, leader of the SI member Fiji Labour Party. This followed on the statement by our International issued after the coup on 19 May, which condemned the assault on the lawful government of the country and called for the release of all hostages. Thankfully, Prime Minister Chaudhry survived a prolonged and strenuous ordeal and was able to participate in the meeting in Wellington, where he joined the Committee in calling for international action to restore democracy in Fiji.
The situation in Fiji remains very unfavourable and unstable, and there are ongoing concerns about the absence of, and threats to, democracy in a number of countries in the region, especially in Malaysia, the Philippines and Burma. Regarding Burma, our International condemned the military regime for its recent attempts to restrict the freedom of movement of pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and officials from her party, the National League for Democracy. With regard to the Philippines, I recently met with Vice-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as part of our International's ongoing work to maintain and strengthen relations with those promoting more honest and transparent government.
As we expand our numerous efforts in support of democracy and human rights, and as was noted by our Committee in Wellington, the recent and substantial advances in East Timor are an inspiration, proof of the effectiveness of international solidarity and social democratic determination even during those times when there seemed to be little light at the end of the tunnel.
The persistence of strife and threats to peace and security continues to be a concern in countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and in Wellington we reiterated calls for far-reaching reductions in arms production and sales. At the same time, we expressed 'great satisfaction at the recent historic steps toward rapprochement taken by South Korea and North Korea', about which we were given a detailed account by Kim Sang-Woo of the Millennium Democratic Party of South Korea, who participated in our meeting representing President Kim Dae Jung. In support of these developments it was decided to send a Socialist International mission to visit South Korea and North Korea, which we are now preparing for early in 2001.
The Committee concluded its statement in Wellington by reaffirming its commitment, made at its meeting in Kuala Lumpur last year, 'to make the new century one for social democracy in Asia and the Pacific'. It expressed confidence in its approach not least because the International pursues its aims with the full participation of women, and because of our renewed efforts in the region for 'enhancing cooperation and solidarity between social democratic parties and free trade unions'.
Latin America and the Caribbean
'Giving priority to people and promoting solidarity' during this era of global change was a principal focus of the meeting of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, held in Kingston, Jamaica on 1-2 September.
The gathering, hosted by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and the People's National Party, PNP, provided a good opportunity to appreciate the strength of our movement in the Caribbean where SI member parties are in power not only in Jamaica, but also Dominica, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and, in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, the Dominican Republic. SI member parties are also in government in Chile and Argentina and the Committee expressed support for those working hard to win office in other countries throughout the region.
The SICLAC meeting in Kingston was chaired by former President of Argentina and President of the Radical Civic Union, UCR, Raúl Alfonsín, Co-Chair of the Committee. He and other leaders in the region led the deliberations, which resulted in two substantial declarations, one on the theme noted above and the other on 'Defending and strengthening democracy: the social democratic commitment', as well as a statement focusing on the Caribbean.
The Committee affirmed that while globalisation presented daunting challenges to all countries in the region, smaller nations such as those in the Caribbean were particularly vulnerable to the new threats posed by global economic volatility and international organised crime. To help protect the less powerful countries, the Committee advocated, among other initiatives, concerted efforts to strengthen regional integration and the full application of international law. The Committee also called for the globalisation of solidarity, noting that democracy in individual countries can only be sustained when democratic values and principles govern international political and economic relations.
In separate resolutions, the Committee expressed its serious concerns about ongoing developments in Colombia, Haiti, Peru and Venezuela, and reiterated the solidarity of the Socialist International with our member parties in those countries and all democratic efforts to resolve current problems in them.
As part of the ongoing support by our International for member parties around the world, a Socialist International delegation monitored the 16 May presidential elections in the Dominican Republic, where we were proud to observe at close hand the victory by Hipólito Mejía and our member party the Dominican Revolutionary Party, PRD. Mejía was inaugurated in Santo Domingo on 16 August, an event I was pleased to be a part of, and has written an article about his plans for the future of his country, entitled 'Transparency: my aim in politics', for the latest issue of Socialist Affairs.
Our International also remains active in support of free elections and democracy in Peru. Following our statement in April expressing deep concerns about the first round of the electoral process, I travelled to Peru and met with democratic opposition leader Alejandro Toledo, members of our SI member Peruvian Aprista Party and representatives of other democratic forces in the country. As our friends and comrades continue their struggle there, our support for peaceful, democratic change is needed more than ever.
