74 UNGA: Statement by Cuba at the First Regular Meeting of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS. Adoption of the UNFPA Country Programme for Cuba. New York, 5 February 2020

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Oscar León González, Ambassador, Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations at the First Regular Meeting of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS.

Adoption of the UNFPA Country Programme for Cuba. New York, 5 February 2020

Mr. President,

I would like to begin by thanking Mr. Harold Robinson, UNFPA Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, for the extensive and substantive presentation of the Country Programme Document for Cuba for the period 2020-2024.

We appreciate, at the same time, the significance of this segment of the Executive Board, as a framework for further strengthening cooperation for development and achieving sustainable development for the welfare of our peoples.

Mr. President,

The Country Programme Document presented here today is the result of a broad participatory process, under the leadership of the national authorities and in close collaboration with the UNFPA Representative in our country, and the Resident Coordinator.

The national priorities on this subject are aligned with the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, adopted in Cairo in 1994 and its implementation beyond 2014.

The Country Programme Document for Cuba is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework agreed between Cuba and the United Nations System, and was based on the gaps identified in the update of the country situation analysis, conducted by the System entities.

It also responds to the national needs and priorities and to the implementation of Cuba's Strategic Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030. In addition, it contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the national level.

Additionally, the Programme is a reflection of the close cooperation relationship with UNFPA and of its positive impact on Cuba's sustainable development, primarily on population and development issues, including the expansion of sexual and reproductive health care and services to teenagers and youths.

It is, in addition, an example of the links that we have developed over the years with friendly countries, cooperation partners, whom we thank for their support in advancing our development priorities.

Mr. President,

We trust that the new Programme for Cuba will strengthen and relaunch the cooperation projects that we have developed together with UNFPA and other stakeholders. It will also contribute to strengthening the operational activities of the United Nations development system, its presence and achievements on the ground.

The proposed Programme contributes to areas such as, health and sexual and reproductive rights of all persons, including teenagers and youths, gender equality and women´s empowerment as well as population dynamics.

Mr. President,

Cuba has a development model that ensures the well-being of its population in terms of health, social security and education, which has been incorporated the economic and social policies adopted by the State for development.

The Cuban population enjoys high levels of life expectancy, which is steadily increasing, making Cuba a country with an extreme ageing process, an issue that requires special attention.

Against this background of an accelerated aging process and continuous reduction of fertility, the country has the serious challenge of working towards development with a population-based dynamic approach.

In the area of sexual and reproductive health, access to medical care is free, primary care has a family-centered approach, childbirth is institutional in 100 percent of the cases and the structure of contraceptive use and access is high. The level of knowledge regarding sex education among teachers, students and families has been enhanced.

Although significant progress has been made with regard to sexual and reproductive health and education, pregnancy among teenagers and youngsters at an early age, continues to be a challenge, with territorial differences. Efforts continue to be made to reduce the inadequate practice of resorting to abortion as a contraceptive method, even though it is fully guaranteed as part of women's sexual and reproductive health services. This calls for continued work on education for sexuality from very early ages and a better contraceptive structure.

The role of women has been enhanced, increasing their participation in the economy, and the social and political life. Despite the significant progress made, inequalities persist as a result of the predominantly patriarchal culture.

These and other aspects previously pointed out in the presentation of the Programme made by the Regional Director, show that there are still challenges to maintain the social indicators achieved.

The tightening of the policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States for nearly 60 years against Cuba, and the recent activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, hampers the project implementation of the UN System entities and the promotion of sustainable development in Cuba.

Considerations offered by the Office of the Resident Coordinator in Cuba, reflected in the 2019 Report of the Secretary-General on the Blockade, indicate that the restrictions imposed by the blockade inflict critical difficulties on the implementation of UN programmes and projects, particularly on the acquisition and purchase of humanitarian and development products, even if they are acquired through multilateral cooperation.

Mr. President,

Cuba regrets and rejects the attempts by the delegation of the United States to politicize the work of the Executive Board, particularly the process of adopting the Country Programme Documents.

This is a harmful trend for the working practices and methods of this body, which diverts the focus from what should be the essence of the discussions in this room: achieving effective development assistance.

Mr. President,

The comments made by the Government of the United States on the 2020-2024 Cuba Country Programme, constitute a new maneuver to thwart international cooperation with Cuba. The United States persists in its objective to bring the Cuban people to their knees by causing hunger and despair and to destroy their political system, chosen in a sovereign manner.

Cuba does not hide the economic problems the country faces as a result, inter alia, of the deformations associated with development and centuries of deformations associated with underdevelopment and centuries of colonialism, neo-colonialism and unjust international economic relations.

Yet, the multimillion dollar economic damage accrued for nearly 60 years indicate that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States against Cuba, without a shadow of a doubt, is the main hindrance to Cuba's economic and social development, as well as to the implementation of the National Economic Development Plan and, therefore, to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As a result of the blockade, Cuba must carry out its commercial operations under extremely disadvantageous conditions. Its financial transactions are persecuted with rage and those banks that conduct any type of transaction of funds related to our country are fined.

If Cuba has resisted, if our economy has overcome all these obstacles, it has been due to the heroic resistance of the Cuban people.

In order to achieve the development goals that we have set ourselves, the lifting of the blockade would represent a relief that would allow the Cuban economy and people to fully develop their capacities under normal conditions.

With the foregone income from exports of goods and services and the costs associated with the geographical relocation of the trade, which forces us to have very high inventories in place, GDP would have soared up, at current prices in the last decade, at an average annual rate of about 10%.

Mr. President,

Cuba is confident that the Country Programme that we are adopting today will significantly contribute to maintaining the achievements that are also the fruit of the Revolution and the effort of the Cuban people and will allow us to continue moving towards sustainable development.

Allow me to conclude reiterating Cuba's commitment to the UNFPA and to the implementation of the new Country Programme, as a modest contribution to the strengthening of multilateralism and international cooperation.

Thank you very much.