Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ statement to the annual meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of 77 and China, in New York today:
It is a great honour and pleasure to address representatives of this broad‑ranging and influential group of countries, the largest in the United Nations. I commend your example of collective leadership that works together to promote fair multilateralism and advance sustainable development for all.
Your coordinated hard work and advocacy played a major role in the adoption of the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Now we must honour the ambition set by the Sustainable Development Goals and deliver results for people and communities.
In these paradoxical times, we face increasingly complex challenges — and unprecedented opportunities. Uneven progress in advancing social and economic development has deepened inequalities and injustices within and between countries, leaving many behind. Unsustainable development is taking an unacceptable toll on our planet, and some refuse to see this reality. Interlinked crises are challenging multilateralism as never before, but they also provide a chance to demonstrate its value, by working together, revitalizing our multilateral institutions and reinforcing global norms and practices.
You know my commitment to prevention — prevention of conflict, the worst effect of natural disasters, and of other man-made threats to the cohesion and well-being of societies. But, it is necessary to always express clearly that the best means of prevention and of sustaining peace is inclusive and sustainable development.
And I think this concept needs a clarification. Some try to see development not as a value in itself, but just as an instrument of prevention. No; development is a value in itself, and it is at the very centre of the actions of the United Nations. But, it is also true that uneven development, inequality and injustice, discrimination, are today among the factors that contribute to conflict. And so there is a double value in our commitment to development — the value of development in itself, and the value that development is also the best way to avoid other negative impacts on the international community.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, universal yet achievable and ambitious, provides a clear road map for action. The United Nations is committed to supporting Member States as you strive to localize and to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, transforming economies and providing jobs for young people.
But, let’s be clear, one central problem that needs to be addressed and solved is how to finance the Sustainable Development Goals. I would like to make on this two very important comments: one, we need to be able in each of our countries to strengthen our own base of mobilizing resources. And many countries are engaged in important tax reform, but as the President just mentioned, what we still have in many parts of the world — the African continent is a good example of that — is that the money that goes out of the African continent because of money laundering, tax evasion and illicit financial flows is much bigger than the money that goes into the continent in official development aid. No country alone can solve this problem. A country can do a fantastic tax reform, but that will not solve the problem if the international community does not establish norms and rules and implement those norms and rules in order to effectively fight tax evasion, money-laundering and illicit financial flows. This must be a fundamental priority in our work in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
On the other hand, it is clear that we need to develop many innovative instruments of financing. We need to have leverage being able to be mobilized by the international financial institutions; we need to increase the capacity of States to access capital markets and the private sector. But, this cannot be a pretext to reduce official development aid. This cannot be a pretext for countries not to commit to the engagement that they made in the Addis Ababa Plan of Action. We need to multiply resources and we cannot multiply resources by reducing one of the shares. No; we need to increase development aid, but at the same time, we need to be able to multiply other resources for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. What we cannot do is increase one by reducing others.
As you know, I have initiated a series of reform processes towards shaping the Organization in a more cohesive, accountable, nimble and impactful way. One of the main aims of my reform efforts is to reposition sustainable development at the centre of our work, and to ensure that the entire United Nations system is ready to support Member States in delivering on the 2030 Agenda. In June, I put forward 38 concrete ideas and actions to reposition the United Nations development system. In the coming months, I will continue the dialogue as we develop these ideas. I look forward to working closely with you as this process unfolds.
Once again, I would like to make on this two very important comments. First, what is vital in this reform of the United Nations development system is to have much more coordination and accountability in the way our country teams work. Namely, our accountability to Member States. We have made some progress with Delivering as One in many parts of the world. But, let’s be clear, in many situations we have agencies working in a country, disregarding the national plans of the country, and basically linked to the way they get funding from different sources.
We need to make sure that in each country there is, first of all, in the implementation of [Agenda] 2030, there is a Government plan, there is a Government budget strategy, there is a Government set of instruments, and the role of the United Nations development system is supporting the Government in implementation of its strategy. But, for that it needs to be effectively coordinated, and coordinated [inaudible] with the Government strategy. We need a much stronger mechanism of coordination and accountability to the Member States for our country teams in the context of the reform of the United Nations development system. That accountability is also necessary at the top level. That is why we want to strengthen the coordination at the top level of the United Nations development system and strengthen that accountability at the top level to the Economic and Social Council, and that is the role that, I believe, can be developed by the action of the Deputy Secretary-General, who I put in charge, or I want to put in charge, of the mechanisms of coordination that are necessary for accountability to be directly issued in relation to the Economic and Social Council.
Member State-led reforms are also very important for the Organization. We strongly support the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council, and the aligning of the work of these two institutions, also with the 2030 Agenda. These processes, and their consistency and coherence, will be critical to our effectiveness in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and in responding to new and emerging issues.
I urge you to continue to engage, to make your voices heard and to play a full part in formulating and implementing these changes and improvements. The Group of 77 and China is central to the Sustainable Development Goals’ implementation and the reassertion of multilateralism. You have already demonstrated that the transformational power of collective leadership really matters. You have led the way on South-South cooperation, and shown how partnerships can be used to mobilize resources and knowledge.
Again, I would like to say a word on South-South cooperation. We see a growing importance of South-South cooperation, and I see for the United Nations a very important role in supporting Member States to develop the mechanisms that allow it to be even more effective. But, South-South cooperation cannot be an excuse for reducing North-South cooperation, and for countries of the North not to fully abide by the engagements that were assumed in the context of the Addis Ababa Plan of Action. Again, we cannot have things that grow to allow others to diminish. We need to have all areas growing in order to be able for such an ambitious objective as the 2030 Agenda to be effectively implemented.
I assure you of the UN’s full support as you expand these efforts. We look forward to continuing our strong and vibrant relationship to advance our own common commitments, making development a central area of activity of the United Nations.