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9. The current situation in Cuba and the role of Cuban NGOs in protecting the environment
Despite the economic difficulties that Cuba faces as a result of the intensification of the North American blockade and the disappearance of the USSR and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CAME), with whom it had basic and fluid commercial relations, the government's decision to prioritize attention to environmental problems has been expressed not only in the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, but also in the responsible environmental policy established and its institutionalization, embodied in the enactment of Law No. 81, of the year 1994, which regulates national environmental actions in accordance with the commitments made at the Rio Summit in 1992. With this process, the isolated acts of environmental protection of institutions and organizations, characteristic of before 1993, gave way to a work more systematic planning and monitoring. Thus the concerns of personalities and NGOs in the country to develop the economy without neglecting the protection of the environment were channeled. If Cuba has not done much more than it has achieved in the last forty years, it has been because the blockade imposed by the United States of America on the island since 1962 has become the main brake on the country's development, which is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and other international conventions and pacts.
Although in Cuba the availability of water is limited because there are no rivers of great length and flow and the distribution of the river network is irregular for the entire country, the State has made numerous investments in hydraulic infrastructure that allow an annual volume of 13 1,280 cubic meters, about 55 percent of potential hydraulic resources. In 2000, 90.15 percent of the population had access to drinking water. Each year more resources are allocated for these purposes, which allowed until that year a coverage of potable water in urban areas of 98.3 percent and in rural areas of 82 percent, a figure that is increasing with the construction of new networks of aqueducts by the State and NGOs in coordination with the population of the localities. Regarding sanitation, 96.3 percent of the urban population has sewage services, pits and latrines, while 82.4 percent of the rural area has some of these services, mainly septic tanks and latrines.
The Cuban state allocates a large amount of resources to acquire fuels without neglecting the development of programs of high social significance that guarantee the access of its entire population to better education, health, communications services, the most modern computer technologies and raising your eating levels. 95 percent of the country's population is supplied with electricity. Among the main programs is that of the massive introduction of renewable sources, with special emphasis on the installation of photovoltaic panel modules to supply electricity to villages, isolated homes, schools, clinics, medical offices and other social consumptions in rural areas without access to electrical networks. In recent years, the use of wind energy, the use of mini hydroelectric plants and the obtaining of energy from biogas have been promoted. This unquestionably shows that when there is real political will, it is possible to advance in solving basic social problems, gradually assimilating and spreading the application of sustainable technologies.
Until 1959, the devastation of the forests had the dimensions of an ecological disaster. In that year the national territory had only 14 percent of forest area. At the end of 2001, the country's forest areas were 21.6 percent. This state policy - one of the few in the world that has achieved sustained growth of its forest area in recent years - has been effective thanks to the voluntary and committed participation of millions of people in local reforestation plans. The soil recovery process also has a similar priority. The development of scientific research in this area is aimed at supporting the main environmental programs such as soil conservation and rehabilitation, the fight against desertification and drought, hydrographic basins, reforestation, the Turquino Manatí Plan, as well as as well as the National System of Protected Areas, among others. During the period 1969-1990, agriculture absorbed 25 percent of national investments, and ten years later, that sector received 56 percent of them.
Respect for ecosystems and their biodiversity constitutes a high national commitment. Cuba, as part of the insular Caribbean, has boosted its tourism development with special emphasis on the sustainable management of its land, marine and coastal resources. To this end, the establishment of a network of 258 protected areas that cover 22 percent of the national territory has been proposed, which constitutes a sample of the progress made in this regard.
In Cuba, the AIDS pandemic is still in small groups, which is why it is classified as low-level; the number of infected people in relation to its total population is the lowest in Latin America and less than that of most developed countries. Since the first illnesses were detected in the mid-1980s, 4,165 people have been infested. There are currently 3,098 people living with HIV. Of the 1,766 who have fallen ill with AIDS, 1,002 have died. More than 99 percent acquired the infection sexually, 0.2 (or 9 cases) vertically (mother to child) and 0.4 percent parenterally (16 cases, 7 of them by blood transfusion). Of the total number of infested people, 78.8 percent are men and the rest -21.2 percent - women. The AIDS incidence rate per million inhabitants has fluctuated in the last five years from 8.9 in 1996 to 31.8 in 2001. The slow growth of the epidemic and the decrease in the number of deaths due to the application of antiretroviral therapy, has It has been possible thanks to the fact that the sick receive their treatment free of charge and because of the hard work in the field of education and protection, as well as the dissemination of the disease and the ways to prevent it.
