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ATHENS COUNCIL - Peace, Democracy, Solidarity: among peoples, across cultures

30-31 January 2006


Peace, Democracy, Solidarity among peoples, across cultures

Bringing people together based on social democratic values and the belief in a common humanity is at the core of the work of the Socialist International, for it remains the only way to promote peace in the world and to effectively respond to increasingly difficult and urgent global challenges.

The planet appears to become smaller with each generation. More and more, growing populations are thrust upon each other through the spread of new technologies and communication systems and the mass migrations to the North and to urban centres everywhere. Corresponding economic and social pressures intensify the competition for diminishing resources and place new and more corrosive strains on the earth’s already weakened environment.

As the world evolves and becomes increasingly interdependent, disputes between peoples based on cultural and ethnic differences become ever more destructive and harmful, with the innocent and unarmed, particularly women and children, the principal victims. Violence fuelled by hate, in turn, undermines the efforts of the non-violent majority who are striving to build forms of democratic governance responsive to all citizens.

The Socialist International rejects the notion of clashing civilisations endorsed by those few who seek to justify or mask their intentions to achieve political, economic or religious goals through the use of force. This leads only to further divisiveness and cycles of retribution, and undermines efforts to extend the potential benefits of globalisation to everyone.

The members of the International therefore vow to redouble efforts in their own countries, and at the regional and international levels, to encourage understanding and cooperation between those of different cultures, races and religions, and to promote an energetic, democratic politics of participation and inclusion, based on a universal right to citizenship, that can transform diversity into strength.

The International underlines the importance of building bridges particularly between peoples of different cultures and faiths and reaffirms its commitment to improving dialogue, encouraging mutual respect. We need to strengthen tolerance and moderation everywhere toward the goal of forging a global alliance against violence of every form.

Advancing in these efforts requires the building of confidence and trust, which depends, particularly from the point of view of ordinary citizens, on openness during any process of engagement, whether at the local, national, regional or international level, and honesty and political accountability on every side.

The International advocates as well for the deeper involvement of women, both in the work to increase communication across cultural boundaries and in the political process at every level. Violence within and between nations has the deepest and most damaging effect on women, and when given the opportunity they have shown that they can be the most creative when seeking the common ground necessary for peacefully resolving conflicts and the most determined when it comes to building the institutions of democracy necessary to ensure that peace is lasting.

The member parties and organisations of the International come from every continent, bring the perspectives of many places, histories and faiths into our movement and enrich it through their diversity. At the same time, all recognise that a principal task must be to unite people of different nations and cultures around the idea of equalising the social and economic differences that are at the root of so much of the conflict in the world today.

This means strengthening democracy at every level: redesigning governance at the global, national and local levels, particularly reform and revitalisation of a more balanced United Nations; strengthening the process and institutions of democracy in nations where they exist, building and nurturing them where they do not; and creating transnational networks of social democratic city and town governments to promote greater citizen input on the issues that affect them.

The need for peace and democracy has never been more critical. For the Socialist International, the key to overcoming the challenges that stand in the way, particularly when the forces of division in the world remain so strong, is social democratic solidarity - solidarity that puts people first, that refuses to accept injustice and that inspires our movement to work ever harder to ensure that all people’s voices can be heard and that all have the opportunity to contribute to securing a better future.