Raul Castro to NAM: 'Our movements greatest strength lies in its unity'

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The following is the April 29 keynote address by Cuban President Raul Castro to the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana.

Distinguished participants in this ministerial meeting:

It is an honor for our people and government to again host a high level meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Two years and seven months have passed since the celebration in this same hall of the 14th Summit of Heads of State or Government in September 2006. On that occasion I said:

'On the sound foundations of our historic victories in the struggle for decolonization and the removal of apartheid and with the rich experience of our efforts in favor of a New International Economic Order and of peace, disarmament and the true exercise of the right to development, the Non-Aligned Movement shall now wage heroic battles against unilateralism, double standards and the impunity of the powerful; for a more just and equitable international order to tackle neoliberalism, plundering and pillage; for the survival of the human species instead of the irrational consumerism of the wealthy nations.'

The challenges identified then are not only still standing but they are now more dangerous and pressing. Therefore, the necessity for NAM to act in a coordinated fashion is today more imperative and crucial.

We are currently afflicted by a deep economic, social, food, energy and environmental crisis that have become global. The international debates are multiplied but they do not engage every country. There is a growing awareness that solutions must be found shortly; however, just and lasting solutions seem elusive. If we fail to act firmly and expeditiously our peoples stand to suffer again the worst consequences of this crisis, and for a longer period of time.

It is impossible to sustain the unfair and irrational consumption patterns that served as the basis to the current international order imposed by a few that we have been forced to respect. A global order inspired in hegemonic pretenses and the selfishness of privileged minorities is neither legitimate nor ethically acceptable. A system that destroys the environment and promotes unequal access to riches cannot last. Underdevelopment is an unavoidable result of the current world order.

Neoliberalism has failed as an economic policy. Today, any objective analysis raises serious questions about the myth of the goodness of the market and its deregulation; the alleged benefits of privatizations and the reduction of the states' economic and redistribution capacity; and the credibility of the financial institutions.

In 1979, 30 years ago, when Cuba first assumed the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement, the leader of the Cuban Revolution comrade Fidel Castro alerted on the negative consequences of spending over 300 billion dollars in weapons and on the existence of a foreign debt of the underdeveloped countries that amounted to almost as much.

On that occasion comrade Fidel estimated that, at the time, that figure would have allowed: '.to build in one year 600 thousand schools to teach 400 million children; or 60 million comfortable houses for 300 million people; or 30 thousand hospitals with 18 million beds; or 20 thousand factories providing jobs to over 20 million workers; or placing 150 million hectares of land under irrigation which with an adequate technical level could feed one billion people.'

Of course, nothing was done and the situation has aggravated dramatically. Suffice it to say that currently the annual military expenses exceed the figure of one trillion dollars; the number of unemployed in the world could rise to 230 million during 2009; and in hardly a year -during 2008-the number of people starving in the world mounted from 854 million to 963 million.

The UN has estimated that 80 billion dollars a year for a decade would be enough to eradicate poverty, hunger and the lack of health and education services and houses all over the world. That figure is three times lower than what the South countries spend every year to pay their foreign debt.

The international system of economic relations requires fundamental changes. This was demanded almost 35 years ago by the member countries of our movement in the Declaration and Plan of Action for the Establishment of a New International Economic Order adopted in the 6th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in May 1974.

The solution to the global economic crisis demands a coordinated action with the universal, democratic and equitable participation of all countries. The response cannot be a solution negotiated by the leaders of the most powerful nations without the participation of the United Nations.

The G-20 solution calling for the strengthening of the role and functions of the International Monetary Fund, whose nefarious policies had a decisive effect on the emergence, aggravation and magnitude of the current crisis cannot solve inequality, injustice or the unsustainability of the present system.

The UN High Level Conference on the Economic and Financial Crisis and its Impact on Development scheduled for June 1 to 3, 2009, is the indispensable context to debate and try to find solutions by consensus to this grave situation, and the Non-Aligned Movement should support it.

From its inception, this movement has shown its willingness to work for peace and security for the community of nations and for defense of International Law. The removal of the weapons of mass destruction, and foremost nuclear disarmament, is still a priority.

The practice of multilateralism requires absolute respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states and for the self-determination of the peoples. It also demands to dispense with threats and the use of force in international relations, and to do without hegemonic aspirations and imperial behavior. It requires to put an end to foreign occupation and to deny impunity to such criminal aggressions as those of Israel against the Palestinian people.

The Movement should engage in every major debate of the international agenda, in the different venues and multilateral forum and with the broadest participation of its member countries, not to compete with other groups of South countries but to strengthen and complement them.

We need to continue permanently improving the Movement's working methods. The fulfillment of the Plan of Action we have adopted shall be an indispensable tool to determine our priorities and our tasks.

We should all start working right away to ensure a successful 15th Summit of Heads of State or Government in Egypt next July. We should make a critical analysis of everything done until today and set ourselves new goals and objectives in compliance with current and future problems and challenges.

Finally, on behalf of Cuba I wish to express the appreciation of our government and our entire people for the steadfast and unwavering solidarity of the Non-Aligned Movement with the Cuban Revolution, and particularly for its permanent call for the lifting of the unfair U.S. economic, financial and commercial blockade.

Although the measures recently announced by President Obama are positive they are of limited scope. The blockade remains intact. There is no political or moral pretext that justifies the continuation of that policy.

Cuba has not imposed any sanction on the United States or its citizens. It is not Cuba that prevents that country's entrepreneurs from doing business with ours. It is not Cuba that chases the financial transactions of the American banks. It is not Cuba that has a military base in the U.S. territory against that people's will, and so on and so forth, --to avoid making an endless list-- therefore, it is not Cuba that should make gestures.

And if they want to discuss everything, as we recently said at an ALBA summit in Venezuela, that is, to discuss everything, everything, everything, we can discuss everything related to us but also everything related to them, on equal footing.

We have insisted that we are willing to discuss everything with the United States government, on equal footing; but we are not willing to negotiate our sovereignty or our political and social system, our right to self-determination or our domestic affairs

The greatest strength of our movement lies in its unity within our characteristic diversity. Such has been the major premise of the Cuban presidency in the almost three years of its mandate.

I have no doubt that the Non-Aligned Movement will continue to play a fundamental and constructive role in the international debates. Cuba will keep up its efforts to contribute to that objective.

I wish this Ministerial Meeting every success.

Thank you very much.