Cuba's Four Proposals for the Johannesburg Summit

September 14, 2002

Below we print excerpts from a September 3 speech given at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development by Felipe Perez Roque, Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Foreign Minister began his speech by quoting from Fidel Castro:

"If we want to save humanity from this self-destruction, wealth and available technology must be better distributed, there has to be less luxury and squander in a few countries in order to decrease poverty and hunger on a large part of the earth. . . . Let the ecological debt be paid and not the foreign debt. . . . Let hunger rather than people disappear." ...

Felipe Perez Roque then continued:

After 10 years of more insanity and extravagance for some -the minority- and more poverty, illness and death for others - the majority - those words in this room resonate on our conscience. His questions remain unanswered.

However, it is fitting to ask three new questions:

First: what results have we achieved since the Rio Summit?

Virtually none. One decade later things have not improved. On the contrary.

The environment is more threatened than ever. While the Kyoto Protocol is being shipwrecked, victim of an arrogant boycott, carbon dioxide emissions, far from diminishing, have increased by 9%, and in the most polluting country by 18%. Today, the seas and rivers are more contaminated than in 1992; the air is more contaminated; 15 million hectares of forest are devastated every year, almost four times the surface area of Switzerland. The way of life in the developed nations, as the main predators, is as unsustainable as that of the others. The North contaminates by squandering, the South in order to survive.

A large part of the planet’s population is living in critical conditions: 815 million hungry, 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty, 854 million illiterate adults and 2,400 million people without basic sanitation are proof of this. Forty million suffering from or infected by the AIDS virus, two million deaths from tuberculosis and one million from malaria per year, are further proof. Eleven million under-fives will die this year from preventable causes, which in addition to being yet more proof, is also a crime.

The world is more unjust and unequal than 10 years ago. The breech, far from closing, has widened. The income gap between the rich and poor countries was 37-fold in 1960, 60-fold when we met in Rio and is currently 74-fold.

Second question: who is responsible for this state of affairs?

The economic and political order imposed on the world by the powerful. This is not only profoundly unjust, but also unsustainable. The heritage of colonialism and the fruit of imperialism continue to privilege a small number of countries that were developed on the blood and sweat of the immense majority of the world’s peoples.

Their international financial institutions and especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF) respond to the interests of the governments of a few developed nations, particularly the most powerful ones; to various hundreds of transnationals; and to a group of politicians whose electoral campaigns have been financed by them. In order to defend these illegitimate and minority interests the majority of the world’s population is subjected to poverty and desperation. The IMF, a public institution born of an explicit acknowledgment of the role of the state, given that the market was unable to solve problems, has paradoxically become the main instrument via which neoliberalism was imposed on a globalized world. The poor countries -the majority - had to accept the infamous Washington Consensus. The rich and developed countries - the minority - have given themselves the luxury of defaulting on it; they have not opened up their economies, nor have they eliminated subsidies.

We, the developing countries, the principal victims in this new lost decade, have been unable to struggle in unison to defend our rights, we have not known how to ally millions of workers, non-governmental organizations, and intellectuals in the developed nations who have also called for major changes.

Third question: What should we do? There are two things that we lack today: political will and access to financial resources. Hypothetically assuming that the political will is going to break forth as a result of this Summit and the idea that time is running out, and that if this new Titanic sinks then we will all perish, the question then rests on guaranteeing the resources that will allow our countries to obtain fresh, stable finances on concessionary and unconditional bases. The Cuban proposals to obtain this are:

To introduce a development tax of just 0.1% on international financial transactions. This would generate almost $400 billion USD per year, which, through good administration by the UN and its system of institutions could change the current situation.

To immediately condone the foreign debt of the developing countries, which have repaid the amount more than once over. This would mean that our countries would not have to spend $330 billion USD each year on this, a quarter of our income from the export of goods and services.

To take the immediate step of agreeing that 50% of military spending budgets will be placed in a fund made available to the UN for sustainable development. This would mean a sum of almost $400 billion USD, half of which would originate from one country alone - the most powerful and wealthy one, and also the one most responsible for contaminating the environment.

To guarantee the immediate fulfillment by the developed countries of their commitment to dedicate 0.7% of their GDP as official development aid. This would up their contribution of $53 billion USD in 2000 to almost $170 billion in 2003. These are only a few ideas. If we then add the establishment of a new international financial structure that includes demolishing the current IMF and replacing it with an international public institution that would respond to the interests of all, the development of a fair and equal trade system guaranteeing special and differentiated treatment for the developing countries, plus the strengthening of multi-lateralism and the role of the UN based on unrestricted respect for its Charter, we may than say that this Summit has been worthwhile.