Press Releases

    20 September 2002


    NEW YORK, 19 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text, as delivered, of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the ministerial meeting of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China today:

    This has been a challenging year for developing countries. The world economy, after suffering its largest setback in a decade in 2001, is recovering very slowly. Commodity prices have continued their downward trend. It is likely to be 2005 before developing countries, as a group, return to the growth rates they had achieved in the years prior to the Asian crisis. Meanwhile, several countries in Latin America are struggling through interrelated economic, financial, social and political crises. After a decade of reforms, there seem to be no easy solutions.

    Quite apart from the ruinous effects on individual men, women and children in the countries concerned, these economic doldrums have had global consequences -- driving home yet again the message that no nation can consider itself immune from, or insured against, the effects of events and trends taking place thousands of miles away.

    But the past year has also seen important efforts by the international community -- at Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg -- to address the challenges of development in an interdependent world. The Group of 77 participated very constructively in each of these conferences. I would like to congratulate Venezuela on its leadership, and the entire Group on its hard work and pragmatism.

    The meeting of the World Trade Organization last November successfully launched a new round of trade negotiations that places the development needs and interests of your countries at the heart of the trade agenda. It is vital that all countries honour this commitment and negotiate in good faith.

    The International Conference on Financing for Development last March produced a landmark consensus document and significant new pledges of development assistance. A wide range of development partners showed a new willingness to work together. And in a step long sought by the Group of 77, the Conference recognized the need to improve coherence between the financial, monetary and trading systems, and to increase the role of developing countries in the decision-making processes that guide and govern the global economy.

    The outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development has generated different assessments –- inevitably, given its broad agenda. But it is clear that Johannesburg identified ways to accelerate the implementation of Agenda 21, not only through government commitments but also through partnerships involving the private sector and civil society. In some of these cases we are seeing former adversaries forge constructive alliances.

    The Summit also appears to have put to rest much of the conceptual confusion that had plagued sustainable development. The world now understands, more than ever before, that fighting against poverty and protecting the environment are two sides of the same coin –- compatible, mutually reinforcing goals, rather than a zero-sum game. Our challenge now is to ensure rapid, effective follow-up. I will make arrangements to ensure that the United Nations system comes together to help countries implement what has been agreed, particularly in priority areas such as water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.

    The conferences of the past year, their antecedents over the past decade, and the Millennium Development Goals have mobilized all stakeholders and partners around a common vision of economic and social progress. They have also created a common policy framework that now guides the entire United Nations system.

    Of course, as important as they are, frameworks and goals are only a beginning; in the end, action is what matters. Last month I submitted to the membership my first annual report on progress achieved towards implementing the Millennium Development Declaration.

    The report paints a mixed picture. The key Millennium Development Goal -- halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty by 2015 -- is on track only because of exceptionally fast progress in East Asia. Progress towards other Millennium Development Goals -- such as reducing child and maternal mortality -- is inadequate.

    If the United Nations is to continue its essential support, we have to become more effective and responsive. Next week, I will submit to the membership an agenda of measures aimed at further strengthening our Organization. I hope you will support and cooperate in these measures, many of which are directed towards the economic and social areas and areas of greatest concern to your Group -- the Group of 77. We must focus our energies, not on activities that are of marginal utility or programmes that are no longer serving their intended purposes, but on the major challenges of our era and the things that really matter to the peoples of the world.

    The countries of the Group of 77 make up the majority of the United Nations membership. Your priorities and voices must find a central place on the Organization’s agenda.

    At the same time, I would urge you not to ignore the power of solidarity amongst yourselves. Many developing countries have already had great successes in such important sectors as software development, pharmaceuticals manufacturing and eco-tourism. There is much to be gained by sharing experience and developing exchanges and I hope you will continue that.

    In conclusion, let me stress that you can count on my full support as we move from intent to implementation in our quest to build a stable and equitable future for the entire human family.

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