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 take upon us a responsibility

Address at the SI Council, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

A Global Social Democratic Response to the World Financial Crisis

“Queridas Compañeras, Queridos Compañeros,

En primer lugar quiero saludar y agradecer a nuestros compañeros, lideres y militantes de los dos partidos miembros de nuestra Internacional en México, el Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD, y el Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI, que hoy nos reciben con afecto y con calurosa fraternidad.

México es hoy, en esta región del mundo, para orgullo de todos nosotros, una de las grandes naciones donde crecen y se desarrollan con vuestro trabajo y con vuestro esfuerzo los valores y principios que compartimos.

Estamos contentos de estar aquí – contentos de estar con Ustedes – que representan a la gran mayoría del pueblo mexicano, a sus esperanzas y sus aspiraciones de cambio.

En efecto, América Latina y el Caribe hoy es una tierra fértil donde se desarrolla y adquiere cada día mayor relevancia la visión y la presencia del socialismo democrático –
entre las mujeres y los hombres de este continente, en sus gobiernos, y en sus lideres.

Hoy somos ya no solo la promesa de un futuro mejor, pero el instrumento y el camino para alcanzarlo.

Es ese el sentido de nuestra presencia aquí.

La Internacional crece junto a Ustedes y desde esta reunión enviaremos un mensaje aun mas potente, aun mas profundo a todos aquellos que en el mundo hacen vivir la fuerza de nuestras ideas.

On Saturday I was in NY, meeting with a group of distinguished economists under the leadership of James Galbraith.

I spoke, on behalf of the SI, to the conference they organized concerning the current crisis.

I told them that I usually had great difficulty mentioning my title in the US without provoking shock and awe.

That changed slightly when I was last in NY, the day that Wall Street crashed.

I repeated my title, President of the Socialist International, at a charity function, and a lady said, ‘We sure need more of you guys here in the US’.

I later felt I was in much better company when now President Elect Barack Obama was accused of being ‘a socialist’.

Yes, the financial crisis has given new life to values we have held close to our hearts. It has reminded us of words, concepts and persons that were taboo to even mention.

The world order had been dominated by neoliberal or neoconservative politics for the past 20 years. One which loathed any word of social justice, empowerment of our citizens, equity, democratic accountability and oversight, transparency, solidarity, regulation of markets, unemployment benefits, fighting poverty and inequality, fair distribution of wealth or green development.

So today we are pleasantly surprised that these concepts are again ‘a la mode’.

And we know that there are many who will adopt our concepts, our words, our ideas without even believing in them.

They will do so simply to hide.
To hide from their responsibilities, to hide the real problems, the real solutions, the progressive measures needed to stop the rage and suffering our citizens are today feeling.

But we are not seeking to avenge our ideas.

For us, for our movement, this is neither a time for fashion nor a time for revenge.

Today we take upon us a responsibility.

An historic responsibility, and it is – to clean up the mess the neocons of the world have created.
To protect our citizens, our peoples from the dire consequences of the economic crisis.
Where there is fear, to create hope and securtity for our citizens.
We are not today in an era of change we are witnessing a change of era.

This is our historic challenge.
And our values, our goals today are no longer a dream of a distant future.
No longer a romantic utopia.
Our values and goals have today become a necessity.
A necessity for the survival of our families livelihood, the survival of civilization as we know it.

For the survival of humankind.
For the survival of our planet.
If we do not live up to this task, we will simply see the growth of passivity or worse politics of violence, fundamentalism, populism, or authoritarianism.

Our task is not simple.

Back in 1933, John Maynard Keynes explained how government intervention through public works could help the world economy recover from the Great Depression.

I would put his questions more precisely:
What is the nature of the problem?
Where do we as societies want to go?
How do we get there?
Who will we do this with?
What, where, how and who are the questions we must answer.

First, the problem.

The recent financial crisis has reminded us of the folly of uncontrolled power.
Of the concentration of wealth, political, media and military power.
Unchecked power.
Unaccountable to anyone.
With no democratic oversight.
With the citizen marginalized, powerless, manipulated through disinformation, fear or even coersion.

This crisis has reminded us of the lack of transparency in governance around the world.

People everywhere are angry that bankers who have created trillions of dollars of bad debt are walking away with millions of dollars of personal wealth. Or that governments seem to be saving the banks but are paying little attention to the people who are losing their homes, their jobs, and their pensions as a result of financial decisions beyond their control.

People are bitter about the failure of governments to enforce effective regulation on the corporate giants and banking elites that have corrupted politics. And in doing so undermined democracy.

The poorer countries are suffering more as the developed countries are shoring up their investments.

Development aid is going to be drastically cut – at the same time we are falling short of the Millennium Development Goals on issues like poverty.

Today’s financial crisis should not let us forget that we only recently went through other very severe social and economic ones:

Food prices, energy prices, have taken their toll on our societies.

Inevitably, it is the word’s poorest countries who have been hit the hardest.

The World Bank has promised to boost its financial support of developing countries with an extra $100 billion over the next three years.
But this is too little too late.

And the G20 does not seem to have lived up to the challenges.

Yes, today our institutions seem powerless to serve the interests of the public.
The public good.

This brings me to the second question: Where do we go to? Where do we want to be tomorrow?

We need to free our national institutions from the grip of unjust policies that favor the few and powerful.

We also need global governance. Otherwise we will be trapped into our national boundaries when the problems are international.

But these global institutions must have legitimacy.
Which means they must reflect the democratic wills of our peoples.
The real problems of our societies.
The regional balances of our planet. The new players in the world.

