(Geneva, 15 March 2010)

Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD,
Mr. Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre,
Distinguished Colleagues,

We are gathered here today on the occasion of the handover ceremony of the chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, Geneva Chapter.

Let me begin by thanking Secretary-General Supachai, for finding the time in his busy schedule to be with us here today. We are honoured by his presence and look forward to hearing his thoughts later on.

I also wish to warmly welcome Mr. Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre, and thank him for joining us at this meeting.

At the last meeting of the Group of 77 and China, the Group endorsed the nomination of Cuba as the Chair of the Group for the year 2010. I therefore wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to His Excellency Ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez of Cuba for assuming the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, Geneva Chapter. I am truly confident that Ambassador Reyes's competent leadership and extensive experience will enable him to carry out his new duties with great distinction and success.

Allow me to say a few words before we proceed with the official ceremony.

The handover ceremony is a chance for us to take stock and reflect on what we, as a group, have accomplished over the past year. It is also an opportunity to set the agenda for the future, which, I am confident, Ambassador Reyes will be discussing with you at a later stage.

Throughout Thailand's chairmanship, we focused on two important goals. The first is to ensure faithful implementation of the Accra Accord. The second goal is for the Group of 77 and China to remain relevant, not only in the context of UNCTAD, but also to a broader discourse of the global economy, especially during a time where the global financial and economic crisis has adversely affected development processes of developing countries.

At the outset, I am pleased to see that there has been some steady progress in the implementation of the Accra Accord, at the heart of which is the issue of resources. Over the past year, the Group has played a constructive role and succeeded, to some degree, in bringing the importance of UNCTAD's development work to the attention of the Fifth Committee in New York. The Group would certainly need to continue to focus on this issue. But I hope that this has somehow led to greater ability of the UNCTAD Secretariat to mobilize more resources toward activities in support of development in Africa, Least-Developed Countries, and those with special needs and problems.

In addition to this, we also promoted the importance of South-South cooperation, the concept which Dr. Supachai himself has advocated as the new drivers of growth. In light of the current economic recession, the role of emerging economies as key players to enhance the potential for South-South cooperation has become more essential than ever. One example is the adoption of the GSTP ministerial decision on modalities, which took place in December last year. Another is the successful convening of the UN Conference on South-South Cooperation in Nairobi, where we made substantive contributions to the outcome of the meeting through the New York Chapter.

Turning to the role of the Group of 77 and China in the broader context, the Geneva Chapter conveyed its views and perspectives to contribute to the negotiations leading up to the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development in New York. These were reflected to some degree, perhaps not as much as we may have hoped for, in the final outcome of the Conference. But what is more important is the fact that we have utilized our collective influence and actively engaged in this exercise.

Apart from this, we also had an opportunity to express our collective views on the financial crisis through the Group's formal statements during the course of several meetings, including UNCTAD's very first public symposium in May. Furthermore, we organized various activities with the support of the South Centre throughout the year, which include briefing sessions on the outcome of the UN Conference on the financial crisis, as well as the joint workshop on climate change and the financial crisis, to name a few.

These are but some accomplishments that we have made during the past year. It is true, however, that much more remains to be done. As you may be well aware, there are a number of important events this year where we could play an effective role. Three particular examples come to mind, namely the MDGs Review Summit in September, the Third South Summit, and the review of the implementation of the Accra Accord during the Annual Session of the Trade and Development Board. I have full faith and confidence that our new Chairman, Ambassador Reyes and his team, will capably lead the Group to even more success in the important work ahead.

In order to accomplish these important tasks, I believe there are some issues that must be addressed.

First, we should strive to achieve unity, not only in terms of coming up with unified positions on particular issues, but also in terms of reaching out beyond respective groupings, forging our common grounds, and working toward a common agenda. We should maintain our focus on the two important areas of priorities, namely enhancing South-South cooperation and development in Africa, Least-Developed Countries, and countries with special needs, which cut across various subprogrammes within UNCTAD.

Second, we must utilize our collective influence and leverage by continuing to work closely with other Chapters. We should also make our presence felt in other related economic challenges and coordinate beyond the context of UNCTAD.

Third, I wish to reiterate the point made by Ambassador Chipaziwa of Zimbabwe during the handover ceremony last year that a greater level of engagement by ambassadors is welcomed in order to provide an impetus and policy guidance on the Group's priorities. This would in a way help reinvigorate the role of the Group of 77 and China as a whole.

Finally, it is incumbent upon us to strive to work together with our development partners in a spirit of cooperation and partnership. We should build bridges and engage constructively with them in order to achieve the objectives stipulated in the Accra Accord.

I wish to end my remarks by saying that all that we have accomplished would not have been possible without the support and inspiration of Dr. Supachai and the kind assistance of the UNCTAD Secretariat. I am pleased to see that under Dr. Supachai's intellectual leadership and dedication, UNCTAD has maintained and increased its role and relevance as a knowledge-based institution through which developed and developing countries, particularly members of the Group of 77 and China, exchange policy dialogues on issues relating to trade and development.

My special thanks also go to Mr. Martin Khor, Executive-Director of the South Centre, and his able team, who have rendered valuable intellectual support to the Group.

Most importantly, I wish to express my deepest and most sincere appreciation to all colleagues for your support and cooperation. I therefore wish to reiterate that as a long-standing member of the Group of 77 and China, Thailand will continue to play a constructive role and provide its full support to ensure further success of the Group of 77 and China.

Now I would like to give the floor to the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi.

(Dr. Supachai's statement)

Thank you, Dr. Supachai.

I would now like to give the floor to our guest, Mr. Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre. Mr. Khor, you have the floor.

(Mr. Khor's statement)

Dear colleagues, now I would like to invite Ambassador Reyes to assume his seat on the podium as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China.