Cuba and the UN Millenium Development Goals

The importance of social commitment
Laura Bécquer Paseiro (Granama International) 

When in 2000 the United Nations drew up goals committing world leaders to fight for a better world, a little archipelago in the Caribbean, Cuba, already had an advantage in this context, thanks to a Revolution which, from January 1, 1959 onward, was determined to promote social development.

CUBA AND THE UN MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALSThe fact that Cuba has been subjected to a policy of hostility for more than 50 years – the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the world super-power, has not been an impediment in terms of implementing policies of social inclusion, with human beings at their center.

The anti-Cuba campaign is so extensive that many people can barely believe that Cuba is among the nations to have met the majority of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which the UN has set for international fulfillment by 2015.

What could be described as a utopia by some, has always been a reality for Cubans. The eight MDG proposals: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal elementary education; promoting gender equality and women’s autonomy; reducing infant mortality; improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; guaranteeing environmental sustainability; and promoting a world association for development are all emblematic of Cuba’s achievements over 54 years.

Cuba is a signatory to the Millennium Declaration and, just two years away from the date set by the UN, has fully met a number of its goals, according to the latest national report on the fulfillment of these objectives in the country.

Additionally, the report presented by Cuba this past May 1 as part of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) indicated that the country is among the 50 nations with the largest portion of its population over the age of 60 (slightly over 18%), as a result of the social development and human rights its citizens enjoy, alongside an average life expectancy rate of 77.97 years.

The report notes that in 2012, the infant mortality rate was 4.8 per 1,000 live births, the lowest in Latin America, and the maternal mortality rate was 21.5% per 100,000, among the lowest internationally. The text emphasizes that the country has developed research into vaccines against cholera, dengue and HIV. Thus, it notes that in recent years the national anti-AIDS program has had notable success, mortality and late diagnoses have been reduced, the survival of persons undergoing treatment has increased, and maternal-infant transmission of syphilis and HIV has been virtually eliminated.

That has been made possible, moreover, by the universal, free access to public health care enjoyed by Cubans, independently of the country’s financial difficulties and subjective shortcomings. At the same time, the Vaccination Program has guaranteed one of the broadest immunization rates in the world, protecting Cubans from at least 13 illnesses.

In respect to women’s empowerment, an advance in the promotion of women to public positions is confirmed, given that, for the first time, two women occupy vice presidential posts in Parliament and represent 42.4% of deputies. In terms of leadership positions, 42.4% are held by Cuban women and they surpass men in the professional and technical workforce.

On the other hand, the 2011 UNESCO report acknowledges high educational levels in Cuba and the country occupies 14th place in the UN agency’s Education for All Development Index.

Despite its economic limitations, the country promotes international solidarity in the context of South-South cooperation, while it also emphasizes environmental sustainability, although held back on occasions by acts of social indiscipline.

The figures speak for themselves in terms of all the advances made in these years of Revolution, particularly taking into account the situation of Cuba prior to 1959. For example, the infant mortality rate was in excess of 42 deaths per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy barely reached 58 years. The National Statistics Office indicates, moreover, that 57% of the population was illiterate.

In spite of these achievements, Cuba is working to meet the rest of the Millennium Goals, as well as to improve on those met a number of years ago. However, for other countries in the world the possibility of meeting the 2015 goal would appear to be far removed. Currently, 842 million people are experiencing hunger in the world, according to a report prepared by the FAO, the International Agricultural Development Fund and the World Food Program. In relation to poverty, the panorama continues to be alarming, with 1.2 billion people experiencing extreme poverty throughout the world.

On the other hand, 774 million people are illiterate. If this trend is maintained, by 2015 there will be 743 million adults and 98 million young people unable to read or write, according to UNESCO.

Within this panorama, the example emerges of Cuba, a country not only facing economic warfare which has cost it $11.16 trillion, but which has also been subjected to acts of terrorist aggression and media campaigns attempting to discredit and manipulate its reality.