The Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Group of 77 (G77) and China was inaugurated this Friday (15) in Havana, Cuba. With the presence of more than one hundred delegations, the event aims to address the main challenges facing countries in the Global South, mainly in terms of science, technology and innovation, and try to coordinate joint actions in different international organizations.
With the presence of several state leaders, the event will last until Saturday (16), when it is expected to reach an agreement on a joint statement by the group that calls for “reducing the technological and scientific gap between the countries of the Global North and the southern”.
The opening ceremony was preceded by an excerpt from Fidel Castro’s speech at the “first Summit of the South”, held in 2000, also in Cuba. Then, the opening speeches were given by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) António Guterres.
“The South can no longer bear the dead weight of all the misfortunes”
At the beginning of his inauguration speech, the Cuban president emphasized the importance of the group, which currently has 134 members: “Today we are two-thirds of the members of the UN, where 80% of the planet’s population resides,” he said.
Díaz-Canel also paid tribute to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, recalling that he used to say that “we presidents go from summit to summit, while the people go from abyss to abyss.” Thus calling for joint efforts to coordinate joint actions between countries in the global South in order to “change the rules of the game” and achieve the “pending democratization of the system of international relations”.
“It is the people of the South who suffer most from poverty, hunger, misery, deaths from curable diseases, illiteracy, human displacement and other consequences of underdevelopment,” said Díaz-Canel. He described the international economic order as “unjust and ecologically unsustainable”.
He also stated that “this will be an austere summit”, since in Cuba “we lack many things, but we have an abundance of feelings of friendship, solidarity and fraternity”. He denounced the fact that “Cuba is literally surrounded by a blockade that has lasted six decades and by all the difficulties that derive from that siege, which has now been reinforced.” Highlighting that Cuba “is not the only one that suffers from this unjust world order.”
Describing the global situation, the Cuban president said, “We are traveling on the same ship, even if some are passengers and others are servants. The only way this global ship will not end up like the ‘Titanic’ is through collaboration.”
Díaz-Canel questioned the international patent system and made a special complaint about international military spending and the irrationality of the fact that these resources cannot be used to improve the living conditions of the majority.
“Estimates indicate that 9% of global military spending could finance adaptation to climate change in 10 years, and 7% would be enough to cover the cost of universal vaccination against the pandemic”, he estimated.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, also participates in the event and began his opening speech by stating that countries in the Global South are “trapped in a web of global crises”.
“Poverty is rising and hunger is growing. Prices are rising, debt is exorbitant and climate disasters are becoming more frequent,” Guterres said. “Global systems and structures have failed them,” adding that “the conclusion is clear: the world is failing developing countries.”
The UN Secretary-General noted that in recent decades, G77 countries and China have “lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and come together at the United Nations in search of global solutions and solidarity.”
“To change this, we need actions at the national level to ensure good governance, mobilize resources and prioritize sustainable development. And we need actions at the global level that respect national property, with the aim of building an international system that defends the rights human rights and take care of the common interest,” he said.
In this sense, Guterres recognized that “many current global institutions reflect a bygone era.” He highlighted the need to update the UN Security Council, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Importance of the Summit
The summit takes place just days before the opening of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, on Tuesday (19). It is hoped that the countries meeting in Havana will be able to reach an agreement on common positions to be defended at the assembly.
Although the UN General Assembly does not have a binding nature that obliges member countries to adopt its declarations, several experts emphasize the importance of the 134 countries that currently make up the G77 + China coordinating joint positions as a way of putting pressure on the most powerful countries.
Claudia Marin of the Cuban International Policy Research Center noted that “many of the countries that make up the G77 + China have been gaining enormous international weight over the last two decades, as in the case of those that make up the Brics, and this means that the countries of the Global South as a whole have greater weight in their demands”.
However, Marin highlights in an interview with Brazil in fact that “it will only be possible to build a fairer international system if the weight of these emerging countries can be articulated with the number of countries in the Global South through a greater degree of south-south collaboration”.
Diplomatic victory against the blockade
The G77 Summit of Heads of State and Government is being held in Cuba just two days after US President Joe Biden extended the law regulating the blockade against Cuba for another year. A ritual that both Democrats and Republicans have been repeating year after year for more than six decades. Cuba is currently the only state subject to trade restrictions by the United States under the Trading with the Enemy Act, although it is not the only one to suffer unilateral sanctions from Washington.
Every year since 1992, Cuba has submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly on the need to lift the US blockade. Since then, the majority of Member States have always voted in favor of the document. This year, the vote is expected to be repeated.
According to several experts, the fact that delegations from all over the world arrived in Havana to participate in the summit demonstrates the enormous diplomatic capacity that Cuba has managed to build.
Editing: Thales Schmidt