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February 2018

G-77 AT UN TO FOCUS ON GLOBAL SOLIDARITY AND MULTILATERALISM

Development and the eradication of poverty will be high on the agenda.

By Ramesh Jaura

            GENEVA | NEW YORK (IDN) – The Group of 77, comprising 134 developing and newly industrialized countries, has set itself six priorities for 2018 during the presidency of Sameh Hassan Shoukry, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt. These are closely related to the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions, which poses "the quintessential challenge".

            Shoukry, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, has taken over the presidency of the Group – the single largest intergovernmental organization in the United Nations – from his counterpart from Ecuador.

            The Group was established on June 15, 1964 by the 'Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries' issued at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.

            It was therefore known as The Group of 77 (G-77) until 1994 when China started extending its consistent political support and making financial contributions. Since then, official statements of the G-77 are delivered in the name of The Group of 77 and China.

            "The challenges of today are multi-faceted," the Egyptian Foreign Minister said during the handover ceremony on January 12 in New York. "We are facing a dearth of global solidarity. Indeed, multilateralism is under threat."

            He added: "Nonetheless, it is in the midst of such periods of challenging global conditions, of continuing poverty, much strife, conflict, and inequality in the midst of opportunity and plenty that the Group of 77 finds its calling. The strength of the Group of 77 lies in its founding principles, of unity and solidarity, and being among the true champions of multilateralism."

            Turning to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who participated in the annual handover ceremony along with the UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs said the legacy of the Group of 77 was "inextricable" from that of the UN.

            He added: "[. . .] so much of what the United Nations has achieved in this past half century in the development sphere, has been in one way or another inspired, founded, shaped, and supported towards fruition, through the aid of the Group of 77."

            This continues as highlighted in a statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China by Mohamed Gad, Deputy Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN, at the first regular session of the executive board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS - UNDP segment on January 22 in New York.

            The Group has emphasized that the UNDP mandate is, and remains development activities. It wants the UNDP to coordinate its development work with the work of other actors involved in humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding activities, in a context-specific way and in line with the mandate of paragraph 24 of the QCPR resolution 71/243, said Gad.

            The Group is keen that "strong national ownership" remains "the key driver" for the UNDP's Strategic Plan. Because successful implementation of the Strategic Plan would require strong engagement by member states at the country level, he said, adding: "In addition, we call for continued constructive and active engagement on the ground by UNDP with relevant agencies at the national level in order to align its projects and programs with national policies and plans."

            On funding, the Group has reiterated the importance of meeting official development assistance (ODA) commitments, which will remain crucial for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

            Underscoring an important aspect, Gad stressed that support to domestic resource mobilization, when requested by programme countries, must be seen as additional to, and not a replacement of, the adequate quantity and quality of funding for UNDP activities itself.

            Furthermore, the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China noted: "The imbalance between core and non-core resources of the Organization continues to be a matter of concern at a time when the challenges of development are increasing. The Group emphasizes the importance of the predictability and availability of regular resources to allow UNDP to fulfill its mandate in an efficient and independent manner."

            Shoukry, the G-77 chair at the UN in New York, noted that the significance of the Group representing four fifths of humanity was "not due to what some might perceive as the power of numbers and votes, but rather due to the championing of multilateralism, and global solidarity behind a positive agenda for equality and prosperity." This feat, he added, had never been easy.

            The diversity among the G-77 members often makes for slower paced consensus building, yet it is "in this wealth of diversity that the Group is genetically enabled to accommodate differences and achieve unity of purpose, and solidarity of position."

            In an unvarnished analysis of the situation, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs added: "This is a microcosm of what we envision for multilateralism and the United Nations. This is the reason we will continue to strive for accommodation with our partners. We must not forget that these partners are themselves equally diverse in their capacities, needs, and potentials. Indeed, the World of the early twenty-first century is an era of fluidity, an era of flux. However, this is the World with which the Group of 77 and all our partners must grapple with."

