Peace, democracy and solidarity were the central issues of the regional meeting of the Socialist International held in Bogotá on 20 May 2002, with the Liberal Party of Colombia, PLC, as its host.
At its opening the meeting counted with speeches by Horacio Serpa, candidate to the presidency of Colombia and leader of the PLC, by Raúl Alfonsín, former President of Argentina and a Vice-President of the Socialist International, and by Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the SI, who chaired the one-day event.
A prime aim of the meeting, which was attended by delegates from SI member parties in Argentina, Aruba, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay, and guests from Guatemala, as well as the leadership and party workers from the host party, was that of reiterating the International's commitment to and solidarity with the Colombian people in their efforts to reach a lasting peace, offering its full support to the PLC in the country's electoral process whiche finished on 26 May with the election of a new President.
Furthermore, the meeting also aimed to emphasise, with regard to Colombia, the search for peace and democracy in the world as the main axes of the activities of the political family of the Socialist International.
In his speech, former President Alfonsín called on all to work for democracy, peace and equality, setting against the logic of the market, a pillar of neoliberalism, a form of globalisation which would hold human beings, and their right to dignity at its centre. In this way, today's political task must, to be successful in the fight against intolerance, lack of understanding and extremism, be based in the ethic of responsibility to its people, the ethic of principles and conviction and today, above all, the ethic of solidarity. He affirmed that "in the circumstances in which the world lives, the Socialist International is indispensable in the search for democracy and peace".
Horacio Serpa summarised his plan for government in two main challenges. Firstly, globalising solidarity to counterbalance the socio-economic effects of globalisation, in such a way that the social democratic alliance of the International could build a world consensus to fight against drug trafficking, combat terrorism, overcome poverty and restore human beings their dignity. Secondly, by effectively solving the fundamental necessities of society, and, starting from the conviction that "the absence of peace is the most damaging contradiction of democracy, because it fractures the structures of governability, because it shatters collective solidarity", managing to consolidate peace and democracy in Colombia, "with the support of a proactive, cooperative and vigilant consensus of international solidarity", given that "peace is a condition and the fruit of living together in democracy, in tolerance and in solidarity" and also that "true democracy is the natural environment for peace".
The Secretary General outlined the important role undertaken by the International in attaining peace and democracy, demonstrating the way in which the SI today is more than ever a world forum which represents the hope of better times for millions of people. At the same time, faced with the advance of homogeneous right-wing tendencies, he called on political leaders to persevere in their efforts to find real solutions to real problems, as opposed to the easy way outs with which these forces seek to cloud - not resolve - such basic issues as immigration in a globalised world, security, and economic marginalisation. He concluded by calling for convergence on the left: "We who have struggled for democracy, which we have established in so many parts of the world, we who have created and developed multiparty systems, of pluralism, of liberty, we must also be able to create those necessary convergences of the left, reasonable policies, the politics of the possible. Today the right in different parts of the world is converging and is creating sole alternatives, sole proposals of the right. We from the left, from social democracy, have to be able to respond to this challenge".
In their interventions, participants referred to points such as persisting with dialogue and negotiation as the only roads towards peace, a theme upon which the representative of the member party of El Salvador commented on the experience of negotiation and peace in his country. The delegate from the Party for Democracy of Chile expressed her concern at the depoliticisation and demobilisation which voices on the right called for, and underlined the importance of advancing democracy in all instances of public life, including in the mass media. From Colombia's neighbouring countries the urgent need to resolve the conflict in Colombia was expressed as an element in the strengthening, stabilising and development of the region.
The meeting concluded with the reiteration of the solidarity of the social democratic family of the International with the political process in Colombia, and in particular with the efforts to offer a real solution to the complex problems of today from the perspective of the values and principles shared with the Colombian political forces, like those of the Liberal Party of Colombia.
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