During the week of May 7 the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), one of five U.N. entitles promoting economic and social development in the world, is holding its 37th biennial session, this time in Havana, Cuba.
Three important opening speeches were delivered on May 8 by Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a native of Portugal. Here are highlights of these speeches.
Cuba President’s Welcoming Speech
“ECLAC, which for decades has been a benchmark for economic and social knowledge in Latin America and the Caribbean, at a regional and global level, has contributed decisively to placing equity at the center of development, has shown that the region continues to be the most unequal planet, and has studied certain structural causes of the problem, which will surely be addressed in this meeting.”
“It is necessary to transform the culture of inequality, associated with the colonial past of our nations and which particularly affects the indigenous populations, people of African descent, girls and women. It is also, in our opinion, a consequence of imperialism, neoliberalism, macroeconomic policies that for decades favored the transnationals and deepened the differences: of classes, by the color of the skin, territories and urban and rural population.”
“There will also have to be serious challenges that include the slow growth of productivity, the lack of diversification of the productive structure and poor technological modernization.”
“There is no other option but to advance regional integration and development with equity, which will lead us to reverse the pyramid where, in the main countries of the region, the richest 1% of the population appropriates a huge part of the population’s riches.”
“ECLAC correctly points out, ‘inequality has not only economic, but also political, social and cultural implications’”.
“The distribution of income and wealth is the central element in closing this gap and for this, States must have access to food, work, quality education, health, and the right to education. culture and better conditions of existence.”
“While it is true that we must address, as the central theme of this meeting, ‘the inefficiency of inequality,’ the real objective must be the ‘search for equal opportunities and social justice’ and, consequently, the reduction and elimination of the growing poverty, suffered by hundreds of millions of Latin Americans and the Caribbean.”
“The recent history of the region showed that adequate public policies led to successful results of social progress and economic growth that drew tens of millions of people out of hunger, illiteracy and lack of culture, as reported by ECLAC. It would be inadmissible and cruel to attempt to impose a neoliberal wave like the one that made our peoples go back a decade.”
“It is necessary to fight to make the theme of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 a reality, that is, that ‘nobody is left behind’”.
“With the Paris Agreement, a path leading to confronting climate change may have begun, affecting all of us in one way or another; but in the Caribbean States these threats multiply and impose enormous strains on their economies that require special and differentiated treatment, and, at the same time, greater support, solidarity and cooperation.”
“It is essential that, when addressing the issue of inequality, we also do so with access to knowledge.”
“Information and communication technologies favor development. To reduce the gap between ‘those who have’ and ‘those who do not have”, and between rich and poor countries, it will be essential to try to eliminate the difference between ‘those who know”‘ and ‘those who do not know,’ between knowledge and the ignorance.”
“We must bet on a use of these technologies that promotes social solidarity, creates values, contributes to peace and the economic, cultural and political sustainability of our nations.”
“In the same way, the growing monopolization of the media and the attempt to impose, through them, a single thought, consumerism, manipulation of the will of people and values far removed from it, obliges us to reflect and constantly analyze. the realities and aspirations of our countries.”
“For our part, despite the difficulties facing the Cuban economy, particularly due to the intensification of the blockade imposed on Cuba for almost six decades, we will continue to focus on the development goals set in order to preserve, expand and deepen our achievements.” (Emphasis added.)
“We work on the preparation of a National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030, whose strategic axes are intertwined with the Sustainable Development Goals, as part of the process of updating the Economic and Social Model, begun in 2011, governed by the premise inviolable not to leave any homeless citizen. We will never apply the known shock therapies that only affect the most needy.”
“In a particular way, we reiterate in this forum the commitment of Cuba with solidarity cooperation towards other countries, based on mutual respect, selfless help and complementarity. Despite shortcomings and difficulties, we will maintain this will, following the principle of sharing what we have, not what we have left.”
“We have received the presidency pro tempore of ECLAC for the period 2018-2020, and of two of its subsidiary bodies: the Committee for South-South Cooperation and the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development.”
“We do so with a high commitment and awareness of the challenges we face, focused on continuing to promote cooperation among the countries of the region in the materialization of the new 2030 Agenda. We will put our efforts in supporting ECLAC’s vocation to promote the search for a fair, equitable and inclusive world that recognizes people as the central element of sustainable development. We will strive to promote unity within diversity. . . . [while] ratifying the thesis of José Martí: ‘the good of many is preferable to the opulence of a few.’”
