President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel at UNGA 78 (Speech)

Speech by the President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, in the general debate at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. New York, Tuesday September 19, 2023.

Mr President,

Mr Secretary-General,

Your excellencies,

I bring to this Assembly the voice of the South, that of the “exploited and humiliated” to quote Che Guevara in this very room almost 60 years ago.

Diverse peoples with problems in common – as we have just confirmed in Havana, which was honored to host a summit of leaders and other high representatives of the Group of 77 and China, the most representative, broadly-based and diverse assemblage of nations in the multilateral sphere.

During two days, practically without a break, over 100 representatives of the 134 nations of the Group raised their voices to demand changes that can no longer be postponed to an unjust, irrational and abusive international economic order, which has magnified, year after year, the huge inequalities between a minority of highly industrialized nations and a majority that cannot escape from the euphemistic term “developing country”.

Even worse, as acknowledged by the UN Secretary-General at the Summit in Havana, the G77 was founded six decades ago “to reverse the injustice and neglect of centuries; and champion a system that delivers for all humanity and not only for the privileged” in the context of a world in which poverty and hunger are on the rise.

We are united by the need to change what has not been resolved and our status as primary victims of the present multidimensional global crisis; of the abusive, unequal exchange; of the science/technology gap; and of the devastation of the environment.

But we have also been united, for over half a century, by the inescapable challenge and determination to transform the present international order which, apart from being excluding and irrational, is unsustainable for the planet and unviable for universal well-being. 

The countries represented in the G77 and China, which account for 80% of the world’s population, are faced not only with the challenge of development but also the responsibility to change the structures that exclude us from global progress and turn many of the peoples of the South into laboratories of new bases of domination. A more just global contract is an urgent necessity.

Mr President,

At just 7 years to the deadline for meeting Agenda 2030, the outlook is bleak. This august institution has already recognized that situation: at the present rate of progress, none of the 17 sustainable development goals will be achieved, while less than half of the 169 associated targets agreed will be met.

Well into the 21st century, it is an offense to the human condition that almost 800 million people suffer hunger on a planet that produces enough to feed everyone. Or that in an era of knowledge and rapid development of information and communication technologies, over 760 million people – two-thirds of them women – cannot read or write. 

The efforts of the developing countries are insufficient for implementing Agenda 2030. They must be backed up by concrete initiatives to ensure access to markets, funding on fair and preferential terms, technology transfer and North-South cooperation.

We are not seeking handouts or asking favors.

The G77 claims rights and will go on calling for a radical transformation of the present international financial architecture, which is deeply unjust, anachronistic and dysfunctional – because it was designed to exploit the reserves of the South, to perpetuate a system of domination that exacerbates underdevelopment and reproduces a model of modern colonialism.

We need and demand financial institutions in which our countries have real a real say, and get access to funding.

There is an urgent need to recapitalize the multilateral development banks so as to radically improve their lending terms and meet the financial needs of the South.

The countries of this group have been obliged to allocate 379 billion dollars of their reserves to defend their currencies in 2022, nearly double the new special drawing rights assigned by the IMF.

The need is for rationalization, revision and change of role for the international credit rating agencies. It is also imperative that criteria are set that relate to more than GDP in establishing access by the developing nations to funding on favorable terms and to effective technical cooperation.

While the richest countries default on their commitment to allocate at least 0.7% of GDP to Official Development Assistance, the nations of the South are obliged to spend up to 14% of their revenues to pay the interest on their external debt.

Most of the G77 nations are compelled to allocate more resources to debt servicing than to public health or education. What sort of sustainable development can they achieve with this millstone around their necks?

The Group reiterates its call to the state, multilateral and private-sector creditors to reschedule the debt on the basis of credit guarantees, lower interest rates and extended repayment periods.

We call for the setting up of a multilateral sovereign debt rescheduling mechanism with effective participation by the countries of the South, which enables fair, even-handed treatment with an eye to development.

