(Geneva, 12 February 2008)

Mr Chairman,
Secretary General of UNCTAD,
Distinguished guests,

It is a great honour for me, on behalf of my country to take over today, the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China. I wish to thank most sincerely H E Ambassador Urbizo who has very ably led the group over the past year. I also thank the African Group for nominating me to serve in this capacity. I thank UNCTAD's Secretary General and his team for their steady support to the group and assure them of my own personal desire to work together with them to continue to advance the goals of the group - the unique goals that continue to strengthen the symbiotic relationship between the UNCTAD Secretariat and the G77 and China from the time the two were established way back in 1964. It was an auspicious beginning indeed.

Although a challenging tasks, leading the group is also exciting, a huge privilege and a major opportunity to contribute to members' trade and development aspirations. I am glad that Ambassador Urbizo, as Chairman of the overall group, and Ambassador Clodoaldo Hugueney of Brazil, Chairman of the Preparatory Committee of the G77 and China for UNCTAD XII, whom I also thank very much for ably leading the group in the negotiations of the UNCTAD XII Text, have both laid a solid foundation for the tasks ahead. With all of your continued support, we should prevail.

Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen;

I takeover this Chairmanship at a time when UNCTAD is at a crossroads - crossroads because of the disquieting dynamics taking place in the global economy which create major challenges and opportunities at the beginning of the new millennium. Developing countries are now a major locomotive in the world economy. South - South trade now is the most dynamic component of sources for development among developing countries. Hence the enormity of these two new realities in the global economy. At this time, there has been a resurgence in demand for commodities and the prospect that commodity - dependent developing countries may be able to generate benefits or windfalls from this new source to launch their economies on a sustainable growth path so that they may raise the per capital income of millions and thereby reduce poverty. These developments and the policy response of the international community to them reinforce the centrality of the role of UNCTAD in shaping policies supportive of development in favour of developing countries. Therefore, at a time of such challenges and opportunities, it becomes most important to realise why UNCTAD's mandate in all the three pillars of its work should be reinforced and not diminished.

Is it not simply amazing that today we see big developed countries making bee-lines to the economic giants of Asia, emerging economies!, literally begging these to invest in their countries in the North! How will other developing countries cope in this crowded stampede for capital from the South?

Equally important is the fact that if we are going to address these issues together as member states, we need a strong partnership between developed and developing countries, not only for UNCTAD XII but, even more importantly, beyond. My plea is that we must use this organisation in cooperation to manage these global changes for the benefit of development and poverty reduction. Consequently, setting an agenda for the next four years requires focusing on concrete outcomes as this is one way that we can put UNCTAD at the centre of managing the first phase of globalisation led by the more advanced developing countries. It is one way in which we can position the organisation where it can make a real difference by achieving results where they are needed. Let us make UNCTAD XII do exactly that , lets empower it to realise its mandates!

Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen;

I wish to voice the need for our group to, at the very least, maintain and more usefully, strengthen its main anchors, which have made it possible to progress and achieve many important goals as well as solve challenges confronting us over the years. One such anchor is the unity, despite our diversity. Over the years the group has remained solidly united. Our priority now is UNCTAD XII. I know that our Brazilian Chairmanship of the negotiations is going well. Although we have busy schedules in Geneva owing to many other issues in several organisations, I intend to actively participate and assist in any way possible. I intend to use transparency and consultations as much as possible. The Secretariat's facilitating role to our group is important and should be strengthened. Our priority too, is how to translate the mandate that we will be adopting at UNCTAD XII into the organisation's work programme with sufficient resources attached to it in order to ensure that the organisation may deliver to our collective expectation.

As we appeal to our development partners for adequate resources for the intergovernmental work of UNCTAD, we must assure them of our resolve to work in cooperation with them. Confrontation has no place where we desire advancement for all.

My personal and humble pledge to my distinguished colleagues is that they will rightly own any success we realise in this endeavour. Any failure, I should bear responsibility for as appropriate.

Thank you.