PAKISTAN'S THIRD STINT AS CHAIRMAN OF THE GROUP OF 77
UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS) — Speaking at the handover ceremony of the chairmanship of the Group of 77, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar said it was his great personal privilege to accept on behalf of Pakistan, the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China for the year 2007.
This was the third time that Pakistan has been elected as the G-77 Chair in New York, he added.
“This expression of trust and confidence in Pakistan reinforces our deep commitment to the ideals and objectives of the Group of 77 and China,” he said.
The minister also said that despite the individual and collective achievements of Member States, developing countries continue to face imposing and complex challenges in their quest to bring prosperity and sustained development to their peoples.
“The world economy has continued to grow, in large measure driven by the dynamic economies of our Group. But, the future is uncertain, due to global economic imbalances and inequity, among and within nations. Prosperity has enlarged, but so has poverty.”
“Our collective search for universal growth and prosperity must be further invigorated as we enter this New Year.”
There is, however, reason for hope and optimism. Firstly, the Group of 77 and China now accounts for a significant share of the world’s GDP and trade.
Secondly, some of the major South economies, especially but not only in Asia, are growing rapidly, enhancing our ability to influence the decisions and direction of world economic relations.
Thirdly, the goals and objectives which we must promote are already set out in the Millennium Development Goals and the other Internationally Agreed Development Goals.
“It is clear that a first priority for our Group must be to secure the full and timely implementation of the MDGs and IADGs. Our governments have accepted the national responsibilities entailed in the realization of these goals”.
He also said: “Most of us are formulating the national development strategies designed to achieve these goals. Our performance is, often critically evaluated by development institutions and our partners.”
What is missing, he declared, is an international mechanism to evaluate the implementation of the development commitments of our partners e.g. to provide the financial transfers, trade openings and technology access to enable the developing countries to successfully implement their national development strategies.
“We should, therefore, press for the early creation of a development monitoring mechanism within the UN.”
In many cases, he said, the economic and trade policies of our partners work at cross purposes to their development commitments.
The impasse in the Doha Round of trade negotiations is a visible and vital case in point. The Doha Development Agenda should not be held hostage to securing further trade and other concessions from the developing countries.
He said the target must remain the removal of the unequal subsidies, high escalating and discriminatory tariffs, and other policies that perpetuate the systemic inequality of the multilateral trading system against the developing countries.
Similarly, the promises of larger development assistance, and debt relief, announced with much fanfare last year, have yet to be realized.
These promises, moreover, need to be supplemented with other measures such as compensating financing for trade losses and measures to enlarge foreign investment flows to developing countries.
Without such enlarged and adequate financial support, he said, it will be impossible for most developing countries particularly the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS to implement their MDG-based development strategies and launch an effective attack against poverty.
DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL: A REALIZABLE AIM, NOT A RHETORICAL CLAIM
UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS) — Addressing a meeting of the Group of 77, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the idea of “development for all” has moved from mere rhetorical claim to a truly realizable aim.
Starting in the 1990s, he said, a landmark series of UN sponsored global conferences and summits established an ambitious development agenda, one that emphasizes concrete goals and deliverable results.
“At its core, this compact is represented by the Millennium Development Goals, and our common commitment to achieve them globally by 2015,” he told delegates at a formal ceremony marking the election of Pakistan as the new chairman of the G77.
Yet progress on this agenda faces frustrating obstacles, he warned. Despite some welcome advances on official development assistance and debt relief, the global economy remains an uneven playing field.
Fundamental unfairness characterizes the international system in such crucial areas as trade, finance, technology transfer and migration.
The secretary-general said that addressing these concerns is central not only to the G77’s work, but also to the United Nations’ broader mission.
Fortunately, many of the steps necessary to address these existing inequalities are well known.
“Above all, our success hinges upon building a stronger, more dynamic and more effective global partnership for development.”
As envisioned in the Monterrey Consensus and called for anew at the 2005 World Summit, such a partnership must be broad based and inclusive. It must involve all Governments and institutional stakeholders, and draw in relevant actors from the private sector and civil society.
“Our progress also depends on overcoming the implementation gap that has sometimes plagued the international development agenda. We must ensure that agreed goals translate into real results; that discussions in debate halls lead to the delivery of basic services on the ground.”
Outlining his plans for economic and social reforms, the secretary-general said: “I am determined to work with the Group of 77 and China to make these reforms work and maintain the momentum, including further efforts towards system-wide coherence”.
