Speech given by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic
at the opening of the High-level Segment of the Sixth Session of the Conference of the
Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought.
Havana, Cuba, 1st September 2003.
His Excellency Mr. Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary;
His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, United Nations Sub-Secretary General;
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government, Vice-Presidents,
Presidents of Parliaments and Chiefs of delegations;
Hardly 30 years ago humanity was not in the least
aware of this huge tragedy. Back
then people thought that the only danger of extinction lay in the colossal number of
nuclear weapons waiting to be fired at a moment's notice. Although threats of that
nature have by no means disappeared, an additional terrifying, Dantesque danger lies
in wait for us. I do not hesitate to use this strong, seemingly melodramatic language.
The real drama lies in ignoring the kind of risks we have lived with for so long.
Twenty-five years after the end of the Second World War
nobody capable of
thought, nobody who knew how to read and write had ever heard a single word about
humanity's blind, inexorable and accelerated march towards the destruction of the
natural bases of its own life. Not one of the thousands of generations that preceded
this one knew about such a dire threat nor did such an enormous responsibility fall
upon any of them.
These are facts: the fruit of humankind's little known
history, a result of the evolution
of human society over five or six thousand years when that society did not have, nor
could it have, any clear idea of where it came from nor where it was going. This
amazing and distressing fact is now the deeply held conviction of an educated and
concerned, growing and flourishing minority of humanity.
Today we know what is happening. Everyone here has access
to the horrifying data
and the irrefutable arguments, serenely presented and analyzed in the conferences
that preceded this one.
My point of view is that there is no more urgent task than
that of building a universal
awareness, of taking the problem to the billions of men and women of all ages,
including children, who inhabit this planet. The objective conditions and the sufferings of
the overwhelming majority of them create the subjective conditions for this
Everything is connected. Illiteracy, unemployment, poverty,
hunger, diseases; the
lack of drinking water, of housing, of electricity; desertification, climatic variations,
deforestation, floods, droughts, soil erosion, biodegradation, pests and other well
known tragedies are inseparable.
Without education, we cannot achieve the urgent and much
needed building of public
awareness of which I spoke. A far-reaching educational revolution is, however,
accessible to all the peoples in the world. This is the basic idea that I wish to address
Cuba, whose modest success in this field go unquestioned,
can assure you that with
an initial $3 billion investment in a short period of time and $700 million in each of the
following nine years in educational material and equipment, -this includes one and a
half million solar panels for communities and villages which have no electricity- it is
possible, in a period of twelve years, to teach 1.5 billion illiterate and semi-illiterate
people to read and write and keep them at school up to sixth grade. This is a total
expenditure of less that $10 billion, the equivalent of less than 0.004 per cent of one
year's Gross Domestic Product of the developed countries members of the OECD.
Teaching these people presupposes gradually setting up
four million teaching
locations with audiovisual equipment of proven efficacy as well as the cooperation of
an extensive movement of 8 million volunteers with at least a six-grade-level education.
At the same time, and with the same methods, these could teach and be progressively
trained as educators of a good professional level.
If the decision were made to encourage those who have no jobs by paying
modest monthly salary while they teach and learn, it would be possible to create
between 4 and 8 million decent jobs, something that would be highly appreciated by
millions of youths in the Third World countries, as they are the most affected by the
scourge of unemployment. The cost to donor countries would be equally infinitesimal: if
we estimate the aforementioned salary at $100 a month and a tentative figure of 6
million who would be involved in the program on this basis, the cost would be the
equivalent of 0.003 of the OECD's GDP, in this instance, every year.
If we were to take the two programs together, the cost
in the first five years would
be approximately equivalent to what the United States spends, at the current rate, on
the occupying forces in Iraq in just 15 weeks.
An almost equal number of the world's population could
be taught, at a much lower
cost, using medium or short wave radios, which cost no more than $15 and are
powered by small photovoltaic cells attached to them. A primer would go with the
Our country has donated this method of radio-based teaching,
developed by Cuban
educators, to several countries that are already using it and we would happily do the
same for any other country that would request it.
Our country has used television to teach English, a language
used all over the world,
to more than 1 million Cubans at a cost of only $50,000 for the Cuban state.
If the rich group of countries were to donate only 0.01
per cent of the OECD's GDP,
a small portion of the 0.7 percent so often promised but never given -except for a few
isolated cases- it would be possible in ten years to use solar panels to supply 30
kilowatts of electricity a month to 250 million families in the Third World. This would
mean that about 1.5 billion more people, the poorest segment of the world population,
would be able to enjoy several hours of electric light and entertaining, news and
educational TV or radio broadcasts every day without using a single liter of fossil fuel.
After the demise of the socialist camp, when our country
blockaded for more than
four decades found itself obliged to deal with a highly difficult situation, it began to
produce and it continues to do so, on sites available in the cities, more than 3 million
tons of vegetables a year. This is done in hydroponics using straw and agricultural
waste as organic matter, and dripping irrigation, which requires a minimum amount of
water. Additionally, it has provided employment to almost 300,000 people while
avoiding the emission of a single kilogram of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
I can say here that in a week's time, all of the 505,000
Cuban teenagers attending
junior high school -grades seven, eight and nine- will start the school year with new
educational methods that will triple the amount of knowledge usually provided and there
will be one teacher for every 15 students.
I beg you to forgive me for citing examples showing that,
in spite of huge obstacles,
it is still possible to do a great deal to ensure that the environment is preserved and
that humanity survives.
However, all that I have said so far is incompatible with
the atrocious economic
system imposed on the world, the ruthless neoliberal globalization, the demands and
conditions to which the IMF sacrifices health, education and social security for billions
of people. It is incompatible with the cruel way in which, through uncontrolled buying
and selling of hard currency between strong currencies and the weak currencies of the
Third World, enormous sums of money are stolen from the latter every year. To sum
up, it is incompatible with the policies of the WTO that seem to be designed to allow
the rich countries to flood the world with their products unrestricted and to wipe out the
industrial and agricultural development of the poor countries, leaving them no other
future but to supply raw materials and cheap labor. It is incompatible with the FTAA
and other free trade agreements between sharks and sardines. It is incompatible with
the monstrous foreign debt, which is, in the current situation, completely unpayable. It
is incompatible with brain drain, with the almost total monopoly on intellectual property
and the abusive and disproportionate consumption of the planet's natural and energy
The list of injustices would be endless. The gap is growing
wider and looting is
Under the precepts and ideology of a diabolical and chaotic
economic order, within
five or six decades the consumer societies will have depleted the proven and unproven
fossil fuel reserves and in a mere 150 years will have used what it took the planet 300
million years to create.
There is not even a clear and coherent idea about what
energy will power the billions
of motorized vehicles, which inundate the cities and highways of rich countries and
even of many Third World countries. This is the ultimate expression of a completely
irrational way of life and consumption that will never be useful as a model for the 10
billion people who will supposedly inhabit the Earth when the fateful petroleum era is
Such an economic order and such models of consumption are
incompatible with the
planet's limited and non-renewable essential resources and with the laws that rule
nature and life. They are also in conflict with the most basic ethical principles, with
culture and with the moral values created by humankind.
We shall continue our combat without losing heart, without
convinced that if human society has made colossal mistakes and even if it is still
making them, human beings are capable of conceiving the noblest of ideas, of holding
the most generous feelings and, convinced that by overcoming the powerful instincts
with which nature has imbued them, they can give their lives for what they feel and
believe in. This has been proven often times throughout history.
Let us cultivate these exceptional qualities and there
will be no insurmountable
obstacles and nothing that cannot be changed!
Thank you, very much. (Ovation)
New York, September 2, 2003
To read the Proclamation of an Adversary of the US Government, May 14,
To see the Name Art of Fidel Castro, and to see the
doctor's speech in Argentina on May 26, 2003 - Press the link :
To see the Name Art of GEORGE WALKER BUSH
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