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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 23 January 2009 - Secretary-General's remarks to G-77 Chairmanship Handover Ceremony [delivered on his behalf by Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro]

I welcome this opportunity to be with you today for the handover of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China.

Let me begin by congratulating and thanking Antigua and Barbuda. You have steadfastly guided the Group through a challenging year of multiple crises – from food security to energy to global finance. Ambassador Ashe has earned profound respect for his exemplary service to the Group. It has been a pleasure to work with him.

Today, Sudan takes on the mantle of leadership. To the Chairman, I offer my compliments and best wishes for the year ahead.

Your leadership of the Group comes at a critical time. The crises that erupted last year highlighted the interdependence of economies and countries. They also showed that the United Nations and its multilateral framework are indispensable.

As we move into 2009, these global challenges remain. They threaten to undo the progress made towards the development goals in the last decade.

The international community must pull together and work harder than ever. I will be counting on the Group of 77 and China to play a strong and constructive role, and I am keen to work closely with you.

Let me mention four key challenges we must confront together: the global financial crisis; climate change; achieving the Millennium Development Goals; and global health.

We are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Most developed economies have entered recession. The strong growth rates enjoyed by developing countries from 2002 to 2007 will soon be distant memories. Prospects for the least developed countries are particularly worrying.

Governments have taken unprecedented action to mitigate the crisis – at home and internationally. But much more is needed to reverse the downward spiral. The fiscal stimulus packages under consideration in many larger economies must be suitably sized and well-coordinated internationally to be effective.

The broken international financial system must also be fixed to avoid a recurrence of today's problems. The December 2008 Doha Declaration on Financing for Development stressed the need for such reforms.

The world economy is highly interdependent. Designing an inclusive and equitable international financial architecture will require extensive dialogue and coordinated action. This is not just an issue for the G-8, or even the G-20, but for all nations.

The United Nations will continue to support efforts to correct the global financial system and safeguard development gains, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.

We are already making preparations for the United Nations conference on the impact of the global economic crisis on development mandated by the Doha Declaration. I urge your governments to participate at the highest possible level.

The Doha Declaration also called on Member States to maintain aid commitments despite global economic uncertainty. I am heartened that world leaders re-committed to fulfilling their obligations under the global partnership for development. Now it is time to deliver.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is also time to intensify our efforts to address climate change, which remains a threat to all. The outcome of the recent meeting in Poznan was encouraging. We must build on it, to make this the year of climate change. We have less than 12 months to reach a meaningful outcome at Copenhagen. I urge your continued engagement. We cannot stray from the Bali roadmap.

We must also continue our efforts to reach the MDGs by 2015. Last September's high-level events on the MDGs and on Africa's development needs generated new energy, reinforced commitments and launched new partnerships. They showcased progress made and underscored the great potential of South-South cooperation.

Strong follow-through is needed to keep the momentum. The Economic and Social Council will review progress toward the Goals and facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue on development cooperation. Your continued engagement in the Council – and in its functional commissions – is critical.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Slow progress toward the development goals related to health remains a major concern. In many areas of the world, health systems are stretched to the limit or broken. In many countries, prospects for meeting the most basic goals related to maternal health, child mortality, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases are low. As populations age and non-communicable ailments such as diabetes and heart disease become more prevalent, ensuring health care for all will grow more and more challenging.

Recognizing this crisis-in-waiting, ECOSOC is focusing on global public health in 2009, culminating in the Annual Ministerial Review in July. The President of the General Assembly and I have also made health a priority, and will undertake activities over the course of this year.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you well know, the United Nations development agenda is vast, with current crises coming on top of already expanded responsibilities on the part of this Organization.

I would like to express my appreciation for the Group's strong support for my efforts to strengthen the development pillar of the United Nations Secretariat.

I promise to continue to work to increase coherence and cooperation within the Secretariat, and across the UN system.

I mean this not only in the development arena, but across all three pillars of our work: peace and security, development and human rights.

These fundamentals of the United Nations Charter are interdependent. We cannot talk of development in isolation. When peace and security are absent, or when human rights are threatened, development cannot happen.

In this connection I am thinking of people around the world, especially Africa, who so desperately need peace for development. I sincerely hope that Sudan's leadership of the Group of 77 and China will accelerate efforts to find an acceptable resolution of these conflicts.

At this time, my heart also goes out to the innocent civilians of Gaza who have endured so much suffering.

I am relieved that the fighting has ended, with declarations of unilateral ceasefires, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops. But much more remains to be done.

Politically, arrangements need to be put in place for a durable and sustainable ceasefire, which entails addressing the illicit trafficking of arms and enabling the sustained opening of all Gaza crossings.

On the humanitarian front, the needs are great, as I saw for myself. An urgent humanitarian needs assessment mission is in the region. We will continue to work to provide much needed humanitarian relief and assistance, and then begin the early recovery and reconstruction process, in concert with regional and international partners.

Finally, this conflict made clear that we must address the political failure to bring about lasting peace and stability. I am more determined than ever to contribute to the goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967, achieving the establishment of a Palestinian state to coexist in peace and security alongside Israel, and realizing a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbours.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Without your cooperation, we cannot hope to make headway on these and other common challenges. More than ever, the United Nations needs the support and participation of the Group of 77 and China.

I look forward to continuing our constructive and fruitful partnership.

Thank you.


Statements on 23 January 2009