After all, a stronger, renewed United Nations, while important for all Member States, remains most important for the people of the developing world.
“That is why I look especially to you as we build the structures worthy of a twenty-first century Organization. I know that ECOSOC reform holds particular significance for your Group. There is encouraging movement on this count”.
He said the General Assembly has also scheduled a High-level Dialogue of Financing for Development. And preparations are underway for next year’s review conference in Doha.
“I count on the G77 to remain a driving force behind these important processes, so that we may convert existing promises into actual progress.”
G77 AND NAM FAULT ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT
UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS) - The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 77 (G77), the two largest political and economic groups of developing nations, have expressed reservations on a proposed plan to restructure the U.N.’s operational activities for social and economic development.
In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, both groups have cautioned him against rushing into any hasty decision leading to the implementation of the proposed plan, which includes a single, unified approach to all U.N. development activities in the field.
“There is no one-size-fits-all (approach),” the joint letter said, warning that there should be no restrictions on the ability and sovereignty of national governments to determine their own development priorities or select their own development partners.
The letter was a strong reaction to a report by a blue-ribbon panel of current and former world leaders who have called for “a unified United Nations” at the country level — with one leader, one programme, one budget, and where appropriate, one office.
Titled the “High-Level Panel on U.N. System-Wide Coherence”, the 15-member panel released a study last November called “Delivering as One” that focused on three areas: development, humanitarian assistance and the environment.
The ultimate aim of the “One-UN” initiative is to reduce duplication and transaction costs so that the United Nations can use resources more effectively to support partner countries to achieve their development goals, according to the panel.
While conceding there are “a number of useful recommendations on the report we can build on”, the NAM/G77 letter warns that the study may have mistakenly touched on “cross cutting issues” — such as human rights, gender and sustainable development — as part of U.N. operational activities for development.
While cross-cutting issues are not confined only to developing countries, the letter says that both the G77 and NAM are concerned “that those issues, as well as humanitarian assistance, might be misused to introduce new conditionalities on international development assistance, which is not acceptable to developing countries.”
Both groups have met the secretary-general and briefed him in greater detail.
Among the other recommendations in the report are: a Sustainable Development Board to oversee the One-UN Country programmes; a new panel consisting of the U.N. Secretary-General, the president of the World Bank and the Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to review, update and conclude formal agreements on their respective roles and relations at the global and country levels.
As part of the “One-U.N.” programme, eight countries have volunteered to be guinea pigs in an experimental exercise meant to reduce duplication and to use resources more effectively.
The programme, which is currently being implemented, will be evaluated over the next 12 months for possible inclusion of additional countries willing to join it.
The eight pilot countries — Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uruguay and Vietnam — will provide case studies as to how the U.N. family can deliver in a more coordinated manner by pooling funds at the country level.
The G77 and NAM are sceptical of the One-UN approach to operational activities for development.
“The U.N. development system should continue to support development efforts of developing countries principally by assisting in the implementation of nationally determined development plans, strategies and priorities,” the letter said.
Jens Stoltenberg, prime minister of Norway and one of the co-chairs of the panel, told a U.N. press conference last November that the United Nations could save up to 20 percent of its current costs system-wide by eliminating duplication and consolidating certain funds and programmes.
“The whole idea is not to save money for donor countries, but to save money so we can use more money for development, more money for protecting the environment and more money for humanitarian assistance,” he added.
But despite the good intentions of the panel, the successful implementation of its proposals will depend largely on whether or not it receives the necessary support from developing countries, comprising over two-thirds of the 192-member General Assembly and who represent all the members of both NAM and the G77.
The letter to the secretary-general also points out that coherence at the national and international level should also involve the Bretton Woods institutions, namely the World Bank and the IMF, where they exist.
“They should be part of any integrated approach to development cooperation. Bilateral development partners should also be part and parcel of this approach,” it said.
GROUP OF 77 OUTLINES ITS KEY PRIORITIES
UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS) — Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, the chairman of the Group of 77 and China, said there are three areas of importance for developing countries this year.
Firstly, governance and budget. “Money should follow the mandates, not the other way around”, he said.
“The primary purpose is to implement decisions of member states. And you cannot implement mandates on the basis of availability of money. Therefore, we have resisted attempts to utilize budget as a method to try to determine prioirties,” Ambassador Akram said, in an interview with the JOURNAL OF THE GROUP OF 77.
Secondly, he said, the UN’s human resources management is another of the G77’s priorities. These include recruitment policies, performance evaluation, accountability, quality of staff and equity in treatment of staff.
