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Cuba: The Meaning of Human Rights

Cuba: The Meaning of Human Rights

January 1959 with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution that human rights got a real meaning for Cuba and its people. For the first time in history, Cuba achieved true independence, which enabled its people to exercise its right to self-determination and to create the conditions for full and universal enjoyment of all human rights for all.

The profound economic, political and social changes undertaken since then made it possible to do away with the structural injustices inherited from colonial and neocolonial rule in Cuba. The foundations of a democratic, fair, inclusive, equitable and solidary society were laid and continuous progress has been made.

Cuba has achieved a high level of human development, ranking fifty-first out of 187 countries according to the UNDP Human Development Report 2011. In addition, according to the Non-Economic Human Development Index, it ranks seventeenth globally, being the highest ranking Cuba has for the most part met the targets established by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Cuba has already achieved Goal 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), Goal 2 (achieve universal primary education), Goal 3 (promote gender equality and empower women) and Goal 4 (reduce under-five child mortality), and is working to achieve Goals 5 and 6 by 2015.

Cuba eradicated illiteracy in 1961, only 2 years after the triumph of the Revolution. Education in Cuba is a public service provided free of charge at all levels, including the University. School enrolment in different forms in the 0-5 age group is about 99.5 per cent. Enrolment for 6 to 11-years-old is 99.7 per cent and for 6 to 14-years-old is 99.2 per cent. Nearly 70 per cent of young Cubans aged between 18 and 23 are at university.

The 2011 UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report recognized that Cuba had a high level of educational development, and ranked it fourteenth in the world on its Education for All Cuba continues to guarantee free and universal access to public health care. Just to quote an example, in 2012 it achieved an infant mortality rate of 4.6 per thousand live births, which is the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As a result of Government strategies, the proportion of women in the National Assembly of the People’s Power (Cuban Parliament) has risen to 45 per cent. Cuba ranks third in the world in the proportion of women parliamentarians, as noted in the January 2012 report of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU). In 2011, women held 42.4 per cent of management posts and represented 65.6 per cent of the country’s technical and professional workforce. They make up 47.3 per cent of the overall workforce. In addition, 62.8 per cent of university graduates are At the moment Cuba is embarked in a process of updating its economic model aimed at guaranteeing the progress and development of Cuban society and its sustainable development, raising the quality of life of the Cuban people and progressing towards an increasingly just, free, independent and more equitable society, while preserving at the same time the country’s
independence and sovereignty as well as the social achievements.

Despite the financial difficulties and resource constraints that Cuba has had to face as a result of its situation as a developing country subjected to a tight blockade imposed by the US for more than 50 years, it has made a modest contribution in support of other peoples.

In the health field, thousands of Cuban health experts and technicians have offered their solidary contribution to more than 100 countries around the world, including the Pacific Islands countries, where there are medical brigades in Kiribati, Tuvalu, Salomon Islands, Nauru and Timor Leste.

In 2005 the International Contingent of Doctors Specializing in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics (Henry Reeve Brigade) was established. Since then 5,490 Cuban medical professionals have provided medical assistance to more than 3 million disaster victims from Guatemala, Pakistan, Bolivia, Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the number of patients receiving care continues to increase. This Brigade has performed over 33,800 surgeries and has helped to save Operation “Milagro” (Miracle), which seeks to restore the sight of thousands of people around the world, started in 2004. As of January 2012, 2,261,987 surgeries had been performed under the programme. Thirty-four countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa have benefited from it.

To ensure continuity, 47 ophthalmology centers were established overseas with 59 surgical facilities and 525 employees working in 16 countries.

Thousands of young people from more than 130 countries have benefited from Cuban Universities. In the period 2005–2011, 9,960 doctors from 58 countries graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) and the health professionals training programme in Cuba.

For the 2011/12 academic year, 21,217 students from 122 countries enrolled in the Cuban training programme for health professionals from other countries. There are close to 200 Pacific Island students studying medicine in Cuba. This year the first group of graduated from the PIC returned to their country. They were 7 from Kiribati.

More than 35,000 health professionals have received training in 11 countries (Angola, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nicaragua, Bolivia, South Africa, Tanzania, Timor-Leste and Venezuela), where there are more than 1,900 Cuban professors in the Overseas Medical Schools. Around 1,000 students are currently completing their internship (the final year of a degree in medicine).

