H.E. MR. FELIPE PÉREZ ROQUE, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC
OF CUBA, TO THE 58TH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS.
NEW YORK, 26 SEPTEMBER 2003.
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 dangerous.
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.
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 disputes?
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 all.
Therefore, in Cuba’s opinion, we must pursue three immediate objectives.
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.
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 relations.
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 adults?
Or will the Millennium Declaration also become dead letter, as have been the Kyoto Protocol and the decisions of ten Summits of Heads of State?
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.