The SI Committee for the CIS and the Caucasus met on 16-17 December in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, to exchange views on advancing and strengthening social democracy in the region, the contribution of the International in overcoming conflicts and to define the priorities for the organisation in its work there.
In a well attended meeting, hosted by the Socialist Party of Ukraine, SPU, which forms part of the country's government and holds several ministerial positions in the ruling coalition, and the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, SDPU, leaders and representatives from all of the SI member parties within the CIS and the Caucasus region were also joined by delegates from other SI member parties belonging to the Committee from other parts of Europe. (List of participants)
The discussions, which were opened by contributions from Oleksandr Moroz, leader of the SPU, Yury Buzdugan, leader of the SDPU, and Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General, were chaired by Alexandra Dobolyi, from the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP, which holds the Chair of the Committee.
In a broad exchange of opinions, the current situation of social democracy in the whole region was examined. The discussions reflected the fact that significant positive developments had been made, as with the case of Ukraine, where SI members were protagonists in the peaceful 'Orange' Revolution a year ago, and in Armenia, where social democrats are also in government. However, the major challenge of how to overcome the deficit of democracy existing in some countries, such as in Azerbaijan and the authoritarian regime in Belarus, was also highlighted in the debate, as were the expectations for the growth and further strengthening of social democracy in other places, such as in Russia and Moldova.
The gross irregularities and undue government control and interference in the electoral process in Azerbaijan, including the use of violence against protestors during the recent elections, received special attention from the Committee. It also expressed its deep concern with regard to the ongoing oppression in Belarus against democratic forces, including the current imprisonment of the leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada), Mikalai Statkevich, and other political activists. The announcement of presidential elections there to be held next March prompted a particular call by the Committee for urgent action by the international community to ensure free and fair elections. Resolutions on the situation in both countries were adopted unanimously by the Committee.
In the discussions, the Committee's attention also centred on the contribution of the International to the resolution of conflicts in the region, among them the Transniestrian conflict and that of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The meeting agreed a specific programme of work for the next year, which is to include a) identifying partners and organisations in countries where there are no Socialist International members and broadening contacts by recognising and including in the work of the Committee other like-minded forces in the countries where the SI is already present; b) sending four SI missions in 2006: one with a political message to Belarus; a fact-finding mission to Georgia to identify partners; another to the Caucasus to contribute in the field of resolution of conflicts and one to Azerbaijan in solidarity with the social democrats and to seek electoral fairness; c) establishing a working group on forthcoming elections in the region; d) holding a common meeting of members of the Committee with Foundations related to the social democratic family; e) including issues of concern in the region in the work of other SI Committees, particularly those of resolving conflicts, economies in transition and migration, and f) holding the next meeting of the Committee in April in Moscow and the following one in Yerevan, Armenia.
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