REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL
I am pleased to present my report to this SI Council in Geneva and would like to thank United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the message of encouragement that he has sent to us here as we begin our work. I would like, as well, to express my gratitude to Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the United Nations Geneva. Not only have he and his staff welcomed us here at their excellent facilities, they were able to do so on short notice after our President Pierre Mauroy, recognising the urgency of addressing current global developments, proposed to bring forward the date of our Council. Our continuing close cooperation with the United Nations underlines our shared commitment to solidarity within the international community.
I would like to add that as part of the preparations for this Council, I was pleased to attend in October the conference of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland where I was able to observe its strong and continuing importance in the affairs of the Confederation. I am therefore pleased that Switzerland's Minister of Home Affairs Ruth Dreifuss, a federal councillor and a member of the party, will join us during our stay in Geneva, and that Ursula Koch, President of the Social Democratic Party, and Jean-François Steiert, the party's new Secretary General, together with other representatives of the party, are with us in our Council.
We meet in Geneva as the world economy has reached a stage of uncertainty and risk, which calls for and at the same time affords the opportunity for concerted social democratic initiatives. The global financial situation remains precarious, as turbulence in capital flows threatens the well-being of entire nations in the developing world. In addition, economic development continues to be increasingly unequal, both between and within countries.
The challenge, then, is in 'Making global markets work for all', the principal theme of our Council here in Geneva. Market mechanisms are required for economic growth, but unfettered markets are a source of insecurity and injustice. We in the Socialist International believe that revitalising the role of governments and rethinking the approach of global financial institutions are crucial in securing a sustainable world economy. The electoral successes of our member parties in Europe and elsewhere show that by emphasising political action in favour of equitable growth and employment for all, our International is at the forefront in addressing citizens' true concerns.
Our ongoing efforts in tackling global economic issues are manifest in the work of the SI Committee on Economic Policy, Development and the Environment, SICEDE, which met last week and is presenting a draft declaration for discussion by the Council, as well as by the Global Progress Commission, which in June held a meeting in Berlin to address the theme, 'Shaping globalisation'. The SI Committee on Local Authorities and the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, at the same time, have recently been developing social democratic approaches to globalisation at the municipal and regional levels.
Sustainable economic development depends, too, on the establishment of peace and the strengthening of democracy. The second theme of our Council therefore focuses on areas where they are severely threatened and where events are moving swiftly: the Middle East, Algeria, the Great Lakes region of Africa and Kosovo. We organised a meeting of those responsible for the SI Africa Committee last week in Dakar where they addressed the crisis of Africa and prepared a draft declaration for our Council. The SI Middle East Committee, SIMEC, and the SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, have met here in Geneva so that we will have timely reports to inform our discussions. Along with our Committees, we recognise the role played by our member parties in furthering resolution of conflicts and greater citizen participation, most recently in Northern Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Putting peace and democracy first assures that the Socialist International will continue to be instrumental in achieving a more just and stable world.
As noted, the SI Committee on Economic Policy, Development and the Environment, SICEDE, convened in Sintra, near Lisbon, on 16 November. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister António Guterres, an SI Vice-President and Chair of SICEDE. The Committee prepared for the Council a draft declaration, 'To Regulate Globalisation and to Globalise Regulation,' which provides a framework for political action to limit the negative characteristics and enhance the positive effects of global markets.
On 17-18 June, detailed discussions of various aspects of globalisation were undertaken at the European regional meeting of the Global Progress Commission which was held in collaboration with the Ebert Foundation at Willy-Brandt Haus in Berlin. A number of SI leaders, political thinkers and other specialists addressed the issues of: 'Technological change, innovation and the environment'; 'Economic growth and employment policy'; and 'The outlook of social democratic politics in Europe'. This first regional meeting of the Commission centred on incorporating the European view of globalisation into the overall debate led by the Commission, and discussions focused on the need for a common project for Europe.
The Commission will be continuing its work in an Africa regional meeting which in collaboration with our friends in the region we have set for 25-26 January in Dakar, and in a Latin America and Caribbean regional meeting scheduled for 22-23 March in Mexico City.
The issues of changing global markets and their effects on regional economies were also part of the full agenda at the meeting of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, held in Caracas on 25-26 September. The meeting, hosted by our member party in Venezuela, Democratic Action, AD, was held in advance of the recent congressional elections there and the presidential elections scheduled for December. The gathering opened with a tribute to our departed friend and comrade José Francisco Peña Gómez, who chaired the Committee for almost twenty years. His unwavering solidarity was evident only a year ago when, despite already failing health, he travelled to New Delhi to participate in the work of our Council there.
