14 September 2006 Edition

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International: Plight of African nations on agenda in Cuba

14th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement

Monday, 11 September marked the start of the 14th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), in Havana, Cuba. High in the agenda is Africa's challenges and tragedies, as half of the 116 member states of the NAM are African.

Last June, and during the African Union summit, Cuban minister Felipe Pérez Roque invited the African states to attend Havana's summit. This 14th gathering of developing countries will focus on finding solutions to the situation of exploitation in the African continent.

Blighted by war and underdevelopment, many tend to ignore the important and leading role that many African countries play in the International Community. It was Africa, together with other less-developed countries that promoted the democratisation of the United Nations. The idea is that the concept of equality between states, nations and peoples would become a reality, and so the UN would become actually representative of the interests of all nations, and stop pandering to Western governments.

African countries want to hold two permanent and two of the non-permanent seats of a reformed Security Council - a reform being blocked by the United States. The second most important aim of Africa's agenda is to get a real commitment from the international commitment to assist African states to achieve economic development without any trade or political strings attached.

Currently, Africa's agriculture and natural resources progress depend on foreign investment. However, this clashes with the interests of wealthy states who, while enjoying the benefits of natural resources, keep markets closed to products from developing countries, subsidising agricultural production in Europe and the US while imposing heavy tariff and restrictions on the same products from developing countries. At the same time, World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund want to impose a non-tariff, free market economy in developing countries, that clearly will destroy any developing industry while favouring the interest of Western powers who want to dump their subsidised agricultural stocks on the African, Asian or Latin American countries.

African states seem defenceless, as they are suffer from the legacy of colonialism and current economic imperialism.

In the past, African slaves became the engine that pushed the economies of countries such as the US and Britain. European powers divided the African continent ignoring the tribal and traditional realities on the ground. Soon, they found out about its mineral richness, and even while independent by name, African states still suffer the dictates of former colonial powers through bilateral agreements, the dictates of international financial institutions and political and military threats. These are the root causes behind the many conflicts in Africa where, despite the richness of the soil, people live in poverty; where 98 out of 1,000 children die within 24 hours of birth; where life expectancy is 42 years and dropping; and where HIV/AIDS has become a pandemic wiping out entire generations.

One of the key objectives of the NAM summit is to develop and reinforce Cuba's co-operation and development projects in Africa.

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, would like to incorporate Africa in a new wave of integration and support that he hopes to create in the Southern hemisphere. This is the same dream that is bringing Bolivian president Evo Morales to the summit. Morales believes in the necessity to change the world's economic order, so that all countries have equal opportunities. "Trade should be complementary and of benefit for all peoples, it should aim to satisfy its needs", said Morales referring to his proposal for the People's Trade Treaty (TCP), and alternative to agreements proposed by the USA, and that would extend further than Latin America to create a South-South network with African countries.

At the meeting, Morales will share his past experience as a social activist, and the current struggle in Bolivia for the sovereignty, dignity and self-determination that is being led by indigenous people, farmers and other social movements.

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