South Africa has handed over the chair of the largest coalition of developing countries in the United Nations (UN), the Group of 77 (G77) and China, to Thailand.
In a ceremony held in New York on Tuesday, International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers thanked the members for the support, guidance and assistance accorded to South Africa during its tenure and committed to support Thailand as it takes over.
South Africa assumed the chair of G77 and China in January last year. Then, the country had vowed to strengthen unity, cohesion and the vision of a fair and equitable multilateral system. It also said it would continue to ensure an enhanced development agenda for the South.
Deputy Minister Landers said South Africa’s tenure has been “momentous” as member states have negotiated and agreed on significant multilateral outcomes, which will guide economic, social and environmental development for the next few years.
He said some of the highlights include the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, where G77 and China played a crucial role in pursuing the interests of the millions of people living in developing countries.
“The group was able to pursue significant outcomes that protected the interests of developing countries and advanced the development agenda of the South,” Deputy Minister Landers told member states at the handover ceremony.
Another highlight was during the Paris Climate Change Conference last December, which unanimously adopted the Paris Agreement and a package of supporting decisions covering climate action in the pre- and post-2020 periods.
“It is no exaggeration to say that there would not have been a Paris Agreement without the G77 and China’s highly constructive contributions on both substance and process,” said Deputy Minister Landers.
He commended the strong solidarity within the diverse group, saying it ensured that developing countries remained central in the climate change negotiations until the very end.
The 10 sub-groups of the G77 and China in the climate change negotiations agreed to abide by the slogan they coined – Do No Harm to Each Other and Leave No One Behind.
Deputy Minister Landers believed that this ought to be a guiding principle for the G77 and China in all its work going forward, as it speaks to the very essence of what this group stands for.
“It is now essential that the G77 and China remain united and firmly focused on ensuring that the Paris Agreement is ratified.”
South Africa also showed it leadership during the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as the group played a fundamental role in crafting international economic policies and relations, narrowing the gap between developing and developed countries.
Another key event includes the Third International Conference on Financing for Development leaders meeting in Ethiopia, which adopted the Addis Ababa Action Agenda where the group constructively engaged in this process and sought a meaningful and ambitious financing for an outcome relevant to the needs of developing countries.
Other significant processes over the last year, where the members of the group effectively pursued their principled objectives, include the adoption of a resolution on the basic principles on Sovereign Debt Restructuring and the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
Building on past success
Going forward, Deputy Minister Landers said the group will need to build on these achievements and ensure there is an adequately resourced UN system to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainable development in general.
South-South cooperation will remain an important pillar for strengthening the economic independence of countries of the South as a complement and not a replacement of North-South cooperation, he said.
“The members of the G77 and China should ensure that the UN Office for South-South Cooperation and the G77 and China Secretariat are adequately funded to carry out the group’s objectives in an effective and efficient manner.”
Similar support should also be extended to institutions that promote and contribute to the unity and solidarity of the group, including the South Centre.
The G77 and China provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate; promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic and development issues in the UN system.
The body also promotes South-South cooperation and strengthens economic and technical cooperation among developing countries themselves.