Cuba foreign minister at UN: themes for a world fight against wars and poverty

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri Sep 26 22:16:45 MDT 2003



Last century bore witness to two terrible world wars. Over 80 million
human beings perished in them.

It later seemed that, with the lesson learned, the United Nations
Organization was born so that never again would a war occur. The
Charter, adopted in San Francisco nearly 60 years ago, enshrined the
purpose of “preserving future generations from the scourge of war.”
However, we then endured wars of aggression and conquest, colonial
wars, border wars and ethnic wars. Many peoples were left with no
other choice but the war to defend their rights. Moreover, in the last
13 years the scourge of war has taken another six million lives.

Sixty years ago, the world order proclaimed in the United Nations
Charter was sustained on the military balance of two superpowers. A
bipolar world then came into being – bringing about clashes,
divisions, the Cold War and almost a devastating nuclear war.

It was not the ideal world, far from it. But now that one of those
superpowers has demised, the current world is worse and more

Now the world order cannot be founded on the “spheres of influence” of
two similar superpowers or on “reciprocal persuasion.”

What should it be founded on then? On the honest and generous
recognition by the only superpower that, far from disturbing, it
should contribute to the creation of a peaceful world entitled to both
justice and development for all.

Does the war in Iraq contribute to that objective? No, it does not.
Its outcome runs exactly counter to the ideal of preserving peace,
strengthening the role of the United Nations and enhancing
multilateralism and international cooperation. Unfortunately, the
truth is that those with the most ability to prevent and remove the
threats to peace are the ones causing the war today.

Should the Government of the United States recognize such truth that
almost everyone in this hall shares? Yes, they should.

What humiliation or harm would there be to the prestige of this great
nation? None. The world would recognize that a beneficial
rectification to all would come about, after the unleashing of a war
supported by just a few – either by shortsightedness or by meanness of
interests – after it was verified that the pretexts brandished were
not true and after observing the reaction of a people that, as will
always be done by every invaded and occupied people, begins to fight
and will fight over the respect for its right to self-determination.

Therefore, must the occupation in Iraq cease? Yes, it must. And the
sooner the better. It is a source of new and more serious problems,
not of its solution.

Must the Iraqis be left alone to freely establish their own government
and institutions and make decisions on their natural resources? Yes.
They are entitled to it – and they will not relinquish the fight to
that end.

Must the Security Council be pressured into adopting decisions that
would further undermine it both ethically and morally? No. That would
eliminate the last possibility to profoundly reform, expand and
democratize it.

In the denouement of the international crisis generated by the war in
Iraq the future of the United Nations is at stake today.

The most critical danger lurking us today is the persistence of a
world where the law of the jungle prevails, as well as the might of
the most powerful, the privileges and the squandering for a handful of
countries and the dangers of aggression, underdevelopment and
hopelessness for the majority.

Will a worldwide dictatorship be imposed on our peoples or will the
United Nations and multilateralism be preserved? That is the question.

We all agree, I think, that the role of the United Nations is
irrelevant today or, at least, is on its way to being so. But some of
us say so with concern and would like to enhance the Organization.
Others say it with covert satisfaction and encourage the hope of
imposing their designs on the world.

We must say it frankly. What role does the General Assembly play
today? Almost none, really. It is merely a forum of debate without any
true influence or practical role whatsoever.

Are international relations governed by the purposes and principles
enshrined in the Charter? No. Why now, when philosophy, the arts and
science are reaching unprecedented levels, is the superiority of some
peoples over others once again proclaimed and other peoples, that
should be treated as brothers and sisters, are called the “dark
corners of the planet” or “NATO’s Euroatlantic periphery”?

Why do some among us feel entitled to launch a war unilaterally if in
the United Nations Charter we proclaimed that military force would not
be used “but to serve the common interest” and that in order to
preserve peace “collective measures” would be taken? Why is there no
talk any more about the use of peaceful means in the settlement of

Can we believe that everyone is fostering friendship among our nations
on the basis of “the respect for the principle of equality of rights
and the self-determination of the peoples”? And why then has my people
suffered and still suffers from over four decades of aggressions and
economic blockade?

In adopting the Charter, the principle of sovereign equality for all
States was established. Are we by any chance equal? Do all member
States enjoy similar rights? According to the Charter, we do; but
according to the stark reality, we do not.

The respect for the principle of the sovereign equality of States,
that should be the cornerstone of contemporary international
relations, will only be established if the most powerful countries
accept the practical facts of abiding by the rights of others, even if
these lack the military might and the economic power to defend them.
Are the mightiest and most developed countries ready to respect the
rights of others, even if doing so slightly harms their privileges? I
am afraid they are not.

