Picture: Li Muzi/Xinhua/September 24, 2018 – Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Speaking at the 78th UN General Assembly session on September 19, 2023, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel stressed the need for ‘changes that can no longer be postponed in the midst of the unjust, irrational and abusive international economic order’.
By Peoples Dispatch
The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly began on Tuesday, September 19. On the opening day, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is also the Chairperson of the G77+China bloc, delivered a powerful speech critiquing the current global order and listing out the structural changes needed to address pressing challenges such as hunger, poverty and climate change. The following is a transcript of his speech.
Mr President, Mr Secretary General, Excellencies,
I am bringing to this Assembly the voice of the “exploited and the 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 honoured to host the Summit of leaders and other high representatives of the G-77 and China, the most representative, broad, and diverse representation that exists in the multilateral arena.
During those two virtually tireless days, more than 100 representatives from the 134 nations making up the Group, raised their voices to call for changes that can no longer be postponed in the midst of the 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”.
Worst still, as was recognised by the UN Secretary General [António Guterres] at the Havana Summit, the G-77 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 the condition of being the principal victims of the current global multidimensional crisis; the abusive unequal exchange; the scientific and technical gap and the degradation of the environment.
But we have also been united, for more than half a century now, by the inescapable challenge and the determination to transform the current international order, which is also exclusionary, irrational and unsustainable for the planet and non-viable for the well-being of all.
The countries represented in the G-77 and China, where more than 80 percent of the world population lives, not only have the responsibility of development, but also the responsibility to modify the structures that marginalise us from global progress and make many peoples of the South into laboratories of renewed forms of domination. A new and more just global contract is imperative.
Only 7 years ahead of the deadline established to implement the promising 2030 Agenda, the panorama is discouraging. This respected institution has already recognised it. At the current pace, none of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will be achieved and more than half of the 169 agreed targets will not be met.
In the midst of the 21st century, it is offensive to the human condition that almost 800 million persons suffer from hunger in a planet that produces enough to feed all.
Equally outrageous is the fact that in the era of knowledge and accelerated development of information and communications technology, more than 760 million people — two thirds of them women — do not know how to read and 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 co-operation.
We are not begging for alms or asking for favours.
The G77 demands rights and will continue to demand a profound transformation of the current international financial architecture, because it is deeply unjust, anachronistic and dysfunctional. Because it was designed to profit with the reserves of the South; to perpetuate a system of domination that aggravates underdevelopment, and to replicate a pattern of modern colonialism.
We need and demand financial institutions within which our countries can have real decision-making capacity and access to financing.
A recapitalisation of Multilateral Development Banks is imperative to radically improve their lending condition and meet the financial needs of the South.
The member countries of this Group were forced to allocate 379 billion dollars from their reserves to protect their currencies in 2022, almost twice as much as the amount of Special Drawing Rights that they were allocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A rationalisation, review, and role change 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 adequate technical co-operation.
While the richest countries fail to meet the commitment to allocate at least 0.7 percent of their NGP to Official Assistance for Development, the nations of the South need to spend up to 14 percent of their incomes to pay the interests associated with foreign debt.
Most of the G77 nations are forced to allocate more resources to servicing the debt than to health or education. What sustainable development can be achieved with that noose on their necks?
The Group today reiterates its call on public, multilateral, and private creditors to refinance the debt with credit guarantees, lower interest rates, and longer expiration deadlines.
We insist on the implementation of a multilateral mechanism to renegotiate 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 re-design, once and for all, the debt instruments and include activation provisions to alleviate and restructure, as soon as a country is affected by natural catastrophes and problems that are so common among the most vulnerable nations.
No one in his right mind is denying now that climate change is threatening the survival of all with irreversible effects.
It is also no secret that those who are less responsible for climate change are the ones suffering the most from their effects, particularly Small Island Development States. Meanwhile, industrialised countries, which are the voracious predators of resources and the environment, elude their biggest responsibility and fail to comply with their commitments under the UNFCCC [United Nations 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 dollars a year until 2020 as climate financing, has never been fulfilled.
On the eve of the 28th COP 28, the G77 countries will prioritise the exercise of the Global Stocktake; 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; fully abiding by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
The G77 is convening a Summit of South Leaders to be held on December 2 in the context of COP28 in Dubai. This initiative, unprecedented in the context of a Conference of the Parties (COP), 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 for any longer.
The priority of the G77 is to change, once and for all, the paradigms of science, technology, and innovation, which is limited to the environment and perspectives of the North, thus depriving the international scientific community of considerable intellectual capital.
The successful Havana Summit launched an urgent appeal to concentrate science, technology, and innovation around the sustainable development goal, which cannot be renounced.
There we decided to resume the work of the Consortium of Science, Technology and Innovation for the South (COSTIS) with the purpose of promoting joint research projects and promoting the production chains that may reduce the dependence on the markets of the North.
We also agreed to promote a call for convening, in 2025, of a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on Science, Technology and Innovation for Development.
The 17 co-operation projects that Cuba has designed in the context of its chairpersonship of the G77 will contribute to channel the potential of South-South and triangular co-operation.
We call on the richest nations and international bodies to participate in these initiatives.
Cuba will not cease 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 rationale that the world requires today.
