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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Today’s struggle is one for progress

Address by George A. Papandreou at the XIX Congress of Socialist International Women

“Thank you Pia, dear Marlene, dear Louis, dear comrades, first of all a warm welcome to Greece, a warm welcome to Athens, a warm welcome to Sounion.

I would like to also introduce the head of our delegation, the Greek delegation for Social International Women, Ms. Fofi Gennimata, who was not with you the previous days because she was undergoing an operation. I am very glad she is here with us and she feels much better. I take this opportunity to congratulate Pia and Marlene on your re-election, as I congratulate all new and outgoing vice presidents of the SIW.

I believe in women. I believe in women’s creative potential. I believe in the many capabilities women have and yet are so often neglected, overlooked, underestimated, undermined or even suppressed.

I know we need your potential for our large movement, for our societies, for our world. And we can only liberate this potential, your potential, if we see women’s rights as human rights. If we understand that fighting for equality and equal participation of women in our societies and our movement is a must, is a necessary condition for change in our world.

This is why Pia Locatelli, Marlene Haas and I, have been working closely together to make sure our parties and the SI make women’s participation a major priority in our political world.
And I do hope, Pia, that the issues you mentioned before that, first, more women, 30% are vice presidents of SI, that we will support the SIW projects in Africa and Latin America, that constitutional changes should take place -and on all these we have worked hard- that on Monday these proposals and changes will be ratified. I know these changes will bring new creativity and a new life to the Social International and to our parties.

I have myself seen it, in PASOK, our socialist party in Greece, and many others, I and many others have fought for a strong quota to have the gender balance which basically means the participation of women.

Today, in all our party bodies we have 40% women in all our elected bodies and committees. And this is what we need in order to have hope for the future.

However, today I have come to tell you that I don’t only believe in women but I believe your time has come. I believe that women can play the major role for change in our world today.
And today’s struggle is one for progress that however goes beyond social change and takes the form of a struggle for the survival of humanity. And this is really the issue we will be dealing with in our SI Congress in two days.

Humanity today faces a dilemma. Humanity today faces a choice. Humanity today must make a choice.

In simple terms, either we move into an era, a time of violence, an era in our human and planet history of destruction, competition and suffering. Or we, humanity, all of us, decide to create a new global culture. A culture of peace.

Let me be clear. We face apocalyptic change in our time now and even more in our children lifetime. Climate change that brings us drought, scarcity of water, desertification, floods, competition for energy resources, unregulated competition in a world market which brings us in rising up food prices, unchecked concentration of the men’s wealth which in turn brings us inequality, corruption, the imprisonment of democratic government, dispersion of new technologies, that brings us precisely more destruction, unchecked powers of governments, but also of cooperation of these governments which bring down our freedoms and our rights.
If we do not find the will to govern our world in a democratic, affordable, human, sustainable and peaceful way, in a way we socialists, we democrats, know we can, all the above phenomena, all the above developments will simply lead us to an era of unprecedented violence, yet apocalyptic violence.

The violence of seeing your water resources lost, the violence of being uprooted from your village or your town, to be part of a mass migration, a mass refugee movement in searching of the future. A future in which we may face again the violence of racism and xenophobia.

The violence of waking up without any property and in such poverty as you cannot buy the food necessary to feed your family. The violence of loosing your job, and not having much hope to find a new one.

The violence of greater and greater inequality financial, social, cultural, educational or technological in our world. The violence of wars for petrol and carbon based energy.

Yet we know, we socialists and democrats know deep in our hearts, that there is another choice. There is another way. There is an alternative.

We, as humanity today, more than ever before, have the tools, have the resources, we have the financial capacity, we have the technology, we have the experience, we have the capability to solve and apprehend today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

We can solve global warming. We can change our climate. We can make poverty history. We can find new resources, sustainable, that they are now abandoned, so we need not fight over them, so we need not destroy our environment.

We can educate all our citizens on our planet. We can give all our citizens access to new technologies. And through new technologies access to our common world, our common world of knowledge, culture, innovation for a new and greener model of development.

And we as socialists and as democrats know we can do this, we can solve our problems, deal with the challenges creating an equable society, where one respects human rights, women’s rights, one that respects the environment, one that creates a society of cohesion, one that guarantees a sustainable future.

We know this because our movement has accomplished this at international level in many parts of the world. We know this because this is the core of what we are fighting for.

Yet, there is a prerequisite. We not only need the political will to tolerate differences, to use them to our advantage, to empathize with the fellow human being, but also to express the value of cooperation, of co-existence, of symbiosis on our crowded planet, on our global village.

A new culture of peace that allows humanity to share a common core of values, the common values we need to deal with, in order to deal with our new challenges not in a violent way, but in a cooperative and peaceful way.