Are applicable or not the principles of the non-use or the threat to
use force, the non-interference in the internal affairs of States, the
peaceful settlement of disputes, the respect for the territorial
integrity and the independence of States? According to the language
and the spirit of the Charter, they are. But are they by any chance
applicable according to reality?

A handful of developed countries has benefited from this situation
over the last decades. That much is true. But that time is running
out. They are also beginning to fall prey to the imperial politics of
a superpower. Should they not consider, with modesty and common sense,
the need to work with the over 130 Third World countries that have
been compelled to endure this unjust order and are ready to attempt to
persuade the most powerful so that it leaves aside its haughtiness and
complies with its duties as a founder of the United Nations?

Cuba considers, Mr. President, that we should not and cannot
relinquish multilateralism; that we should not and cannot relinquish
the United Nations; that we cannot and should not relinquish the
struggle for a world of peace, justice, equality and development for

Therefore, in Cuba’s opinion, we must pursue three immediate

First and foremost, the end of the occupation in Iraq, the immediate
handover of the real control to the United Nations and the
commencement of the recovery process for Iraq’s sovereignty and the
establishment of a legitimate government, resulting from the decision
of the Iraqi people. The scandalous distribution of Iraq’s wealth must
cease immediately.

This will prove beneficial to the United States, whose youths are
dying there while waging an unjust and inglorious war; it will prove
beneficial to Iraq, whose people will be able to turn over a new leaf
in its history; it will prove beneficial to the United Nations, that
has also been a victim of this war; and it will prove beneficial to
all of our countries, that have endured the international economic
recession and the increasing insecurity threatening us all.

Secondly, without further delay we must face a real reform and, above
all, a profound process of democratization of the United Nations.

The situation is already untenable. Proof of it is the Security
Council’s inability to prevent the war in Iraq first and then to even
demand that the Government of Israel refrain from expelling or
murdering the leader of the Palestinian people – that, in conformity
with a decision of the Council itself over five decades ago, should
have long had an independent State.

That the Government of the United States has used the right to veto on
26 occasions to protect the crimes of Israel is evidence that such
unjust privilege must be abolished.

What is needed is a reform that returns to the roots of the foundation
of the United Nations, that guarantees the effective respect for the
Charter, that reestablishes the collective security mechanisms and the
rule of International Law.

A reform that guarantees the ability of the United Nations to preserve
peace, to lead the fight for general and complete disarmament,
including nuclear disarmament – that many generations have looked
forward to.

A reform that restores to the United Nations its prerogatives to fight
for the socio-economic development and the basic rights – such as the
right to life and food – of all the inhabitants on the planet. That is
more than necessary now, when neoliberalism has loudly failed and a
new opportunity arises to found a new system of international economic

We need to recover the role of the United Nations and have all States,
big and small, respect its Charter; but we do not need the reform to
sink unnoticed in a bureaucratic process of adaptation of what is left
of the United Nations to the interests and whims of a handful of rich
and mighty countries.

Finally, we need to return to the discussion of the serious economic
and social problems currently affecting the world. We have to turn
into a priority the battle for the right to development for nearly 5
billion people.

The Millennium Assembly committed us to working for very modest and
insufficient goals. But everything is already forgotten and we did not
even discuss that. This year, 17 million children under the age of 5
will die, not as victims of terrorism but as victims of
undernourishment and preventable diseases.

Will there ever be any discussion in this hall, Excellencies, with
realism and a spirit of solidarity, about how to halve by 2015 –
according to the Millennium Declaration – the number of people
suffering from abject poverty – currently over 1.2 billion – and those
starving, who are more than 800 million?

Will there be any discussion about the nearly 900 million illiterate

Or will the Millennium Declaration also become dead letter, as have
been the Kyoto Protocol and the decisions of ten Summits of Heads of

This year, developed countries will provide Third World nations with
US$ 53 billion in Official Development Assistance. In return, the
foreign debt interest charge will amount to US$ 350 billion. And at
year’s end, our foreign debt will have increased.

Do creditors by any chance believe that this unjust situation will
last forever?

Should we, as debtors, resign ourselves to being poor forever?

Is by any chance this picture of injustices and perils for most
countries what the founders of the United Nations dreamed of? No. They
also dreamed, like us, that a better world is possible.

These are the questions that, with all due respect, we would like some
in this hall to respond to us.

I am not talking about Cuba – which, condemned to die for wanting to
be free, has had to fight on its own, not only thinking about itself
but also about all the peoples of the world.

Thank you very much.

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