Mr President, Excellencies,
Added to the problems and challenges that characterise the reality of our nations and impact our peoples, are the unilateral coercive measures, euphemistically called sanctions, which have become a practice of powerful states that intend to act as universal judges to weaken and destroy economies and isolate and submit sovereign states.
Cuba is not the first sovereign state against which measures of that sort are applied but is the one that has put up with them for the longest period of time, despite the world condemnation that every year is expressed almost unanimously in this Assembly, which is disrespected and unheard by the government of the biggest economic, financial and military power in the world.
We were not the first and have not been the last. Pressures to isolate and weaken economies and sovereign states are also affecting today Venezuela, Nicaragua and, both before and after, these have been the prelude of invasions and the overthrowing of uncomfortable governments in the Middle East.
We reject the unilateral and coercive measures imposed against Zimbabwe, Syria, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among many others who suffer their negative impact.
We reiterate our solidarity with the Palestinian cause. We 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 podium, where the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, and Army General Raúl Castro Ruz once stood, to speak these truths and the ideals of peace and justice of a small archipelago that has resisted and will continue to resist, living up to the dignity, the courage and the unbreakable firmness of its people and history.
And I cannot stand in this world tribune without denouncing, once again, the fact that for 60 years now, Cuba suffers an asphyxiating economic blockade, conceived to depress its income and living standards; promote a continued scarcity of food, medicines and other basic inputs and damage its potential for development.
That is the nature and those are the objectives of the economic coercion and maximum pressure policy applied by the US government against Cuba in violation of International Law and the UN Charter.
Cuba has not implemented a single measure or action aimed at hurting the US, its economic sector, its trade, or social fabric.
Cuba has not engaged in any action threatening US independence, harming their sovereign rights, interfering in its internal affairs or affecting the well-being of its people. The US behaviour is absolutely unilateral and unjustified.
The Cuban people are resisting and overcoming isolation day after day in the face of the merciless economic warfare which, since 2019, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, was opportunistically escalated to an extreme, cruel, and inhumane dimension. The impacts are brutal.
With surgical and vicious precision, they have calculated, both in Washington and in Florida, how to inflict the greatest possible damage to Cuban families.
The US persecutes and has tried to prevent the supplies of fuel and lubricants to our country, an action that may seem unthinkable in times of peace.
In a globalised world, to prohibit access to technologies, including medical equipment with more than 10 percent of US components, is not only absurd but criminal.
Their actions against Cuba’s medical co-operation in numerous countries is shameful. They openly threaten sovereign governments for asking for that contribution and responding to the public health needs of their peoples.
The US deprives its citizens of the right to travel to Cuba, challenging its own Constitution.
The tightening of the blockade has had an impact on migration in our country in recent years, which presupposes a painful cost for Cuban families as well as adverse demographic and economic consequences for the nation.
The US government lies and greatly damages international efforts to fight terrorism when accusing Cuba, without any grounds, of being a country that sponsors that scourge.
Based on that fraudulent and arbitrary allegation they extort hundreds of banking and financial entities everywhere in the world and force them to choose between continuing their relations with the US or maintaining their links with Cuba.
Our country suffers a true siege, a cruel and silent extraterritorial economic warfare. It is accompanied by a powerful political campaign of destabilisation, with millions of dollars of funds, approved by the US Congress, with the purpose of capitalising on the scarcities caused by the blockade and undermining the country’s constitutional order and citizens’ tranquillity.
Despite the hostility of their government, we will continue building bridges with the US people, as we do with every other country in the world.
We will further strengthen our links with Cuban migration anywhere on this planet.
The promotion and protection of human rights is a common ideal that demands a genuine spirit of respect and constructive dialogue among states.
Unfortunately, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, the reality is quite different. This issue has become a political weapon in the hands of powerful nations looking to subjugate independent nations, particularly from the South, to their geopolitical designs.
No country is exempted from challenges, just as none has the authority to rise up as a paradigm in the field of human rights and stigmatise other sovereign models, cultures and states.
We advocate dialogue and co-operation as an effective way to promote and protect human rights, without politicisation or selectivity; without double standards, preconditions or pressures.
In that spirit, Cuba has presented its candidacy to the Human Rights Council for the period 2024-2026 at the elections to be held on October 10 this year. We appreciate beforehand the confidence of the countries that have already given us their valuable support.
If we were elected, the voice of Cuba will continue to be raised with a universal vision, always from the perspective of the South, in favour of the legitimate interests of developing countries, from a constructive commitment and the irrevocable responsibility towards the full realisation of human rights for all.
Cuba will continue to strengthen its democracy and socialist model which, despite being under siege, has proved how much a developing country, with scarce natural resources, can do.
We will keep on with our transforming efforts, looking for a way out of the siege imposed by US imperialism, as well as ways to achieve the prosperity with social justice that our people deserve.
In that effort, we will never renounce our right to defend ourselves.
Distinguished heads of delegations and other representatives;
I will conclude by extending an invitation to all to work in order to overcome differences and cope together with our common challenges with a sense of urgency.
For that, the UN and this Assembly, even with its limitations, are the most powerful instrument we have.
You may always count on Cuba to defend multilateralism and promote peace and sustainable development for all.
It will always be an honour to fight for justice, sharing difficulties and challenges with the “exploited and humiliated”, ready to change history. We are more, and we shall overcome.
Thank you very much.
Published on Peoples Dispatch
* Emphasis added in this publication