It is essential to redesign, once and for all, the debt instruments, and include activation clauses to facilitate relief and rescheduling whenever the country concerned is stricken by some natural disaster or macroeconomic shock – problems common enough among the most vulnerable nations.

Mr President,

No sensible person is still in doubt that climate change is a threat to the survival of all of us, with irreversible effects.

Not is it a secret that those with the least contribution to the climate crisis are those who suffer most from its effects, especially the Small Island Developing States. Meantime, the industrialized countries, voracious predators on natural resources, evade their greater responsibility and default on the commitments under the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

To quote a single example, it is deeply disappointing that the target of mobilizing al least 100 billion dollars a year up to 2020 to finance climate change response was never reached.

In relation to COP 28, the priorities of the G77 will be: the Global Stocktake; operation of the loss and damage fund; definition of the Goal on Adaptation, and setting the new target for climate financing, fully consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

The G77 has been called to attend the summit of leaders of the South to be held on December 2 next in the context of COP28, in Dubai. This initiative, unprecedented in the framework of the Conference of the Parties, will be a platform for articulating our Group’s positions at the highest level, in the setting of the climate change negotiations.

COP 28 will reveal whether, beyond the speeches, there is real political will among the developed nations to reach the urgent accords needed.

Mr President,

For the G77, it is a priority task to change once and for all the paradigms of science, technology and innovation which are confined to the setting and perspectives of the North, depriving the international scientific community of considerable intellectual capital.

The successful Havana conference sent out an urgent call to base science, technology and innovation around the essential goal of sustainable development.

There, we decided to renew the efforts of COSTIS – the Consortium on Science, Technology and Innovation for the South – with the aim of promoting joint research projects and facilitating the creation of production chains that reduce dependence on the North.

We also agreed to press for the calling, in 2025, of a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly, on science, technology and innovation for development.

The 17 cooperation projects Cuba has established in its capacity as Chair of the G77 will contribute to channeling the potential of South-South and triangular cooperation. We urge the richest nations and the international agencies to take part in these initiatives.

Cuba will not falter in our efforts to promote the creative potential, influence and leadership of the G77. Our Group has much to contribute to the multilateralism, stability, justice and rationality that the world now needs.

Mr President,

 Your excellencies,

All the problems and challenges that mark the reality lived by our nations and mobilize the peoples are compounded by the unilateral coercive measures – euphemistically called sanctions – that have become the practice of powerful states seeking to act as universal judges, designed to weaken and destroy economies and isolate and subjugate sovereign states.

Cuba is not the first state against which such measures have been applied, but it is the state which has suffered them for longest and in the face of worldwide condemnation, expressed with near unanimity in this Assembly every year, disrespected and ignored in its express will by the government of the world’s greatest economic, financial and military power.

We are nether the first nor the last. Pressures intended to isolate and weaken economies and sovereign states are currently being imposed also on Venezuela and Nicaragua, while they have been, sooner or later, the prelude to invasions and the overthrowing of inconvenient governments in the Middle East.

We reject the unilateral coercive measures imposed on countries such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Iran, among many whose peoples bear the brunt of such measures.

We reiterate our solidity with the cause of the Palestinian people.

 We support the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people.

Five years ago, I spoke for the first time from this podium, previously occupied by the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Commander-In-Chief Fidel Castro, and by Gen. Raúl Castro, to expose these truths and the ideals of peace and justice of a small archipelago that has resisted and will go on resisting in ways worthy of the dignity, courage and unshakeable resolve of our people and their history.

But I cannot appear before this world tribunal with condemning, yet again, the fact that for 60 years Cuba has endured the stranglehold of an economic blockade designed to undercut our revenues and standard of living, create constant shortages of food, medicines and other basic supplies and curtail our scope for development.

That is the character and those are the aims of the policy of economic coercion and maximum pressure applied by the US government on Cuba, in breach of international law and of the UN Charter.

