Over 300 delegates (complete list of participants) from more than 100 parties and organisations participated in the meeting of the Socialist International Council in Oslo, on 18-19 May. Addressing the opening Thorbjørn Jagland, leader of the Norwegian Labour Party, DNA, welcomed the participants to Oslo 'the City of Peace' and noted that his country had the pleasure of having awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to a number of brave people from our social democratic family, including Willy Brandt, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Oscar Arias. Jagland called on the international community to express global solidarity in new global rules and stronger global institutions. In his opening speech, SI President Pierre Mauroy, referring to the main theme of the gathering, emphasised the importance of 'Global Solidarity' within the International as the SI continued to reinforce commitment to its values and strengthen its universality. In order to meet future challenges, Mauroy appealed for constant and progressive interaction and dialogue.
'Global Solidarity': The humanitarian dimension
Introductory speakers focusing on the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and Bosnia and Herzegovina addressed the first of three aspects of the main theme - 'furthering humanitarian action and promoting initiatives for peace' - and gave firsthand accounts of their different experiences. Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, spoke of the constructive efforts by the International in support of a just, permanent and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and of his concerns for the future: `The alternative pending in front of us if the peace process in the region fails, is total chaos. And it will be very difficult to predict the extent and dimensions of such chaos'. Sharing Arafat's concerns, Shimon Peres, former leader of the Israel Labour Party, declared: `I do not believe that we can reach 100 per cent peace without providing the Palestinians with 100 per cent freedom, that we cannot have 100 per cent security without having 100 per cent peace'.
Speaking on the Northern Ireland peace agreement, John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, considered the approach to the peace process there: `We are not a divided piece of earth', he said, `we are a divided people' and that consequently the only way forward was to find agreement within a framework which would respect differences and initiate a healing process. Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio of the British Labour Party, stated that all involved in the region were hopefully on the brink of an historic peace, adding that peace was about compromise, understanding people's differences and their traditions, 'seeking always to unite them in their hopes and aspirations'.
Turning to the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zlatko Lagumdzija, President of the Social Democratic Party, SDP BiH, spoke of his hopes for free and fair elections this September as a demonstration of the people's will for democracy and peace. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik of the Independent Social Democrats, BiH Republika Srpska, addressed delegates on his recently established government's work to reinforce democracy and co-operation in the region. Continuing the theme of normalisation following conflict, Sejfudin Tokic, President of the Social Democrats BiH Main Board, spoke of the importance of collaboration and investment.
Among the leaders contributing to the first part of the debate were Oskar Lafontaine, Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD; the Socialist candidate for the Spanish prime ministership, José Borrell; and Franz Vranitzky, former Chancellor of Austria.
The political dimension
The second area of the main theme - 'strengthening democracy and defending human rights' - was introduced by Massimo D'Alema, leader of the Democrats of the Left, DS, of Italy, who declared that the International's success in expanding its borders, accepting new parties and movements had created new expectations and tasks ahead and that the SI should continue to seek new partners: `We are an open-ended movement, open to dialogue and co-operation'. Prime Minister Abderrahman Youssoufi of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP, of Morocco, whose election as SI Vice-President was confirmed on a mandate received from the XX Congress, took the floor to speak of his newly-formed government's work in this area and of the importance of international political engagement of all parties within our global family. Many participants contributed to the further discussions on this topic.
The economic dimension
Turning to the final aspect of the main theme - 'combatting poverty and investing in people' - António Guterres, Prime Minister of Portugal, SI Vice-President and Chair of the SI Committee on Economic Policy, Development and the Environment, introduced the debate. It was a political and moral obligation, he said, of the SI to address the problem of the eradication of worldwide poverty: `Our struggle is not against globalisation, our struggle is to regulate globalisation'. Raúl Alfonsín, former President of Argentina and President of the International Relations Institute of the Radical Civic Union, then considered the response of Latin American countries to the effects of globalisation. The debate concluded after a number of interventions.
The Council issued a declaration on the main theme of `Global Solidarity' which stated that: `Global change must be shaped so that all will have the opportunity to benefit. This task requires the joint efforts of people, political parties and governments everywhere, guided by a belief in a common humanity and in co-operation within a framework of global solidarity'.
Resolutions and other matters
The Council meeting adopted a number of resolutions. Following a report from the Chair of the SI Middle East Committee, SIMEC, Bjørn Tore Godal, DNA, Norway, a resolution expressing the SI's deep concern over the lack of progress in all tracks of the Middle East peace process was adopted. A resolution considering the transition of countries in the Central and Eastern Europe region was agreed following the report of the Co-Chair of the SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, Piero Fassino, DS, Italy. Günter Verheugen, SPD, and Chair of the SI Peace, Security and Disarmament Committee, SIPSAD, presented his report and a resolution supporting efforts to maintain security and stability in the South Caucasian States, which was adopted. Subsequent to the report of the Chair of the SI Mediterranean Committee, Raimon Obiols of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, PSOE, a resolution expressing concern at the continuing violence and human rights violations in Algeria was adopted. Further resolutions were also adopted in support of Lim Guan Eng of Malaysia; in condemnation of the nuclear tests in India; in favour of a democratic political system in Indonesia; expressing grave concern at the continued massive violation of human rights and deepening repressive measures in Burma; in support of democratic forces in Cameroon; reaffirming the SI's commitment to a peaceful and lasting solution in Western Sahara; and one calling for the re-establishment of conditions for dialogue and a negotiated peaceful solution to the conflict in Chiapas, Mexico. The outcome of the discussions of the Socialist International Women's Bureau meeting was outlined by SIW President Audrey McLaughlin and a paper on `Women and Power-sharing: leadership and strategies' received the support of the Council.
Secretary General Luis Ayala presented his report of the International's activities since the New Delhi Council meeting and proposed a schedule of work for the coming period. The SI Africa Committee will meet next in Bamako, the capital of Mali, and the African economy will be the focus of a forthcoming meeting of the SI Committee on Economic Policy, Development and the Environment. As the Chair of the SI Committee on Local Authorities, Philippe Busquin, leader of the Belgian Socialist Party, PS, had reported, the Second World Conference of Mayors of the Socialist International will be held in early October 1998, in Fez, Morocco. The next meeting of the SI Peace, Security and Disarmament Committee will be held in collaboration with relevant bodies of the UN in November 1998 in Geneva. The next meeting of the SI Committee on Human Rights will take place after the fiftieth anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, which will be at the centre of its discussions. The next meeting of the SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe will be held in Bucharest, Romania, in the last quarter of the year, as will the SI Mediterranean Committee, which will meet in Brussels. The SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean will convene in Venezuela in late September. Other activities planned for the rest of the year, include a further meeting of the SI Middle East Committee and the SI Asia-Pacific Committee. The Secretary General informed the Council that following a European meeting in Berlin, it was expected that in the framework of activities of the Global Progress Commission, other regional meetings would be held this year. One with African parties is foreseen for later this year in Dakar, with another meeting to follow in Asia, in Dhaka. Latin American and North American regional meetings will be held during the first half of 1999.
It was agreed that the next Council would be held in Buenos Aires, following the nomination of the presidential candidate of the alliance which includes the two SI-member parties, the Popular Socialist Party, PSP, a member of Frepaso, and the Radical Civic Union, UCR, who will jointly host the meeting. The XXI Socialist International Congress would be held in November 1999 in Paris following the invitation of the French Socialist Party, with a working Council to prepare for the Congress in the first half of 1999.