Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the handover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, in New York today:
I want to start by deeply thanking the State of Palestine for its skilful efforts in guiding the work of the Group of 77 and China over the past 12 months.
At the handover ceremony last year, President Abbas stated that Palestine assumes the position with “humility, commitment, dedication and determination to uphold and defend the interests of the Group and to strengthen the positions of its members in the United Nations”. You can look back with assurance that you have lived up to that commitment. It was a crucial year for the Organization, and the Group of 77 was central to securing a good outcome for the United Nations in many important negotiations.
And Mr. Chairman, allow me a personal note. I want to express my deep personal appreciation and gratitude to Minister Riyad Mansour. You have conducted the work of the Group of 77 with enormous effectiveness and from the beginning to the end, I will say at the very end with the budget, you have shown your effectiveness and your generosity, always pursuing the global interests of the United Nations and defending the principals of the Group of 77. Thank you very much.
I also congratulate Guyana as it assumes the presidency for the coming year and wish to assure you of the continued support of the Secretariat and my Office.
And, finally, I want to thank the entire Group of 77 membership. On challenge after challenge, the Group of 77 has played a pivotal role in shaping priorities and driving change. I am deeply grateful, in particular, for your support for the first annual budget and the ongoing reform efforts. You know that budgets are far more than numbers. Reforms are far more than processes. The Group of 77 has reminded the world that all of it is about making a real difference in the lives of people.
Allow me to focus on three issues. First the reform process. Second, the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our wider agenda. Third, a few words on the budget.
I am deeply grateful to the Group of 77 for its full engagement and strong support of my reform agenda — across our work in management, peace and security and development. We are now moving ahead to better implement mandates and serve people while ensuring greater transparency, accountability and effectiveness.
We met our first milestones in 2019. The new structures are functioning and enabling greater cooperation within and across the three pillars of the Organization. This year our reforms will move from structures and processes to implementation and results. As you know, our management reforms are aimed at making the Organization more effective in implementing our mandates.
But, more important than all from the perspective of the Group of 77, our reform of the United Nations development system is rooted in principles that the Group of 77 itself has long championed — with eradication of poverty as our first objective; sustainable development at the core of our work; and ensuring international policy is aligned with national priorities and guided by national ownership.
I will continue to engage closely with all of you as we finalize, together, the two remaining mandates of this transformative process: The repositioning of the United Nations regional architecture to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the strengthening of our multi-country offices.
In 2020, our reform efforts will further align across the three reform tracks. Our management structures will focus not only on providing better support to our headquarters activities and field operations, but also to the new resident coordinator system and our development activities in the field.
And we are moving towards creating a more diverse workforce — achieving gender parity, pushing for more equitable geographical distribution and greater regional diversity among staff, and opening new doors of opportunity for staff with disabilities. We rely on your continued support.
Let me now turn to our wider agenda. Together with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a road map for tackling our common development challenges and achieving a fair globalization.
Last September’s week of summits and high-level meetings provided leaders an opportunity to strengthen momentum around implementation. At the Climate Action Summit, many countries, and most of them from the Group of 77, committed to raise their ambition on climate this year.
At meetings on the Samoa Pathway for Small Island Developing States and on Universal Health Coverage, we saw a surge in commitment to some of the most vulnerable people and countries. At both the SDG Summit and the Financing Dialogue, we saw a new determination from Member States to step up and scale up local, national, regional and global implementation efforts.
But, together with the disappointing outcome from the twenty-fifth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid, the high-level week also served as a wake-up call. The change we need in poverty eradication, emissions reduction, employment creation or gender equality is simply not happening at the speed or scale required to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. And the international cooperation and solidarity needed to bolster national efforts remains inadequate.
The Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals is an opportunity to jolt the world into a new stage of accelerated implementation, action, solidarity and delivery. And it is directly linked to the priorities that the Group of 77 has put on the table and is driving forward.
The eradication of poverty in all its dimensions remains the single greatest global challenge and it will be a central pillar of the Decade of Action.
We will also need to work to advance those issues that are key to sustainable development — including eradicating poverty, climate action, gender equality and reducing inequalities both within and between countries. Now is the time to generate greater public engagement, scalable solutions and higher ambition. And we must also boost all sources of finance for development.
I want to repeat: All developed countries must meet the commitments they made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, including on official development assistance. We must continue to support developing countries in creating conditions for mobilizing domestic resources and attracting private investment. At the same time, the international community must take much more effective steps to fight illicit flows of capital, money laundering and tax evasion, which continue to drain vital resources from the developing world.
In 2020, as we commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, we have a number of opportunities to generate progress across the range of challenges. I will discuss these in greater depth in my address to Member States next week.
For example, the meeting to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action can tackle the unfinished business of ensuring equal rights for women and girls and generating new momentum to deliver on commitments a quarter century ago. And, of course, our efforts on the climate crisis will culminate this year at twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow.
The challenge is clear. We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. We must be similarly determined to support adaptation efforts of developing countries and fulfil longstanding pledges for climate finance. Glasgow must therefore deliver more ambitious national commitments, especially from the main emitters. And it must also deliver ambition on mitigation. Ambition on adaptation. And ambition on finance.
The number of people in need of lifesaving assistance is growing, primarily due to conflict but also natural disasters and the growing impacts of climate change. Throughout 2020, United Nations humanitarian agencies will work to target resources even more strategically towards crisis prevention and to help those farthest behind.
We will also continue to work to promote digital connections worldwide. Closing digital divides between poor and rich, women and men, and connecting all the world’s people by 2030 must be our shared priority. Last year, we managed to survive our deepest financial crisis in a decade — and I thank the Group of 77 for your essential support. Through unprecedented and painful measures, we avoided major disruptions to our global operations and met our payrolls.
However, the short- and medium-term impact of this liquidity crisis on our ability to deliver is impossible to ignore. I hope to lift some of the stopgap measures in the coming days. And I hope that we can avoid reintroducing such measures in 2020.
But I am mindful that arrears have increased again at the end of  in relation to the end of . Unless all Member States pay their assessed contributions on time and in full, we risk receiving insufficient funds to implement the entire programme of work and full budget approved for 2020.
I will continue to manage our cash situation carefully, and I count on your continued support to help us avoid a deeper crisis. To this end, I hope that we could find more sustainable solutions to our cash problems. Over the years, we have spent our budgets on the assumption that we should receive sufficient cash at the start of each year to execute the entire budget smoothly during the year.
In reality, we receive nearly half in the first three months but almost a quarter comes only at the very end of the year, leaving a very poor liquidity situation especially from July to October.
We could manage in the cash-strapped months if we had sufficient liquidity reserves and more flexibility in managing our resources as a pool. But our regular budget liquidity reserves are insufficient and structural impediments prevent us from minimizing the impact across programmes. Our programme implementation is now increasingly being driven by the availability of cash, which is entirely against the way we should be working.
Last year, I put forward a few common-sense solutions to increase our liquidity reserves and resolve the structural impediments to help us manage resources more effectively. They are even more valid today.
The Group of 77 was vital in 2019 to finding solutions that will enable us to reduce our debt to troop-contributing countries. As a matter of fact, the effects are already being felt, but they are short term. You were also supportive of the level of regular budget resources that we requested for 2020.
I am most grateful and trust that I can count on you in 2020 to help the Organization find a more sustainable solution to the cash crisis to the benefits of the people we serve. As we look ahead, we need — and greatly appreciate — the vision, ideas, energy, and dedication of the Group of 77 and China to our shared mission of advancing peace, sustainable development and human rights.
Let us make 2020 a year of collaboration and action that leads to dignity and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet.