STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY HUGH TODD, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION OF THE COOPERATIVE REPUBLIC OF GUYANA AT THE HANDOVER CEREMONY OF THE CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE GROUP OF 77 (New York, 18 January 2021)
Your Excellency, Mr. Mamadi Toure, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Living Abroad of the Republic of Guinea;
Your Excellency Volkan Bozkir, President of the United Nations General Assembly;
Your Excellency Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
1. I have the honor of welcoming you all to this virtual meeting, to officially hand over the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China for the year 2021 to the Republic of Guinea. Let me also seize this opportunity to wish you and your families a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2021.
2. Excellencies, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana was given the opportunity to execute the responsibilities of the chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, for the year 2020, making it our second time as Chair, the first being in 1999. Since the establishment of the group, this community of nations has grown to become an essential part of the multilateral arena within the United Nations. Guyana was honoured to have taken up the mantle on behalf of south-south nations, to represent the common interests of the Group of 77 and China.
3. It was indeed a special privilege for Guyana to serve as Chair, and as such, I wish to convey my Government's sincere appreciation to all members, partner delegations, and the UN system - for their tacit and other forms of support. I must also express my delegation's deep gratitude to the Executive Secretary, Mr. Mourad Ahmia, and his team in the G77 Secretariat, for their guidance, hard work, and dedication - supporting Guyana throughout our tenure as Chair.
4. Excellencies, as the outgoing Chair of the Group of 77 and China, I wish to highlight the leadership provided by His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. Our Chairmanship reflects His Excellency's vision for the continued success and longevity of the Group of 77 and China, carefully aligned with the core principles that guide the Group - principles of solidarity, unity, and cooperation.
5. Our role as Chair began with many planned activities and objectives to be fulfilled, including the Third South Summit and other UN- mandated events. The spread of COVID-19 brought with it unforeseen hindrances to these plans, resulting in the stymieing of administrative and functional activities during Guyana's Chairmanship. Procedurally, the COVID-19 pandemic tested Guyana's ability as Chair, however, we were quickly able to adapt by using virtual means and notwithstanding, conducted fruitful engagements during our Chairmanship. Though, such procedural challenges pale, when we consider how the pandemic exposed the weaknesses of our public health systems, putting immense strain on healthcare provision, and widening socio-economic divides.
6. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined many of our development gains of the past decades. It has brought to the forefront the development bottlenecks faced by developing countries, ranging from insufficient financing and high debt levels, inadequate market access for goods and services, the expanding digital divide, restrictions in accessing needed pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and reductions in revenue from tourism and exports, among others.
7. As we executed our task as Chair, the common challenges and strengths our nations share - underscored our approach. As developing countries girded by exciting prospects for advancement, it was essential notwithstanding the pandemic, that we did not lose sight of the Group's guiding principles, inclusive of the Sustainable Development Goals. We did our utmost as Chair, with your support and ensured that the Group of 77 and China stayed on track in this regard, while we called for relevant assistance to recover from the pandemic.
8. As a small developing country of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), we believe that our region's proven track record of tolerance and openness enabled us to play a balancing role, particularly in the multilateral arena of the United Nations. We believe that this is the only way to overcome differences and reach solutions that would benefit the Group, simultaneously as each Member State executes its respective development agenda.
9. Excellencies, our Chairmanship, as those before us, relied heavily on the unifying role of multilateralism to fulfill our goals for 2020. However, this was under great stress with political divergences widening, and the role of global institutions threatened. Old and new critical issues emerged or broadened. With the acceleration of climate change as an unabated threat, coupled with the widening of poverty and inequality, developing economies are forced to compete for much- needed development financing, as financial and other resources had to be diverted in many instances for the immediate cause of protecting and saving lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
10. Throughout the past troublous year, we led the Group of 77 and China, we upheld our role as Chair with the firm commitment to maintaining focus on the critical issues, some of which I have outlined. Notably, my Government under the leadership of President Ali organized the Flagship Event held on October 29th, 2020 - under the theme "Maintaining a Low Carbon Development Path towards the 2030 Agenda in the Era of COVID-19." Our efforts leading the Group remained focused on maintaining its unity, solidarity, cooperation; and together with our negotiating partners provided a framework to confront the challenges facing developing countries.
11. Yet, notwithstanding the challenges we faced as a Group of diverse developing countries, last year has indeed been a momentous year in the history of the United Nations. As the organization celebrated and commemorated its 75th anniversary, it reaffirmed its role as the premier body seized with advancing multilateralism. We also marked the beginning of the Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development as it was crucial for us to accelerate the actions that will ensure we achieve the sustainable development goals. Over the last twelve months, we have negotiated and agreed on significant multilateral outcomes that will guide our economic, social, and environmental development for the next few years.
12. The Group played a crucial role in these outcomes ensuring that the interests of the millions of people living in developing countries are safeguarded, including mitigating measures to buffer the economic and social challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
13. To that end, we must stay optimistic and do our part at the national, regional, and international levels to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and to ensure equitable access to vaccines, leaving no country or region behind. It is pertinent that we maintain a common voice, as a Group to negotiate for urgent support in combating COVID-19, hopeful that industrialised nations will be encouraged to play that pivotal role. I urge the Group to continue working assiduously towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, with the decade of action as our driving force.
14. As I hand over the Chairmanship to my Ministerial Colleague from the Republic of Guinea, I also take this opportunity to virtually present a copy of the report of Guyana's Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, which reflects the various outcomes initiated under Guyana's leadership of the Group, designed to provide continuity of the initiatives.
15. Finally, please allow me to welcome the new Chair of the Group of 77 and China, the Republic of Guinea, whose candidacy was endorsed during the Forty-Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Group last November. My Government presents our sincere congratulations to the Republic of Guinea as the 2021 chair of the Group of 77 and China and also extends best wishes for the coming year's work. Please count on Guyana's continuing support as we hand the baton over to you.
16. I thank you all once more for all the support you have provided to Guyana in our capacity as Chair.