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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

"A new and more just global contract is imperative" - Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez at the UN

Updated: Sep 23, 2023


Image via the United Nations


On Tuesday, September 19, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez addressed the UN General Assembly on behalf of both Cuba and the Group of 77 (G77) and China. Cuba has just finished hosting the G77 Summit in Havana, September 15-16.


His address began by invoking the spirit of Che Guevara and went on to touch on issues around global equality and development, neo-colonialism and imperialism and the use by the US of cruel and destructive economic sanctions against Cuba and other countries.


Using the official Spanish text as well as the official UN English live translation we have transcribed this very important speech which we are republishing here in full.


Text:


I am bringing to this assembly the voice of the South, the exploited and humiliated, as was said by Che Guevara in this same room almost 60 years ago.


We are a diverse group of nations sharing the same problems. We have just confirmed that in Havana, which was honored to host the summative leaders and other high representatives of the G77 in China, which is the most representative, broad and diverse representation that exists in the multilateral arena.


During those two virtually tireless days, more than 100 representatives from 134 nations making up the group raised their voices, to call for changes that can no longer be postponed in the midst of this unjust, irrational and abusive international economic order that year after year has deepened the enormous inequalities between a minority of well-developed nations and a majority that has not managed to get rid of the euphemism of "developing nations".


Worse still, as was recognized by the United Nations Secretary-General at the Havana Summit, the G77 was founded six decades ago to "repair centuries of injustice and abandonment, and in today's convulsive world, they are entangled in a host of world crises,

where poverty is on the rise and hunger is even greater."


We are united by the need to change, which has not been resolved, and by the condition of being the main victims of the current global multidimensional crisis, abusive, unequal exchange, scientific and technological gaps and the degradation of the environment.


But we are also united and have been for more than half a century now by the inescapable challenge that the determination to transform the current international order, which as well as being exclusionary and irrational is unsustainable for the planet and is not viable for the well-being of all.


The countries represented at the G77 and China, where more than 80% of the population of the world lives, do not only have the challenge of development, they also have the responsibility of modifying those structures that marginalise us preventing social progress and turn many peoples of the South into laboratories for new, renewed forms of domination. A new and more just global contract is imperative.


Mr. President,


Only seven years ahead of the deadline established to implement the promising 2030 agenda, the Panorama is bleak.


This august institution has already recognised it. At the current pace, none of the 17 Social Development Goals will be achieved. And over half of the 169 agreed targets will not be met.


In the midst of the 21st century, the fact that almost 800 million people suffer from hunger on a planet that produces enough to feed all is outrageous.


Equally outrageous is the fact that in the era of knowledge and accelerated development of ICTs, more than 760 million people, two-third of them women, do not know how to read or write.


The efforts of developing countries are not enough to implement the 2030 agenda. They must be supported by concrete actions to provide access to markets, financing under fair and preferential conditions, technology transfer and north-south cooperation.


We are not begging for alms or asking for favours.


The G77 calls for its rights and will continue to demand a profound transformation of the current financial architecture because it is deeply unjust, anachronistic and dysfunctional, because it was designed to profit with the reserves of the South, and to perpetuate a system of domination that increases under-development and replicates a pattern of modern colonialism.


We need and demand financial institutions in which our countries have true decision-making capacity and access to financing.


A recapitalisation of multilateral development banks is imperative to radically improve their lending conditions and to meet the financial needs of the South.


The member countries of this group were forced to allocate $379 billion from their reserves to protect their currencies in 2022, almost twice as much the amount of special drawing rights allocated to them by the IMF.


A rationalisation, review and change of role of credit-qualifying agencies is needed. Equally imperative is to establish criteria that would go beyond the GDP to define the access of developing countries to financing under favourable conditions and with adequate technical cooperation.


While the richest countries fail to meet the commitment of allocating at least 0.7% of the GDP to official assistance for development, the nations of the South need to spend up to 14% of their incomes to pay the interests associated with external debt.


Most of the G77 nations are forced to allocate more resources to servicing debt than to investment in health or education. What sustainable development can be achieved with that noose around their necks?


The group today reiterates its call to public multilateral and private creditors to refinance the debt through credit guarantees, lower interest and longer expiration deadlines.


