For information only - not an official document.
15 January 2001


NEW YORK, 12 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a ceremonial meeting to mark the formal turnover of the chairmanship of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China in New York on 12 January:

I am delighted to be with you today for this meeting marking the turnover of the Chairmanship of the New York Chapter of the Group of 77 from Nigeria to Iran. I would also want to thank the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alhaji Sule Lamido, for being with us today and to thank, through him, President Obasanjo and the Government of Nigeria for the outstanding leadership they provided during the past year.

I would also want to say that here a the United Nations, throughout the past year, under the leadership of Ambassador Chief Arthur Mbanefo, the Group of 77 was once again shown as an effective instrument in keeping development issues high on the United Nations agenda. 

You made very important contributions to the two special sessions, on women and on social development, held by the General Assembly in June. And it was your initiative, following the Havana Summit, that led to the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council examining the role of information technology in development. 

This led to the Council’s call to establish an ICT Task Force -- a new departure for the United Nations, which reflects a new understanding that information technology, far from implying a diversion from poverty-eradication and development, can enable us to make faster progress towards those very goals. This point was also recognized by leading industrial countries at the Group of 8 Summit in Okinawa, while here at the United Nations the Economic and Social Council's approach was endorsed by the Millennium Summit. 

Indeed, the Millennium Summit as a whole marked a triumph for the priority which this Group has always given to issues of social and economic justice. The leaders of the entire world resolved that they would "spare no effort" to rescue over one billion people from "abject and dehumanizing poverty". They agreed that the central challenge facing us is "to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people". 

And they concluded that this can only be done through "broad and sustained efforts" including, at the global level, measures "which correspond to the needs of developing countries … and are formulated and implemented with their effective participation". And I think, Mr. Chairman, you have stressed that point also this morning. That implies an important role for this Group, through which developing countries can organize their participation collectively.

The success of the Millennium Summit was also a triumph of consensus-building, which is the characteristic modus operandi of the United Nations, and which -- if I may say so, Ambassador Mbafeno -- it has been your own hallmark in your leadership. 

I noted with pleasure in September, when Iran was elected to take over the chair in 2001, that you, Minister Kharrazi, promised to continue in that tradition. 

As I said then, the search for true consensus should not lead to paralysis. It places obligations both on the majority -- to listen carefully to minorities and take their views into account -- and on minorities, to show flexibility, so that their position does not become an impediment to progress. I know that Ambassador Hosseinian and the other members of the Iranian delegation will seek to foster that constructive spirit in the year ahead.

Foreign Minister Kharrazi, we welcome you once again at United Nations Headquarters. Your presence here today shows that Iran intends to take its responsibilities as Chairman very seriously. And rightly so. And given your own past performance, I think we can expect a stimulating leadership during the coming year.

The United Nations calendar in the year ahead, as we have heard, offers no shortage of opportunities to further advance the cause of development. There are many events in which the Group of 77, under its new leadership, will be actively engaged. 

Let me mention in particular the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be held in Brussels in May -- the first United Nations conference hosted by the European Union. This will give the international community a chance to deal comprehensively with issues that crucially affect the poorest countries but are too often treated piecemeal: financing, external debt, trade, poverty eradication, and sustainable development. 

Another event of special importance to developing countries will be the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in April, which is to consider energy problems. Broad-based agreements on these issues can only be reached if the Group of 77 provides leadership in bridging the gap between different interests -- notably those of oil exporters and importers. 

In addition, the Group of 77 has an indispensable role to play in the preparatory process for the high-level event on financing for development in early 2002, agreement on which was one of your major achievements last year. 

This event offers a unique opportunity to find new ways of ensuring that the necessary resources -- both public and private, domestic and foreign -- are invested in development. It must mark a real turning point in the fortunes of poor countries, and poor people, all over the world.

As you know, I have asked a high-level panel, chaired by former President Zedillo of Mexico, to recommend concrete, achievable steps that could be taken to augment the flow of resources to the developing world. I believe this panel can make a very significant contribution to our thinking, and help build up political momentum. I urge you all to give it the benefit of your ideas, and to make maximum use of its recommendations.

Meanwhile, the strong message from the Havana Summit on the importance of strengthened South-South cooperation must not be forgotten. In trade and technology, especially, the benefits of such cooperation could be exponential. The slower growing countries have much to gain by studying the policies that have made others more successful.

Finally, the Group of 77 will have an important role to play in providing leadership, and a due sense of urgency, in the preparation of another major event planned for next year -- the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in South Africa. 

As I noted in my Millennium Report, issues of sustainable development are still not getting the attention they deserve. The Group of 77 can make a crucial difference, and under Iranian leadership I am sure it will -- given Iran’s role in the extremely complex negotiations leading to the establishment of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, which earned it the confidence and respect of developed and developing countries alike.

In short, Excellencies, during this year the Group of 77 will be at the centre of all our efforts to mobilize a concerted international response to the challenges of globalization, while pursuing environmentally sustainable growth. I hope it goes without saying that I will be at your side and you will have my full support.

* * * * *