One principal theme of the meeting was 'Common approaches and perspectives on the changes in world markets and the effects on regional economies'. The Committee concluded that a social democratic economic strategy for Latin America was required to respond in a more decisive way to global changes. The Committee also noted the need for policies which promote exports as well as the development of national markets, whilst at the same time stimulating internal consumption to enhance economic well-being. A Latin American economic area with a common currency, common capital markets and a common technological base was viewed as the best option for the future economic development of the region.
The other main theme of the meeting in Caracas was 'Democracy, State and Governability: social democratic proposals for addressing the new challenges', and the Committee agreed on a number of resolutions in support of deepening democracy, for example, in Venezuela, Haiti, and Peru.
SICLAC also expressed in a statement its hopes for peace in the Basque Country and throughout Spain following the truce declared by ETA on 18 September.
On 5-6 October we assembled two hundred and fifty mayors, members of municipal governments and organisations, and experts in the city of Fez to take part in the Second World Conference of Mayors of the SI hosted by our member party in Morocco, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP. Delegates were addressed at the opening session by our Vice-President the Prime Minister of Morocco, Abderrahman Youssoufi; SI President Pierre Mauroy; the Chair of the SI Committee on Local Authorities and leader of the Belgian Socialist Party, PS, Philippe Busquin; and the Mayor of Fez, Abderrahim Filali Baba.
Delegates divided into working groups. The first, chaired by the Mayor of Barcelona Joan Clos of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSOE, discussed 'Globalisation and Solidarity: The role played by local authorities' and 'Cities in conflict'. A second working group focused on 'New partnerships: the State and local authorities' and was chaired by Marie Augustine Houangni Ambouroué, Mayor of Port-Gentil, of the Gabonese Party for Progress, PGP. The third working group, chaired by Ricardo Pascoe, representing the Mayor of Mexico City, from the Party of Democratic Revolution, PRD, took as its theme 'The future of cities: quality of life and the information society, the socialist response'.
The deliberations of the working groups culminated in the 'The Fez Declaration' which was adopted by the Conference at its closure. The Declaration set out four concrete proposals for the future. Firstly, the adoption of a Charter of the Local Authorities as a reaffirmation of ethical principles in public administration. Secondly, increased decentralised and interactive cooperation in practical forms such as democratic twinning among cities and towns. Thirdly, the creation of a network for the exchange of knowledge and experience for local government representatives. And finally, supporting the creation of a single international organisation of local authorities.
The SI Middle East Committee Working Group on the Kurdish Question, under its Chair Carl Lidbom of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, SAP, met in Paris on 5 June at the invitation of the French Socialist Party, PS. The Working Group heard reports from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, on the latest developments in Northern Iraq. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, PDKI, a member of the SI, reported on the situation in Iranian Kurdistan.
In mid-September, delegations from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, led by Massoud Barzani, and from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, led by Jalal Talabani, met in Washington for bilateral talks which led to an agreement to end the years of fighting and set out arrangements for sharing power and economic resources.
I am pleased to report that the Working Group, together with the KDP and the PUK leaders, decided on a visit to Northern Iraq of SI representatives soon to take place before the end of the year. Both leaders subsequently came to the Secretariat in London where we began preparations. The focus of the visit will be on the latest situation on the ground and the continuing role of the International in promoting peace and supporting the planned elections for a regional assembly due next summer.
SI President Pierre Mauroy and I visited China from 14 to 21 September. We held a series of high-level talks, including a meeting with the President of the Republic of China, Jiang Zemin, which allowed for a wide-ranging exchange of opinons and provided an opportunity to achieve a better understanding of current points of view of the Chinese Communist Party on the issues of globalisation and the development of political forces.
As our President has said, the SI and the Chinese Communist Party continue to differ on a number of matters, but dialogue remains the only way to overcome ideological differences, at a time when joint reflection on the great contemporary issues is so important for all those concerned.
I would like to take the opportunity at this Council to sincerely congratulate our good friend John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on 16 October jointly with David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and First Minister of Northern Ireland. We remember that John Hume addressed our Council in Oslo last May. The Nobel Committee's recognition of the commitment of Hume and Trimble to a cessation of the violence was well deserved, and in the case of John Hume underlined, not for the first time, the efforts of the members of our International in promoting peaceful, democratic solutions to conflict in all parts of the world.
The referendum on peace in Northern Ireland was held days after our Council in Oslo last May, and resulted in a resounding `yes' vote as 71.1% of the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland voted in favour of the peace agreement. In elections held on 25 June for the new 108-seat assembly the SDLP emerged as the second strongest party by winning 24 seats. The Ulster Unionist Party won 28 seats. Pro-agreement parties shared a further 28 seats, whilst parties against the agreement took only 28 seats in total.
I would also like to note the signing on 22 July of the treaty for the United Nations international criminal court, an institution long advocated by the Socialist International and whose creation involved the direct efforts of many of our member parties. Some 120 countries voted in favour of establishing this permanent court based on the principle that government leaders and officials are to be held accountable when genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes are committed. In the words of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the court is a `present for future generations'.
