This country is
a laboratory of human development
States UNICEF representative in
ANOTHER June 1, another
International Day of the Child. According to
statistics, 20,000 children died that day, as they
do every day, as a result of preventable causes.
News about childhood continues to be less than
encouraging, in a world which needs to rethink
itself and end inequality, if it hopes to survive.
Children are our hope, yet the world continues to
neglect giving them what they deserve.
José Juan Ortiz
Brú, UNICEF representative
in Cuba, commented that this is the only
country he knows where the International
Day of the Child can be celebrated dancing.
(Fotos ANABEL DÍAZ MENA
y Alberto Borrego)
Cuba celebrated the day in a
different way, according to José Juan Ortiz Brú,
representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF) in Cuba, speaking with Granma about
the challenges countries face in guaranteeing
Investing in childhood and reducing
inequality continue to be unfulfilled promises…
Since the 1989 Convention on the
Rights of the Child, progress has been made, but the
current situation continues to generate inequalities.
Given that the world is more developed today, it is
absolutely unjust that there are still hundreds of
millions of children with very serious needs. If the
system cannot generate more equality, it must be
Our children have the right to live,
and this right must be protected. The Convention
says that it is the responsibility of states and of
the international community. All nations, except for
the United States and Somalia, have ratified this
Convention. Therefore, not doing so is a dereliction
of duty. It is a crime, having the ability to
prevent these boys and girls from dying and letting
At UNICEF we have analyzed the
situation facing children, using the same indicators
in all countries. What is the paradoxical fact about
Cuba? It is a poor country, but has been
guaranteeing children’s rights for 50 years. It is
not a question of money, but rather of political
priorities. If children were a priority in the world,
the problems boys and girls face could be solved in
a matter of years, as Cuba did.
As part of the Millennium Goals,
2015 was the agreed-upon year to eliminate poverty,
ensure access to schools for all children and reduce
infant mortality. Now at mid-2012, do you think this
goal can be met?
Clearly, the Millennium Goals will
not be met around the world. Cuba, nevertheless,
serves as an example that it can be done. If we
analyze the funds spent on weapons and those
generated by corruption within the system, we can
see that there is money, but it is not spent on
children or human development. The gap between the
rich and the poor is growing larger all the time.
Capitalism has never generated equality; it won’t do
so, it’s not a goal.
Latin America and the Caribbean have
the greatest social inequality in the world. How do
you envision children’s future in this context?
I’m very optimistic about Latin
America. The Community of Latin American and
Caribbean States (ECLAC) is a new hope, because,
among other things, the people are looking to
social, progressive governments, which are beginning
to prioritize the rights of people, more so than
economic benefits for the rich.
Cuba has always been an example in
the area of human development, with levels of equity
similar to those in more developed countries. Its
great challenge, as in other countries, is achieving
responsible consumption. Cuba has taught people to
share, the challenge lies in maintaining this, as
the world moves in the opposite direction. Values
education and policies which strengthen the family
must be prioritized, recognizing that what is
consumed in the North is unsustainable on the planet.
The fundamental achievement,
equality, has been won. The point is to sustain it.
It is a treasure that Cuba cannot lose. Here, no one
is excluded and these are human rights.
What are the most important
accomplishments of the UNICEF office in Cuba?
Since it was created in 1992, we
have worked with a degree of freedom and autonomy
which has allowed us to function satisfactorily. Our
strength has always been collaborating with public
policies supporting children or developing such
policies. There has always been transparency and
trust in our work, and this has allowed us to
involve ourselves with sectors with which we had not
previously collaborated, because they weren’t
The role of the mass media in the
development of children is exemplary, despite the
limitations and has been a great help to us.
So we have taken on two areas of
work. One is the cultural sphere, as a guarantor of
rights. The best demonstration of equality in Cuba
is that UNICEF doesn’t have to address an area like
the survival of children, but can address others
such as the right to enjoy culture, which is what
makes us free.
The other sphere has been the
protection of small sectors, such as minors in
trouble with the law, or facing domestic and sexual
violence. Work with children who have committed acts
considered crimes – another challenge for Latin
America and the Caribbean – is exemplary in Cuba. No
children are behind bars here. What exists is
rehabilitation for these youth who, for different
reasons, have adopted inappropriate behaviors.
Nor is there a single child with
disabilities who is not supported, even served at
home if he or she cannot go to school. This is a
As you are about to end your tenure
here, what has been your greatest satisfaction?
This country is a laboratory of
human development. In my 31 years of work, I’ve
learned about many projects and programs on a
theoretical level, but here I’ve lived them. This is
the only country I know where the International Day
of the Child can be celebrated dancing. It’s a great
party and you should celebrate it.