Dear friends, dear comrades, who is in a better position to bring this change to the world?

Who is in a better position to embody a new culture of peace and cooperation? Who is in a better position to understand the need to avoid violence? Who is in a better position to resist violence? Who is in a better position to train humanity to ban violence as a mean to our solutions?

It is she, who has experienced violence, it is she who has suffered violence, it is she who has felt pressed, it is she who has been the victim, the victim of violence.

It is the majority of our fellow human beings living on this planet, a large majority that has in one way or another, experience violence in daily life. It could be the violence of inequality, the violence of marginalization, the violence of abuse, of rape or war.

This majority, which in one way or another has been the victim of violence, today must speak out against violence. Must be given the opportunity to become a real force against violence, and speak out against the coming violence humanity may face, and speak out in favor of a new culture of peace, in the way we deal with our problems.

Who is this majority? We call them women. Or it is you that are both are majority in our world and yet suffer from a culture of violence.

Hundreds of thousands of women are bought and sold every year for sexual exploitation. Millions of genital mutilations take place in Africa.

Women are systematically raped because they dare to support the wrong party. They are victims of honor killings, forced marriages and sex crimes and many times they take place even against social workers.

Some time the victims of sexual violence are being treated as perpetrators in the court of law, like the Saudi teenager who was raped and ended in prison. Her crime? She was gang-raped 14 times.

Even the UN recently in a resolution seen the abhorrent victimization of women and children in wars, being so much abused, made a call to war sides to stop, at least create some formal agreement not to abuse women and children during the war acts.

Such brutal attacks have made violence anathema to women both in the domestic and social lives. So, you bring a culture of peace, because you have undergone in your collective consciousness a culture of violence.

Can you imagine a government led by women where war was involved as a mean to resolve conflict? I can’t. And I say this, having seen how women work in the Middle East, and I think we need to congratulate the women both in Palestinian and Israeli side who work together very hard. And if they were left to their own ways, I am sure we would have peace in the Middle East already.

Can you imagine a government led by women that put economic interest above social justice? I can’t. Can you imagine a government led by women that keeps asylum seekers as criminals? Neither can I.

Women’s rights around the world are an indicator about our global well being as well as the issues you are debating here, peace, security, health, education, environmental protection, sustainable development, global governments with all benefits on a gender approach. I would say we need to make a real effort to put women in the frontline of these issues.

According to author Richard Robbins, author of “Global problems in a cultural capitalism”, women do 2/3 of the world’s work, receive 10% of the world’s income and own only 1% of the means of production. This is the feminization of poverty. It is violence perpetrated against women.

Conservatism and unregulated co-operation propagate blind faith in free market, the magic wand that supposedly solves everything. But economical globalization has often meant the goals with the least turning power. Women with children have suffered most. And this is also a form of violence.

Basic survival means, food, housing, healthcare, education cannot be met where wealth, power and resources are concentrated in an increasingly small number of hands. And this is also violence.

And vital markets are unsustainable putting pressure on food and energy issues, environmental and security issues. The number of women leaving in poverty is rising.
Women produce over the half of the world’s food, yet they cannot afford, many of them, to feed their own families. This is violence.

In Tahiti mothers are feeding hungered children cookies of mud, oil and sugar. This is violence. In Sudan children are starving, while the coffers of the government are filled with oil money. This is violence. In Iraq food cost has forced many women into prostitution. This is violence, because food is not a commodity, it is a human right.

In 2006 almost half of all migrants worldwide were women. 95 million women claim discrimination seeking asylum, or simply looking for means to support their families, and having to make the difficult decision, the painful decision to leave their children behind. This also is a form of violence.

Tonight you will leave your mark at a High School in Lavrio, a working class neighborhood, leaving a message of hope to an area that has long suffered high unemployment, and struggle to accommodate a large number of refugees.

So, you will be signing a message for a new culture of peace.

And I congratulate your decision to continue inspiring with similar messages of hope, messages of positive change in every place where they need it, wherever your next meetings take place.

But above all, my message to you today is very clear. We need you. We need to give you, women, an equal voice because we need you. We need to make sure that women have education, security, welfare, access to finance, equal participation in politics, their rights and freedoms. We need you, we need you today to take the lead on the issues humanity faces and create a new global culture, one of peace, one of global peace.

In this large political project, you know you have my personal, and the Socialist International’s complete support.

So, let me welcome you again to Greece, let me welcome you again to Athens, a city with an ancient tradition for democracy. Yet, we know that democracy and social justice is something we need to fight for every day, it is not simply a monument of the past, it is something we must exercise in our daily lives.

This is why we are here, this is why you are here, the Socialist International Women and the Socialist International.

We are working together and we will make this world a just world.

Thank you very much.”

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