Year 2000 No. 68, April 12, 2000

South Summit Opens in Havana

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South Summit Opens in Havana

South Summit in Havana to Mark a "Turning Point" for Developing Countries

G-77 Foreign Ministers Meet

UNISON Health Care Service Group Conference Opens Today

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South Summit Opens in Havana

Workers' Weekly Correspondent in Havana

Cuban Foreign Minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, opened the ministerial meeting of the South Summit in Havana on Monday, April 10, with a speech which condemned globalisation and signalled the resolution of the world's poorest countries to unite to adopt a common strategy to defend their interests.

The Havana summit will be the first full presidential summit of the Group of 77, made up of most of the world's poorest countries and founded in 1964. "The globalisation of the world economy cannot carry on causing underdevelopment, poverty and exclusion for the majority," Pérez Roque said, "and wasteful and unnecessary luxury for the privileged few." He called on the countries of Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean which are represented at the G77 Summit to "forge a common stance" and demand "a more just world".

Pérez Roque spoke of the current international economic and financial system as "unjust and unsustainable" and posed the question: "What is the use of an economic system that does not guarantee employment, nor protect the environment, and rather than reducing poverty, actually increases it; a system that does not ensure education and health for everyone?" He said that the South Summit should "forcefully demand our peoples' right to development, an essential condition for achieving peace on the planet, even more so now that criticism is growing of the consequences for our economies of the unjust neo-liberal policies which have been dogmatically imposed for more than a decade now".

The South Summit is being seen in Havana as a major turning point in international relations. One of its main aims is to develop a greater unity between the world's poorest countries so that they can present a common front and struggle for their interests at the UN's Millennium Summit scheduled to meet in September in New York.

The South Summit will also discuss the problem of debt, access to new technology and demand changes to the way in which the WTO and the UN are currently organised. It will also demand that the developed countries fulfil a promise made in 1970 to devote 0.7% of their GDP to "official development assistance" in the world's poorest countries.

Cuba has made it clear that it also expects the South Summit to "vigorously reaffirm the need to respect international law, which are more important and prevalent now than ever before". Felipe Pérez Roque explained that in a unipolar world dominated by the US, respect for the "spirit and letter of the UN Charter" and the principles of non-interference, sovereignty and the peaceful settlement of disputes was vital and "the only defence available for the poor counties who are victims of aggression". He concluded his speech by welcoming all the delegations present and by expressing the view, based on the experience of the Cuban people, that the poorer countries must unite in order to defend their rights.

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South Summit in Havana to Mark a "Turning Point" for Developing Countries

Workers' Weekly Correspondent in Havana

The South Summit of the Group of 77 countries, taking place in Cuba at Havana's International Conference Centre from April 10-14, is the largest ever gathering of political leaders from the developing world. It marks a major tuning point in relations between the countries of "the south", the poorer developing countries, and between these countries and the big powers, "the north".

At a press conference on April 10, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, Felipe Pérez Roque, stated that there were accredited delegations from 122 different countries and that he believed that 50 countries would be represented by their head of state and 40 by foreign ministers. He added that 34 countries that were not members of the G77 group of 133 countries were also represented, while 35 international agencies were also represented and over 500 journalists from some 80 countries will be reporting on the summit.

Felipe Pérez Roque stated that the summit is taking place at a decisive moment in the history of the G77, in the aftermath of the great opposition to globalisation that took place in Seattle at the meeting of the WTO both in the streets and at the WTO meeting itself. He said that in this context the South Summit was an event that could represent the interests of the majority of the world's population not those of the big powers. The summit was also taking place before the Millennium Assembly of the UN which will be held in New York in September this year.

He also stressed that the summit was taking place when globalisation, neo-liberalism and the imposition of structural adjustment programmes have brought about a growing disparity between the rich and poor countries in the world. Now, he said, the world's richest countries with 20% of its population are 82 times richer than the poorer countries. The summit was unmistakable proof that the member countries of G77 were demanding to make their voices heard.

The minister also stated that he expected an extensive and in-depth debate between all the countries present and that a strong consensus would emerge. He stressed that it was through unity and harmony that the G77 could defend its views and interests, and he believed that the summit itself would be a major step forward in this regard. The summit will issue several important documents, including a final communiqué which is being co-ordinated by Cuba and a plan of action being co-ordinated by Nigeria. For its part Cuba had presented some 60 proposals to the group of experts that were currently meeting to develop concrete measures.

Felipe Pérez Rogue said that for Cuba, globalisation must be developed taking into account the interest of all, to bring the benefits of technological advance to all. It must not impose a neo-liberal agenda and stop countries from developing. G77 was therefore advocating greater north-south dialogue. But what was important, he added, was that the richest countries must recognise their responsibility to the poor. The countries must hear the views of the poorest countries on debt, access to capital and technology and to their markets. Development was a fundamental human right, he stressed, and this principle must be translated into fact.