Thirdly, the Secretariat’s management practices, including oversight, the role of board of auditors and the issue of procurement.
Overall, he said, development is one of the G77’s major priorities.
Asked about the standoff between the G77 and the Secretary-General on several issues relating to UN reform and Secretariat restructuring, he said: “The G77 very much wishes to support the Secretary-General. We wish him to succeed and seen to be successful in the operation of the organization.”
“Secondly, we have our own priorities— our priorities are developmental priorities. We would wish that the issue of Millennium Development Goals, receives the highest priority.”
Ambassador Akram said that some of the Secretary-General’s initial proposals on UN restructuring have been modified in the light of discussions.
“Our concern is that the established process and the rules of the house should be followed, including consultations with the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committe on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ)— and thereafter decisions can be taken.”
The secretary-general can take the political decision, he said, and “we are willing to go along as long as processes are respected.”
On mandate review, he said: “Every group and every delegation has its priorities. I think if the mandate review is a political exercise, that has to be done in a different way— and in a political forum. If it is an efficiency exercise, it will be easier.”
He also said that the influence and power of any organization directly relates to amount of resources it has control over.
There are proposals to strengthen the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with ministerial or higher level participation.
He said it would be useful “if we can get political leadership as a central coordinating mechanism for development.” But there has to be a political will to achieve that.
Ambassador Akram also said that he has had personal experinece as co-chair of the mandate review exercise.
There is suspicion that this exercise is to change political decision making. “We have to build confidence among all delegations this is not an attrempt to change political decision making.”
Asked about the role of China in the G77, he said that since 1992, China has had a partnership with the G77.
“We do not see any contradictions between China’s growing political and economic status and the G77. It only adds to the strength to our Group. There are other members who are also growing rapidly, specifically India and Pakistan and countries of Southeast Asia, he declared.
G77 SAYS SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE ON CLIMATE CHANGE VIOLATION OF CHARTER
UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS)— The Group of 77 has warned that all environmental issues, including climate change, should be kept out of the agenda of the U.N. Security Council.
Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, current G77 chair and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, said that some of the G77 members feel that the Security Council had gone beyond its mandate in discussing climate change.
He said even issues such as nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism are issues for the general membership— not for the Security Council.
“The concept of the Security Council, as I read the U.N. charter, is that the Council comes into action when there are actual threats to peace, and breaches of the peace,” Ambassador Akram said, in an interview with the JOURNAL OF THE GROUP OF 77.
The G77 publicly accused the Security Council of violating the Organisation’s charter by holding an open debate on energy, security and climate. The debate was the brainchild of UK, which held the rotating post of Security Council President fo the month of April.
In a letter to Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of UK, the G77 said that the Security Council’s primary responsibility is for the maintenance of international peace and security as set out in the U.N. Charter.
All other issues, including those relating to economic and social development, are assigned by the Charter to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly.
The letter said the ever-increasing encroachment by the Security Council on the roles and responsibilities of other principal organs of the United Nations represents a distortion of the principles and purposes of the U.N. Charter, and also infringes on their authority and compromises the rights of the general membership of the United Nations.
On earlier occasions the Security Council had also “encroached” into ECOSOC and General Assembly territory by holding meetings on gender rights, HIV/AIDS, terrorism and U.N. procurement and peacekeeping.
Last year, the Group of 77 under the chairmanship of South Africa protested the debate on U.N. procurement. But U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, then president of the Security Council, refused to remove the item from the agenda and continued with the one-day discussion despite protests from the G77.
Ambassador Akram said that some of these thematic issues are not threats to peace or breaches of the peace. But, of course, it is a matter of interpretation.
Terrorism may be a threat to peace, he argued, but the Security Council is not dealing with an actual situation
when it is involved in setting norms and creating international laws.
“Law making powers, according my interpretation of the Charter is clearly assigned to the General Assembly, not to the Security Council,” he added.
The 117-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has also criticised the British proposal to hold a meeting on climate change.
Ambassador Ileana Nunez Mordoche of Cuba, current NAM chair, expressed NAM’s concerns “regarding the continued and increase encroachment by the Security Council on the functions and powers of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council and other organs through addressing issues which traditionally fall within the competence of the latter organs.”
Ambassador Akram said that individual G77 members, however, have the full right to speak in their national capacities.
The issues of energy and climate change, which will be discussed at the meeting, are considered vital for sustainable development.
