Progressive Governance Conference

Chile ’09

Archive for the ‘Guest bloggers’ Category

PGC blog – Divided history, shared futures

Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 29, 2009

Have you been an activist in the solidarity movement for Chile in the 70´s? If so, you have a reasonable chance of becoming a prime minister in a European country in the near future. Both Gordon Brown and Jens Stoltenberg revealed yesterday, at the leaders session,  that they had been members of the Chilean solidarity commitee in their home towns of Oslo and Edinburgh.

Today they are both participating in a round table debate with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, President Lula Da Silva of Brazil, Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain, President Fernandez of Argentina and President Vazquez of Uruguay to discuss a progressive response to the global crisis.

The great irony of history maybe that in the nineties a number of Latin American countries were struck by a financial crisis, each victums of a harsh neo-liberal deregulation and privatisation programme. Yet, in recent years, under the leadership of progressive presidents Bachelet, Lula, Vazquez, and Fernandez, they have embarked on a path of economic growth, social equality, and democracy.

Now as the neo-liberal model has imploded the economies of the rich countries, Latin America again suffers both directly and indirectly from the effects.

As President Lula said; when I was in the Brazilian labour movement I knew who to blame for a crisis. When I was in opposition, it was so easy to place the blame on the government. But, now in office, I can only blame the US and Europe……yet this does not solve the problem, we will have to find a common solution.

What is needed for recovery, is to start with, that the rich countries restore their financial engines and stimulate consumer demand at home, but also, importantly, to provide credit for international trade.

This is the key challenge emerging from the conference and summit in Chile: will a shared progressive agenda between north and south lead the way out of the crisis?

 Frans Becker and René Cuperus, Wiardi Beckman Foundation, Amsterdam

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Tom Bentley writes from Vina Del Mar, Chile

Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 27, 2009

In his essay for The Monthly earlier this year, Kevin Rudd warned that the Global Financial Crisis was a moment when social democracy was called on “to save capitalism from itself”.  Today in Vina Del Mar, Chile, political leaders, heads of government and leading policy thinkers from around the world gathered to discuss and begin to chart a ´progressive´approach to the challenges created by crisis.  Rudd was quoted by James Purnell, UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who urged the conference to consider an agenda of empowerment in which government acted to disperse and distribute the power that would otherwise be concentrated in unjustified ways.  The conference was later addressed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who ably demonstrated the degree of alignment there is across countries with very different governance traditions.  Clear shared priorities for economic stimulus, sustainable growth and global reform to protect the poorest and most vulnerable were outlined and debated.  A week before the G20 summit in London, the conference is proving how much shared commitment there is across the centre left to create a ´progressive moment´out of this crisis, but at the same time how much there is do on so many fronts in order to impact decisively on the forces currently shaping growth paths around the world. 

Tom Bentley is a senior adviser to the Australian Government

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Lapo Pistelli on the global crisis

Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 27, 2009

Global crisis, global needs, global solutions. The answer must be global or it will not work. The effort by Policy Network to bring together reformist and progressive forces is getting better year by year. Now it’s time to give a more steady basis to this magnificent political job. This crisis can be transformed also into an opportunity. In Europe, the politic of fear, the anxiety that push towards nationalistic instincts put forward by conservatives could give momentum to those political parties who failed in managing the crisis. Therefore it’ time to unite all those who stand for progressive values, who want to combine economic growth and social equity, who want to listen and involve people in a new political age, to create new political alliances and families, capable to go beyond the old-fashioned labels. The new american Presidency is a big opportunity to explore this new frontier: strenghten all those places in which progressive parties can discuss and prepare together ideas and solutions that have to be delivered by progressive governments. And Policy Network can help us a lot.

Lapo Pistelli International Secretary of Democratic Party of Italy – guest author for Policy Network

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PGC blog – Think big and be bold, by Paul Hofheinz

Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 27, 2009

Progressive leaders meet in Valparaiso, Chile in an edgy mood, and it isn’t hard to see why. Many of them – like Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner, Brazil’s Luiz Lula da Silva, Britain’s Gordon Brown and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet – find themselves in power at a moment when the too-easily-accepted shibboleths of the past no longer provide the solutions for the future. But as speakers told us at this morning’s session, the challenge also poses a huge opportunity. It’s a chance to demonstrate the traditional strengths of the progressive movement: economic competence, political imagination and a commitment to social justice that resonates with voters. And a possibility to define a new narrative for 21st century politics – one which could give progressives a new lease on life and usher in an unprecedented period of prosperity in the countries they lead.

What then should progressives do?

1) Think big and be bold. Tony Blair told us that seven years ago, and it is still a fundamental truth. The world is facing unprecedented challenges. The solution does not lie in pursuing what is politically obvious, but in imagining what is practically needed.

