George A. Papandreou (born June 16, 1952) is Former Prime Minister of Greece, current President of Socialist International, a Member of the Hellenic Parliament and former President of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). He served as the 11th Prime Minister of Greece from October 6, 2009 - November 11, 2011, after PASOK’s victory in the October 2009 national elections.

George A. Papandreou

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We need the will for global and democratic governance

Speech at the Annual Presidium Meeting of the Socialist International

“Ladies and gentlemen, dear comrades, it’s great to see you again. Let me welcome you all to our Annual Presidium Meeting here in New York in the UN headquarters. These are special meetings that give us the opportunity to exchange ideas on major issues and relate our work with the work that goes on in the United Nations General Assembly.

And I think this has been a positive development for our family. This is becoming an
institution, and many of us look forward to these meetings every September.

I also am happy to welcome you this time here in New York as prime minister of Greece. Last year when we met it was just a few weeks before our elections. You wished me luck. Thank you very much. We did have a comfortable majority, although of course we took over in one of the deepest crises Greece has gone through in the past decades.

I don’t want to tire you with the details of the crisis and what we have done. We have had the possibility to talk about this in other meetings, of course, because of the mismanagement of the previous conservative government in Greece.

However, my experiences over this year have strengthened my conviction that the world needs, more so than ever, a progressive agenda, and certainly the will for democratic and global coordination and governance.

And this is obviously linked to the major issue we are going to debate here in the UN this week, the progress of the Millennium Development Goals. And the Millennium Development Goals are extremely important for our progressive, global organization, linked with the efforts that we believe in but also the efforts of the United Nations, to eliminate world poverty, to promote open, non-discriminatory, multilateral trade, a financial system however which is viable, good governance, debt relief for most vulnerable countries, but also fighting questions of inequality, helping women’s rights.

And of course the progress in reaching the targets of the Millennium Development Goals is interlinked with the capacity of the international community to address the financial crisis and not only that but other crises, also whether they are climate or food crisis or energy crisis, that many parts of the world are still facing.

It’s important to remember that many of the views we expressed in the meeting of our Presidium last year here in New York and the year before were unfortunately proven right. We were right to say that the global financial crisis needed strong will and real reform, establishment of supervision and control mechanisms, which unluckily are progressing very slowly. We have said that concrete initiatives are needed to make a difference, such as the global financial transaction tax or the carbon tax, green bonds; these we discussed.

Some of these issues were brought up in the last G20 summit, but they were given lip service and not the real support that is needed to become reality, so no final decision was made.

If, in fact, we had decisions on such new and innovative financing tools, then this would be an answer to in fact the question of how we finance the Millennium Development Goals.
Without these tools, the global financial crisis has slowed down the pace of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and of course the latest data of the World Bank show that the economic crisis impeded poverty reduction, is hampering progress of the Millennium Development Goals, and I would say we continue to see the concentration of wealth, power, media, more inequality. And I believe this is at the core of our global problems and even recession.

We have to highlight that inequality is one of the major reasons we are seeing problems around the world.

The crisis is having an impact on key areas of the Millennium Development Goals, including those related to hunger, child and maternal health, gender equality, access to clean water, disease control. According to reliable estimates, it will continue to affect long-term development prospects well beyond 2015, as 2015 was the target the UN had set when this initiative, the Millennium Development Goals, was launched.

So we are running out of time. And it is crucial that this movement raise its voice, our voice, our voices, and unite our efforts, in order to during the Review Summit reach an agreement on the best possible action plan that will make things move forward.

I said this morning on a panel discussion concerning poverty, hunger, gender inequality that we need to humanize globalization, or we will put humanity herself in peril. And I believe we have to humanize globalization so that we don’t move into a politics of fear. One thing we see, I think, in Europe: The politics of fear unluckily have undermined some of the prospects of our progressive movement, such as the recent elections yesterday in Sweden. We see the outcome, which was not a positive one, but behind this outcome, I think, were very much the politics of fear, xenophobia, racism, and the fear of losing the welfare system. But unluckily the champions here, by fear-mongering, was the right and not the left.

I think we need to look at this, but in fact if we move into a politics of fear on our globe, in global politics, this will be a solution for more conflict and not a solution for peace and prosperity.

So it’s imperative to move faster, and we need the will for global and democratic governance. This has been our motto for many years. We have been proven right, if you like. Our family has, from the very beginning of the crisis, put on the table concrete proposals how we are going to face multiple issues, such as the financial crisis, the climate change crisis, the food crisis, the issues of poverty, the issues of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are in the forefront, and our ideas, I think, are more relevant than ever.

We have outlined specific measures of how to support the most vulnerable countries during this difficult recovery process. We have presented ideas about coordinated responses, to shield our countries from future similar crises, and again we have been proved very relevant.

The crisis, of course, has not only affected the progress towards the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. It has also led to a shift of policymakers and public opinion away from the climate change agenda, and this is another risk. There is further evidence that the crisis might have longer-lasting impacts in 2010-2015, the next five years, and climate change adaptation is urgently required to ensure sustainability and certainly to ensure the sustainability of these goals, the Millennium Development Goals.

So it is unfortunate that last year in Copenhagen we didn’t have the results we wanted. But also in the light of the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun next November, there has not been real progress in these negotiations to reach a global, and certainly not a binding agreement on climate change.

However, the recent massive floods in Pakistan and China – all our solidarity to Pakistan, and we welcome you here today and we’ll be hearing your report on this – but also the fires in Russia, the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the cyclones in the Caribbean, during the last months created renewed urgency to address global warming. So I think this is again showing a priority that we have.

On the positive side, I can say that, if we want to talk about the fight for equality of the genders, we are both honored and happy to have seen the appointment of Michelle Bachelet as head of the UN Women, and certainly she has our full support and I am glad that she will be attending, even for a short while, this meeting. I think it may be her first public appearance as the new head of this spearheaded proposal.

We also have our meeting which will be taking place at an important juncture just a couple of months before our Council in Paris, and we will be able to discuss the agenda, the issues we want to unfold in Paris, proposals that can be put on the table and help us reach strong and positive conclusions next November in Paris.

So I wish us all a constructive meeting here today. There will be, as Luis said, quite a few heads of state and government and high officials and members of our party visiting us and participating, but part of the UN is that they have a number of other responsibilities, so we’ll excuse them if they are in and out during this period.

So again, I wish all a constructive meeting. Luis, I give the floor again to you to open up and give the floor to whoever may ask.”

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