Developing island nations must unite says Cuban Foreign Minister

Campaign News | Monday, 2 September 2002

Speech to Earth Summitt in Johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, (September 1).-

“Today the dangers that our island states are facing are not only affecting our economic and social development, but something even more serious, our cultural identity, and our independence,” affirmed Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque during his first speech at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, entering into its final stages today, Monday, September 2.

The Cuban Foreign Minister was speaking this afternoon just a few hours after arriving in Johannesburg for the parallel mini-summit in the South African capital. On behalf of the Cuban delegation, he contributed to the globalization debate and what is being called its opportunities and challenges.


“We believe,” said Felipe Pérez Roque in his speech, “that globalization is the result of development, advances in communications, information technologies, transport, and expanding imports and exports.” It is an objective process that has particularly taken off over the last 20 years. It seems to us that it doesn’t make sense to say ‘Down with globalization,’ just as it wouldn’t make sense to say ‘Down with the laws of gravity.’

The protests currently taking place in the world are against the imposed neoliberal system, against dogma and market fundamentalism, against the consequences for our countries of the dogmatic application of the so-called Washington consensus over 20 years,” the minister noted. He then added: “That’s why Cuba calls the neoliberal globalization system under which we live unjust and unsustainable.”

However, this potentially beneficial process that has been covered throughout the mini-summit’s broad agenda has not managed to decrease poverty and inequality. The opposite has occurred and disparities within and between countries have been exacerbated. Nor have the developing countries benefited from the increase in financial flows; the opening up of their national economies, as commanded by the IMF, has made these countries fall victim to this process, to financial speculators, and to the turbulence that badly shook Asia and affected the whole world in 1998, continued Pérez Roque.

He exposed the fact that in a globalized world, the developing nations have less and less access to technology and knowledge, and knowledge has become increasingly privatized and inaccessible. As an example he explained that nine out of every 10 patents are the exclusive property of transnationals in the North, and new, more efficient and cleaner technologies offering more environmental protection are increasingly out of our reach.

Access to markets and ferocious immigration regulations were two further issues covered by the Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister at the mini-summit.

“Three quarters of our exports are used to repay the foreign debt and, despite us having paid it twice over at the time of the Rio Summit, we now owe twice as much again,” recalled Pérez Roque. Although the developed countries are benefiting more from the prosperity that globalization brings, official development aid has fallen every year; today it stands at little more than 0.2 of the GDP.

He also referred to the latent danger for many islands implied by rising waters caused by the greenhouse effect, and the AIDS scourge, exemplifying how consumer patterns in the rich countries “continue to pollute and contaminate whilst some of us are barely surviving.

“The dangers our island states face today are not only affecting our economic and social development, but something even more serious: they are endangering our cultural identity, threatening to sweep away the heritage left us by our ancestors by imposing one sole consumer and cultural model from a dominating media operated by a small group of transnationals, and this also endangers our independence,” concluded the Cuban minister.

He urged that “on a day such as this, we small island states must renew our unity, we must proclaim our right to live and develop once again.”

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