Clarion call for equity
The G77 Summit in Havana highlighted the urgency for reforms in the international financial architecture to ensure equitable access to resources for the global South
This weekend, the Summit of the Group 77 and China concluded in Cuba, which had as its central theme: "the current challenges of development: role of science, technology and innovation."
For a few days, Havana was the proud capital of the South of the world, that space of eternal hope where those who have contributed the most live, and, at the same time, those who receive the least from the wealth created in the world.
That is precisely the global reality and that, of course, was the fundamental challenge raised at this Summit, under the Cuban presidency.
The Group was created in 1964 by the members of the Non-Aligned Movement, at the end of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and with the aim of providing the means to articulate, agree and defend the international economic interests of the countries of the South, as well as to strengthen the capacity of their joint negotiation within the United Nations and promote South-South cooperation for development.
Initially, 77 member countries signed the Algerian Charter during the first ministerial meeting of the Group, which gave it an institutional structure. However, the Group has been strengthened as a conciliation mechanism that brings together most developing countries. Today, it is the largest and most diverse consensus group in the multilateral sphere, with 134 member states representing two-thirds of the United Nations membership, 80 per cent of the world’s population and about 50 per cent of the world economy. China, which joined in 1992, participates and collaborates externally.
The Havana Summit concluded its activities on Saturday and was classified as a great success based on the participation, the points reached for the benefit of the global south and the broad consensus reflected in the final declaration.
The event was attended by more than 1,300 participants from 116 countries and 12 organisations, agencies and programmes of the United Nations system. It highlighted the participation of 31 Heads of State and Government, 12 vice-presidents, a large number of ministers and many other high dignitaries.
The meeting reflected, of course, the aspirations and interests of the member countries, and as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed in his speech at the UN Summit, they have suffered “centuries of injustice and neglect”. Guterres stably acknowledged: “The conclusion is clear”, he said, “the world is failing developing countries.”
The current challenges facing the countries of the South to achieve their development are associated with a global political and economic order inherited in its design and main objectives according to the interests of the industrialised powers, that in the past were the same colonial or neocolonial metropolises. All of this causes an imbalance and increasing inequalities, to which are added the current challenges of climate change.
The inaugural speech of the President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Diaz Canel, was emphatic in the urgent need to transform the unjust and anachronistic rules that govern international economic relations.
The Cuban President stressed that “our countries are the real victims of the current multidimensional crisis that the world is suffering, of the cyclical imbalances of trade and international finance, of the abusive unequal exchange, of the scientific, technological and knowledge gap; the effects of climate change and the danger of progressive destruction and depletion of the natural resources on which life on the planet depends. For this reason, we now demand the pending democratisation of the system of international relations."
He added that “it is the peoples of the South who suffer the most from poverty, hunger, misery, deaths from curable diseases, illiteracy, human displacement and other consequences of underdevelopment. Many of our nations are called poor, when in reality they should be considered impoverished nations. And it is necessary to reverse that condition into which centuries of colonial and neocolonial dependence have plunged us.”
“The only valid path is cooperation, solidarity and philosophy that understands human progress without exclusions, where the pain and hope of each are the pain and hope of all.”
He pointed out that the necessary resources for solving these problems exist, and he exemplified that with only 19 per cent of military spending, universal and inclusive participation in the digital economy would be achieved, with 9 per cent ten years of adaptation to climate change could be financed, and 7 per cent would be enough to cover the cost of universal vaccination against the pandemic. He stressed that the financial support of the International Monetary Fund to the least developed countries, from 2020 to the end of November 2022, does not exceed the equivalent of what the Coca-Cola company has spent alone in advertising its brand in the last eight years. At the same time, less than 2 per cent of the already deficient Official Development Assistance has been dedicated to science, technology and innovation capabilities.
The Cuban President concluded that an “international financial architecture that perpetuates such disparities and forces the South to immobilise financial resources and to borrow to protect itself from the instability that the system itself generates, that widens the pockets of the rich at the expense of the reserves of the poorest 80 per cent, it is, without a doubt, an architecture hostile to the progress of our nations. It must be demolished, if it really aspires to work for the development of the great mass of nations gathered here."
The Havana Declaration summarising the consensus and interests of the Group members also addressed these challenges: the need for a new international economic order, proper treatment of growing foreign debt, and financing to combat climate change. It also includes compliance with international commitments on official development assistance, and the elimination of unilateral coercive measures.
The participants expressed widespread concern about the effects of the global multidimensional crisis, rising poverty and hunger, rising prices from rampant international inflation, and the effects of the global multi-dimensional crisis, along with the occurrence of increasingly frequent climate disasters to which members of the global south are the most vulnerable.
The debate highlighted the need for urgent and profound reform of the international financial architecture, allowing the nations of the South to have equitable access to the financial resources they need to achieve the sustainable development goals.
The presidency of G77 and the celebration of the Havana Summit, has meant for Cuba a reinforced commitment of the principles of its foreign policy in favour of multilateralism, international law, unity, solidarity and international cooperation with developing countries.
Despite being a small country, with limited economic resources, and besieged and blocked to the point of indecency by the Government of the United States, Cuba has never stopped supporting the countries and peoples of the south and has remained aligned in the place of just causes, the defence and practice of humanism, in favour of the rights and aspirations in their development of the peoples of the south, in favour of their independence, their national and cultural identity. The internationalist duty that Cubans have fulfilled in many corners of the world is a source of modest pride. Perhaps the most current proof of this is the presence of more than 35 000 Cuban health professionals who serve in the most needy places in the global south.
India, who has been a founding member of the G77, attended the Summit with a delegation headed by Secretary Shri Sanjay Verma. He was received by Cuban Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia and by the authorities from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once again, the will of both countries to strengthen political dialogue and international cooperation, as well as the bonds of friendship, collaboration and solidarity, was reflected.
In his speech to the Summit plenary, Secretary Sanjay Verma reiterated India’s commitment to support the global south and noted that “the developing world is central to the Indian G20 Presidency.” He referred to the Voice of the Global South Summit held this year with the presence of 125 states, which eventually found expression in the New Delhi G20 leaders Declaration. India has mainstreamed Global South’s concern in the G20. He called to reinforce the unity and solidarity of the Group and congratulated Cuba for such excellent arrangements and warm hospitality. “India will continue to walk its talk on strengthening collaboration with the Global South”.
It was gratifying to reaffirm that the values that Cuba and India have shared in international and multilateral spaces throughout different historical moments are reinforced today in defence of the voice, interests and aspirations of the global south. This represents an important contribution to the strengthening of multilateralism, international law and, of course, to peace and global stability.
Finally, the Summit of G77 reinforced the optimistic feeling that a better world for all people is not only possible, but essential and that it is everyone's duty to fight for it.
The writer is the Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba in India. Views expressed are personal