We insist on the implementation of a multilateral mechanism to re-schedule the sovereign debt with an effective participation of the countries of the South that will allow for a fair, balanced and development-oriented treatment.


It is imperative to redesign once and for all the debt instruments and to include activation provisions to alleviate and re-schedule as soon as a country becomes affected by natural catastrophes and problems that are microeconomic problems that are so common amongst the vulnerable nations.


Mr. President,


No one in their right mind is denying now that climate change threatens the survival of all with irreversible effects.


It is also a secret to no one, that those who are least responsible for climate change are those who are suffering the most from its effects, particularly small island developing states. Industrialised countries meanwhile are the voracious predators of the resources of the environment and they elude their greatest responsibility and fail to comply with their commitments and the framework convention on climate change and the Paris Agreement.


Just to mention one example, it is profoundly disappointing that the goal of mobilising no less than $100 billion a year up to 2020 as climate financing has never been met.


On the eve of the 28th COP, the G77 countries will have as a priority the exercise of the global balance, the implementation of the loss and damage fund, the definition of the framework for the adaptation goal and the establishment of the new climate financing goal, which fully abides by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.


The G77 is convening a summit of leaders of the south to be held on the 2nd of December in the context of COP28 in Dubai. This initiative is unprecedented in the context of the Conference of the Parties and will be a forum to articulate positions within our group at the highest level in the context of climate negotiations.


COP 28 will show whether or not, beyond speeches, there is a real political will on the part of developed nations to achieve the agreements required in this field that cannot be postponed any longer.


Mr. President,


For the G77, the priority is to change, once and for all, the paradigms of science, technology and innovation, which is limited to the environmental perspectives of the north, thus depriving the international scientific community of a considerable intellectual capital.


The successful Havana summit launched an urgent appeal to concentrate science, technology and innovation around the sustainable development goals.


There we decided to resume the work of the consortium of science, technology and innovation for the south, with the purpose of promoting joint research projects and promoting the joining up of production systems so that they could reduce their dependence on the markets of the north.


We also agreed to promote a call for convening in 2025, a high level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Science, Technology and Innovation for Development.


The 17 cooperation projects that Cuba has designed in the context of its chairmanship of the G77 will contribute to channeling the potentials of south-south and triangular cooperation. We call on the richest nations and on international bodies to participate in these initiatives.


Cuba will not falter in its efforts to promote the creative potential influence and leadership of the G77. Our group has a lot to contribute to multilateralism, stability, justice and the rationality that the world requires today.


Mr. President,


Excellencies,


Added to the problems and challenges characterising the reality of our nations and mobilising peoples are the unilateral, coercive measures, euphemistically called sanctions, which have become a practice of powerful states that intend to act as universal judges and to weaken and destroy economies and isolate sovereign states.


Cuba is not the first sovereign state against which measures of that sort are applied, but it is the one being subjected to them for the longest period of time, despite World Condemnation, which is expressed almost unanimously every year in this assembly, but which is disrespected and goes unheard by the government of the biggest economic, financial and military power in the world.


We were not the first and we are not the last. Pressures to isolate and weaken economies and sovereign states are also today affecting Venezuela, Nicaragua and both before and after these have been the prelude to invasions and the overthrowing of governments in the Middle East.


We reject the unilateral, coercive measures in countries such as Zimbabwe, Syria, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Iran, amongst many other countries whose people have been suffering from the negative impact of these measures.


We reiterate our solidarity with the Palestinian cause and support the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people.


Let us all struggle for a world of peace without wars or conflicts.


Five years ago, I spoke for the first time from this rostrum, that had been taken before by the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro-Ruz and Army General Raul Castro-Ruz to speak these truths and to speak the ideals of peace and justice of a small archipelago that has resisted and will continue to resist, to live up to the dignity, courage and unbreakable strength of its people and history.


But I cannot stand at this global tribune without denouncing once again the fact that for 60 years now, Cuba is suffering from an asphyxiating economic blockade, designed to depress its income and living standards, to promote a continued scarcity of food, medicines and other basic goods, and to damage its development potential.


That is the nature and those are the objectives of the economic coercion and the great pressure applied by the United States government against Cuba, in violation of international law and the UN Charter.


