"My country, Tanzania, is fully committed to working closely with friends to restoring the issue of development to the core of the U.N. agenda. I believe strongly that for peace and justice to be realized, there must be genuine development in the South."

G-77 Chairman says rest of decade decisive for Third World nations

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 20 (G-77/IPS) - After the election of his country for the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 for 1997, Tanzanian Foreign Minister J.M. Kikwete said the remainder of the present decade will be decisive for the world’s developing nations.

The Agenda for Development, the reform of the U.N. system, the U.N.’s financial crisis and the follow-up of the major U.N. conferences and summits and other related issues dealing with cooperation, growth and development will define, one way or another, the course of relations with industrial nations, he said.

“My country, Tanzania, is fully committed to working closely with friends and allies to restoring the issue of development to the core of the U.N. agenda. I believe strongly that for peace and justice to be realized, there must be genuine development in the South,” he said at the formal handing over of the chairmanship of the G-77 from Costa Rica to Tanzania.

U.N. Secretary-General addressing the turnover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77. Sitting on the podium are Mr. James Gustave Speth (left), Administrator of UNDP, and Ambassador Daudi N. Mwakawago of Tanzania (right), Chairman of the Group of 77.

The foreign minister said that international economic relations are most definitely power relations. It is not easy that the countries which exert control in the prevailing international system accept reforms aimed at correcting the prevailing economic and institutional inequalities.

“Only determined joint action by the countries of the South, based on clear development policies, a better utilization of their resources and capabilities and a solid strategy of economic cooperation, may offer possibilities for changing the current international economic system,” he said urging the Group of 77 to stand united.

He also said he will give the highest priority to South-South cooperation. The G-77, he said, should articulate a global strategy that may enable it to respond adequately to changes that take place in the world scene and which may translate into true negotiating capacity. “Otherwise we will progressively continue to be marginalized from the real world and our influence on the latter will continue to be virtually non-existent,” he warned.

The minister argued that the drop in demand for raw materials and commodities and the ’unbearable’ debt burden will continue to pose challenges for Southern nations.

He lauded recent efforts to develop ‘’clear and pragmatic directives’’ for cooperation among Southern countries at sectoral meetings in Guyana, Indonesia and, recently in Costa Rica. He said that he will launch consultations so that the tenth session of the Intergovernmental Follow-up and Coordination Committee (IFCC), which is to be held later this year or in early 1998 in Africa, will have adequate preparatory work.

Addressing the ceremony, the secretary-general of the U.N. Mr. Kofi Annan also drew attention to Africa’s special needs. ‘’We must spare no effort to build successfully on the political, economic and social initiatives taken by countries throughout the continent,’’ Annan said.

‘’We must spare no effort to ensure that the U.N. System-Wide Special Initiative on Africa has tangible and lasting results.’’ Lack of development, the U.N. chief argued, has been ‘’one of the root causes of instability and civil strife in the post-Cold War period’’.

He said that as he seeks to reform the United Nations, he would remain committed to development in the South as a key U.N. priority, and to the G-77’s role in that undertaking.

The President of the General Assembly Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia said the international community has awaited very closely the issue of development and the issue of development resource.
“This is an issue which has not sat very comfortably with us in the United Nations. Most of us feel that this issue has been pushed to the side,” he said.

“We have heard the assurance just now from the Secretary-General that he will try his best to bring the issue of development and development assistance and development programmes of the U.N. to the central consideration of the United Nations,” he said.

“But a lot has to do with us, and I will look forward to the ability of this Group to establish a U.N. system-wide consensus on both the conception and the standing of development as well as the kind of development programmes that we want to come from the U.N., insisting on better delivery capacity for these programmes, and also to underline the legitimacy and the right of the United Nations to have access to enhanced resource in terms of development programmes”, Razali added.

“I think for the G-77, if I may go along this vein, it is vital that ambassadors take over the role of their Seconds and Thirds and come out to become interlocutors on specific issues that are important to the G-77,” he added.

Addressing the Group, the Administrator of the UNDP Gus Speth said there was a need to build a new and stronger United Nations that can be a leader in development.

The highest priority of most nations and most people, he said, is development, and the U.N. must be strong and powerful for development, both in its normative aspects and in its operational activities.

Speth said there was also a need to “address, attack and destroy certain myths and misperceptions.”

“One is that we don’t need development cooperation anymore, that we can simply turn it over to the private sector. Well, private flows have gone up dramatically. But the fact is that 100 countries or more are worse off today than they were 15 years ago,” he said.

The foreign direct investment is going, except for China, almost entirely, 90 plus percent, to middle-income countries. Meanwhile, the low-income countries to which UNDP contributes 90 percent of our core resources are receiving just a few percent of this foreign investment flow.

“So we need development cooperation desperately, and we need to see the down-ward trends in world development assistance reversed,” he added.

Another pernicious myth is that the U.N. is not essential to development cooperation, that it be left to small bilateral agencies and the multilateral institutions of the European Union and the World Bank.

“Yet, if you look at the special qualities of the assistance that the United Nations provides around the world, you see that those qualities are precisely the qualities that make for effective development cooperation,” he added.

“The United Nations is absolutely essential for development cooperation to succeed. And development cooperation is essential for the United Nations to succeed. How many of you would want a United Nations for peace but not a United Nations for development?,” he asked.

A third “pernicious myth”, he said, is that the debt crisis is over. “Well, it is over for the commercial banks, but it’s not over for the severely indebted low-income countries and some others,” he added.