UN Headquarters

12 January 2018

Remarks at Handover Ceremony of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China

António Guterres

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

I wanted to express my deep gratitude for this invitation.  I was here one year ago when Ecuador assumed the Presidency, I’m here again.  We had several meetings during the year, so I feel very much at home.

And I want to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for what the Presidency of Ecuador, Minister Espinosa, has guaranteed during this year: An excellent cooperation between the Group of 77 and the Secretariat and particularly an excellent cooperation in the relations between the Mission of Ecuador and my own Office.

Ecuador is also a country, as you know, that is very dear to my heart.  For ten years as a High Commissioner for Refugees, I have always seen the border of Ecuador open, in a world where so many borders are being closed, and I have always seen the refugees in Ecuador having access to public services, to jobs, to full rights, which again is something that we are not seeing everywhere in today’s world. And this example is something that I shall never forget. So my deep gratitude and my deep appreciation to Ecuador and to your Presidency.  

And it is with large expectations that I see Egypt, and Ambassador Amr Aboulatta, assuming the Chairmanship. Egypt is one of the main sources of global civilization; your history, your culture, have been influencing the whole world for millennia. But Egypt plays a very important role - both a political, cultural, economic role, not only in the region, but in the very genesis of what the Group of 77 and China represent. 

I was a boy, but I remember seeing President Nasser in Bandung, I know that the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 and China is not exactly the same thing, but I believe they are two faces of the same vision of the world and the pioneering role of Egypt in building that vision is something that we should all recognise. Our expectations in relation to the Egyptian Presidency are – as you can imagine- very high. 

I would like to thank you very much for the role that the Group of 77 has played in this first year of my mandate.  You have been a central pillar in the defense of multilateralism, and these are not easy times for multilateralism, and you have been absolutely crucial in making sure that development remains in the centrality of the action in the United Nations. And again, this is not always easy. 

The Group of 77 has also played a very important role – and I am very grateful for that – in avoiding a dramatic reduction in our budget and in preserving the development sector in those negotiations. I want to express my deep appreciation for that fact.  And in the Group of 77 I have seen an extremely constructive and positive partner in all the discussions that led to the resolutions of the General Assembly and its bodies in relation to the reform of the United Nations. 

Again, I am extremely grateful for that fact and extremely appreciative of the very important contribution that was given by the Group of 77. I would like to say that when I heard the priorities of the Egyptian Presidency, I found that I could eventually stop by saying that we could fully agree with those priorities, but allow me for just some brief comments. First, a strong commitment to keep development in the centre of our activities and in the centre of the engagement of the Secretariat, and we have a blueprint for that, Agenda 2030, and we fully recognize the leadership of Member States in the implementation of the Agenda, and we are ready to support Member States, both from the point of view of accountability of our action at global level with ECOSOC and with the General Assembly and from the point of view of the support to governments through country teams around the world. The centrality of development and eradication of poverty is its most important element, but all the others that were referred to by the distinguished Ambassador of Egypt are absolutely crucial for us all and you can be certain that I will do everything possible to increase the capacity of the Secretariat to more effectively and more transparently support Member States in this implementation. 

One of the things that, for me, is obvious is that we need to make sure that the agenda of the implementation of Agenda 2030 in each country is a national agenda. And that is one of the key aspects of the reform that we are presenting for the UN development system.

We send country teams with empowered leadership but country teams that have centrality in their DNA and country teams that are there to serve the priorities established nationally. That is the reason why we are there to propose that the funding of the offices of the resident coordinators to be based on assessed contributions, going naturally through the Fifth Committee and through the process of approval in the General Assembly instead of by simple voluntary contributions, because we want the agenda of development of each country and of the support of the United Nations to each country to be the agenda defined by the country and not the agenda defined by donors that, in each moment, may have different objectives - sometimes even contradictory objectives, and creating if there’s not enough coherence in the country group and leadership in the country group, creating difficulties even in the management and the coordination of the governments themselves.

This is a very clear commitment I want to express here and with full agreement in relation to the different priorities that were mentioned – the question of jobs, and especially jobs for the youth, the priorities related to the empowerment of women, the priorities related to the need to make sure that new technologies serve the people and serve the people with more justice, that the digital divide is overcome and all the other aspects that were referred.