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary’s Speech
Cuba “is testing its own paths in the face of the brutal human costs that the imposition of an unjust blockade has imposed for more than 50 years. We evaluate it every year, as an Economic Commission, and we know that this blockade costs the Cuban people more than 130 billion dollars, at current prices, and that it has left an indelible mark on its economic structure. (Emphasis added.)
“As of 2010, ECLAC has positioned equality as a fundamental value of development and as an irreducible ethical principle and in synchrony with the growing relevance of the issue in citizen demands.”
“We have said that equality is at the center of development, because it provides policies with an ultimate foundation centered on a rights approach, with a humanistic vocation that reflects the most precious heritage of modernity. It is also a favorable condition to move towards a development model focused on closing structural gaps and technological convergence that allows us to advance to higher levels of productivity, with economic and environmental sustainability, thinking about future generations.”
“Today we take a step further and we bring you a proposal and a bet, with policy proposals that we have expressed in the document called: The inefficiency of inequality.”
“We affirm that inequality is not only unfair, but inefficient and unsustainable. We have brought empirical evidence to show this statement, why it is inefficient. Not only from the social point of view is unacceptable, but from the economic point of view is not viable for the future.”
“Why do we affirm this? Because it generates and sustains institutions that do not promote productivity or innovation, because it rewards or punishes class, ethnic or gender belonging, and because it generates a culture of privilege that reinforces these inequalities, which incorporates inequality into social relations as if it were something natural, as if it were something acceptable, and it reproduces it in time.”
“Discrimination closes opportunities and also represents the loss of learning and innovation paths favorable to productivity, especially in the discrimination of women. The glass roof that restricts the advancement of women in their careers is also a ceiling to productivity.”
“Today in our continent poverty has the face of a woman. One third of Latin American and Caribbean women do not manage to generate income and are economically dependent, and when they do, their salary is significantly lower than that of men with equal education and skills.”
“The costs of excluding institutions are many, let’s notice the great losses of potential productivity that result from the inequality of access to education and that occur in a generation and sometimes in our region are transmitted to other generations, intergenerationally, and this is especially serious in the context of the technological revolution, where the capacities . . . to absorb technical progress endogenously, are indispensable to compete and generate employment.”
“Our endemic structural heterogeneity is the factory of inequality, it has its roots in the culture of privilege, and it emerges, precisely, in that conjunction of structures with little diversification, low intensity of knowledge, and inefficient institutions. That is why we propose a path, to move from the culture of privileges to the culture of equality, to achieve these tasks that are undoubtedly associated with growth and productive diversification with innovation. But we must . . . expand our fiscal spaces to sustain financing capacity and also to protect those citizens who are going to be marginalized in the context of these profound transformations, especially in the world of work.”
“We bet on a new welfare regime, which is based on public finances that move from the current role of crisis management to one that is development-oriented, progressive and sufficient tax systems, increase in public investment, which is the most punished variable when there is a matter of fiscal consolidation, increase in public investment and social spending, to achieve just closing these structural gaps.”
“We need a macroeconomics for development, which seeks to preserve. Yes, real stability is very important . . . in those decades where it was so urgent to preserve and achieve real stability and financial stability through policies . . . that protect . . . public investment.”
“A determined struggle against corruption in the public and private sphere is required. It is sad . . . that 57% of Latin American citizens do not trust their institutions; we have to change this. That is why a mechanism is urgently needed, renewed institutions that allow greater control on the part of citizens: If paying taxes is a duty, monitoring public spending is a right. . . . [Because] no matter how hard the countries try to make a fiscal discipline, a national fiscal policy, it will be necessary to establish global fiscal rules to eradicate the transnationalization of the evasion, the tax illusion and ending the scheme of globalized fiscal privileges.”
“The increase in investment rates in Latin America remains a pending task. Notice that the levels of gross fixed-capital formation have been below the levels recorded in other regions, while Latin America has been around 20%, East Asia has reached very high levels, over 30%, reaching sometimes 40%. We can no longer ignore it, the growing gap between these two regions is closely linked to investment and innovation.”
“That is why today we want to reinforce our conviction and commitment to propose, to build together with the Member States, precisely, this road that we have to travel together, also making an accurate reading of what is happening in the present. Because it is true that we have better prospects for global growth, that there is better synchrony, more than 140 countries growing at the same time; but there are worrying contingencies and uncertainties.”
“We are also alert to trade confrontations between global economic factors, coupled with the return of more protectionist policies. We see with concern the deployment of a rapid technological revolution, which is difficult for us to keep pace and pace, while drawing potential threats to the future of work.”
