7 April 2000

Press Release


Cuba will host largest-ever gathering of third world political leaders

            Havana, 7 April 2000—The South Summit being held in Cuba next week will mark a “turning point in the history of the Group of 77” developing countries, affirmed the Group’s Chairman, Chief Arthur C.I.  Mbanefo of Nigeria, at a press briefing today.

            The Summit, which is taking place at Havana’s International Conference Center from 10-14 April, will be the largest gathering ever of heads of state and government from the developing world.  At press time, some 65 leaders were expected to attend, along with representatives of more than 50 other countries and of 80 international organizations, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Summit will be chaired by the President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

            Chief Mbanefo, who is also Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said the Summit marked a “historic occasion – a time to take stock of the challenges facing developing countries in a rapidly changing global economic environment and to map out the collective direction of the countries of the South in the new era”.  Topping those challenges is the process of globalization, which has exacerbated the problems of the South, including mass unemployment, poverty, income inequality within and between countries, the technology gap between North and South, and unequal participation in the international decision-making process.

            The Summit will provide a timely opportunity to strengthen cooperation among member States, redefine North-South relations and the role of the South in the world trading system, and find ways to meet the challenges of new technologies, he said.  It will also consider the role of the United Nations in the 21st century, and will conclude with the adoption of two documents.  The first is a political declaration expressing the vision of the G77 and their determination to chart a new path for developing countries and will, predicted Chief Mbanefo today, be “far-reaching”.  The second, arising from the first, is an action-oriented programme of clearly defined tasks, targets and time frames.

            To questions, Chief Mbanefo said it was “fortuitous” that the Summit was being convened in Cuba, which had constantly denounced the inequalities of trade between North and South.  “Most of the South feel the same way”, he said; “and holding the Summit here underlines our unity”.

G77 flags raised at Havana

            Earlier today, the flags of the G77’s member States, together with those of the Group itself and of the United Nations, were raised in front of the Havana Convention Centre at a ceremony hosted by Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Bolaños Suárez.  Speaking on this occasion, Chief Mbanefo said that the Summit would articulate an “animating vision” for the Group of 77 -- “a vision supported by practical and effective measures that can make a real and positive difference in people’s lives”.  Pointing to the young Cuban boys and girls taking part in the ceremony as flagraisers, he added that, “in this we take a step for the future of our children, a step that will assure them of a credible hope in that future, as they will inherit the new century”. 

            Mr. Bolaños termed the flagraising ceremony a “historic event which symbolizes not just our unity of action and purpose around our shared objectives, but also the clear collective will of the G77.... It is our hope that the South Summit will contribute to an international spirit of justice and equity that will help to eradicate forever the marginalization of our peoples as well as the gap separating us from the wealthy societies of the North and from famine, poverty, illiteracy and social exclusion”.

            Luis Gómez Echeverrí, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and speaking on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, emphasized the commitment of the entire UN system “to examine, foster, share and participate fully in the search for common solutions” to the concerns being discussed at the Summit.  Those concerns were reflected in UNDP’s just-published report on world poverty and in the UN Secretary-General’s Millennium Report, to be discussed at the Millennium Assembly in New York next September.

            The Group of 77 is the largest third world coalition in the United Nations, providing its members with an important platform for the discussion of economic and social matters within the UN system.  It was established in 1964 and now comprises 133 member States, accounting for almost all the UN’s developing country members.  The G77, whose headquarters are located at the United Nations in New York, also has chapters in Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Washington, D.C.


            For more information, contact the Executive Secretary of the Summit, Mr. Mourad Ahmia, South Summit secretariat, Havana International Conference Center, or his assistant, Mr. Michel Karam, Room 1105, tel: +537/282.786, fax: +537/288.655; Web: or