Central and Eastern Europe
The SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, met in Zagreb on 6-7 October just as the people of Serbia, through the ballot box and with their voices in the streets, were gaining their freedom from the Milosevic regime, a victory for democracy which our International has constantly worked for. Updates on the dramatic events were provided by delegates from Serbian social democratic organisations attending the gathering.
The meeting was hosted by the SI member Croatian Social Democratic Party, SDP, which heads the country's government, and the Committee, in its 'Declaration of Zagreb', emphasised that the new democratic phase which began last year in Croatia had clearly helped to inspire democratic transformation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).
The meeting was chaired by Piero Fassino (DS, Italy) and László Kovács (MSzP, Hungary), Co-Chairs of the Committee. Following extensive discussions on national situations, the Committee reaffirmed the commitment of the Socialist International 'to support in Yugoslavia and in each country of the region the realisation of political democracy, a social market economy and human rights for all individuals, communities and peoples'. It was further agreed to send an SI mission to the FRY, which we are currently preparing, to strengthen cooperation with social democratic forces and relations with other democratic organisations there.
SI Mission in Moscow
Following the decision of our last Council in Brussels, an SI delegation went to Moscow where on 26 September our International organised a special one-day gathering under the heading 'A vision for the future - a dialogue on Social Democracy'. The delegation was led by Göran Persson, Prime Minister of Sweden and leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, who had been entrusted by the SI Executive with matters concerning Russia. Other members included the former Prime Minister of Hungary and an SI Vice-President, Gyula Horn, of the Hungarian Socialist Party; the former Prime Minister of Poland and member of the National Board of the Democratic Left Alliance, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewiez; and myself.
The Russian participants in the dialogue, including leaders, representatives and personalities from more than a dozen political, civic and trade union organisations, expressed their desire to find ways to unify their various efforts and to solidify their relations and levels of cooperation. The SI delegation, in turn, reaffirmed the International's commitment to strengthening ties with those in Russia who embrace social democracy.
SI Mission to the Middle East
The determination and ability of the Socialist International to maintain an active, positive approach during the most difficult times was evident when a mission of the Socialist International met during 11-13 October with the leaders of its member parties in the Middle East - Ehud Barak, Israel Labour Party; Yasser Arafat, Chair of Fatah; and Yossi Sarid, Leader of Meretz - and with other key figures in the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority.
The members of the delegation - which included Thorbjørn Jagland, Foreign Minister of Norway, Leader of the Norwegian Party and Chair of the SI Middle East Committee, SIMEC; Walter Veltroni, Leader of the Democrats of the Left, Italy, and a member of the SI Executive; Julien Dray, Member of Parliament and of the French Socialist Party National Secretariat; and myself - listened to the various points of view in the region and expressed the continuing concerns of the International about ending the violence and resuming the peace negotiations. The mission, a continuation of our constant attention and activities in support of peace in the region, could not have been more timely.
As we continued to closely follow events, we organised the most recent meeting of SIMEC in Oslo on 2 November, hosted by the Norwegian Labour Party and chaired by Thorbjørn Jagland. The gathering, which followed on the work of the Committee at its previous meeting in Casablanca on 7 April, took place amid late breaking developments.
The Committee, reaffirming that the International would continue to contribute in whatever way it could towards peace, worked through the session to bridge differences that still existed and reached a consensus on basic elements for a common approach, including the need for both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority to focus efforts on achieving a permanent end to the violence, restoring a situation of normality as soon as possible and seeking ways to resume the peace process. Stressing that direct dialogue between the two sides is essential to advance, it was considered important that both leaders of its member parties, Barak and Arafat, join the Presidium of the International for discussions with a view toward promoting understanding and agreement.
OUR WORK ON GLOBAL ISSUES
The SI Committee on Local Authorities also has been very active, with a broad focus on strengthening democracy through local initiatives in the era of globalisation. Most recently, the Committee met in Budapest on 24-25 October, hosted by the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP. Hermes Binner of the Popular Socialist Party, PSP, of Argentina, Chair of the Committee and the Mayor of Rosario, chaired the gathering. Participants worked on a number of issues including relations between local governments and civil society, and the political and financial dimensions of local administrations in a modern state.
The meeting culminated in the 'Budapest Declaration', which affirmed that 'Cities are a vital source for collective efforts, capable of integrating people, providing political orientation to achieve social justice and the full participation of citizens in the political process'. The document also stressed the importance of the principle, 'think globally and act locally', in the process of decentralisation and in addressing the complexities of decision-making today.
