Speech delivered by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, during the inauguration of the 37th period of sessions of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in the Havana International Conference Center, May 8, 2018, “Year 60 of the Revolution”
(Council of State transcript – GI translation)
Your Excellency António Guterres, United Nations secretary general:
Her Excellency Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC executive secretary:
Distinguished ministers, heads of delegations, delegates, and guests:
Allow me to welcome you to our country, which is honored to host this 37th period of session with all of you present.
I would like to emphasize the importance of this meeting that is being held on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of ECLAC. It has, moreover, been 10 years since Ms. Alicia Bárcena assumed the leadership of the Commission, and whose successes in this role are worthy of congratulations.
ECLAC, which for decades has served as a reference in terms of economic and social knowledge in Latin America and the Caribbean, on the regional and global level, has contributed decisively to placing equity at the center of development, showing that the region continues to be the most unequal on the planet, and studying certain structural causes of the problem that will surely be addressed in this meeting.
It is imperative to transform the culture of inequality associated with the colonial past of our nations, which particularly affects indigenous populations, Afro-descendents, girls, and women. It is also, in our opinion, the result of imperialism, neoliberalism, and macro-economic policies that for decades have favored transnational corporations, and exacerbated differences based on class, skin color, and between urban and rural regions and populations.
Likewise to be faced are serious challenges that include slow growth rates in productivity, the lack of diversified production, and low levels of technological modernization.
There is no other option but to advance in regional integration and development with equity, which would allow us to invert the pyramid seen in the principal countries of the region, where the richest 1% of the population holds an enormous portion of the wealth.
When, in February of 2010, we decided to create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) with the countries of Our America, we emphasized the intention of promoting unity within diversity; we made a commitment to “concentrate social policy efforts on the most vulnerable segments of the population, to respond to the challenge of poverty, inequality, and hunger; and achieve greater economic and social development for the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, on the basis of the non-discriminatory integrity and recognition of persons as a right. We will continue to press forward, therefore, will social development policies to ensure, within our national environments, a focus that prioritizes programs directed toward reducing poverty, inequality, and hunger.
The Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace charts a necessary course. We know there will be no development without peace, and no peace without development.
As the report prepared by CEPAL very well indicates, “Inequality has not only economic implications, but political, social, and cultural implications, as well.”
The distribution of income and wealth constitutes a central element in closing this gap, and therefore guarantees on the part of states are needed to ensure access to food, work, quality education, health, culture, and better living conditions.
While it is true that, as the central theme of this meeting indicates, we must address “the inefficiency of inequality,” the real objective must be “the search for equality of opportunity and social justice,” and therefore, the reduction and elimination of the growing poverty that millions of Latin Americans and Caribbeans suffer.
Recent history shows that appropriate public policies lead to successful results in social progress and economic growth that have lifted tens of millions of people from hunger, illiteracy, and ignorance, as ECLAC reports indicate. It would be inadmissible and cruel to attempt to impose another neoliberal wave, like the one that has already set our people back a decade.
It is imperative to struggle to make a reality of the theme guiding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that is, that “no one is left behind.”
With the Paris agreement, the road could have been opened to confronting climate change, that affects us all in one way or another, but for Caribbean states, these threats are multiplied and impose enormous tensions on their economies, requiring special, differentiated treatment, and at the same time, more support, solidarity, and cooperation.
It is essential that when addressing the issue of inequality, we consider access to knowledge as well.
Information and communications technologies favor development. To reduce the gap between the haves and have-nots, between rich and poor countries, it will be necessary to eliminate the difference between those who know and those who don’t, between knowledge and ignorance.
We must work for use of these technologies that promotes social solidarity, creates values, and contributes to peace and the economic, cultural, political sustainability of our nations.
Likewise, we are obliged to constantly reflect on and analyze the growing monopolization of the media, and attempts to impose through them a single way of thinking, consumerism, the manipulation of people’s behavior, and values far removed from the realities and aspirations of our countries.
For our part, despite the difficulties facing the Cuban economy, very particularly caused by the tightening of the blockade imposed on Cuba for almost six decades, we will continue to focus on the development goals we have established to preserve, extend, and deepen the accomplishments achieved.
We are working on the crafting of a National Social and Economic Development
Plan through 2030, based on strategic axes in line with the Sustainable Development Objectives, as part of the process of updating our social and economic development model, begun in 2011, guided by the inviolable premise that no citizen will be left unprotected. We will never implement well-known shock therapies that only affect the most vulnerable.
In particular, we reiterate in this forum Cuba’s commitment to solidary cooperation, based on mutual respect, disinterested help, and complementarity. Despite our needs and difficulties, we will maintain this intention, following the principle of sharing what we have, not what we have left over.
We have accepted the pro tempore presidency of ECLAC for the period 2018-2020, and of two subsidiary bodies: the South-South Cooperation Committee and the Latin American and Caribbean Countries Forum on Sustainable Development.
We do so fully committed and conscious of the challenges we face, focused on continuing to promote cooperation among countries in the region in making the new 2030 Agenda a reality. We will direct out efforts toward supporting ECLAC’s vocation of advancing the search for a more just, equitable, and inclusive world that recognizes people as the fundamental element of sustainable development. We will make an effort to promote unity within diversity.
I would like to recognize the Mexican government for the work done since the 36th period of sessions, during its term as president pro tempore of the Commission.
I wish you success in the work sessions that will be held over the coming days and reiterate Cuba’s firm commitment to ECLAC, to Latin American and Caribbean integration, to brotherhood and solidarity among our nations, and to the common struggle for social and economic development of Latin America and the Caribbean, reaffirming the belief of José Martí: “The good of many is preferable to the opulence of a few.”
Thank you very much. (Applause)