In various international meetings, both Cuban President Fidel Castro and Vice President Carlos Lage have reiterated the country's solidarity willingness to help the African continent to face the pandemic by sending 4,000 Cuban doctors and paramedics to the most needy countries, antiretrovirals for 30 thousand patients, the equipment and diagnostic kits necessary for the basic prevention programs and the Cuban professors necessary to create 20 Faculties of Medicine, if there is financial support from developed countries.
In recent years, the Cuban government has faced economic problems and the international economic crisis, with measures aimed at recovering the fall in GDP. At no time has the response been of a neoliberal nature or adopted with its back to the people, as was characteristic in most of the countries of the region. The protection of the lowest income sectors of the population was prioritized and equality in access to basic services -education, health, social security- direct and indirect was maintained. It has been possible to maintain the delivery of a basic food basket to all citizens, with equitable access and at prices subsidized by the State, which provides more than 50 percent of the calories needed and has not had a price variation in the last 20 years (State subsidies to the basic food basket and social consumption were 2.9 percent of GDP in 2000). The opening to investment of foreign capital, necessary to revive areas of the national economy lacking financing, was made taking into account the strategic interests of the nation, the preservation of national sovereignty and identity.
As a result of the growing trend of feminization of the technical and professional force in Cuba, which currently reaches 66.6%, women have a greater presence and protagonism in environmental management in the country. According to data from the 1999 Ibero-American Science and Technology for Development Program (CYTED) of the Organization of American States (OAS), Cuba is the country with the highest rate of female researchers in relation to men.
The main contribution to the country's food security has undoubtedly been through the radical changes brought about in the structure of land ownership by the Agrarian Reform laws of 1959 and 1963, through which some one hundred thousand male and female peasants, most of them former tenants, sub-tenants and sharecroppers, received property titles. With these measures, agricultural and arable lands were increased, livestock farming was transformed, and levels of irrigation, fertilization and mechanization increased. The different production centers, research and agricultural universities, created in the last forty years, have contributed to increasing the quality of crops and the technological development of the Cuban peasantry. Faced with the decline in national food production and the reduction in purchasing power for inputs and food, in 1994 changes were introduced in the forms of production, including the transformation of large state-owned companies to other of smaller dimension and greater autonomy and the strengthening of urban agriculture, taking into account the patterns of sustainable agriculture.
Despite the efforts made to increase domestic production, dependence on external supplies remains very significant. This, together with the constant decreases in the prices of export products and increases in imports, the tariff and non-tariff barriers faced by Cuba and the rest of the Third World countries, means that a significant restriction is maintained in the availability of basic foods and, consequently, the level of satisfaction of nutritional requirements has not yet recovered, compared to those available in 1989.
An important number of Cuban NGOs have as a fundamental task of their work the increase of food production and rural development, thus playing an important role in the structural transformations of agriculture, consolidating productive, efficient and sustainable development models, they improve animal feeding, nutrition and herd management and promote popular participation - mainly women - in agriculture, at a low cost to producers. –
Cuban and international non-governmental organizations based in Cuba, related to the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development
- Cuban Academy of Sciences (ACC)
- Cuban Association of the United Nations (ACNU) *
- Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians (ACTAF)
- National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba (ANEC) *
- Cuban Association of Animal Production (ACPA)
- National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP)
- Youth Technical Brigades (BTJ)
- Dr. M. Luther King Jr Memorial Center
- Center for European Studies (CEE) *
- Center for Youth Studies (CESJ) *
- Center for Information and Studies for Inter-American Relations (CIERI)
- Council of Churches of Cuba
- Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) *
- Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation of Nature and Man (FANJ)
- Cuban Movement for Peace and the Sovereignty of the Peoples (MOPAZ)
- Cuban Society for the Promotion of Renewable Sources of Energy and Respect for the Environment (CUBASOLAR)
- Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Havana (SEAP)
- Pro-Nature Society
- National Union of Jurists of Cuba (UNJC) *
- National Union of Architects and Construction Engineers of Cuba (UNAICC)
- Latin American Continental Student Organization *
* NGOs with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)