Your Excellency Mr. Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda,
Your Excellency Mr. Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, outgoing chair of G77 and China,
Your Excellency, Mr. Kerim, President of General Assembly,
Your Excellency, Mr. Secretary-General,
My dear friend Mr. Kemal Dervis,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to join you at this handover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China.
The Secretary-General has spoken on our behalf, and I wish to say a few words on behalf of my department DESA, the “least developed” department in the UN family.
But first, I would like to extend my congratulations to Pakistan for providing outstanding leadership to the Group in 2007. I wish to pay special tribute to the Permanent Representative of Pakistan, Ambassador Munir Akram, who has been a friend and colleague of mine for over two decades, since we were lads. We served together in Geneva and New York during my diplomatic and United Nations service.
I have always found in Munir a courageous advocate of causes also dear to me. And I admire his style. Even in diplomacy, there is no substitute for an honest articulation of what you believe in. Munir knows his views and does not hesitate to express them. As a friend, colleague and leader, Munir is a true gem. As he leaves the chairmanship of the G77 and China, I would like to thank him and wish him the very best. He and his staff have done an outstanding job.
I would also like to congratulate Antigua and Barbuda, who will now assume the responsibilities of this important post. My Department and I look forward to working closely in particular with Ambassador John Ashe.
Mr. Prime Minister, we all know Antigua and Barbuda is not a big country, but it has produced a big-name Ambassador – Mr. Ashe. Ambassador Ashe is an established presence in these halls. His leadership roles, especially on sustainable development issues and also in the Fifth Committee, are well known. In a year when ECOSOC will look at issues of sustainable development, and when the Secretary-General’s highest priority is on addressing climate change, it seems highly appropriate that we should have someone like Ambassador Ashe to lead the Group of 77 and China. I wish you well in the difficult tasks ahead.
The Secretary-General has addressed the larger development dimension of the UN’s work. I would like to draw the Group’s attention to some key events in 2008 that need your special attention.
Next month, we begin the annual sessions of ECOSOC’s functional commissions, kicking off with an important policy session in the Commission for Social Development on the critical issue of employment.
As the Secretary-General noted, the first Development Cooperation Forum will be held during the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council, in July. The Forum is a significant and substantial action toward improving the international development cooperation system.
The wider and more inclusive the participation, the more valuable the outcome will be. I urge the G77 and China to play an active role. This is an opportunity to create an inclusive forum, where your voice matters especially on matters of aid quality. Do not lose this opportunity.
By volunteering for national presentations of implementation experiences, members of the Group have led in making the Annual Ministerial Review of progress towards the development goals a valuable mechanism for scaling-up and replicating success stories.
I hope that the Group will not only continue to take the lead in these presentations, but also find creative and innovative ways of engaging more Council Members in the Review process. DESA will help you in the presentations that members of the G77 make at the Review.
Towards the end of the year, we have the follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus in Doha. The Doha conference must result in a meaningful step forward toward meeting the commitments made in 2002. We cannot hope to reach the MDGs by 2015, and the wider array of internationally agreed goals, without a robust global partnership for development.
I am very proud to lead the Department that will be supporting these and many other significant processes and events in the coming year. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs – custodian of the United Nations Development Agenda – has long been a firm supporter of the policy agenda of the Group of 77 and China.
As we just heard, the Secretary-General, like the G77, places great emphasis on strengthening the development pillar of the United Nations. Clearly, DESA is at the center of the Development Agenda’s operationalization. Indeed, strengthening the UN development pillar and supporting the Secretary-General’s development priorities are at the core of DESA’s vision for 2008.
Over the course of seven months on the job, I have been discussing with delegations and with my staff what needs to be done to make DESA even more effective.
I envision a Department that better puts its cross-cutting capacities in the economic, social and environmental fields to work, to strategically advance the Development Agenda. These specific areas include climate change within the larger context of sustainable development, financing, technology transfer, gender mainstreaming, and building statistical capacity.
Supporting these priority areas will require a series of related actions. First, addressing a limited number of critical gaps that will help the Secretariat realize its full potential in fulfilling its responsibilities. Second, substantially raising the level of strategic planning on development issues. Third, strengthening programme collaboration and building synergies throughout the UN system.
As the United Nations has been called upon by world leaders to lead a growing global development effort, the capacity of the Organization to meet the demands placed upon it has not kept pace. The Group of 77 recognized this need. We acknowledge with appreciation the role you are playing in ensuring that DESA gets the resources it needs to fully support implementation of the Development Agenda.
I personally, and the Department as a whole, are grateful to the Group for supporting DESA’s work. We need your support so that we can serve you, Member States, better, and advance our shared mission of Development for All.
Let me close by saying that it is always a special privilege and pleasure for me to speak with the Group of 77 and China, having spent many years working with the Group.
Some critics argue that the Group has become too large and unwieldy. They say that the members’ various levels of development call for dividing it into smaller interest groups.
These efforts should not be allowed to succeed. The G77 and China is a group of unity in diversity. Whatever the differences, there are many other economic, social and cultural commonalities and similarities which bind the membership of this Group. Rising above the differences and making common cause for development – this is, in my mind, the most important role of your Group.
Building on my basic faith in the solidarity and strength of the G77 and China, I would like to urge you to remain strong, united and continue to struggle for the just causes for inclusive development. I promise – you will find in DESA a staunch advocate. On our part, we trust the G77 and China to show support through high-level participation in development-related meetings and demonstrable commitment to those entities in the UN that are integral to the development pillar.