Can revolutionary medicine revolutionize the humanitarian system?

Cuba’s contribution to and involvement in humanitarian activities provide an instructive and challenging lens through which to investigate alternative courses to Western dominated humanitarian action. Cuba’s participation in a range of humanitarian emergencies, primarily through its exportable medical expertise, dates back to 1960. Cuba’s humanitarian action is comprised of strategically targeted activities that appear to be firmly rooted in a socialist ideology and political culture. Interventions are localized and directed through a highly centralized government.

This paper explores potential lessons from Cuba’s evolving and innovative work in over sixty countries by addressing these key questions:

  • What is the relationship between external and internal national structures in how they shape strategies and delivery of ‘humanitarian aid’?
  • What are the ethical and political frameworks underpinning Cuban humanitarian activities? How do they differ from Western (European/U.S.) frameworks?
  • Is there a ‘Cuban’ or ‘Latin American’ model from which the rest of the world could learn?

This paper was developed for the “Planning from the Future” study, conducted in collaboration with Kings College London and the Humanitarian Policy Group.