By Fidel Castro
18 June, 2004
UNCTAD, an organization founded 40 years ago, was a noble attempt by
the underdeveloped world to create in the United Nations, through fair
and rational international trade, an instrument to serve its aspirations
of progress and development. There were lots of hopes then and the naive
idea that the former metropolises were aware of the duty and the necessity
to share that goal.
Raul Prebisch was
the main promoter of that idea. He had characterized the phenomenon
of the unequal terms of reference as one of the great tragedies hindering
the economic development of the peoples in the Third World. This was
one of his most important contributions to the economic culture of our
times. In recognition of his relevant qualities, he was elected the
first Secretary General of this United Nations agency for trade and
Today, the terrible
scourge of the unequal terms of reference is barely mentioned in speeches
has not been an instrument for the development of the poor countries
that today make up the overwhelming majority of mankind. For 86 of them,
basic commodities account for over half of their export revenues. Meanwhile,
the purchasing power of such products, except oil, is now less than
one third of what it was at the time of UNCTAD's inception.
tend to be repetitive and boring, oftentimes it becomes unavoidable
to use their eloquent and irreplaceable language.
-85% of the world
population lives in the poor countries but their share of international
trade is only 25%.
external debt was close to 50 billion USD in 1964, the year this United
Nations agency was born, while today it is 2.6 trillion.
-Between 1982 and
2003, that is, in 21 years the poor world paid 5.4 trillion USD in debt
service, which means that its present sum has been paid to the rich
countries more than twice.
The poor countries
were promised development aid and the steady reduction of the gap between
the rich and the poor; they were even promised that it would reach 0.7%
of the so-called GDP of those economically developed, a figure that
if true would amount today to no less than 175 billion USD annually.
What the Third World
received as official development aid in 2003 was only 54 billion USD.
That same year, the poor paid to the rich 436 billion in debt service
and the richest of them all, the United States of America, was the one
farther from meeting the set goal, as it allocated only 0.1% of its
GDP to that aid. And this leaves out the enormous amounts taken away
as a result of the unequal terms of trade.
In addition, the
rich countries spend every year 300 billion USD on subsidies that prevent
the poor countries' access to their markets.
On the other hand,
it is practically impossible to measure the damage brought upon those
countries by the kind of trade relations that, through the sinuous roads
of the WTO and the Free Trade Agreements, are imposed on the poor countries,
which are unable to compete with the sophisticated technology, the almost
absolute monopoly over intellectual property and the immense financial
resources of the rich countries.
Other forms of plundering
that add to this are the gross exploitation of the cheap labor force
in assembly plants that come and go at light speed; the currency speculation
in the range of trillion dollars every day; arms trade; the seizure
of goods belonging to the national cultural heritage; the cultural invasion
as well as other actions related to theft and pillage that it would
be impossible to list here. The classic books on economics do not show
the most brutal transference of financial resources from the poor to
the rich countries, as it has not been studied yet, that is, the flight
of capital which is a must that characterizes the prevailing world order.
escapes to the United States to protect itself from the monetary instability
and the speculative frenzy brought about by the same economic order.
Without this gift that the rest of the world, mostly the poor, makes
to the United States, it would be impossible for the present administration
to withstand its enormous fiscal and trade deficits that in the year
2004 amount to no less than 1 trillion dollars.
Would anyone dare
to deny the social and human consequences of the neoliberal globalization
imposed on the world?
- If 25 years ago
five hundred million people were going hungry, today over 800 million
-In the poor countries,
150 million children are born underweight, which raises their risks
of death as well as of mental and physical underdevelopment.
-325 million children
do not attend school.
rate under one year is 12 times higher than it is in the rich countries.
-33 thousand children
die every day in the Third World of curable illnesses.
-Two million girls
are forced into prostitution.
-85 percent of the
world population made up by poor countries consumes only 30 percent
of the energy, 25 percent of the metals and 15 percent of the timber.
-There are billions
of full illiterates or functional illiterates on the planet.
How can the imperialist
leaders and those who share in the plundering of the world speak of
human rights and even use such words as freedom and democracy in this
brutally exploited world?