            In addition to this broad agenda, he spelt out the key priorities that will merit special attention of the Group this year:

FirstThe need to generate enough sustainable employment opportunities for the youth through an expansion of productive capacities, industrialization and infrastructure development, and thus ensuring sufficient labor-intensive economic growth.

Second: The need for global support in the implementation of sustainable development commitments, including those of the relevant regional agendas, such as the African Union's Agenda 2063, are important drivers of change for meeting the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. "We believe that more attention needs to be directed by the international community to regional sustainable development agendas. In this regard, we are willing to pursue further support at the UN for the agendas of our Group's three constituent regions," Shoukry announced.

Third: The rapid pace of change in issues at the forefront of technology, and of global regulation, the so-called frontier issues, necessitate a broad based multilateral consensus on how they are to be tackled and regulated. "The Group of 77 must have a clear roadmap of how to proceed on these frontier issues, and to build consensus on how to lead this issue within the United Nations," the G-77 chair said.

Fourth: The economic empowerment of women lies at the core of efforts to achieve sustainable development. The Group believes that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between women's economic empowerment and the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Fifth: The importance of 2018 in the climate change negotiations, as these should lead to the needed decisions for the operationalization of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

            In this regard, the Group believes that the way forward should rest on two main pillars: (1) to ensure the unity of the Group around agreed principles and visions taking into consideration the linkage between climate change, development and the capacities of developing countries; (2) the need to ensure proper preparations and capacity building for negotiating teams to ensure full effectiveness in the negotiations process.

            "We need to ensure that the negotiations outcomes in COP 24 in Poland are up to the expectations of our Peoples, including through ensuring the availability of adequate, predictable and sustainable means of implementation in-line with the agreed principles under the Convention and its Paris Agreement," Shoukry said.

Sixth: The need for the Group to remain engaged in the ongoing processes to reform the United Nations system, and in particular the UN Development System as well as the management reform. The G-77 is committed to enhance its contribution in the relevant deliberations and decision-making processes in relation to these reforms.

            In its view, the reform must be grounded in the firm foundation of the Organization's intergovernmental and multilateral character so that development remains the mandate of the UN operational activities for development, and that an effective and efficient United Nations "a key to the pursuit of a more just international order," the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs said.

            Furthermore, management reform must strengthen the ability of the UN to implement its mandates fully and effectively. Likewise, he added, enhancing transparency and accountability to member states must be among the main principles of reform. Indeed, reform, and particularly that of the UN Development System, must serve to position the Organization to redouble its efforts for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

            Shoukry also stressed the importance of the means of implementation. Assured and predictable financial flows are indispensable to the realization of the Agenda. The Group must continue to assess progress, identify obstacles and challenges to the implementation of the financing for development outcomes.

            Moreover, specific issues, including those of illicit financial flows, tax avoidance and evasion, and money-laundering present the Group with a significant impediment in its capacity to mobilize resources for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

            Therefore, the G-77 needs to strive to address their ramifications in a steady manner. Likewise, the issues of trade, investment, technology transfer, debt, and systemic issues are essential for achieving the Group's priorities.

            Finally, said Shoukry, paying particular attention to contextual issues, including so-called linkages – between sustainable development and humanitarian efforts, between sustainable development and sustaining peace issues – is a 'must'.

            "The debates around the linkages are all issue of context that the Group needs to continue to discuss and define the way forward. In addition, 2018 will also witness important deliberations on South-South Cooperation in the lead-up to the second UN High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation in March 2019. The Group of 77 should have the leading role in this process," the Egyptian Foreign Minister declared. – Third World Network Features.

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The above article is reproduced from IDN-InDepthNews, 28 January 2018.

When reproducing this feature, please credit Third World Network Features and (if applicable) the cooperating magazine or agency involved in the article, and give the byline. Please send us cuttings. And if reproduced on the internet, please send the web link where the article appears to twn@twnetwork.org.

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