(Geneva, 17 March 2011)

Thank you, Your Excellency, Ambassador Reyes.

Excellencies and distinguished ladies and gentlemen allow me at the very outset to express profound gratitude to His Excellency Ambassador Reyes and to congratulate him most sincerely for an excellent Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China in Geneva during 2010. Your performance was outstanding and truly impressive. Undoubtedly it is a hard act to follow! Be forewarned that it is usually said that the reward of work well done is more work.   

At this juncture I would like to join Ambassador Reyes in thanking the Secretary General  Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi for the highly valued support which UNCTAD continues to accord to the Geneva Chapter of the Group of 77 and China.  I do look forward to the continuation of that support through the ever so vigilant and energetic Mr. Bautista and his able and vibrant team.

Permit me Excellencies to also join in recognizing the ever so eloquent and an analyst par excellence Mr. Martin Khor, the Executive Director of the South Centre. The South Centre is a major pillar of strength to the Geneva Chapter of G 77 and China.

May I also thank you all, Excellencies, for coming to this short ceremony. I do feel distinctly honoured and especially privileged but at the same time humbled by the occasion.

In 2009 the international community set its focus on the aspirations and concerns of the Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs). In 2010 focus turned to reviewing progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) front. We are in the aftermath of the worst global recession since the Great Depression whose effects are still being felt globally causing social tensions and strive in many societies. In 2011 great things will be happening. Attention of the international community will be glued on the UN Least Developed Countries IV Conference scheduled to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, May 9 – 13, 2011. UNCTAD has done much to prepare for that Conference. In July there is the Global Review of Aid for Trade under the WTO wing. Again in July this year ECOSOC is due to be convened in Geneva. There is also going to be the Third South Summit in 2011. At the same time the winding up of the implementation of the Accra Accord remains on the agenda. Meantime preparations for UNCTAD XIII, which is due to take place in Doha, Qatar, in April 2012, have already started in earnest and are intensifying (gathering speed and deepening intensity). The Doha Development Round of Trade Negotiations continue to lumber along with unpredictable future. Be that as it may, the development dimension must be factored in sufficiently and preserved.

Dear colleagues, evidently we have much to do in the year ahead.  We have the responsibility to continue to carry out our tasks in the regular work of the intergovernmental machinery of UNCTAD.  We must persist in articulating and promoting interests and objectives of G 77 and China through the work of the commissions, and the regular work of the Trade and Development Board (TDB) including through its regular sessions.  At the same time we have the added duty to continue with the preparations for UNCTAD XIII as indicated earlier.

It promises to be a heavy agenda facing us. It is truly a formidable challenge. As the Chair of the Geneva Chapter I wish to pledge that my team and I will do all that is necessary to ensure our collective success.  I will be faithful in pursuing your aspirations, tackling your concerns and defending your interests; doing all that with you as a team. Hence in that endeavour I will be counting on all of you to continue to exert the usual selfless effort with dedication to the Group and to maintain the support which you so generously extended to my dear colleague and predecessor, Ambassador Reyes.

As we gear up for the year ahead, allow me to underscore what I consider to be priority areas in which I will count on your unreserved support. These will be implemented only with your concurrence:

First, it is my wish to continue with the institutional strengthening of the Geneva Chapter.  As Ambassador Reyes pointed out earlier the first Chairman's Background Note has been circulated.  This innovation has proven to be an effective way to promote and preserve the cohesiveness of the Group, while at the same time serving as a means of strengthening institutional memory.  We also look forward to the reinstitution of the long-established practice of appointing a Vice Chairperson of the Geneva Chapter in good time.  I also call upon my fellow Ambassadors to take a personal and direct interest in UNCTAD activities, especially given the strategic importance of UNCTAD XIII.

Second, it will be worthwhile to further strengthen the already excellent relationship between the Geneva Chapter and UNCTAD without compromising the interests of the Group.  I look forward to the continued strengthening of the symbiotic relationship between the Group of 77 and China and UNCTAD.  In this regard, I hope that the Chair and the regional chairmen will intensify their consultations with the Secretary General, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, perhaps through regular meetings to discuss ways and means of enhancing cooperation including in the context of UNCTAD XIII preparations. 

Third, you will undoubtedly agree that we look forward to an outcome of UNCTAD XIII which takes into account the collective interests and objectives of all developing countries.  In order to accomplish this, we must harness the full capacity and potential of the Group, including that of the other chapters.  We look forward to working more closely and cordially with them in the context of UNCTAD XIII, as well as the various other development-related processes including the Third South Summit.  To this end I will work towards holding of a chapters' meeting in Geneva in July in the sidelines of the substantive session of ECOSOC.

Further, I look forward to strengthening the institutional relationship between the units supporting the various chapters of the Group in order to maximize the benefit which the global Group of 77 and China reaps from their support. I therefore look forward to the possibility for organizing a meeting of the various liaison chiefs in the sidelines of the ECOSOC as well.  I look to Dr. Supachai's support in this regard.

Fifth, we will continue with our efforts to fully implement the development wiki in time for the UNCTAD XIII negotiations, and I join Ambassador Reyes in thanking the Government of China for its unwavering support.

Sixth, we will also endeavour to organize capacity building activities. That will include doing so in cooperation with UNCTAD and the South Centre.  Capacity building remains a high priority. It is pivotal.

Finally, at this point I wish to announce organisation of an ambassadorial-level retreat for the Group at which I hope their excellencies, my fellow ambassadors, will set the political direction and guidance on various key issues for our experts so as to light their path for the rest of the year.  It is also my hope and prayer that such a retreat will contribute towards catalysing the personal and direct involvement of the Permanent Representatives, especially in the context of the preparations for UNCTAD XIII.

Clearly the agenda of 2011 dovetails well with 2010 excellent work done by my predecessor. 2011 programme amounts to working towards the fulfillment of that work. The challenges and aspirations of G-77 and China membership remain the same.

Before I open the floor for delegations that may wish to speak, permit me to once again thank Ambassador Reyes and his team, especially his colleague Fidel, who did so much for this Group. He spared no effort in ensuring its success. I also wish to thank the Group Liaison Unit for their commendable work in the last year, and I look forward to their maintaining that level of support and even enhancing it in the year ahead. I thank the African Group for forwarding my name for this monumental task which under no circumstances do I under-rate. I thank you all for accepting that nomination. It is indeed an honour and a privilege.

Allow me to endorse and fully subscribe to the words of the Secretary General of UNCTAD regarding the tragedy that has befallen Japan. We are in solidarity with the authorities and people of Japan at this trying moment. We have them in our prayers.

Thank you for your kind attention.

The floor is now open for comments.