That is why our message to the G20 was quite clear:
The new rules must emerge from a new understanding of democracy as both a global condition and a philosophy that includes economic and political institutions.
Globalization must be for the people and by the people.

We need democratic change for democratic global governance.
This means that we must empower the disempowered, the poor, the middle class, the SME’s, the productive forces of our planet.

And that means today – we must guarantee pensions, we must invest in education, we must provide basic health care, we must extend credit lines to small and medium sized enterprizes, we must provide for stimulus packages for the world, regional and national economies.

We need new standards set democratically, which ensure that.
We manage our common wealth, our human resources, our intellectual property and our natural resources of our planet in a sustainable way.

And that means we need to invest today, public investment in public works, infrastructure, protection and retraining of the unemployed – but doing so by creating a new engine of development. That of green development. One that respects the enviroment and uses innovation to make our economies sustainable.

These are goals we socialdemocrats have been identified with for years if not decades.
Today they are a necessity.

But this brings me to the third question:
How?

That is why we have initiated an SI Commission on Global Financial Issues to develop a road-map that combines the dynamics of the global market with social, environmental and democratic values.

The Commission will hold regular meetings, leading towards an international conference in the second half of 2009.

The Commission’s first meeting was held in Vienna two weeks ago.

Calling for a new relationship between government and the market, we set out five concrete initiatives to assist those directly affected by the financial crisis.

The creation of a Social Protection Fund to guarantee social security in developing countries.

The creation of a Small Enterprises Development Fund to support small businesses and their employees.

The creation of a Financing
Infrastructure Fund to help stimulate the
global economy.

An emergency liquidity facility for emerging and developing economies, whose sources of financing have been severed.

Long overdue reforms of the IMF, World Bank, and WTO to ensure that emerging economies are properly represented and that less developed countries are not left behind.

Our Stiglitz Commission has discussed new structures of global regulation which should include:

1) Greater transparency of financial instruments and institutions

2) Restrictions on compensation schemes, oversight of credit rating agencies, and stricter competition laws in the banking sector

3) Global standards regulating accounting, tax policy, financial standards.

4) Global exchange and cooperation among national regulatory authorities to combat corruption, tax havens, lack of labour standards, money laundering.

5) New international agencies to coordinate and review standards and practices.

Finally, who will be take the lead, what will be the wider coalitions, who will be the dynamo for this change?

First and foremost it is our parties. Our socialist family can and must be strengthened. And this is in part the task our Congress has mandated us to undertake.

Secondly, empowering women, regions, linking with civil society, larger movements around the world but also parties, such as the US Democraic Party or the Indian Congress Party that are, not yet, and may not want to officially join the SI, but are certainly allies in the fight to change our planet for the better.

Thirdly it must be the youth of the world.

We today for Mexico, for Puerta Vallarta, make an appeal, a call to our youth, to today’s younger generation.

Today you face, the younger generation of our planet faces, the most daunting challenges humanity has ever faced, from climate change, to mass poverty, to pandemics and mass migration, to energy and food prices and crises, to nuclear proliferation, terror and organized trafficking of small arms, drugs and human beings.

Our movement, our parties, our roots are in youth movements.
Our movements have fought for the aspirations of the young.

Dear comrades, dear friends,

Allow me to recall an important political event from my country, Greece.

An event which the peoples of Latin America have experienced time and again when so many of your countries were ruled by military juntas.
On the 17th of November, thirty five years ago today, a handful of young people, students, took over the Polytechnic University of Athens.
They raised their voices against the military junta in Greece.
Thousands of Greeks took to the streets inspired by the courage of the youth movement.
They called for Freedom, Education and Bread.

The revolt was crushed by military tanks invading the University.
Many died, others were jailed, others tortured.
But their heroic stand was the beginning of the end of the colonels military regime.
The rebirth of democracy.
A new dawn inspired by ideals.

Our parties have always identified with these ideals.
We have fought for, these values and continue to share them in our global movement.

Social justice, freedom and democracy. The right to a society which puts at its center the human being.

This is our tradition.
This is our identity.
This is our commitment.

The youth of the world is fighting back at the neocon ideology.

Just as the youth of the world fought for democracy in Latin America, Europe and Africa, in my country in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, today again the youth is back in politics.

Back to regain their right to be heard.
Their right to make a difference.
Their right to make a change.
Their right to have hope again.
This is what the democratic victory in the country to your north has symbolized.
The campaign and the election of the first African American President is a revolt to the demise of our democratic institutions – not only in the US – but around the world.
And it is a sign of hope.
As a hope for a reempowerment of citizens and societies.
As a revolt against passivity, the cynisism, the fearmongering, xenophobia and racism, all that which stifled the voice and hopes of our society and our youth.

We are today holding our meeting in the University where Salvador Allende spoke.

Let us dedicate this Council’s session to the youth of Mexico. Of Latin America. Of the world today.
Let us dedicate this meeting to the hope they have created.
Let us dedicate this meeting of ours to the bloggers, the internet surfers, the volunteers, the youtube and facebook creators who are trying to change the world.
From the US to China, to Latin America, Africa and Europe.
And let us send a message to our youth around the world:
We are going to make our voice heard loud and clear.
Not because it is our voice. But because it is a voice that expressed the suffering and the hope.
Because we are here to make your voice stronger.
Your voice heard!
Your voice listened to.
And the message is clear: it is the our voice, it is your voice, it is the voice of all who aspire – and hope – and know – and are confident, that yes, ‘yes we can, we can change the world’.

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