2) Put people first. In an era of knowledge, investment in education gives us jobs, innovation and social inclusion, as Sweden’s Mona Sahlin reminded us. We must redouble our efforts in this area, making our societies into centres of learning and opportunity.

3) Attack the problems, not the symptoms. USA’s Robert Reich put it well: structural imbalance got us in this crisis; and only reforms in this area will get us out. For the USA, this means a focus on addressing excess wage inequality to raise aggregate demand.

4) Give us a Doha deal. We must act decisively to stop economic nationalism, which threatens to overwhelm us all. We need to show markets we can still deliver important fundamentals.

The meeting continues tomorrow.

Paul Hofheinz is president of the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank

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PGC blog – Beyond old recipes, by Rene Cuperus and Frans Becker

Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 27, 2009

At the seashore of the Pacific, in Chilean Viña del Mar, progressives from all over the world have gathered to discuss the financial and economic crisis. New words are coming back to the modernizers’ discourse, like ´egalitarian capitalism’, `state regulation’, the `failure of markets’.


Is the financial crisis the golden opportunity for center-left politics to become the driving and dominant political force – as our political fathers and grandmothers were in the post-war golden years of social-democracy?


The opening session of the Progressive Governance Conference in Chile today both created hope and left a shadow of doubt. It won’t come to us naturally, that’s for sure. Only if we find the right answers and policies, exert trustworthy leadership, and find the way back to politics, we’ll have a good chance of succeeding. But we have to be aware of the threat of a populist backlash.


We have to go beyond old recipes, as Carolina Tohá said. But how trustworthy are the social-democrats in Europe? Don’t stand the old recipes in the way, as Frans Timmermans suggested. Shouldn’t the center-left also look at its own mistakes, as Loukas Tsoukalis framed the question?


Yes, we are at the end of an era, of an episode of capitalism. Structural reforms will be needed, as Robert Reich pointed. This conference will have to address old kitchen failures as well as the new recipes for the center-left. Later this day , we’ll report about it.


Frans Becker and René Cuperus, Wiardi Beckman Foundation, Amsterdam

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Meg Munn interviews Phil Goff, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party.

Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 27, 2009

We have recruited some roving reporters for the blog – here Meg Munn MP interviews Phil Goff, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party:

At the New Zealand General Election in November 2008 Labour lost after three terms in government.  Phil Goff has taken over as leader of the NZ Labour Party, and as the parallels with the UK are strong I was keen to learn from Phil what happened.

Phil told me that it’s unusual for any NZ government to have more than three terms, even where they have been seen as having done a good job. All governments have to make difficult decisions which alienate some of the electorate.

He told me that there were three key reasons for their defeat. Although the government was generally well regarded, there was a powerful sense that “it’s time for a change” after three terms in office.

An area of policy which went against Labour was law and order. Phil felt that he had done a significant amount on being tougher but this was still not enough to stave off criticism.

Thirdly, the opposition party portrayed a number of Labour’s policies as being support for a nanny state.

Also the opposition leader, John Key, moved the National Party to the centre. Despite not having supported many social changes introduced by Labour, he reversed his party’s position which reassured the public, while offering change in a new refreshed government.

Many Kiwis listened and many Labour supporters stayed at home.

Does this mean that the overwhelming pressure of “it’s time for a change”, inevitably mean that Labour in the UK is heading for defeat at the next General Election?

Phil responded that it isn’t necessarily the case. The public have to feel confidence in the alternative and they won’t support a party and a leader they’re not sure about, preferring to stay with a known quantity. NZ Labour felt there were good reasons for the electorate not to trust John Key, but efforts to try and demonstrate this backfired with the public suspecting a dirty tricks campaign.

I asked how NZ Labour is doing now.

The Government are having a honey moon period, and have not yet been tested with difficult decisions. The budget is not until May. However he remains positive about the state of the party. The leadership change was smooth and achieved without dissent – something that is rare in NZ Labour’s history. He added that the parliamentary party is in a good state. A quarter of the Labour MPs are new, and they have lots of energy.

There are no ideological splits – previous Leader Helen Clark left a legacy of a united party, and New Zealand parliaments only last three years. So, although Phil Goff ruefully points out that it will not be easy having been elected leader of the opposition 2 weeks before the Government took power, he has every reason to be optimistic about the future.

His advice for the UK Labour Party?

“It’s time for a change” is hard to fight against, but the population has to be convinced that the alternative will be better. UK Labour has a record to stand on. Defeat is not inevitable if the alternative offered is politically unconvincing, or if the personalities in charge aren’t trusted.

Incidentally, the NZ Labour Party’s previous Leader and Prime Minister, Helen Clark, is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s preferred candidate for the role of head of the United Nations Development Programme.

Meg Munn MP

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