The Council met on 25-26 June in Buenos Aires to discuss the main theme ‘Shaping change’, hosted by the SI Argentinian member parties, the Popular Socialist Party, PSP, and the Radical Civic Union, UCR. More than 350 delegates came together representing almost 100 parties to participate in the discussions. (List of participants)
Fernando de la Rúa, presidential candidate for the Alliance for Work, Education and Justice, of Argentina, and Head of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires, led the opening of the meeting. He declared that the challenge of the next century was to eradicate global inequity. Poverty, he said, remained "a sad reality that imposes a practical and moral change based on solidarity". Highlighting the geographical significance of the gathering, de la Rúa expressed the pride of his fellow social democrats in Argentina that the Council was meeting in Buenos Aires and declared: "We are Latin Americans committed to a democratic project inspired by the values of freedom, justice, equality and solidarity".
Guillermo Estévez Boero and Leopoldo Moreau welcomed the delegates on behalf of the PSP and the UCR respectively.
SI President Pierre Mauroy paid tribute to Raúl Alfonsín, former President of Argentina and a leader of the UCR, who was unable to take part in the meeting and wished him a speedy recovery. Latin America was, Mauroy said, in the midst of interesting times with presidential elections bringing hope for the consolidation of social democracy not only in Argentina, but also in Chile, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic, whose presidential candidates, Ricardo Lagos, Tabaré Vazquez and Rafael Michelini, and Hipólito Mejía, also participated in the meeting. Clearly, he continued, the challenges facing social democrats were global, concluding that "it is more than ever our responsibility to keep up the fight for democracy, human rights, social justice and peace. This is our historic vocation, keeping faith with ourselves, with our history, and with those who have placed their trust in us and who still trust us today to support them in their struggle against poverty and oppression".
Felipe González, Chair of the Global Progress Commission and an SI Vice-President, spoke of the role of the Socialist International, which was now truly international in its composition, in the new stage of the information economy which had altered relations of production, employment, economic relations and also cultural and communications guidelines at such great speed. With the financial system "working like an international financial casino without any regulatory framework", politicians, González asserted, had to be up to the challenge of moving from localised politics to global politics, optimising the advantages and minimising the risks, since, he stated "the internationalisation of politics has not taken place". The Socialist International could really be, he maintained, a means of global progress and an instrument of global change, with a new commitment and a new strategy on the way to act.
Massimo D’Alema, Prime Minister of Italy, Democrats of the Left, DS, reiterated the importance of the theme of the meeting: "Shaping change, governing change in the world, has become a categorical imperative for all of us", he said, as the speed of such processes, "with their opportunities and risks, have reduced the distance between order and disorder, between bloody conflict and civil co-existence". New rules and new instruments were needed to rebuild and adapt international institutions to today’s world, as much in the field of politics as that of economics and security, D’Alema added.
Chilean presidential candidate of the Concertación, Ricardo Lagos, noted that while solidarity, equality and freedom remained core values for the social democratic movement, at the present time it was also concerned with stability, economic growth, efficency and macro economic balance: "there exists a tension in different parts of the world, between, on one hand, the advances of the market economy and, on the other, a persistent social deadlock". Latin American democratic socialists clearly shared the views of their European counterparts, he declared, that a process of social inclusion was required with simultaneous material and social progress.
Göran Persson, Prime Minister of Sweden, Social Democratic Party, SAP, reflecting on the nature of globalisation, stated: "We in the Socialist International are the only political force that has understood that equality and development are not contradictions. Instead they promote each other. Economic prosperity cannot be sustainable unless it is shared by everyone. Everyone cannot gain unless there is development".
Costas Simitis, Prime Minister of Greece, PASOK, asserted that harnessing the forces of globalisation meant setting out new strategies based on promoting good governance; building a new economic, financial and political system of global governance; generating sustainable economic and social development, with equitable distribution of wealth, resources and information; and, forging a new cultural synthesis.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Prime Minister of Mali, ADEMA-PASJ, highlighted the viewpoint of the African continent in this increasingly interrelated world. The Global Progress Commission, of which he is a member, had done much to reflect the reality of the various regions, Keita argued, and Africa was now anxious that the International take on problems collectively and offer collective solutions. Africa, he stated, only represented a small proportion of world trade, but its desire "to stand on its own feet" should be encouraged by the international community and by social democrats worldwide in particular.
The ‘Consensus of Buenos Aires’ resulted from the in-depth discussions of the Council, stating that as the pace of change in the world continued to accelerate ‘the challenge is nothing less than to link material advance to social progress in a new consensus which will ensure that political considerations will take priority over purely economic ones. While the International welcomes a market economy it rejects a market society’.
It continued: ‘For the forces of change to be shaped to the benefit of all the world's citizens the processes and institutions of democracy must be strengthened at the local, national and international levels. Democratic governance has to be promoted where it does not yet exist and human rights must be enforced where they are not yet respected’. To wage the fight against world poverty a joint effort was required from political parties, professional associations, trade unions, private enterprise and governments and non-governmental organisations ‘on the basis of common interests and a shared resolve’.
Declaring, ‘we need a worldwide social consensus that leads towards concrete agreements for social change in addition to economic stability’, the Buenos Aires Consensus pinpointed investment in education, reform of health care, investment in infrastructure; modernisation of the machinery of the state; citizens’ security; greater protection for the environment as key areas.
At the same time, the Council noted, international financial institutions required reshaping, so that ‘the world's financial markets cannot be allowed to continue to put the stability of nations at risk for want of prudent regulation’. Moreover the weight of foreign debt bearing on relatively less developed countries had to be alleviated in order to produce the conditions needed for social progress in all regions of the world.
With the continuing danger to world peace of the ‘ugly forces of ethnic tensions and aggressive nationalism’, the Consensus declared it incumbent on the SI to contribute to the strengthening of world peace by emphasising its commitment to the leading role of the United Nations.
It concluded that: ‘In an era of unprecedented interdependence our vision of a democratic world society based on liberty, justice and equality provides the framework in which people can shape the rapidly changing world in which we live for the lasting benefit of all’.
A number of resolutions and declarations were adopted on the region, including one encouraging dialogue between the Republic of Argentina and the United Kingdom to settle all outstanding issues relating to the Falkland/Malvinas islands within the framework of the United Nations; expressing concern at the deterioration of the political climate in Haiti, the Council condemned the acts of violence there and applauded the efforts of the Provisional Electoral Council and SI member parties; a declaration was adopted on Mexico in support of the set of electoral reforms currently being debated; in a resolution on Paraguay the Council declared its solidarity with the people there and encouraged all the democratic political forces to build a real government of national unity; in its resolution on Puerto Rico the Council expressed its complete support for Senator Rubén Berrios Martínez, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP, and a Co-Chair of the Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, who has been leading a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience on land occupied by the United States Navy on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques; concerned by the direction taken by the political process in Venezuela, the Council called on the government to respect human rights and the free play of politics, tolerance and respect for political dissent and freedom of opinion and expression.
The Council also heard a contribution from the Prime Minister of Albania, Pandeli Majko, of the Socialist Party, who spoke movingly about the situation of his country during the crisis in Kosovo.
Secretary General Luis Ayala gave a report to the Council which included an account of the activities in the inter-Council period and outlined the forthcoming initiatives of the International. It was clear, he stated, that "our agenda has grown... we have above all a global message with principles and values which are constantly reaffirmed in the action and initiatives of our International".