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UN rights expert compliments Cuba’s international solidarity, prods rights progress


GENEVA (19 July 2017) – Cuba has demonstrated a long-standing tradition of solidarity with other countries that are working to overcome development challenges, says the United Nations Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity Virginia Dandan at the end of her visit to the country. Ms. Dandan pointed out that the main purpose of her visit was to see how human rights were integrated into Cuba’s international solidarity activities. “Efforts to promote the right to international solidarity by Cuba are all the more noteworthy in light of the international challenges it faces which impact on the realization of human rights in the country,” she stated.

“International collaboration is an important aspect of the country’s educational development at home and abroad. Cuba has strong partnerships with more than 30 countries, characterized by good practices it shares with the rest of the world,” the expert said. She noted that the Cuban Constitution guarantees the right to education, and its schools system is equally accessible to children from all income backgrounds. More than 56,000 students from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean had thus far graduated in the higher education system, where scholarships are available for foreign students, she observed. She also noted that Cuba’s literacy program Yo si Puedo (Yes I Can) has been replicated in numerous countries where a total of more than 30 million people have acquired literacy. 

The Independent Expert commended the Project for Life (Por la Vida) which promotes community physical activity whose main objective is to contribute to the social care, health, quality of life of the population and their coexistence in solidarity. She also commended the State’s initiatives to implement the Constitutional guarantee of the right to health by the provision of free medical and dental care throughout the country.

The Independent Expert praised Cuba’s significant response to health crises and disasters abroad, such as the Ebola crisis. She highlighted a cooperation project which sends emergency teams of doctors, nurses and other health workers to areas affected by extreme weather events and epidemics. To date, these emergency teams have attended to the needs and care of more than 3.5 million people in 21 countries. It was in this context that Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) was created to train physicians free of charge in these countries and which offers medical school scholarships for students from low income families all over the world, with the requirement that they return home after graduation to serve as health workers.  

Ms. Dandan summarizes the concept behind Cuba’s international cooperation in the often—repeated statement by those with whom she spoke in the course of her visit: “We give from what we have only, not from our left-overs.”

“I look forward to the adoption of Cuba’s National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030 towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said. At the same time, she encouraged Cuba to favourably consider ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, and their optional protocols.”

Ms. Dandan’s full findings will be included in an official report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018.


Ms. Virginia Dandan (Philippines) was appointed Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council. She is currently an independent specialist on human rights in development, focusing on the application of the normative content of economic, social and cultural rights. Ms. Dandan was a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1990-2010) and served as its Chairperson for eight years (1998-2006). She was also in charge of the Human Rights Community Development Project in Three Philippine Indigenous Peoples’ Communities (2008-2010).

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Cuba

For more information and media requests, please contact Karin Hechenleitner Schacht (+41 22 917 9408 / khechenleitner@ohchr.org ) or write to iesolidarity@ohchr.org

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