Peace and security, sustainable development and human rights are on the agenda at the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which opened in Cuba on Tuesday and where United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to deliver opening remarks.
Following his arrival on Monday in Havana, Ban visited the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX) where he attended an event related to his campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women. “Violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation in the world,” Ban said. “Our message is clear: Women and children have the right to feel safe and live with dignity – in all places, at all times – in war and peace, in poverty and prosperity, inside and outside their homes, schools and places of work,” he added.
Cuba is a leader on many development issues, including expanding opportunity for women and girls, Ban said. However, as in all countries, the challenge of violence against women and girls remains. “To solve any problem, we must recognize that there is a problem – not hide or minimize it,” he said, urging young men to not raise their hands in violence but instead to raise their voices to stop it. “Thank you for sending the message: El Valiente no es violento,” said Ban quoting in Spanish ‘The Brave is not violent.’
He called CENESEX’s work “magnificent” and said he was “touched and inspired” by the powerful stories he heard there. His audience included Mariela Castro, CENESEX director and activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, who is also President Raul Castro’s daughter. Following Ban’s speech, Castro said she was symbolically giving the secretary-general her personal commitment to join the UNiTE campaign. Launched by Ban in 2008, the campaign has gathered UN agencies and offices to galvanize action across the UN system to prevent and punish violence against women in the countries in which they work.
Among his activities on Monday, Ban met President Castro with whom he discussed Cuba’s role as chair of CELAC. The two leaders also spoke about Cuba’s strong progress in achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – including topics related to climate change – and a sustainable development agenda that will build on their foundation after the 2015 deadline.
According to Ban’s spokesperson, talks also included Cuba’s role as host to the Colombian peace talks and its ongoing efforts in nearby Haiti, as well as the impact of the United States embargo on Cuba and human rights. [. . .]
Ban’s meetings included talks with Cuban minister of trade and investment, where the topics ranged from the latest UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) to Cuba’s opening of a new deepwater port of Mariel, and UN’s role in Cuba’s economic and social transformation. [. . .]