But in particular, allow me to say that we have a very solid commitment in relation to climate action. We cannot be defeated by climate change and we are not yet winning this battle.  And it is clear to me that the biggest victims of climate change are members of the G77, namely African countries affected by drought or small island countries affected by the kind of hurricanes that we have seen or the rising levels of waters. But at the same time, of the largest economies of the world the two largest economies of the G77 are strongly committed to the leadership in climate action - and I refer to China and India.

And in a moment when others are failing, I see the largest economies of the Group of 77 and China to be assuming the leadership in climate action to make sure that we don’t suffer the dramatic and devastating impacts of climate change, as unfortunately we are already witnessing and things will get much worse if we are not able to defeat this threat.

Then, I need to say that your role in shaping the debate about human mobility and particularly the two compacts that are on the table is very important.  We cannot accept that when so many people talk about human rights that the human rights of migrants are forgotten. And sometimes is paradoxical that some that are the most outspoken about human rights are the less concerned about the human rights of migrants. It is absolutely sure that we are able to have an agenda on migration that is a positive agenda and that the promotion of regular migration, of more opportunities of legal migration, is in the centre of any engagement of the international community – the only way to allow us to crack down on traffickers and smugglers and to protect their victims and to fight those horrible things that we have been witnessing, with people sacrificing their lives or with forms of modern slavery that are unfortunately recently became so clear in the images that we all witnessed.

A very clear agenda centred on people and on the dignity of people is what we believe is necessary in relation to the compact on migration and the compact on asylum. And we count on the Group of 77 to be in the centre of that debate. 

On the other hand, I believe we share the same concern of a more democratic United Nations, with power divided in a more balanced way and with more effective diversity in the regional representation at all bodies of the United Nations. Of course, the centre of that is in the reform of the Security Council, it is in the revitalization of the General Assembly, but one thing that I am strongly committed at the Secretariat level – and that is one of the reasons of the management reform that we have proposed – is to make sure that, at that the level of the Secretariat, that increased diversity and that balance of power is established.   

If you look at the composition of the leadership and of the technical capacity of today’s Executive Office, and compare it with the past, you’ll see that there is a much more effective regional diversity and a much more balanced distribution of the different responsibilities and posts, and this is exactly the kind of development that I’d like to see across the board in the UN system and one of the reasons why I’m asking for a little bit more freedom in my own capacity of action, in order to be able to overcome bureaucratic impediments to make it more effective at a global level.

Of course, it comes directly with what our President said, it comes directly with more effective transparency and more effective accountability in everything we do [with] Member States and I know that the Group of 77 will be particularly attentive to the need to make sure that any reform gives an effective contribution to a more balanced and democratic United Nations where power is better distributed and justice can prevail more easily.

I do believe that the Group of 77 has a very important role to play not only in a multilateral world but in a world where international relations have more justice, and in relation to this there is a final question that I’d like to raise and that is the question related to the financing of development and the financing of climate action. Here, I want to say that we will be totally committed to make sure that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda is implemented, totally committed to make sure that the engagements assumed by States in relation to development aid are met, both in relation to development aid in general and in relation to climate action, and namely the $100 billion dollars after 2020 for the support of mitigation and adaptation in the developing world. 

At the same time, I would like to underline something that was already said by our President. The truth is that when we see the efforts, and those efforts need to be enhanced, of countries to mobilize their own resources, it is necessary to create the conditions for those resources not to be diverted as we see today by tax evasion, illicit transfer of funds and money laundering. If we look at a continent like Africa, the money that illegally leaves Africa is bigger than all the development aid to Africa. 

This was a priority in the Ecuadoran Presidency; I see that this remains a priority in the Egyptian Presidency. We will be totally committed to support you in relation to this objective. Let us make sure that commitments that were made are implemented but let us also make sure that the way international systems work do not undermine the capacity of Member States to mobilize their own resources and to be masters of their own development processes. 

Once again, thank you very much for this invitation and you can count on my total cooperation in relation to the objectives that you, Mr. President, have outlined as the priorities of the G77 in the next year.