(Geneva, 3 October 2022)

Chair of the 84th Session of the Working Party Ambassador Long Kemvichet of Cambodia,
Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Madam Rebeca Grynspan,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Mr. Chairman, this is my first statement in my new capacity as Chair of the Group of 77 and China. I would like to express my appreciation to the Group for the trust they have placed in me and to offer my cooperation to the Secretary-General and to other regional groups, so that we can work together for a stronger UNCTAD and for a fairer and more prosperous world.

1. The Group of 77 and China would like to start by congratulating you, Mr. Chair, on your election to preside over this 84th session of the Working Party on the Programme Plan and Programme Performance, as well as Mr. Mehdi Remaoun of Algeria on his election as Vice Chair-cum-Rapporteur. We are confident that under your joint leadership we will have a productive meeting.

2. Once again, we wish to express our appreciation to Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan, as her presence and engagement confirm the importance of the discussions taking place in the Working Party. Our Group would like to reiterate our view that the Working Party is the right forum for member States to exercise the oversight on the implementation of the mandates and work programme of the Secretariat. Therefore, the engagement of management at its highest level is welcome and appreciated by our Group.

3. As we gather for this Working Party, our Group is keen to engage in a constructive conversation around the three main issues before us for this session: the review of technical cooperation activities; the preparatory session on the programme plan for 2024; and the review of evaluation activities, most notably the report of the evaluation of UNCTAD's Subprogramme 1 on globalization and development strategies.

Mr. Chair, I would like to make some general comments on behalf of our Group about these three topics.

4. On the review of technical cooperation activities, our Group takes positive note of the rebound of extra-budgetary funding of over 50% to an all-time high of over 50 million US dollars. We noted in the report how several developed countries have increased their voluntary contributions to UNCTAD, with Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands having taken the three top spots of UNCTAD donors. Our Group would like to express our gratitude to all donors for their financial contributions during this period and acknowledge the increased commitment to UNCTAD in line with the plight for support of the countries of the South and our development aspirations.

5. While recognizing the increased support, which in itself is a positive trend, our Group would also like to reiterate the need to put in place some form of matching mechanisms to ensure a better alignment of donor funds and beneficiary requirements, considering that over 200 requests of technical assistance from beneficiary countries in the period 2018 2021 remain without funding. This is of course directly linked to the resource mobilization efforts that have been announced by the secretariat as a follow up to the technical cooperation strategy, so we look forward on hearing advancements on this front.

6. Our Group will provide more detailed comments under specific areas of the review of technical cooperation activities as we move on to the informal session with the relevant officials later today.

7. In connection to the preparatory session for the programme plan for 2024, the Group would like to thank the secretariat for providing a non-paper in advance of the meeting to facilitate the discussion. Nevertheless, the group still believes that its distribution should be earlier, to allow groups to better coordinate internally. The Group sees a marked improvement in comparison with the previous non-paper issued in 2021, which was the first one under the new terms-of-reference of the Working Party. Nevertheless, we do feel that targeted improvements are needed in terms of coherence among the contributions of each Subprogramme, quality and clarity of some indicators, relevance of lessons learned, alignment with mandates and with agreed terminology, and on the overall quality of the report;

8. As for the review of technical cooperation, our Group will actively engage with the relevant Divisions and secretariat officials during the informal sessions starting on Wednesday, in order to raise our specific comments and concerns. While we are here in the formal opening, our Group would like to reiterate our comments made earlier this year in the context of the 2023 programme plan, and express its support to Secretary-General Grynspan, including through our interface with our New York Chapter, to ensure the approval of UNCTAD's programme plan, budget and the proposed initiatives issued. We are committed to transforming UNCTAD to a stronger organisation in line with the Bridgetown Covenant, to more effectively serve the interests of developing countries.

9. We also wish to benefit from the presence of the Secretary-General to put on record our initial reactions to two specific elements that have been mentioned. Number one is the request that the Group of 77 and China has made on several occasions, which was also accompanied by other regional groups, for a multi-year plan with measurable indicators, for the implementation of the Bridgetown Covenant. We take note of the comments of the Secretary-General in this connection and look forward to receiving a plan in the form of a consolidated document. We would like to emphasise the time element as we are already one year into the cycle covered by the Bridgetown Covenant and we are faced with the possibility of a slightly shorter quadrennium due to the disruptions to the timing of UNCTAD 15 generated by the pandemic. The group highlights that the aim of this consolidated document is to monitor the advancement in the implementation of the Covenant.

10. The second issue refers to the comments of the Secretary-General about the implementation of a results-based management framework for the work of the UNCTAD secretariat. Developing countries are naturally the most interested in ensuring that development interventions generate tangible results and impact. Our Group has however spoused some concerns in the past about the feasibility of applying RBM to all pillars of the work of UNCTAD, and we emphasize that the focus should be on the technical assistance pillar, giving due consideration to the guidance of member States and the political and multilateral nature of decision-making. We therefore wish to call for due engagement of member States as the implementation of the RBM framework moves forward.

Mr. Chair,

11. Turning to the item on evaluation of UNCTAD activities, our Group would like to take a moment to make some comments, in particular about the evaluation of subprogramme 1. At the outset, our Group wishes to reiterate its view that evaluation is not only a requirement of the internal mechanisms of the secretariat and an indispensable element of solid project and programme management, but an exercise that our Group values as a means of constant improvement.

12. We would also want to put on the record our appreciation for the evaluation team, Mr. Aitor Pérez and our fellow diplomats Ms. Helga Matos and Mr. Niwa Dwitama, as well as to the staff of the Division of Globalization and Development Strategies, of the Independent Evaluation Unit and others who supported this exercise. We are cognisant of the amount of time and effort that you have dedicated and continue to dedicate to this effort.

13. The Group hopes that taking a step back and assessing the implementation of the work under subprogramme 1, has triggered an internal reflection within the Secretariat, and secured a commitment of action in the form of a management response, which is already a success. However, this does not mean that the group agrees with all findings and in particular the recommendations made. We will nevertheless engage in more detail with the evaluation team and the Secretary-General tomorrow in order to identify an appropriate balance of actions to improve the work, efficiency and outcomes of the work of Subprogramme 1.

Mr. Chair,

14. Before we close, we would like to raise an issue of a procedural nature, with your indulgence. Our Group would like to point out the fact that the terms of reference for the Working Party of the Programme Plan and Programme Performance establish a duration of the current session of "up to four days, with one day break in between). It would be better if some of the features of the current session can be streamlined, for instance by doing away with the division-by-division presentation of technical cooperation activities report. Doing so, will allow more members to be able to fully participate the event.

I thank you, Mr. Chair.