There is not a single measure or action on Cuba’s part that damages US interests, prejudices America’s economic sector, its trade or its social fabric.

There is no action on Cuba’s part that threatens America’s independence, national security, infringes its sovereign rights, interferes in its domestic affairs or affects the well-being of its people. Washington’s behavior is totally unilateral and baseless.

The Cuban people resist and on a daily basis creatively overcome the effects of this ruthless economic war which, since 2019 and in the midst of the pandemic, has been opportunistically stepped up to an even more extreme, cruel and inhuman level. The effects are devastating.

With cruelty and surgical precision, in Washington and Florida they have calculated how to inflict the most damage on Cuban families.

The US persecutes and has attempted to block supplies of fuel and lubricants to Cuba – a seemingly unthinkable practice in peacetime.

In a globalized world it is not merely absurd but criminal to ban access to technologies, including medical equipment, that include over 10% US components.

Their actions against the medical cooperation by Cuba in numerous countries is shameful. They go so far as to openly threaten sovereign governments for requesting this aid in response to the public health needs of their populations.

Washington deprives American citizens of the right to visit Cuba, in defiance of the country’s own constitution.

The intensification of the blockade swells the high migration flows recorded in our country in recent years, implying a high cost for Cuban families and adverse demographic and economic repercussions for our nation.

Washington lies and inflicts great damage on international efforts to combat terrorism by accusing Cuba, without the slightest grounds, of being a state sponsor of this scourge.

By virtue of this arbitrary and spurious accusation, they are coercing hundreds of banks and other financial entities all over the world, by forcing them to choose to maintain relations either with the US or with Cuba.  

Our country is suffering an actual siege, a cruel and silent extraterritorial economic war. It is supported by powerful pollical machinery for destabilization, with huge funding approved by the US Congress, aimed at capitalizing on the shortages caused by the blockade and undermining the country’s constitutional peace and law and order.

Despite Washington’s hostility, we shall continue to maintain bridges with the American people, as with all the peoples of the world.

We shall increasingly strengthen our links with the Cuban expatriate community in every corner of the world.

Mr President,

Promotion and protection of human rights is a common ideal that demands a genuine spirit of respect and constructive dialogue between states. 

Regrettably, 75 years on from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the reality is very different. The subject has become a political weapon wielded by powerful countries which seek to subjugate independent nations – primarily of the South – with their geopolitical strategies.

No country is immune from challenges, just as no country has the authority to present itself as a paradigm in matters of human rights, or to stigmatize other models, cultures or sovereign states.

We defend dialogue and cooperation as effective means of promoting and protecting human rights, without politicization or selectivity; without the application of double standards, conditions or pressures.

It is in this spirit that Cuba has submitted its candidacy to the Human Rights Council for 2024-26, in the elections to be held on October 10 next. We are grateful to the countries that have already given us their invaluable support, for their trust.

If elected, Cuba will continue to promote a universal vision, always from the South, favoring the legitimate interests of the developing countries, based on constructive commitment and inescapable responsibility for full realization of all the human rights, by everyone.

Cuba will continue to bolster its democracy and socialist model which, even under siege, has demonstrated how much a small developing country with scant natural resources can achieve.

We will maintain our transformative efforts in pursuit of ways to circumvent the siege imposed on us by US imperialism and to reach the prosperity with social justice which our people deserve.

In this endeavor we shall never give up the right to defend ourselves.

Mr President,

Distinguished heads of delegation and other representatives,

I conclude by inviting everyone to work to overcome the differences and face together the common challenges, with a sense of urgency.

To that end, the UN and this General Assembly, even with their limitations, are the most powerful instrument at our disposal.

Cuba can be counted on, always, to defend multilateralism and promote the combination of peace and sustainable development for all.

It will always be an honor to fight for justice, sharing the difficulties and challenges of the “exploited and humiliated” willing to change the course of history. We are more in number. And we shall win.

Many thanks.

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