“ECLAC in our region has projected for this year a growth of 2.2%. We are growing again after a couple of years of recession, and also the trade picks up slightly with better prices in raw materials; but what is a pending task . . . is regional integration.”
“We must continue to fight for greater regional integration, not only commercial but productive with integrated industries . . . in our region. This is more necessary than ever, because our region . . . is still the most unequal region in the world. All our singular richness in natural resources and human capacities still does not translate into a more dignified life for all its inhabitants.”
“In this past year more than 187 million people continue to live in poverty and, of these, 62 million in extreme poverty. [This is a] warning sign, because we are committed to eliminate poverty in all its forms by 2030. Then we have to accelerate the pace and propose a great environmental impulse that promotes industrial and technological policies that deploy the range of low-carbon productive activities such as renewable energy.”
“We propose greater integration of new, innovative, digital, technological industries that connect us, that link us, that link us through productive chains, human chains and that stimulate growth.”
“The region must overcome a development style that expresses environmental inefficiencies and is highly exposed to the growing impact of climate change. And the truth is that we do not have to look for the evidence very far, the recent catastrophic events show it clearly.”
“The most affected part of our region, where all of us must strongly support each other is the Caribbean, and that is precisely why at ECLAC we have made the decision that in all ECLAC sessions there will always be a session of the First Caribbean. This is fundamental, because the historical magnitude of the hurricanes Irma and María underscore the urgency to act and act collectively.” (Emphasis added.)
“The economic costs of climate change in the region, calculated by ECLAC, to 2050 are between 1.5% and 5% of regional GDP. In some Caribbean nations, in the recent disaster, this calculation even reaches figures above 100% of GDP. This is what happens to us in the region and its impacts are not linear, they affect heterogeneously in different regions, periods and differently from social groups, especially the most marginalized.”
“Therefore, it is urgent that the civilizing agenda of the 2030 Agenda has equality in the center, with an identity and domicile in Latin America and the Caribbean, that from our history, from our rich diversity, from our shared hopes and challenges common we give it its own face, our institutions and we impose the urgencies that our reality demands.”
“The 2030 Agenda outlines a way to launch a new generation of policies and institutions, a new style of development and achieve a virtuous circle of growth, equality and sustainability. We owe it to the present and future generations.”
U.N. Secretary-General’s Speech
“Decade after decade, ECLAC has been a progressive paradigm and authoritative voice of social justice in the world economy. The Commission has played a precursor role in integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. ECLAC has promoted, with perseverance and courage, a vision of development that considers equality as the driving force of growth. You at ECLAC have focused on a deeper meaning of equality, have looked beyond income, as a measure of well-being and as a decisive test of development cooperation, and have always maintained attention to equality of rights in its broadest sense, economic, social and political equality.”
“ECLAC has done everything on the basis of solid, rigorous research and delivery to share experiences that link national priorities with global deliberations.”
“Seventy years after its founding, ECLAC continues to be present where it has always been, in the first line of efforts to promote an equitable globalization, presenting empirically based policies, technical analysis and knowledge aimed at forging an economic, structural and progressive transformation .”
“This decision and this approach are now more necessary than ever before. We know the challenges facing our world. It is true that globalization has brought many benefits: more people have emerged from extreme poverty than ever before, the global middle class is greater than ever, more people have a longer and healthier life, but too many people are left behind. Women are still less likely to participate in the labor market and gender wage inequality remains a global concern.”
“Unemployment among young people reaches alarming levels, with a tragic impact on the well-being of young people, on the development possibilities of countries and even in some parts of the world with a negative impact on security.”
“Fundamental inequalities make it more difficult for people to enjoy better health, education and access to justice. These inequalities make it harder for people to earn a decent salary and live with dignity. For more than a generation, the richest 1% of the world’s income has grown twice as fast as the poorest 50%.”
“Like it or not, the increase in inequality has become the face of globalization and has generated discontent, intolerance and social instability, especially among our youth.”
“People wonder, rightly: What world is this in which a handful of men – because the richest in the world are men, in extreme wealth gender inequality also exists – accumulates the same amount of wealth as half poorest of humanity?”
“At the same time, the way we live and work is being transformed by the effect of technologies, from bioengineering to artificial intelligence and much more. But we must take advantage of the potential of the fourth industrial revolution and at the same time protect ourselves from the risks it poses. This is probably the most difficult challenge that we will have in the next two decades, making the fourth industrial revolution an origin of wellbeing and progress and not a risk that can have very negative consequences for the lives of our societies and our economies.”
