Just two days after President Joe Biden signed the annual extension of the law regulating the blockade against Cuba – a ritual that the US carries out year after year – more than a hundred delegations from countries in the Global South arrived in Havana to participate in the summit of the G77+China.
On September 15th and 16th, delegations from 116 countries met to discuss and define actions to address the current challenges facing the Global South. At the time, the main focus was scientific and technological development. The event was also attended by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, along with 12 organizations from the United Nations system.
Despite Washington keeping Cuba on its list of “countries that promote terrorism”, the warning about the supposed “danger” that Cuba would represent did not dissuade the more than 60% of countries belonging to the international community from deciding to travel to the island and participate in the event. . Nor did it stop leaders from around the world from demonstrating on the island itself against the blockade.
Read more: Brazil and Cuba strengthen ties at a summit that united the Global South; countries sign health technology agreement
The summit took place in the midst of two important international events. On the one hand, the G20 that took place in early September. On the other hand, the G77+China took place just a few days before the UN General Assembly. In this way, the countries of the Global South were able to organize and coordinate a set of common demands in relation to the central countries.
The need for a new world order
“This international order that currently prevails is an order that was established and assembled to serve the interests of powerful countries”, reflects Jorge Casals Llano, professor and researcher at the Higher Institute of International Relations of Cuba, for Brasil de Fato.
“We could even say that it is not even an order that was established for the benefit of all these countries, but rather for the privileged sectors. For the dominant classes of these countries. And, for that very reason, it is an order undemocratic and unjust. There are spaces where many countries, more or less, can offer their opinions. But in the end, the decision makers are just a handful of countries.”
The recent pandemic crisis was a revealing example not only of the inequalities between the south and the north, but also of the lack of democracy at a global level. Most countries belonging to the World Trade Organization (WTO) have expressed the need to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights on vaccines. This way, populations could be immunized more quickly and efficiently. However, a minority of northern countries have refused to do so. Blocking any possibility of the initiative being taken forward.
:: Demonstration in front of the US consulate in Rio calls for Cuba to be removed from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism ::
The consequences were clear: millions of people died because they did not have access to treatment, while, as a report by the multinational corporate research center SOMO shows, the seven main pharmaceutical vaccine companies achieved profit margins between 49% and 76%, accumulating benefits of US$90 billion per year in 2021 and 2022.
“For Cuba, responding to the interests of the Cuban people is always responding to the interests of the Global South. This international order has provoked and worsened a series of crises that it cannot resolve. The importance of the G77 + China is precisely to be able to contribute to the construction of an alternative from the Global South”, reflects Casals Llano.
Adding that “Cuba’s position has always been the unrestricted defense of non-alignment with any international power and the fight for a new world order based on equal respect for all countries, a new world order based on solidarity between peoples.”
Casals states that Cuba’s history has always been consistent with these principles. From the island’s participation in the independence processes in Africa, “without Cuba taking a single diamond from there, only participating out of pure moral conviction”, as he states, to Fidel Castro’s active contribution to the Non-Aligned Movement. Which, for Casals, demonstrates that Cuba has always maintained an independent foreign policy, even at a time when the Soviet Union was the island’s main partner.
“The emergence of the Brics opens up an opportunity for the countries of the Global South. This is very positive”, he says and adds that “however, it is necessary for transversal spaces to exist and be strengthened that bring together, in a democratic way, the group of countries that suffer most from this international system. In this sense, the G77+ China plays a fundamental role.”
“The diversification of trade and investment in the Global South is an opportunity. In this way, the growth of countries like China can be used intelligently”, says Eduardo Regalado Florido, an economist specializing in China, for Brasil de Fato.
“China has already declared several times that, to continue the growth dynamics it has been experiencing in recent years, it needs a peaceful environment. Both within its borders and abroad. In this sense, the investments it is making in several countries can be an opportunity”, argues Eduardo Regalado.
On the other hand, Regalado highlights that the sanctions system implemented by the United States led many countries to negotiate and trade in currencies other than the dollar. In the economist’s opinion, this will allow a gradual reduction in unilateral dependence on the United States, which could lead to greater diversity in the international financial system.
Through a long consensus-building process initiated by Cuban diplomacy, upon assuming the presidency of the G77, and by China last January, the Conference unanimously adopted the Havana Declaration.
Among the most important points agreed are: the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the global financial architecture; the commitment to “promote south-south cooperation”; the rejection of “imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact” as well as “coercive economic measures”; and the rejection of “digital monopolies”.
The conference also voted in favor of Mexico’s request to rejoin the group. Mexico was the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean that was not a member. The resolution is of particular importance as Mexico is the second largest economy on the continent and the tenth most populous country.
A world in crisis
It has been almost a decade since the G77+ China held its last summit of heads of state and government. The last time was in Bolivia, in 2014.
During these years, important changes took place in the world. The climate crisis has become increasingly urgent. The war regained a global centrality that it had not had for decades. The arms race is on the rise as the world faces a new economic crisis.
“The fact that Cuba assumed the presidency of the G77 + China is an element that deserves to be highlighted. Not only because of the enormous number of countries that make up the group, which makes it difficult to reach consensus due to the diversity of points of view and interests. But also because, increasingly, there is greater international fragmentation”, reflects Claudia Marin, coordinator of the Latin America and Caribbean team at the Center for International Policy Research, for Brasil de Fato.
“It is very important, given the changes and rearrangements that are taking place, to affirm that the solution and the proposal that Cuba is making is a democratic proposal. It is not about the powers or the most economically powerful countries taking decisions for the rest. And that the rest, as it is configured today, must manage the inequalities that the world holds for us. It is about everyone’s participation in decision-making. So that, in the end, we can define and establish the direction of the world’s development”, he said.
At the same time, Claudia Marin emphasizes that we must not lose sight of the fact that within the Global South itself there are asymmetries of power that must be taken into account.
In his inaugural speech at the Summit, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel emphasized the importance of the group being able to join forces and coordinate joint actions. To this end, he recalled, as a tribute, the former president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, who used to say that “we, presidents, go from summit to summit, while the people go from abyss to abyss.”
During the recent summit, Cuba developed a series of collaboration and exchange proposals in the areas of health, education, agriculture, climate change and access to scientific developments. Forms of collaboration that aim to take concrete steps towards south-south integration.
“It’s precisely about transcending the formal and declarative sphere”, says Claudia Marin. “It is important to look for options and concrete proposals to connect the capabilities and potential of countries in the Global South. Trying to connect the capabilities that are already developed and strengthen them in addition to making demands that are certainly fair to be made at an international level in relation to the relationship with the North”.
Editing: Thales Schmidt