At the end of the meeting participants endorsed the idea of the Socialist International preparing an International Charter on Local Authorities which would, among other things, elaborate the minimum criteria for the rights and responsibilities of local authorities in a democratic society. This followed on the successful work of the Committee at its previous gathering on 31 March and 1 April of this year in Rosario, where we considered the efforts of the Committee and our International towards the 'humanisation of cities' and a proposal to create a Network of Socialist Solidarity among Cities (NSSC). All of this work is leading towards the holding of our third World Conference of Mayors, which we are currently preparing for the second half of 2001 in line with our decision to hold such an event every three years.
Peace, Democracy and Human Rights
In accordance with our decision in Brussels the newly established SI Committee on Peace, Democracy and Human Rights met in Prague on 16-17 October, hosted by the Czech Social Democratic Party, CSSD, and its leader, Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Chair of the Committee.
The themes addressed by the participants included 'International Security: Global and Regional Perspectives' and 'The Nature of Conflict in a Changing World: Developing New Approaches for Securing Peace, Strengthening Democracy and Protecting Human Rights'.
To advance our work on these and other issues, we will be organising a number of gatherings in the next two years. We are planning a special session of the Committee to be held at the Organisation of African Unity headquarters in Addis Ababa to examine the issue of conflict resolution. Another, to focus on the promotion of human rights, will be held at the United Nations Geneva. A third, to be convened at the UN headquarters in New York, will assess the role of the United Nations and proposals for reforming the body.
Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment
Presentations by the directors of key international institutions were highlights of the meeting of the SI Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment held in the regional parliament in Berlin on 15-16 September. The gathering was hosted by the Social Democratic Party, SPD, and was chaired by Christoph Zöpel, Chair of the Committee. The principal theme was 'Political responsibility in a global society: the social democratic approach to the economy, social cohesion and the environment'.
Mike Moore, Director General of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, in addressing the delegates, said, 'I think we on the left have a lot to be proud of. It was the left and progressive people who built the welfare state, it was the left and progressive people who have always struggled and battled for those who are marginalised, sick, old or left out'.
Kari Tapiola, Executive Director of the Standards and Fundamental Principles at Work Sector of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, noted that in the globalised economy 'working people in the first, second and third world are increasingly in a situation of direct competition with one another'.
The Committee agreed to focus its continuing work on a range of themes, among them 'Economic Policy and Globalisation: Growth, Equity and Social Justice’. Also addressed was the future work of the Committee's Working Group on the Kyoto Agreement, which will meet in Oslo in January, as well as the Working Group on the World Trade Organisation that will meet here in Maputo immediately following our Council.
THE STRENGTH OF OUR VALUES, THE STRENGTH OF OUR RESOLVE
To carry out the activities I have described requires the efforts, involvement and active cooperation of many in our International, in the different regions and those working on specific issues, whom I would like to thank. I would also like to express my personal appreciation for our President, António Guterres, with whom I have the pleasure of working so closely.
I am particularly happy with our ability to respond to the increasingly complex challenges that we face at the local, regional and international levels. As the pace of change increases in this interdependent world, we continue to connect with more and more people, to respond with initiatives that relate directly to their needs and expectations and to develop approaches that can make a difference today and in the long term.
Our campaigns, for example, the one against poverty in Africa, which we are stressing at our Council in Maputo, and also our campaigns to combat violence against women, secure debt relief for the poorest countries and abolish the death penalty everywhere — all of these will continue to be advanced in the year ahead.
I have already spoken about some of the coming activities of our Committees, Working Groups and other initiatives that the International is organising. In addition to what is already decided for the months to come, I should mention as well that before the end of this year our Mediterranean Committee will gather in Majorca, Spain, our Working Group on the Kurdish People will also meet, as will the recently agreed Working Group on Afghanistan.
Regarding Africa, we are looking forward to next year’s meeting of our Africa Committee in Niamey, Niger, to be followed by a meeting later in 2001 in Luanda, Angola. With regard to other regions, Buenos Aires will be the venue for the next Latin American and Caribbean meeting in February, in March our Central and Eastern Europe Committee for the first time will meet in Belgrade, while our member party in Japan has offered to host the next gathering of our Asia-Pacific Committee also in March.
As we move forward to 2001, all our activities will naturally be part of our marking of the 50th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Socialist International. It will be an opportunity to pride ourselves on the strength of our values and their embrace by so many throughout such an extraordinary half-century, and also one in which to heighten our resolve in the constant task of determining the best ways to see these values realised.