But the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which took place in Johannesburg in Sep. 2002, assigned responsibilities in the field of sustainable development to the General Assembly, ECOSOC, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.
But “no role was envisaged for the Security Council,” Ambassador Akram said.
Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Farukh Amil of Pakistan told the Security Council that the G77 has consistently maintained that the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “is the appropriate forum” to consider risks associated with that phenomenon.
There was “no role” envisaged for the Security Council on climate change, he declared.
He said the Group also feels it inappropriate to consider the issue of energy in the Security Council.
“We reaffirm the key role of energy in achieving the goals of sustainable development, poverty eradication and achieving the MDGs.”
“Therefore, we emphasize the critical role of international community for provision of adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources, technology transfer and enhancing capacity building of the developing countries as agreed in Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) and decisions of Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)”.
SOUTH-SOUTH COOPERATION NEEDS TO BE STRUCTURED ON INTERNATIONAL BASIS
UNITED NATIONS (G77/IPS) — Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, chairman of the Group of 77 and China, has made a strong case for strengthening South-South cooperation, which he points out, is becoming increasingly important to developing nations.
“It is one of the most exciting areas for the G77,” he said, in an interview with the JOURNAL OF THE GROUP OF 77.
“Our focus really is how the more fortunate developing countries could help the less fortunate and more vulnerable developing countries in addressing problems such as poverty and hunger,” he added.
South-South cooperation, he pointed out, is still in its “nascent stage.” “It is happening mostly on a bilateral and regional basis. But it is still not structured on an international basis.”
“As chair of the Group of 77, we have to see how we can structure cooperation among developing countries at a policy level and at the institutional level.”
“We have to find ways and means of getting a bigger bang for the buck. We have to actually see a larger percentage of resources and international assistance delivered to developing nations rather than on administrative costs and expenditures on development experts.”
He said there were far too many intermediaries. “Our effort should be to find out how we can utilise international assistance and development cooperation to their maximum.”
Addressing a high level meeting on South-South cooperation, Ambassador Akram further underlined the importance of the “growing new phenomenon.”
He said that South-South trade has come to represent about 40 percent of the trade of developing countries, and has grown, on average, at the rate of 11 percent a year over the past decade.
He said that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for North-South cooperation. “Indeed, South-South cooperation cannot and should not replace North-South cooperation.”
He said that developed countries must fulfil their commitments for North-South cooperation. “This is dictated by principles of equity and solidarity and it is in their own long-term interest.”
Ambassador Akram also said that the proliferation of transnational threats has led to new incentives for strengthened South-South responses within and between regions.
“Clearly, while the challenges persist, there are also emerging opportunities which should be grasped.”
Meanwhile, in a 19-page report released here, the United Nations says “the outstanding economic performance of Brazil, China and India, as well as a number of pivotal developing countries, including Chile, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand, has, through South-South cooperation, had a significant impact on the development prospects of other countries in the global South.”
In 2005, the combined output of developing economies accounted for more than half of the total world gross domestic product (GDP) in purchasing power parity.
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Least Developed Countries, Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, said the U.N. progress report records that the agenda for South-South Cooperation has expanded significantly to include not only economic and technical sectors but also security, good governance, health and the environment.
“It needs also to be borne in our deliberations that South-South cooperation is changing the landscape of international relations, particularly in trade, financial flows and regional integration,” he told delegates.
The 30 year-old Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, headed by Yiping Zhou and housed in the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), has remained the focal point to promote cooperation among developing nations.
UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said the time is ripe for a re-evaluation of the South’s role in its own cooperation and development, including examining the most beneficial ways in which the U.N. development system can support those efforts.
Dervis said South-South trade grew rapidly over the past decade, reaching $562 billion in 2004 compared with $222 billion in 1995.
South-South foreign direct investments have also increased: from $14 billion in 1995 to $47 billion in 2003, according to the latest available figures.
Meanwhile, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has moved to create a free trade zone by 2015, instead of 2020 as originally envisaged.
The Middle East now has a Greater Arab Free Trade Area created in 2005, while a South Asian Free Trade Agreement was signed in January 2006.
In Africa, existing free trade zones such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community have been strengthened and consolidated through new and existing trade and development agreements, according to the study.
The member countries of ASEAN— Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia —have also significantly increased their partnership with China, which is a member of the Group of 77.
By the end of 2005, China had invested $1.08 billion in ASEAN while Chinese businessmen have opened more than 1,000 enterprises in ASEAN countries, according to the U.N. study.
