The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Correa's address to the UN General Assembly


Permanent Mission to the United Nations

Statement by His Excellency

Economist Rafael Correa

President of the Republic of Ecuador

At the Sixty-Second Session

Of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 26 September, 2007

Mister President, Heads of State and Government, Representatives of the Governments of the world, Excellencies,

Allow me to begin my statement today by reflecting on the commitment to fight against poverty in force since September, 2000 when 189 countries signed the Declaration of the Millennium Development Goals. Due to this agreement, we committed ourselves to fulfill, by the year 2015, several basic goals in the road towards Human Development.

Today, at the head of a democratic, ethical and nationalistic Citizen's Revolution, we would like to invite you to critically reflect on the definition of the MDG, its limitations and dangers caused by the design of minimum agendas that eventually give basis to the profound social and economic asymmetries of our planet.

The first limitation of the MDG rests on the fact that, as a strategy to diminish poverty, it represents a minimum framework. Our goal goes beyond those minimums, deepening key objectives and incorporating several others. To focus exclusively on minimum agendas as suggested by the MDG would mean a high risk that certain consciences would be appeased but it would limit the desires for profound social changes.

In this regard, we can assume that there are two characteristics that describe peoples’ lives. One that deals with the indispensable capabilities of human beings to subsist within a society, abilities without which life could not even be called human. A second aspect has to do with the capabilities that enable each one of us to develop our potential within a society. We are, therefore, talking not only about subsistence but of the right of people to enjoy a human life worthy of being lived.

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Having a goal of living with one dollar, plus one cent, in order to overcome extreme poverty or avoid a premature death, as intended by the MDG, does not mean leading a decent life. The development of public policies, in a country which tries to make radical changes, as in our case in Ecuador, cannot be content with reaching minimum objectives, although no one can deny that preventing the premature death of boys and girls or of nursing mothers is without doubt a fundamental goal.

However, by focusing only on these, we are taking the risk of reducing human life to simply a process of resistance with a goal of prolonging people’s lives by adding some hours to their existence. Therefore, we propose common goals that should be based on social maximums, and not on life minimums. For example, we believe that it is possible to share different identities, to build and recover public spaces, to guarantee access to justice, to have an appropriate job that allows or guarantees our right to earn our own livelihoods, to have time for contemplation, artistic creation and leisure, among other goals found in the National Development Plan of Ecuador being carried out by my government. It is in this way that we relinquish the idea that the present is an historically preordained fate before which we must surrender in our efforts to search for basic goals.

Furthermore, the perspective of sticking to minimums also means legitimising the reality in which we live and that said minimums do not seek to overcome the distances nor the power relations between citizens and their societies. Therefore, we also advocate the recognition of the equal dignity of all human beings. Granting to some people unequal rights must always be a temporary objective and must not ever be considered the modus operandi of public policy because it assumes that the “beneficiary” is placed in a position of subordination and indignity with respect to others. In other words, it assumes that the World Bank always elaborates “poverty reports” and has never thought of publishing “inequality reports”.

The best strategy to reduce poverty levels with dignity is to shorten social, economic, territorial, environmental and cultural gap differences. Thus, one of our government’s main goals is to diminish inequalities in an endogenous development framework, of economic inclusion and socio-territorial cohesion domestically as well as worldwide.

In this sense, what the government of the Citizen's Revolution wishes to impose in Ecuador is the empire of human rights and universal values. The long sad neoliberal night, in its privatising and excluding efforts, forgot said universal values and human rights, and by advocating for a staunch defence of the market, it proposed social programs that ended up fragmenting society in as many parts as there are social groups. A national project and a change in power relations within a society does not mean that a puzzle will be assembled without the complete number of pieces. It is indispensable to outline a shared project that must be constantly redesigned having us all precisely as parts of it.

In Ecuador, therefore, we proposed the creation of a democratic and participative National Plan for Development as we understand that without the public participation of all citizens in fundamental decisions of our society, no country could legitimise and make efficient any such political decisions. In other words, we must change a political practice applied by traditional sectors, with their technocracy and elitism, to return the voice and action to those who must be the sovereign owners, actors and beneficiaries of our public policies.

I would like to point out that the MDG is wrong in its vision of development tied to criteria of consumption and strategies linked to processes of economic liberalisation. We view development in a different way: understanding development as a way to create welfare for all, peace and harmony with nature and fostering measures to prolong human lives. In this sense, we gladly debated in this Assembly on the devastating and unjust effects of climate change. Ecuador has brought a concrete and innovative contribution to reduce CO2 emissions to preserve biodiversity with our Yasuni-ITT project.

This initiative stresses the commitment to maintain 920 million barrels of oil unexploited in order to avoid the emission of approximately 111 million tons of carbon due to fossil fuel combustion. However, this will mean a decrease to the amount of 720 million dollars in foreign investment that will affect the Ecuadorian economy significantly. We are ready to undertake this enormous sacrifice by simply demanding the international community take joint responsibility and pay minimum compensation for the environmentally generated goods. This extraordinary initiative should set an example to be followed by the international community in order to reduce global warming on our planet, while at the same time inaugurating a new economic logic in the 21st Century - that is to compensate for the generation of value, not merely for the generation of commodities.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a few days ago the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was co-sponsored and actively negotiated by Ecuador. This legal instrument has waited more than twenty years for its approval and will be a fundamental base for the protection of human rights of our indigenous people.

The welfare we are dealing with now means that the liberties, opportunities and real potential for the individuals will widen in order that they may achieve their desired goals. In this sense, there is a paradox: on one hand, free flow of goods and Capital seeking maximum, in contrast with the punishment people receive for using their freedom to travel globally in search for a better life, which can not be tolerated. The Government of the Ecuador does not believe in illegal human beings and is actively working to promote changes to the shameful international migration laws, bearing in mind obviously that our great responsibility is to build a country that offers guarantees for a worthy life as a mechanism to prevent migration caused by poverty and exclusion.

Mr. President, Excellencies,

The end of ideologies, the end of history has not come true as many try to preach worldwide. Conservative sectors tend to make us believe that the world we live in today is the best, urging us to give up any attempt to change in order to build our future history. We advocate then for building solutions and commitments that allow us to search for better lives and organise a different global society. Our concept of development forces us to recognise, understand and value each other, so as to enable self-realisation and the construction of a shared future.

It is to the occasion of the building of this new world, this dream, that Ecuador would like to invite you all today.

Thank you very much.

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