Freedom and Solidarity in a Changing World
The Congress of the Socialist International, held in Berlin on 15–17 September, and hosted by the Social Democratic Party of Germany, brought together more than six hundred delegates from over one hundred and fifty parties and organisations worldwide.
When member parties and guests gathered in the historic parliament building of Berlin for the XIX Congress of the Socialist International, they met in a world transformed since the last SI Congress held in Stockholm in 1989, and in a city uniquely symbolic of that transformation.
The XIX Congress was opened by SI Vice-President Felipe González. Delegates were welcomed to Berlin by Björn Engholm, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
A message from SI President Willy Brandt, kept from the Congress by his grave illness, was read to the delegates by SI Vice-President Hans-Jochen Vogel.
After three days of debate under the overall theme of ‘Freedom and Solidarity in a Changing World’, and dealing with some of the great issues of concern to democratic socialists today, the Congress adopted policy documents which will guide the work of our International in the next three years.
The four declarations of the Congress, corresponding to the main agenda items, focused on ‘Social Democracy in a Changing World’, ‘The World Economy’, ‘The Environment and Sustainable Development’, and ‘Minorities and Human Rights’.
The Congress also adopted a comprehensive resolution, outlining the views and confirming the commitment of the Socialist International on peace and disarmament, on human rights, on questions affecting different regions, and on strengthening international institutions.
SI party leaders from every continent made keynote speeches on the main congress themes. A number of invited guests, including former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, also addressed the Congress.
As the highest statutory body of the Socialist International, the Congress approves applications for membership. The number of countries represented at the XIX Congress reflected the ever-growing worldwide interest in our work and the many parties today seeking closer contacts with the International, and on this occasion the Congress admitted a number of new parties to membership, as well as granting full membership to some consultative parties. The congress also agreed to establish a new category of observer (List of new members and changes of status).
The XIX Congress saw the retirement of Willy Brandt, SI president for 16 years, and the election of Pierre Mauroy, former prime minister of France, as our new president. In his acceptance speech, Pierre Mauroy set out his vision of the Socialist International today and his priorities for our work in the coming years, and paid tribute to the great achievements of his predecessor.
Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected by the Congress as first Vice-President of the International, and the congress elected 24 other Vice-Presidents.
The Congress re-elected as SI Secretary General Luis Ayala, who has served as Secretary General since the Stockholm congress in 1989.
Closing the XIX congress of the Socialist International, Felipe González said, “this meeting hall today expresses as never before the international dimension of our organisation… as well as the extraordinary complexity of our task. We live in corners of the world which are extraordinarily diverse… but that diversity also demonstrates the fundamental point of our reflections at this Congress, our interdependence… With the fall of the wall which divided our world into two blocs, there has been an explosion and the inescapable manifestation of that interdependence”.
Above all, as his successor Pierre Mauroy stressed, although he could not be there, the Berlin Congress was the Congress of Willy Brandt, held in his city. Sadly, his friends were to meet again in the same great hall of the Reichstag just a few weeks later to say their final farewells to him.