In 2006, China earmarked preferential loans totaling about $5.0 billion to encourage Chinese enterprises to invest in ASEAN. In June 2006, China concluded a China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, which is be fully implemented in 2010.
The United Nations also points out that South-South cooperation has expanded considerably in several other fields, including assistance during natural disasters; growing concerns about the impact of climate change; terrorist attacks; the spread of HIV-AIDS; and other transnational threats.
The newly-established ASEAN Earthquake Information Centre in Singapore facilitates dissemination of information to member countries through the Internet while the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre in Bangkok coordinates national early warning centres for tsunamis.
In Latin America, South-South triangular capacity-building is being promoted through organisations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mercado Comun Sudamericano (MERCOSUR) and the South American Community of Nations.
The countries in Latin America and the Caribbean continue to focus on issues relating to telecommunications, the environment and energy for sustainable development.
The U.N. study also says that a number of countries, such as India and China, have established themselves as key players in the development of information and communications technology, while several others, including Costa Rica and the Philippines, are now quickly emerging as leaders in this field in their respective regions.
A “notable achievement” is attempts by Rwanda to become the “Silicon Valley of East Africa.” Currently, Rwanda serves as the headquarters for the East Africa Submarine Cable System initiative: a $280 million project that will serve Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania.
“The country’s Vision 2025 to build a ‘modern knowledge-based economy’ has given impetus to similar projects in Sierra Leone, and discussions about the potential for other landlocked developing countries to use the information and communication technology plans of Rwanda as a model,” the study noted.
GROUP OF 77 CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SOUTH-SOUTH COOPERATION
UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS) — A resolution initiated by the Group of 77 at a meeting of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation calls for the convening in 2008 of a U.N. conference on South-South Cooperation.
Making a strong pitch for a proposed high-level conference, the chairman of the Group of 77 Ambassador Munir Akram said that in the overall context of multilateralism, South-South cooperation is “a an important process that is vital to confront the challenges faced by developing nations, and is also making an increasingly important contribution to their development.”
Asked about the proposed summit, Ambassador Akram told the JOURNAL OF THE GROUP OF 77 that there have been several South Summits before, including one in Cuba and another in Qatar.
“If we can have a conference devoted to development cooperation, which also brings together the financial institutions which provide assistance, policy makers, and directors of development cooperation, that would be a step forward.”
“We need to build the requisite structure at the global level,” he added.
The resolution adopted at the meeting of the high level committee on South-South cooperation also welcomed “the generous offer by Argentina to host a high-level U.N. conference on South-South cooperation on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.”
The resolution also called upon the President of the U.N. General Assembly to entrust the President of the High-level Committee on South-South cooperation to undertake “the necessary consultations in order to prepare for the proposed conference.”
QATAR TO HOST FOLLOW-UP CONFERENCE ON FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT
UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS) — Qatar, a former chairman of the G77, has offered to host the first follow-up conference to review the implementation of the outcome of the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) which was held in Monterrey, Mexico.
The upcoming conference, in which the Group of 77 and China will take a leading role, is expected to take place in the second half of 2008 in the Qatari capital of Doha.
The General Assembly will hold a high-level dialogue on FfD during its next session beginning September this year. This dialogue will be in preparation for the Doha conference.
“I count on the G77 to remain a driving force behind these important processes, so that we may convert existing promises into actual progress,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates at the handover ceremony of the G77 chairmanship early this year.
A statement issued following the G77 ministerial meeting held last November said the ministers welcomed the offer of the State of Qatar to host the FfD follow-up conference next year.
At its conclusion on 22 March 2002, the FfD conference adopted the “Monterrey Consensus” in which heads of State and government resolved to address the challenges of financing for development around the world, particularly in developing countries.
Their goal was to eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development, as they advance to a fully inclusive and equitable global economic system.
In the Consensus, the heads of State and government gathered in Monterrey pledged, as their first step, to mobilize financial resources and achieve the national and international economic conditions needed to fulfil internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration to reduce poverty and improve social conditions.
The outcome document (A/CONF.198/3) was divided into three sections — confronting the challenges of financing for development; leading actions; and staying engaged.
While the role of national policies and the primary responsibility for each country’s own economic and social development, the document recognized that domestic economies were interwoven with the global economic system, and national development efforts need to be supported by an enabling international environment.
The document also committed world leaders to join forces through a strengthened multilateralism, in recognition of the potential of the United Nations system for fostering worldwide cooperation, and to consolidate the global economic system around the principles of equity, participation, ownership, transparency and accountability.