Statement by H.E. Mr. Pedro Luis Pedroso, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Cuba to UNEP and HABITAT during the assumption of the Chairmanship of the G-77 at the First General Council Meeting of the Group of 77 (Nairobi Chapter) for the year 2005 (Nairobi, 14 January 2005)

Excellencies and Distinguished Representatives,

It is with great honor and sense of commitment that I assume today the responsibility that you have decided to vest upon Cuba and on myself. I thank you all for my election as the Chairman of the Group of 77 and China, Nairobi Chapter, for the year 2005. In doing so, I also want to express my deepest gratitude to the Latin America and Caribbean Group for nominating me to this position. It is not only a privilege, but a challenge to translate this confidence in new gains for the collective interests of our Group vis a vis the work of UNEP and UN-HABITAT. I remain hopeful that with your full cooperation and support, I will be able to discharge my responsibilities in accordance with your expectations.

At this juncture, allow me also to acknowledge and convey my highest appreciation to H.E. Syed Zahid Hussain, High Commissioner of Pakistan, and outgoing Chairman of the G-77, and his team, for his role in leading the Group during 2004. The finalization of the Intergovernmental Strategic Plan for Capacity Building and Technology Support Cooperation is just, but a concrete example, that under the able leadership of Pakistan, the Group successfully managed to bring this Plan to reality.

During the year just concluded, we had the opportunity to mark the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of our Group, which was a significant occasion to reflect on the many challenges in the way forward and a reaffirmation of the validity and importance of the common action of the G-77 and China in the present international circumstances.

Distinguished colleagues, UNEP and HABITAT are the primary focus of the activities of the G-77 in Nairobi. This year, the 23rd and 20th Session of the Governing Councils of UNEP and HABITAT, and the fact that the 60th Session of the General Assembly will be undertaking the five year review of the Millennium Development Goals, constitute formidable opportunities to continue playing and reinforcing our pro-active approach to tackle the challenges before us.

Issues like the International Environmental Governance, including the debate on the question of granting universal membership to the Governing Council of UNEP, should be top on our agenda, even if we still don't have a common position. Moreover, the implementation of the Intergovernmental Strategic Plan on Capacity Building and Technology Support is of the utmost importance to the G-77 and China. It is our responsibility that the Plan is now given ways and means to be operational. In that respect, we need to give high priority to the decision that will be taken in the next 23rd Session of the Governing Council of UNEP.

The Work Programme and Budgets of both UNEP and HABITAT is also an important matter under the Agenda of the respective Governing Councils in which we should focus our attention. We don't have time to waste. As the Sessions of both Governing Councils approach, I intend to call as soon as possible a joint meeting of the G-77 UNEP and HABITAT Working Groups to look at our preparation, coordination and priorities. For other issues in the global agenda relevant to the work of UNEP and HABITAT, coordination with the other Chapters of the Group, and in particular with New York, will be essential if we are going to play an effective role in various international fora.

Dear colleagues, the last weeks have been tinted with the pain caused by the hundred of thousands of lives lost and million of people displaced and turned homeless as a result of the devastation caused by the Tsunamis. On behalf of Cuba and on my own, I wish to convey once again our deepest condolences to our brothers and sisters affected by this major catastrophe.

The rehabilitation and reconstruction will not be a matter of weeks or months. It is imperative that the international community coordinate a strategy that allows for a sustained and long term assistance in the recovery process. I am happy to see that both UNEP and HABITAT are taking steps to participate in that international effort.

Last but not least, I want to thank the Executive Directors of UNEP and UN-HABITAT, as well as their Secretariats, for all the assistance given to the G-77. I also hope to continue working together with them and to count on their support on issues of the interests of our Group.

I thank you very much.