The summit will address the issue of technology and knowledge, he continued, which is often totally banned from the poorest countries which have little or no access. He gave the example of sub-Saharan Africa which has 10% of the world's population but where only 0.1% have internet access. In such conditions, he said, e-commerce "was science fiction". This was just one of the trade barriers faced by the poorest countries in addition to the effects of protectionism, the consequences of globalisation.

Speaking of co-operation between the countries of the south, Pérez Rogue gave the example of Cuba. With only a population of 11 million, it has sent 138,000 volunteers of various kinds to 133 countries, trained and sent 1,700 doctors to 14 countries and has trained 50,000 graduates from different developing countries.

In conclusion and in answer to questions, the minister said that the summit would discuss all economic sanctions imposed on the poorer countries, including those imposed on Cuba by US imperialism. The US blockade, which has been imposed for four decades has caused much suffering and is an obstacle to Cuba's development, has been condemned at the UN by all democratic world opinion, including nearly all the G77 countries. But Pérez Roque added that Cuba would maintain its economic development even if the blockade remained. Furthermore, he added, the Group of 77 is a means to harmonise the interests of all the poorer countries and would of necessity also discuss the imposition by the big powers of their so-called democratic principles which are enshrined in the Paris Charter. He stressed that political questions are interrelated to economic and social ones and that the imposition of a neo-liberal agenda is accompanied by a total disregard for the principles of the UN Charter in the sphere of international relations too.

There is, he said, no respect for the self-determination of countries and non-interference in internal affairs. The big powers use the justification of "humanitarian intervention", which is not endorsed by the Charter of the UN or by international law. Using the example of Africa, he said that its current problems are a consequence of centuries of exploitation and it is this that the big powers should address. Cuba was in total opposition to military intervention and the principle of "humanitarian intervention", as well as to those who tried to move away from agreed international principles. He highlighted the fact that it was not the countries of the south who had banded together to bomb those of the north because of some alleged infringement of "democracy". In his view, the questions and issues before the summit, both economic and political, were of utmost important for the peoples of all countries, not least because the explosion that will come from the peoples of the south will also affect those in the north. In his view, he said, the countries of the north should "attack" those of the south with assistance. That kind of attack would be welcomed as would opening their markets to intervention from the countries of the south.

In conclusion the minister said that he had "revolutionary optimism" that based on the extensive preparations that had been made, and the spirit of opposition which had been exhibited at the WTO, the South Summit would mark a new beginning and would help bring about significant changes in international relations.

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G-77 Foreign Ministers Meet

The South's Position Regarding Millennium Summit

The debate on the functions of the United Nations, on the threshold of the 21st century, and the South's position regarding the Millennium Summit, which will be held this year in New York, are the main themes of the South Summit foreign ministers' meeting, which began this morning with a speech by Alhaji Sule Lamito, foreign minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the country that heads the Group of 77.

Cuba Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque welcomed the delegates, who will present their criteria without formalities, in an interactive dialogue.

Granma International, April 11, 2000

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UNISON Health Care Service Group Conference Opens Today

The Conference of the Health Care Service Group of the public service union UNISON opens this morning at 9.30 am in Harrogate, Yorkshire. It closes at 5.00 pm on Friday.

Among the debates to take place are those on the motion covering the question of pay, which takes place today, and on Thursday morning on the motion on the "Agenda for Change". This centres on the issue of the new pay spine which will replace the Whitley Councils. Although the Conservative government could not abolish these, it appears that under the inspiration of the present Labour government, the trade union leaders wish to go down this path.

The keynote speakers on Thursday morning are John Denham, Minister of State for Health, and Rodney Bickerstaffe, General Secretary of UNISON.

On Thursday afternoon, there will be a panel discussion on "The New Partnership Agenda". A motion on "Partnership in Action" is likely to be hotly debated, as the Health Service Group Executive have submitted an amendment which opposes the motion. The motion, submitted by Newcastle City Health Branch, is reproduced below.

On Friday afternoon, a debate will take place on the motion on PFI/Market Testing.

Motion

PARTNERSHIP IN ACTION

This Government makes frequent references to Partnership working. The reality in the NHS however remains anything but a Partnership. Jobs continue to be lost, low pay remains endemic; our services continue to be privatised, and PFI threatens tens of thousands of our members' terms and conditions. The real increase in NHS expenditure remains little more than that which we got under the Tory Government, and in Trust after Trust management continue to act as if the NHS is their personal property, where budgets count more than patient care. Under such circumstances talk of Partnership is an insult to our members and the users of the NHS. Real Partnership would involve the NHS being properly funded; an end to low pay, privatisation and PFI. Real democratic partnership would mean NHS workers, local users and communities deciding how healthcare is delivered. Conference therefore instructs the SGE to campaign for a democratically controlled, accountable NHS where partnership is between those who provide the service and those who use it.

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