Cuba has not implemented a single measure or action aimed at damaging the United States, or its economic sector or its trade or social fabric.


Cuba has not engaged in any action threatening the United States' independence, harming their sovereign rights, interfering in its internal affairs or affecting the well-being of its people. The United States' behaviour is absolutely unilateral and unjustified.


The Cuban people are resisting and overcoming isolation day after day creatively against this merciless economic warfare, which since 2019, during the COVID pandemic, was opportunistically escalated to an extreme, cruel and inhumane dimension. The effects are brutal.


The United States government is pressuring entities not to provide the medicines and oxygen which were needed in Cuba to face the pandemic. The Cuban scientists created vaccines and developed the ventilators which were needed to save the country and which we put at the disposal of other countries of the world as well.


With surgical and vicious precision, they calculated both in Washington and Florida how to infect the greatest possible damage on Cuban families.


The United States continues its actions and has tried to prevent supplies of fuel and lubricants to our country, which would be unthinkable in times of peace.


In a globalised world, it is not only absurd, but criminal, to prohibit access to technologies, including medical equipment, which have over 10% of United States' components.


It is shameful.


Their action against the medical cooperation provided by Cuba to numerous nations. It even goes so far as to openly threaten sovereign governments for requesting this assistance and meeting the public health needs of their populations.


The United States is depriving its citizens of the right to travel to Cuba, defying its own constitution.


The intensification of the blockade has an impact on migratory flows in our country over the last few years, which means a painful cost for Cuban families and has demographic and economic consequences of an adverse nature for the nation.


The government of the United States lies and causes great harm to international efforts to combat terrorism when it accuses Cuba in an utterly baseless way of being a sponsor of this scourge. Under the shield of this arbitrary and fraudulent accusation, they extort hundreds of banking and financial entities throughout the world, and force them to choose between continuing their relations with the United States, or maintaining their links with Cuba.


Our country is truly under siege.


It's suffering from a cruel, silent, extraterrestrial, economic war. This is accompanied by a powerful political machinery for destabilisation, with vast funds approved by the United States Congress, with the aim of capitalising on the shortfalls caused by the blockade and undermining the constitutional order of the country and its people's serenity.


Despite the hostility of its government, of this government, we will continue to build bridges with the people of the United States, as we do with all peoples of the world.


We will strengthen still further the links with Cuban immigrants in any part of the world.


Mr. President,


Promoting and protecting human rights is a shared ideal, which requires a genuine spirit of respect and constructive dialogue between states.


Regrettably, 75 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reality is very different from this. This has become a political weapon for powerful nations who seek to force their geopolitical designs upon independent nations, mainly those from the south.


No country is immune from challenges, and none has the authority to consider itself an example in terms of human rights and to stigmatise other models, cultures or sovereign states.


We defend dialogue and cooperation as effective ways to promote and protect human rights without any politicisation or selectivity, without applying double standards, conditions or pressure.


In this spirit, Cuba has presented its candidature to the Human Rights Council for 2024-2026, in the elections which will take place on the 10th of October. We are grateful in advance for the trust of those countries which have already provided their valuable support.


If we are elected, the voice of Cuba will continue to stand up for a universal vision, as seen from the south, of the legitimate interests of developing countries, including constructive commitment and the unavoidable responsibility to the full achievement of human rights for all.


We will continue to bolster its democracy and its socialist model, which, although it is buffeted, has shown what a developing country can do, even if it is small in size and with scant natural resources.


We will continue our transformative efforts to seek exits from the siege which is imposed upon us by United States imperialism and ways to achieve the prosperity with social justice that our people deserve.


In this endeavor, we will never renounce the right to defend ourselves.


Mr. President, Distinguished heads of delegation and other representatives,


I conclude by extending an invitation to all of you to work to overcome differences and to urgently address shared challenges.


To do this, the United Nations and this General Assembly, even with all their limitations, are the most powerful instrument that we have.


You can always count upon Cuba to defend multilateralism to promote peace and sustainable development for all.


It will always be an honor to fight for justice, sharing the difficulties and challenges with the peoples of the south, who are ready to change history.


We will overcome. Thank you very much.

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