On 40th anniversary of G-77, Annan urges fairer access to development

30 April 2004 – As the world’s developing countries mark the 40th anniversary of the Group of 77 (G-77) – now grown to a coalition of 135 – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for fairer access to development, warning that the world has become a much more unequal place than it was four decades ago.

“If there is anything these years have taught us, it is that opportunities for development need to be more equally distributed,” Mr. Annan told a celebratory luncheon at UN Headquarters in New York yesterday.

Key issues yet to be addressed adequately include volatile private capital flows, unsustainable levels of external debt in many developing countries, lack of access to markets of developed countries, and restrictions on the movement of people from developing countries, he said.

He also noted that too many countries depend on primary commodities for all or most of their foreign currency earnings, making them far too vulnerable to price declines and volatility, with two-thirds of them relying on commodities for more than half of their export earnings and half of these dependant on only three commodities.

“All this underscores the need for international development cooperation to be based on a true partnership between the developed and developing world. That partnership must be based on shared responsibility and mutual accountability,” Mr. Annan declared.

“Only if both groups of countries fulfil their commitments can we hope to reach the Millennium Development Goals,” he added, referring to the targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 of cutting in half by 2015 many of the world’s ills, such as poverty and lack of access to education and health services.

But Mr. Annan also noted that over the past 40 years the G-77 and its individual members have made key contributions in advancing the global development agenda, some making significant progress in the economic and social spheres, and all achieving higher life expectancy and lower child mortality rates, though these gains are now being threatened by the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa.

Some have achieved spectacular economic growth, but many have made only negligible economic progress, and others have even regressed, he added.

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