Cooperation with Haiti continues. The first Cuban medical brigade arrived in the country in December 1998, after hurricane George. Since then, 3,774 Cuban medical professionals have worked in Haiti and medical cooperation has been ongoing. It is worth mentioning in this area are the implementation of Operation “Milagro”, which, since 2005, has allowed Haitians with eye disorders to travel to Cuba for surgical treatment, and the assistance provided following the earthquake which helped to save some 74,530 lives. In October 2010, when the cholera epidemic erupted, 67 health units were created to combat the disease and 46 groups to actively investigate cases. In addition, Cuba is helping to train Haitian health professionals: 817 Haitian doctors have graduated in Cuba and 324 are currently enrolled in courses (22 postgraduates).

Cuba is working in conjunction with the Haitian authorities, and with the support of Venezuela and other member States of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), to develop and strengthen the Haitian health system, including the building of hospital infrastructure.

In the field of education, Cuban cooperation is carried out at various educational levels. From 2004 to date, cooperation on literacy and post-literacy teaching methods has been extended using the Cuban teaching programmes “Yes, I can” (winner of the King Sejong Literacy Prize), “Now I can read and write” and “Yes, I can go further”. By the end of November 2012, a total of 6,950,693 people had completed the “Yes, I can” programme and 975,837 the “Yes, I can go further”

The “Yes, I can” programme has been used in 29 countries. It is currently being implemented in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe and Canada.

In addition, 413,539 people in Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela are currently following the “Yes, I can go further” programme to reach the primary literacy level.

Cuba’s performance in human rights has been widely recognized internationally. This year, Cuba presented its second report to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council. In spite of the unfair manipulation, the lies and the distorted image promoted by the United States and its allies regarding the human rights in Cuba, the results of this review process,

like in 2009, have been an important victory of the Cuban people.

One hundred and thirty-two delegations took the floor during the interactive dialogue. The overwhelming majority of them recognized the efforts and results of Cuba in promoting and protecting human rights.

The international community's condemnation of the blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba was widely reaffirmed, as the main obstacle and a real violation of human rights of the entire Cuban people.

Cuba's successes in the area of economic, social and cultural rights were overwhelmingly supported. Universal coverage, gratuity and the excellence of the Cuban systems of health and education were repeatedly praised, as well as Cuba’s success in the fight against discrimination, in particular its achievements in gender equality and the advancement of women, the protection and promotion of the rights of people with disabilities, and the elimination of discrimination based on Cuba's international cooperation in health and education were referred to as paradigms of international solidarity. And the political, economic and social system chosen by the Cuban people was reported as an example of popular participation, inclusion and social justice.

The most common view expressed was one encouraging Cuba to maintain the direction of its current efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Cuba is also known for its activism in the defense of human rights in multilateral fora. Cuba played a key role in the establishment and in the process of the Institutional Building of the UN Human

Rights Council, which replaced the former discredited Commission of Human Rights. Chaired by Cuba, the Non Aligned Movement, made important contributions to the process aimed at encouraging the cooperative approach in dealing with human rights issues in the new Body and at overcoming the political manipulation and failures that killed its predecessor.

Cuba was elected as founding member of the Human Rights Council in 2006 and remained within the Organ until 2012. Pursuant to the provisions applicable to the membership of the Council, Cuba has performed its duties during 2013 in its capacity as Observer State.

Last November 12, 2013, Cuba was elected member of the Human Rights Council for the term 2014 – 2016, by the General Assembly with the support of 148 Member States.

The election of Cuba constitutes a new recognition of the international community for the important attainments and the exemplary performance of the Cuban people for over five decades, in terms of the protection and promotion of human rights. It also confirms international confidence on Cuba’s experience for the latter is a crucial player in strengthening the Council as a forum for authentic cooperation for the defense of all human rights for all, without selectivity or This result recognizes the work of a Revolution that has assured full respect for the dignity of every Cuban; has placed social justice as the guiding principle of its programmes and policies; and has managed to share its humble progresses with other peoples worldwide as evidence of its genuine Cuba will continue to work on promoting the rights of peoples to self-determination, peace and development, for the realization of the right to food, for the establishment of a democratic and equitable international order, in the fight against racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination, and for the realization of cultural rights and respect for diversity.

In sum, Cuba will work to ensure that the common goal of a world with all human rights for all turns into a reality rather than remaining a chimera.

© Scoop Media

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