I am delighted to join you for this annual meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77 and China. Thank you for this opportunity to participate in this event -- my first as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Let me thank Pakistan for providing outstanding leadership to the Group this year. As you have still several more months to go, I will continue to work very closely with you.
I would like to warmly congratulate Antigua and Barbuda for being elected as Chair of the Group of 77 and China for 2008. I look forward to working closely with His Excellency, Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer and his Government in addressing our common efforts in addressing many challenges.
Let me thank the Group of 77 as a whole for the invaluable support I have received from all of you, individually and collectively. During the past year, I have forged strong personal links with many of you that I shall cherish forever. As Secretary-General, I feel empowered in your midst.
Indeed, the important reforms that I have worked for since taking office could not have been brought about without your helping hand. I am convinced that, together, we can build an effective partnership as we work to build a stronger United Nations for a better world.
The Group of 77 and China has been playing an invaluable role by steadfastly advocating strengthened multilateralism, especially through the UN. You understand that there is simply no viable alternative to a multilateral approach if we are to effectively tackle the complex challenges of our globalized world.
Nor is there an alternative to economic and social development as the foundation for a peaceful and just world. You remind us that the development pillar of the UN must be strong if the entire UN system is to effectively carry out its noble mission.
I am grateful for this occasion to reflect with you on the crucial development component of the United Nations.
Poverty reduction is at the core of the UN development agenda. It is at the heart of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, which constitute our shared framework for development. It is critical to improving the lives and livelihoods of the billions of people this Group represents.
And it is a critical priority for me personally. I will never forget my visit to the Kibera slum in Nairobi last January. I felt so humbled by what I saw. And I knew there were billions of people around the world suffering from the same privation -- the lack of all the facilities which make our life decent. That visit made me even more determined to work for improved living conditions, education, water, sanitation, housing. It made me determined to generate political will for reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
Alleviating poverty requires a multifaceted approach. It requires close cooperation among all stakeholders. And it demands political will on the part of both developed and developing countries -- at both the national and global levels.
At the national level, development strategies should give priority to policies that support poverty reduction. It is heartening that many developing countries have adopted this very approach. Sustained economic growth is essential to alleviate poverty, but growth must also be pursued with equity.
That is why our development strategies must take into account the factors that increase women’s vulnerability to poverty. The active participation of women is essential for sustainable development to truly flourish. And when vested with the right tools and granted access to vital services, women are able to bring positive change and make crucial contributions to development.
In recent weeks, volatility in financial markets has become a source of growing concern. And instability and uncertainty in the global economy are being imported to the developing world. Actions such as the injection of liquidity can calm financial markets temporarily. But they will not resolve the underlying problem of global economic imbalances.
Substantial efforts are needed -- again, both domestically and internationally -- to avoid a global economic slowdown or even a recession. These efforts must be coordinated and inclusive. If we do not act accordingly, developing countries are likely to be the worst affected by any global slowdown.
On this and other fronts, we must pay careful attention to countries with special needs, including countries in conflict and those recovering from conflict. We must focus on countries that are especially vulnerable to natural disasters, such as the small island developing States, the landlocked and least developed countries. And we must address the specific challenges facing Africa -- by supporting the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and by striving to reach the Millennium Development Goals on the continent.
Success in some African countries shows how much more can be achieved if all concerned fully live up to their commitments. Towards that end, I have established a Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group to expedite implementation of the Goals on the continent. I have also established an MDG Gap Task Force to add impetus to the process through regular monitoring. I hope these initiatives will help strengthen the partnership between developing and developed countries -- the pact that forms the lifeblood of the goals.
As part of that partnership, it is critical for the international community to enhance its support for the efforts of developing countries. Despite the strong commitments made in 2005, the decline in official development assistance (ODA) flows in 2006 -- and probably in 2007 as well -- is a matter of grave concern. Every effort must be made to reverse this trend.
Equally essential is the reform of global trade policy. We must ensure an early conclusion of the Doha Round of trade talks with a meaningful development package. We must operationalize “aid for trade”. And we must make full use of the opportunity provided by the UNCTAD-XII Conference in Accra in 2008 to advance the global trade and development agenda with a focus on Africa.
There is also a need to ensure the adequate participation of developing nations, especially low-income countries, in global decision-making. Inequitable and unjustifiable governance arrangements still characterize crucial international institutions. We must make speedy and substantial progress towards governance reform in the international system.
For many of these issues, the Monterrey follow-up process on financing for development is very important. We must seize the opportunities offered by the follow-up process to inject new strength into our global partnership for development.
Earlier this year, at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session in Geneva, I was impressed by the quality of the first Annual Ministerial Review of progress towards the development goals. I was also pleased by the launch of the Development Cooperation Forum. I congratulate this Group on the important role you played in strengthening ECOSOC. We must now build on this achievement.
The triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities provides an opportunity to carry this effort forward. The review will shape the UN system’s support to development efforts at the country level for the next three years.
We must enhance our ability to deliver results consistently and effectively. That is why I am committed to reforming the UN, including by enhancing system-wide coherence, so that the Organization can more effectively tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century. I hope this Group will participate actively in that process.
I also hope you will be actively engaged in confronting the global challenge of climate change, which is a serious threat to development everywhere. Global warming must not be allowed to undermine our hard-won development gains. We all have to play our part. I count on your support as we move forward on this most crucial issue.
We have come a long way in advancing the UN development agenda. All stakeholders and especially you -- the developing countries -- can be proud of what has been achieved so far. Still, many disparities exist among regions and among nations. And an implementation gap remains between promises and delivery.
The success of efforts to close these gaps and disparities depends on the continued active role of the Group of 77 and China. I assure you that the United Nations system will do its utmost to support your efforts.
I look forward to working with you towards our shared objective of creating a better world for all of us.