Since our last Council, SI member parties and parties associated with our organisation have achieved considerable success at the polls in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe where social democratic and labour parties are in government in thirteen out of fifteen EU member-states.
In Senegal, the Socialist Party, PS, won 93 seats in the enlarged 140-seat assembly in parliamentary elections held on 24 May.
The San Marino Socialist Party, PSS, won 23.2 per cent of the votes cast in the election held on 31 May and was confirmed again as the leading party of the left in the republic which it will govern in coalition.
Numerous elections for state governor and local authorities are being held this year in Mexico and thus far both of our member parties, the Party of Democratic Revolution, PRD, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, have had successes. For example, the PRI regained the governorship in the state of Chihuahua after having selected its candidate for the first time in an open primary, whilst the PRD won its first governorship in the state of Zacatecas.
Milos Zeman, leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party, CSSD, a member of the SI, was appointed Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on 17 July, following elections in June in which the party won 74 seats with 32.3 per cent of the vote. Cabinet appointments included Jan Kavan as foreign minister, Václav Grulich as interior minister, and Ivo Svoboda as finance minister.
In Brazil, the alliance of the left, which includes SI-member the Democratic Labour Party, PDT, gained three additional seats in elections for Congress held on 4 October. The left opposition now numbers 112 deputies in the 513-seat chamber.
In the Brazilian presidential race the incumbent, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, took 53.06 per cent of the vote and Luiz Inácio `Lula' da Silva, supported by the opposition parties, won 31.71 per cent with Leonel Brizola, President of the PDT, as his vice-presidential running mate.
In the run-off election for state governor in Rio de Janeiro on 25 October, Anthony Garotinho of the PDT won a comfortable victory with 58 per cent of the vote.
The Swedish Social Democratic Party, SAP, was returned to power and remained the largest single party following national elections held on 20 September. The Social Democrats won 36.6 per cent of the vote. The new government of Prime Minister Göran Persson now includes the Left Party, which obtained 12 percent of the vote, and the Green Party, which took 4.5 percent.
Massimo D'Alema, leader of the Democrats of the Left, DS, was sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy on 21 October, following a negotiated reconstitution of left and centre forces in that country. At the heart of his government are an unprecedented six women in ministries. In his speech to parliament, he set out a path which would include pursuing the `good policies of those who went before us' as well as incentives to increase employment by restructuring the tax system and helping to bring down labour costs.
Gerhard Schröder was sworn in on 27 October as Federal Chancellor of Germany. The Social Democratic Party, SPD, and the Green Party signed a coalition pact in Bonn on 20 October following federal elections in September. The SPD won 40.9 per cent of the vote, 6 percent more than the Christian Democratic Party, CDU, thus ending sixteen years of CDU-led government. The Green Party took 6.7 per cent of the vote.
The priority for the new government is to tackle unemployment, fiscal reform and progressive abandonment of nuclear power.
In the Slovak Republic a new government, including the SI-member Party of the Democratic Left, SDL, the Slovak Democratic Coalition, SDK, Civic Understanding, SOP, and the ethnically-based Hungarian Coalition Party, SMK, took office on 30 October following general elections in September. The coalition members obtained 58 per cent of the vote and took 93 out of 150 seats in Parliament amidst an impressive voter turnout of 84 per cent. The formerly ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, HZDS, and its partners won 38 per cent of the vote and 57 seats.
The new Slovak government immediately acted to end the country's political isolation by asking the European Union and NATO to reconsider its applications for membership.
Since our last Council I have attended a number of gatherings of our member parties, which gave me the opportunity to observe the work they are carrying out on their home ground and to note the milestones which some of them have recently reached.
In Chile I represented our International at the XIV General Council of the Chilean Party for Democracy, PPD, held from 22 to 24 May in Santiago, and at the extraordinary Congress of the Socialist Party, PS, held from 29 to 31 May, which was dedicated to Clodomiro Almeyda Medina, the former foreign minister of Chile and influential Socialist leader who died in August 1997. PS delegates gathered to reflect on the political transition in Chile and consider the direction of the party and its role in the governmental coalition.
I was pleased to attend in San Juan the International Conference in Support of Puerto Rican Independence which was organised by the Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP, on 23-26 July on the centennial of the invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States.
Also in the Caribbean, the People's National Party, PNP, of Jamaica marked the historic occasion of its sixtieth anniversary during a week of activities from 13 to 20 September, the highpoint of year-long celebrations.
I was pleased to be present at the annual conference held in Blackpool at the end of September by the British Labour Party, which has been working to build upon the achievements of its first year and a half in office.
The Socialist Party of Senegal, PS, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in late October. At a meeting held in the city of Thies, the Senegalese President, Abdou Diouf, leader of the Socialist Party, and First Secretary, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, addressed tens of thousands of party members and supporters. A two-day symposium covering different aspects of the Party's policies and history followed in Dakar. I was pleased to participate in these meetings on behalf of the International.
