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World at point of political, social and ecological crisis – Higgins

IRISH President Michael Higgins says the world has moved to a point of political, social and ecological crisis that calls for articulation of new models of co-existence.

At a luncheon at Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin in honour of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who visited Ireland on Monday, President Higgins said Cuba was at the forefront in establishing the link between the ecological crisis and the international economic system.

He said the speeches of Fidel Castro to international audiences throughout the decades were particularly unambiguous and prophetic in their connection between global poverty, ecological destruction and an unfair global economic system.

President Higgins said the urgency of that position was expressed most powerfully in Fidel’s speech at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, “at which I was present.”

“The prevailing neoliberal model which has in recent decades secured such a hegemony in so many senses, features markets without regulation, distorted trade, speculative investment, yawning inequality, unbridled consumption and destructive extraction of natural resources is, of course, unsustainable,” he said. “We have moved to a point of crisis – political, social and ecological – that calls for the articulation of new models of co-existence, development and international co-operation. We must do this together as a global community.”

President Higgins said the youth were spearheading a new movement, one rooted on a paradigm shift to an ecological-social model, the widespread adoption of which is not only an important gesture towards intergenerational solidarity but was the only hope for a global people to avoid ecological and social catastrophe.

“This new paradigm which is emerging is one based on a steady-state model, rather than the flawed concept of exponential growth, and is both ecologically and economically sustainable,” President Higgins said.
“For an eco-social paradigm to be established a change of consciousness, indeed a merging of consciousness of our ecological, economic and social kind is necessary to achieve the result through deliberate political action that recognises the inherent flaws of our current model of growth ad infinitum, a model that, without regulation, inevitably results in harmful booms and busts that can have disastrous social consequences, such as those we witnessed recently in Europe resulting from the so-called ‘Great Recession’. If we are to achieve a paradigm shift, it will be necessary to combine the radicalism that is in the consciousness of climate activism, with the consciousness of egalitarianism and the programmes of inclusion activists.”

On matters of trade and economy, President Higgins said Ireland was part of the multilateral system of which international law is such an important pillar, “and we have always considered the [US] economic sanctions against Cuba to be contrary to international law.”

He said Irish and Cuban people had in common a proud sense of their national identity, a passion for freedom and, in the past, both people had the shared experience of living in the shadow of a powerful neighbour.

“We are two island nations that carry our marks of that proximity and we carry the legacy of colonisation. We both have had to wrestle freedom from the grip of empires in order to achieve independence,” President Higgins said. “This shared history has led Irish and Cuban people to easily forge many bonds of empathy and imagination, and to exchange stories, dreams and aspirations of freedom.”

He said Ireland and Cuba were Diasporic peoples, with migration a key feature of their histories.
“Over the generations we Irish have often left our island homes, with many of our emigrants leaving for the United States, just as Cubans have done,” President Higgins noted. “The contribution of both of our peoples gone abroad to their adopted homes has clearly been immense, as has their generosity to those they left at home. Migrants’ remittances have been important to both of our peoples.”

However, he noted that the discourse on migration had changed.

President Higgins said in recent times, the rise of populist political ideologies that are based on fear, division and exclusion have a bitterness at times, encouraging even hatred to be directed against migrants.

“This poison is often propagated to those who feel they are the excluded, often abandoned in the absence of inclusive policies to become the prey of xenophobes and racists. This presents a major threat to solidarity and to wider humanitarianism, both in Europe and in the Americas,” he stressed. “We are all migrants on a vulnerable shared planet, and it is clear to me that if we enable and promote a reciprocal sharing of cultures and ideas, as well as forging multiple symbioses, the cultural diversity that follows will bring with it innovation, opportunity, dynamism and creative energy that enriches our society.”

President Higgin said Cuba’s record in humanitarianism and actions at times of humanitarian crisis was an example to the world.

“Yours is a country that has consistently reacted with urgency to emergency appeals for humanitarian aid by dispatching doctors, medicine and equipment, despite the country’s modest size and economic resources,” said President Higgins.

“The facts speak for themselves: in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Havana offered to send more than 1,000 doctors to assist the US; Cuba sent a 135-strong medical team to assist in the aftermath of the devastating Indonesian earthquake of 2006; and at least 460 Cuban healthcare workers were dispatched to deal with the deadly Ebola virus epidemic in Africa in 2014. This is not only humanitarianism in action, it is a powerfully empathetic form of internationalism.”

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