Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the handover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, held today:
It’s an honour to join you today. I commend Guinea for its leadership throughout last year. And I congratulate Pakistan as it assumes the Chairmanship for 2022.
I am ready and looking forward to working closely with Ambassador Munir Akram in the next year. On the other hand, I will never forget my 10 years as High Commissioner for Refugees. I will never forget the generosity of Pakistan hosting millions of Afghan refugees, even until now, and the exemplary partnership that I always had from Pakistan. So, it is with high expectations that I look forward to my cooperation with the presidency of the Group.
The work of the Group of 77 and China is pivotal. Individually and collectively, your members are not only strong supporters of the United Nations. You are keeping the views, concerns and ideas of the developing world at the centre of the United Nations’ discussions and decisions. You have been instrumental in shaping new United Nations initiatives to support developing countries.
You are stewards for poverty reduction and achieving the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] and the Sustainable Development Goals and the threats as it was said by the honourable Minister. Since 2017, you have been core supporters of my reforms, and more recently of my report on Our Common Agenda. And you are bringing the spirit of multilateralism to life at a decisive moment for all countries — but especially for developing countries.
The challenges we face today are felt most acutely in the countries you represent, and we need action on multiple fronts. First — in tackling the pandemic guided by fairness and equity. Omicron is a grim reminder that stopping the spread anywhere must be at the top of the agenda everywhere.
Last fall, the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled a strategy to vaccinate 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of last year, and 70 per cent by the middle of this year. We are nowhere near these targets.
We need all countries and all manufacturers to prioritize vaccine supply to COVAX and to the developing world and to support the local production around the world of tests, vaccines [and] treatments by countries that have the capacity to do so but need the adequate support and the legal instruments in relation to licenses. Throughout, we need to speak out against restrictions that penalize developing countries — we need no more what I called “travel apartheid”. And we need to prepare for the next pandemic with bold investments in health surveillance and response systems in every country.
Second — developing countries need a global financial system that works for them. The current system is broken. It denies developing countries the resources, the debt relief and investments they need to recover. And it’s contributing to a lopsided recovery.
To emerge from the pandemic and rescue the Sustainable Development Goals, Governments must have the fiscal space to invest in all the systems that support human development. This includes strong health, education and social protection systems, job creation and major transitions in energy, food systems and connectivity. They also need scaled-up and affordable finance to combat climate change and build future resiliency.
But as we meet today, more than 8 out of 10 recovery dollars are being spent in developed countries. Low-income countries are experiencing their slowest growth in a generation. And the economic challenges making global headlines — record inflation, tighter monetary policies, high interest rates and soaring energy and food prices — are magnified in developing countries.
We must support them in their hour of need.
That means a number of concrete actions, including urgent debt restructuring and reforms of the long-term debt architecture, to give countries breathing room as they invest in recovery, resilience and a sustainable future. The Common Framework for Debt Treatment must be made effective and expanded to middle-income countries — and private sector creditors must engage with it — because no developing country should be punished for applying for urgently needed relief.
It means bringing together Governments, the financial sector and international financial institutions to build up private investment in developing countries. And it means addressing the global tax system, illicit financial flows and corruption to ensure funding streams reach those who need it most.
Third — developing countries need support for real climate action in mitigation and adaptation. The consequences of a changing climate have been devastating for many of them: mass displacement; natural disasters; ruined crops and famines; competition for scarce resources; rising seas. To have any hope of achieving the global community’s 1.5-degree goal, the science tells us that we need a meaningful reduction in global emissions by 2030. Yet global emissions are now set, according to the nationally determined contributions, to increase by 14 per cent this decade.
To keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach, all countries need to do their part. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities must be respected, with developed countries taking the lead.
But reaching the 1.5-degree goal demands that all countries take action. Nationally determined contributions must collectively deliver the 45 per cent emissions reduction needed by 2030 — with every sector on a trajectory to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Climate plans must be revisited and updated — every year if possible, and by all countries — so they reflect progress made and the highest levels of ambition to keep 1.5 alive.
But for that, developing countries must see their support — financial support and technological support — hugely increased. Wealthier countries must finally deliver already in 2022 on the $100 billion annual climate finance commitment to developing countries and address the long-standing shortcomings in the global financial architecture. And this $100 billion is just a drop in the ocean of the financial needs that must be mobilized by developed countries, by international financial institutions and also by the private sector if properly supported by those international financial institutions.
Countries must live up to the commitment made in Glasgow to double adaptation finance — we will even need more but we also must make it easier for developing countries to access those funds — while supporting developing countries’ adaptation efforts. Because it is in developing countries that we see more needs of adaptation due to the dramatic consequences of climate change.
The past two years have seen some progress, but it needs to happen faster and at a much larger scale. Ambition must be matched by political will and the availability of resources to make it happen. To help developing countries accelerate the transition from coal to renewable energy and to green their economies, I’ve been calling for the creation of coalitions of support.
These coalitions should include developed countries, financial institutions and those with the technical know-how to help countries make these necessary shifts.
Finally, as we move forward on these three urgent areas, we also have a number of important upcoming milestones that will require your active participation and guidance. July’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development — along with the rescheduled Least Developed Countries Conference — will be important opportunities to support developing countries as they move towards recovery and resilience.
The conferences focusing on biodiversity and oceans will be opportunities for new commitments to protect our planet and the species that call it home with effective support to developing countries. And I look forward to working with this group — and all Member States — to continue strengthening the Economic and Social Council and the work of the General Assembly’s committees.
At this critical moment, the world needs a strong and effective United Nations to deliver results for all people, no matter where they live. Our reforms are crucial to this objective, and we’ve made significant progress over the last few years. The pandemic was an early test and showed that our reforms worked. It enabled us to quickly adjust our business operations and respond to the needs of countries.
As we build on these gains, the continued support of Member States is crucial — particularly with respect to the annual programme budget. The annual cycle has greatly improved the accuracy of our estimates, and our ability to rapidly adapt and improve operations in the midst of the pandemic and an epic financial crisis.
I also want to thank the Group of 77 and China for your recent strong support of our regular budget proposals for 2022. That support ensured the adoption of a reasonable budget level that will help us fulfil our mandates this year even if I fully agree that we need to rebalance what is today financed with assessed contributions and what comes from voluntary contributions. We need an effective global agenda supported by effective global instruments.
As always, our mandate implementation will greatly depend on the early and full payment by all Member States of their contributions, especially the ones with larger ones.
At the same time, I have asked senior managers to ensure that they do even more to advance not only gender parity but equitable geographical representation in filling the vacant posts that an improved financial situation will now allow. I am absolutely committed to ensuring that our staff better reflect the international character of our Organization.
The Group of 77 and China is a vital part of our work. Your engagement and promotion of developing country priorities — and your support to our Organization — will be needed now, more than ever. I look forward to continued collaboration and partnership over the coming year. Thank you.