Secretary-General's remarks at luncheon on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Group of 77
New York, 29 April 2004 - Thank you, Ambassador Al Nasser, for bringing us together today.
I am delighted to join you for this luncheon to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Group of 77. I think we can all agree that in the course of these four decades, the world has changed dramatically.
Forty years ago, some G-77 members had not yet gained independence.
The Cold War seemed a permanent feature of the global landscape.
And three years ago, few of us anticipated the events of 11 September 2001, or the changes that have followed them.
During these 40 years, the Group of-77 and its individual members have made key contributions in advancing the global development agenda.
You have played an important role in supporting the work of the United Nations on social, economic and environmental issues.
And as individual countries, many of you have made significant progress in the economic and social sphere.
All G-77 countries have achieved higher life expectancy and lower child mortality rates – but these gains are now being threatened by the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa.
Some have achieved spectacular economic growth.
But many have made only negligible economic progress, and others have even regressed.
Overall, the world has become a much more unequal place than it was 40 years ago.
If there is anything these years have taught us, it is that opportunities for development need to be more equally distributed.
Weaknesses in the international financial architecture were clearly revealed in many debt crises that we have seen over the last two decades.
Key issues yet to be addressed adequately include volatile private capital flows; unsustainable levels of external debt in many developing countries; lack of access to markets of developed countries; and restrictions on the movement of people from developing countries.
In addition, too many developing countries depend on the export of primary commodities for all or most of their foreign currency earnings. That makes them far too vulnerable to price declines and volatility.
Two thirds of developing nations depend on commodities for more than half of their export earnings. And for half of those nations, the revenues were generated by only three commodities.
All this underscores the need for international development cooperation to be based on a true partnership between the developed and developing world, as expressed in the outcomes and goals of major UN conferences, including the Millennium Development Declaration and Goals and the Monterrey Consensus.
That partnership must be based on shared responsibility and mutual accountability.
Only if both groups of countries fulfil their commitments can we hope to reach the Millennium Development Goals.
The economic and social changes of the past four decades have increased the diversity within your Group, while the political changes may have brought you closer together.
How should the G-77 respond to this? Obviously, the more unified you are, the stronger you are.
Allow me to suggest two ideas, both intended to help the Group speak with a more effective voice.
One, you may consider bringing together think-tanks and other institutions that can help in providing analytical inputs for your work in various multilateral forums.
Two, you may wish to establish a mechanism to ensure institutional memory and continuity, particularly in transitions between Chairs.
Finally, let me wish you every success in the coming years. I hope that members of the Group will work with the UN for the timely realization of the Millennium Development Goals.
Thank you very much.