Developing Countries to Fight 'Economic Apartheid'
Reuters- April 15, 2000
HAVANA (Reuters) - A Third World summit ended Friday with a united front to push rich nations for fairer trade and debt deals to end what Cuban leader Fidel Castro condemned as economic ``apartheid'' condemning billions to poverty.
In a victory for bigger Third World nations like Nigeria, South Africa and China, the first presidential summit of the Group of 77 and China ignored radical calls like that made by hosts Cuba for open opposition to capitalism.
Instead in a draft declaration, it called for the Third World to take a common stance within international institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO). It also made a clear commitment to democracy --a system which many of the G77's 133 member states do not yet employ.
But Castro, who has presided over a single-party communist state since a revolution in 1959, was still in fighting mood as the summit closed.
``In the past we could talk about apartheid in Africa. Today we can talk of apartheid in the world at large, in which more than four billion people lack the most basic rights of human beings: life; health; education; clean water; food; housing; employment, and hope for the future and for that of their children,'' Castro told the closing assembly.
Earlier in the five-day summit, the former Cuban guerrilla demanded a Nuremberg-style trial for capitalists. Castro also called for the International Monetary Fund to be ``demolished.''
But the summit declaration took the more practical tack favored by bigger G77 members.
Poor countries' success in blocking agreements at last year's chaotic WTO meeting in Seattle has shown them the benefits of using their strength in global institutions like the United Nations.
The Third World wants it to be easier to join the WTO, and for their textile and agriculture products to be granted greater access to world markets. They do not want environmental or labor standards to be used to bar their exports.
The summit chairman, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the first presidential meeting of the G77, which was founded in 1964, was a turning point for North-South relations.
``There should be no doubt that from here we go forward determined to make a difference to a rapidly evolving global economic and social order. From now on we will now play our part in shaping that order into one that is just fair equitable and mutually beneficial to all sides,'' said the leader of Africa's most populous nation.
A draft declaration also called for democracy. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said here on Tuesday that development demands freedom, and his remarks were backed up by delegations including Nigeria and India.
``We are committed to promoting democracy and strengthening the rule of law. We will promote respect for universally recognized Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development,'' read a draft declaration.
Among the 42 heads of the state or prime ministers at the summit was Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a coup last year, and Castro himself. Also represented were China and North Korea.
No copies of the final declaration were available on Friday, but in a debate summit delegates made only minor changes to the draft.
The draft declaration lamented falling aid from developed countries, which they accuse of failing to meet commitments to donate 0.7 percent of their gross domestic products. It called for the rich world to write off more developing country debt.
Castro, accustomed to stealing the show at this sort of event, attracted applause by promising to send up to 3,000 Cuban doctors to aid other poor countries. The assembly passed a motion calling for the United States to drop its embargo on the communist island.
But Cuban organizers of the summit have been distracted by the plight of shipwrecked 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez in Miami, and televisions showing CNN in Spanish attracted much bigger crowds than monitors relaying summit speakers.
In a sign of a split in Third World ranks, Latin American members of the G77 did not bother to send senior officials. These days, countries like Argentina and Brazil prefer to talk trade directly with the big powers.
The G77 wants the world to do more to fight the spread of AIDS and rejected the principle of ``humanitarian intervention'' invoked by the United States and its allies when they drove Serbian forces out of Kosovo last year.