22 December will mark the tenth anniversary of the untimely death of our former Secretary General Bernt Carlsson, and, in remembrance, a plaque will be placed in Lockerbie by the SI Secretariat and a few of his former close colleagues.
In 1976 he came to London as Secretary General of the SI where he worked with Willy Brandt, during his first years as President, to extend the ambit of our International especially to Latin America but also to other parts of the world where its presence was just beginning.
Another region to which he gave close attention was Southern Africa. He attracted the enmity of the Pretoria authorities who did their best - without success, it must be said - to make his life uncomfortable in London.
The Middle East was also firmly on his agenda and in his time as Secretary General a start was made in transforming the SI into a quiet forum where Palestinians and Israelis could meet and discuss problems in a fraternal manner.
In July 1987 he was appointed United Nations Commissioner for Namibia and not long after his appointment his new initiatives succeeded in transforming a stagnating situation. He was on his way to a ceremony for the signing of the instruments for the emergence of a new nation when he was killed, alongside many others, in a terrorist action whose authors have still to be brought to justice.
He has been sorely missed by us all over the past decade.
Looking ahead, I can report that working with our comrades in the French Socialist Party, and in accordance with what we decided in Oslo, we have planned the XXI SI Congress to be held in Paris on 8-10 November 1999. Our next Council meeting, in Buenos Aires, is being set for 25-26 June, days before the first Summit of Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union in Rio de Janeiro. The Council in Buenos Aires will be hosted jointly by our Argentine member parties, the Popular Socialist Party, PSP, a member of Frepaso, and the Radical Civic Union, UCR. I have already mentioned some of our upcoming activities, but numerous others are planned as well.
The SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, will meet in Bucharest on 5-6 February in cooperation with our member parties, the Democratic Party, PD, and the Romanian Social Democratic Party, PSDR. The Committee will meet again in the second week of September in Warsaw hosted by our members in Poland.
The SI Africa Committee will meet next at the end of March in Bamako, the capital of Mali, hosted by our friends in ADEMA, and in the first week of September will gather again in Maputo with the collaboration of FRELIMO.
In Latin America and the Caribbean we will be very active in the months leading up to our next Council in Buenos Aires. The SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, SICLAC, will be gathering to address key issues in the region in advance of the Council and, as I noted, a regional meeting of the Global Progress Commission will take place on 22-23 March in Mexico City.
Following the recent meeting in Sintra of the SI Committee on Economic Policy, Development and the Environment, SICEDE, we are planning, in collaboration with Committee Chair António Guterres, a forthcoming meeting which will focus on the economy in Africa, and subsequent meetings on economic issues in Asia and in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The next meeting of the SI Peace, Security and Disarmament Committee, SIPSAD, chaired by Günter Verheugen, SPD of Germany, will focus on current issues concerning disarmament and will be held in collaboration with relevant bodies of the United Nations in the first part of next year.
Also on our calendar for the first half of next year is a meeting of the SI Asia-Pacific Committee. As crisis affects people and economies, our contacts with our member parties in the region must be a matter of priority. The advance toward real democracy is gathering strength, as we see, for example, in the streets of Indonesia and Malaysia, where SI-member Democratic Action Party, DAP, is playing a key role in the movement for reform.
The SI Middle East Committee, SIMEC, having just held a meeting here in Geneva, will continue to contribute in all possible ways to the peace process. Regarding forthcoming activities, we have received an invitation from SI-member Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP, to meet next in Morocco. As I noted, it has been decided that the SIMEC Working Group on the Kurdish Question will soon be visiting Northern Iraq. The Committee has also extended its focus to Afghanistan by forming a special group to follow developments there.
With regard to the activities of the SI Mediterranean Committee, the strengthening of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership will be a principal focus in a forthcoming meeting to be held in Brussels.
As is evident in my report our activities are becoming particularly intensive as we move toward our Congress next year. There is no doubt that in the coming months we must harness the full potential of all our member parties to ensure that our Congress enhances the strength of our ideas and our organisation.
The Council will be asked in Geneva to approve a budget for 1999. The prompt payment of dues by many of our member parties is certainly appreciated, and as ever I appeal to those parties in arrears to ensure that our budget is achieved. Beyond that, however, we should recognise that even as the scope of our activities continues to increase, so do the pace of global developments and the need for social democratic initiatives. The determination of our member parties and the fact that a growing number of them are in government mean that the Socialist International has the opportunity to make an even more substantial and positive difference in the lives of citizens around the world. I feel that we can be proud of what we have accomplished thus far within a very modest budget. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that no one can be satisfied that we continue to have so few resources at our disposal. Therefore, with a sense of common responsibility we must make sure that we have the means to accomplish what needs to be done.