A permanent crime
of genocide is being committed against mankind. The number of children,
mothers, adolescents, youths and adults who could be saved and die every
year for lack of food, medical care and medicines is similar to the
tens of millions who perished in any of the two world wars. This is
happening every day, every hour, while none of the great leaders of
the developed and rich world say a single word about it.
Can this situation
go on forever? Definitely not, and for purely objective reasons.
After tens of thousands
of years, humanity has reached at this minute --and almost unexpectedly
given the accelerated pace of the last 45 years when it more than doubled-
a population of 6,350 millions and these people must be provided with
dress, shoes, food, shelter and education. That figure will almost inevitably
grow to 10 billion within hardly 50 more years. By then, both the proven
and the unproven fuel reserves that it took the planet 300 million years
to build will no longer exist as they will have been thrown to the atmosphere,
the waters and the soils together with other chemical pollutants.
system that prevails today, towards which the developed capitalist society
unavoidably evolved, has already come to such a ruthlessly irrational
and unfair world economic and neoliberal order that it is unsustainable.
Many peoples will rebel against it. In fact, they have already begun
to rebel. It is stupid to say that this is the work of parties, ideologies
or subversive and destabilizing agents from Cuba and Venezuela.
Among other things,
this evolution brought with it the so-called consumer societies, also
an unavoidable process within the framework and norms that rule the
system. In these societies, their irresponsible and spendthrift tendencies
have poisoned the minds of large numbers of people in the world that
amid generalized economic and political ignorance are manipulated by
commercial and political publicity through the fabulous media created
in the rich and powerful countries have not been particularly auspicious
for the development of capable and responsible leaders gifted with the
knowledge, the political principles and the ethics that such an extremely
complex world demand. It is not their fault as they themselves are the
result and the blind instruments of that evolution. Will they be able
to handle with responsibility the extremely complicated political situations
showing up in the world in growing numbers?
Soon it will be
60 years to the day that the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
There are tens of thousands of such weapons in the world today, which
are scores of times more powerful and accurate; and they continue to
be produced and perfected. There are even programs for nuclear missile
bases in outer space. New more sophisticated and deadly arm systems
are being produced.
For the first time
in history man would have created the technical capacity for its own
destruction. However, it has not been capable of creating a minimum
of guarantees for the safety and integrity of every country, on equal
footing. Theories are elaborated and even applied with respect to the
pre-emptive and surprise use of the most sophisticated weapons, "in
any dark corner of the world", "in 60 or more countries",
that make the barbaric claims of the darkest days of Nazism go pale.
We have already seen wars of conquests, and sadistic methods of torture
that bring back to memory the images showed at the end of the II World
The United Nations
prestige is being undermined to its very foundations. Far from being
perfected and democratized, this institution has been left as an instrument
that the superpower and its allies intend to use only to provide coverage
to war adventures and appalling crimes against the most sacred rights
of the peoples.
This is no fantasy
or simply imagining things. It is a fact that in barely half a century
two great mortal dangers have emerged that threaten the very survival
of the species: one that derives from the technological development
of weapons and the other coming from the systematic and accelerated
destruction of natural conditions for life on the planet.
The dilemma into
which humanity has been dragged by the system is such that there is
no option now: either the present world situation changes or the species
runs a real risk of extinction. You do not need to be a scientist or
an expert in mathematics to understand this as the simple arithmetic
taught to grammar school children would suffice.
The peoples will
become ungovernable, and no repression, torture, disappearances or massive
murders will stop them. Not only will the hungry of the Third World
be in the struggle for their own survival and that of their children,
but also the conscientious people from the rich world, both manual and
It will be from
the inevitable crisis that rather sooner than later thinkers, leaders,
social and political organizations of all shades will emerge that will
do their utmost to preserve the species. All the waters will converge
in one direction sweeping away all obstacles.
Let's plant ideas,
and there will be no need for all the weapons created by this barbaric
civilization; let's plant ideas, and the irreparable destruction of
our natural habitat will be prevented.
The question stands,
is it not too late? I am an optimist, I say no, and I share the hope
that a better world is possible.
This articles is
Cuban President Fidel Castro's message to the 11th UNCTAD Conference