“In an increasingly complex and multipolar world, we must redefine the concept of development, especially in transition regions and middle-income countries, such as those in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
“I congratulate ECLAC for partnering with the European Commission and the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to allocate a fund of 10 million euros to countries in transition. We need a global economy that benefits everyone and creates opportunities for all. We need an equitable globalization.”
For this, . . the 2030 Agenda is our fundamental contribution. The eradication of poverty is and remains our top priority. The 2030 Agenda is our road map, and its objectives and goals are the instruments to achieve that goal of eradicating extreme poverty.”
“The objectives of Sustainable Development make clear our ambition and our commitment: to empower women, achieve productive inclusion of young people, reduce climate risk, create decent jobs, demobilize clean investments in favor of inclusive growth and offer dignity and more opportunities for everyone on a healthy planet.”
We “must support the efforts made by the countries to mobilize their internal resources; but those efforts must be accompanied by a stronger commitment on the part of the international community to combat tax evasion, money laundering and illicit financial flows.”
“The audacity of the 2020-2030 Agenda calls for equally bold changes in the work and activities of the United Nations. Our efforts to reposition the United Nations Development System are based on creating a new generation of country teams that support countries, that reinforce national leadership and promote national ownership in favor of sustainable development.”
“We are committed to creating a system that responds to demand, aimed at achieving results at scale and rendering accounts for the provision of support to make the 2020-2030 Agenda a reality. The support of ECLAC is essential to help the countries of the region to implement the Agenda and sustainable development.”
“In September 2019, I will convene a climate summit in New York, where leaders from all fields will meet to fulfill the Paris Commitments, but also to elaborate more ambitious plans for sustainable development, because the Paris Commitments do not they are enough; plans that are based on investment in a resilient and low carbon development.”
As is typical for occasions like this, grandiose language is used to proclaim the objectives of the organization. Whether such language is justified, only time will tell.
It was surprising to this observer to hear Executive Secretary Bárcena say anything about the U.S. embargo (blockade) of Cuba. It was even more surprising to hear her say that “the blockade costs the Cuban people more than 130 billion dollars, at current prices,” which happens to be the same amount claimed by Cuba last November in the U.N. General Assembly debate over the annual resolution against this U.S. embargo.
Although the Executive Secretary said, “We [at ECLAC] evaluate it [the impact of the embargo (blockade)] “every year,” she did not provide details about the calculations or methodology that produced the amount of the alleged damages or who or what ECLAC office did that analysis. Nor did she indicate whether or not Cuban officials were involved in that ECLAC effort.
Nevertheless, Cuban officials undoubtedly were pleased to hear her make this pronouncement even though it does not constitute conclusive proof of such an amount (or any other amount). Instead, it is an another allegation that has not been subjected to U.S. (or any other) analysis, cross-examination or contrary evidence.
As this blog has suggested, both Cuba and the U.S. should agree to submit all of their damage claims against each other, including the embargo claim, for resolution to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in the Netherlands under its Arbitration Rules 2012 before a panel of three or five arbitrators.
These points regarding the alleged damages from the embargo (blockade) are notwithstanding this blogger’s consistent opposition to the embargo and urging the U.S. to end the embargo as soon as possible. It does not advance any real U.S. interest and obviously imposes some negative impact on Cuba. Moreover, the alleged damages obviously constitute a contingent liability of the U.S., and any rational actor should seek ways to reduce such a contingent liability, the easiest of which is stopping the practice.
 Other aspects of the ECLAC meeting are d discussed in ECLAC, News; Borrero, Cuba shows that economic growth and equality are not incompatible, Granma (May 9, 2018).
 Diaz-Canel, Cuba reiterates its commitment to partnership for development, based on mutual respect, selfless help and complementarity, Granma (May 8, 2018).
 Bárcena, The 2030 Agenda outlines a way to launch a new style of development, Granma (May 8, 2018). Ms. Bárcena holds degrees in biology and public administration from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Harvard University and has held positions at U.N. headquarters before becoming ECLAC’s Executive Secretary. (Ten years of the first woman in charge of ECLAC, Granma (May 8, 2018).)
 Guterres, Let’s commit ourselves to continue creating, to keep working and to keep fighting for not leaving anyone behind, Granma (May 8, 2018).
 See Another U.S. General Assembly Resolution Condemns U.S. Embargo (Blockade) of Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Nov. 1, 2017).
 See posts listed in the “U.S. Embargo of Cuba” section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA.