The year that just elapsed was a difficult one. While the COVID-19 Pandemic has mostly receded into the past, its economic and social reverberations continue to be felt in all parts of the world. The year 2023 has also seen the continuation and proliferation of armed conflicts worldwide, reaching an alarming number of fifty-five. The Russian aggression in Ukraine remains unabated. Armed conflict in the Middle East has dramatically escalated, with unprecedented brutality and heavy human toll, in particular among children, the elderly and women in Gaza. Sudan’s devastating war has brought immense suffering to its people, displacing millions of civilians and creating an unbearable humanitarian crisis. The world is in turmoil and existential challenges to humankind, such as global warming, remain inadequately addressed.
Club de Madrid, has unequivocally condemned aggression on several occasions, calling for cessation of hostilities, dialogue and peace. We call for effective multilateral cooperation, the only hope for stability and the solution of the world’s fundamental problems. Our appeals of the past months will continue to guide us in 2024.
We shall also continue to strive for needed reforms of the multilateral system, effective maintenance of international peace and security, the just and peaceful resolution of disputes, the protection of human rights and the advancement of economic, social, cultural and humanitarian welfare for all through the promotion of democratic values and practice as the political system best fit to underpin these objectives.
The year ahead will require our continued focus on the three priorities defined in our 2023-2025 Programmatic Strategy:
- Democracy and Democratic Governance. The year 2024 will be marked by elections across the globe. Over two billion voters will go to the polls in more than forty countries. While free and fair elections are essential for democracy, in far too many cases these will be taking place in precarious situations. The dangers of nationalism and demagoguery are all too obvious. Wherever possible, Club de Madrid Members will bring their own experience and wisdom to the creation of a propitious environment for a genuine democratic process, backing democracy supporters there where democracy is under siege. This will often imply being at the forefront of addressing the intricate relationship between digitalization, artificial intelligence and democracy, recognizing the profound impact of technology on governance and societal structures. In this context, our 2022 report of the Global Commission on Democracy and Emergencies continues to constitute a firm base from which to address the shortcomings observed in democratic practice and to engage with national and international policy-makers for the strengthening of democracy
- Multilateralism and global cooperation. My participation in the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism (HLAB), established by UN Secretary-General and Club de Madrid Member, Antonio Guterres, offered a unique opportunity for us to contribute to the much-needed debate on reform of the multilateral system. The HLAB report, published in April 2023, will contribute to the preparation of the UN Summit for the Future to take place in September 2024. Changes or “major shifts” such as the ones proposed by the HLAB in global financial architecture, climate governance, digitalisation and the role of the UN as a crucial instrument in the maintenance of international peace and security have gained urgency. Club de Madrid shall continue to support preparations for a successful Summit of the Future, a meaningful, concrete, action-oriented Pact for the Future and the New Peace Agenda, all of this before the various UN instances, but also vis-à-vis the G20 Presidencies and regional institutions given their instrumental role as platforms for dialogue and norm-setting.
- Evidence of the organisation’s commitment to the advancement of multilateral system reform was the celebration of our Annual Policy Dialogue in Brasilia (November 2023), our first in the Global South and focused on Social Development for People and Planet. The world is at an inflexion point that is challenging us to redefine and recommit to shaping the society and planet in which we want to live and to craft a new eco(logical)-social contract capable of addressing the necessary critical social, ecological and political reforms and the system change needed to achieve sustainable development.
Our advocacy on multilateralism and international cooperation also continued in the context of the Imperial Springs International Forum (ISIF), once again held in person after a four-year hiatus imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were able to resume the Forum’s discussions with a qualitatively enhanced level of dialogue between our Members, international and Chinese experts. This is both positive and encouraging. Constructive dialogue with China is more necessary than ever and Club de Madrid will continue to-make every effort to continue developing and deepening this dialogue.
- Fostering Shared Societies. Club de Madrid promotion of the concept of Shared Societies continues to gain in momentum, breadth and depth, providing political leaders and local communities with a greater understanding of the ways and benefits of advancing social inclusion as an essential element in democratic development. While continuing its focus on inclusion of identity-based, marginalised groups (Shared Societies Programme), work in this area has been broadened to include women’s equality and participation and intergenerational dialogue and youth leadership.
Under this programmatic priority, we will continue to advocate for the organization of the Second World Social Summit proposed by Club de Madrid to the UN in 2020 and that is to take place in 2025, 30 years after the World Summit for Social Development and the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, then a new consensus on the need to put people at the centre of development.
- One of the key elements of the new eco-social contract we are advocating is the active engagement of youth in decision-making. To this end, and in the framework of a four-year program funded by the European Commission, we have created the WYDE Civic Engagement Network of Young Decision-Makers, composed of outstanding young leaders actively engaged in political, decision-making bodies. Club de Madrid will continue to develop these spaces for intergenerational dialogue and the empowerment of young leaders, enabling them to shape and influence both national and global agendas through mentoring and policy advice. With the support of the Ford Foundation, we will also be working to foster women’s leadership and effective participation and influence in high-level decision-making processes, at the national and international level.
Our current activities are based on the mission, vision and objectives with which Club de Madrid was founded more than two decades ago. Our efforts have been effectively and efficiently supported by our Secretariat in Madrid and the quarterly updates sent to you by our Secretary-General provide much information about our work and upcoming activities. I wish to take this opportunity to thank Secretary-General Maria Elena Agüero and the entire Secretariat team for the work done.
Above all, I wish to sincerely thank all of you for your continued dedication, commitment and work in 2023. Club de Madrid is our organisation and, as such, it is up to us to maximize its potential, especially at a time when democratic values and practice need to be strongly defended. In this sense, we welcome your views, suggestions and input and hope to count on your robust engagement and ownership in all our endeavours. I remain grateful for your confidence and look forward to our continued cooperation, earnestly hoping to see as many of you as possible in 2024.
Have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2024!
President of Club de Madrid