Representatives of the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD)
Representatives of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES)
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to address you on the “G77 and China at 50: South Africa / Africa and the changing multilateral diplomacy of the South”.

This past June, I had the opportunity to represent the President by participating in the Extraordinary Summit of the Group of 77 (G77) and China which was held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on the occasion of the commemoration the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Group. The outcome of the Extraordinary Summit, the Santa Cruz Declaration, includes the views of the Group on a wide range of global economic and social matters and emphasizes that the original rationale for the creation of the Group 50 years ago remains valid, namely to “strengthen and expand the struggles of the G77 and China in all fields towards greater achievements and for the betterment of the lives of our people.”

With 133 member countries, including China as an associate member, the G77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations (UN) system. The Extraordinary Summit was a land mark occasion, to celebrate the foresight of those who had gone before us and established the G77 in 1964. By forging alliances between countries of the South, and by leveraging the South’s collective bargaining power and negotiating capacity across many different negotiation tracks in the UN system, the G77 has ensured that we collectively work together to articulate and pursue our collective and individual economic and social interests.The G77 has played a critical role in promoting South-South Cooperation for development as well as successfully strengthening economic and technical cooperation among developing countries themselves. Even so, there still remains much more to do in the promotion of the interests of developing countries.

South Africa is grateful to the past leadership of the G77 for their invaluable contribution towards the defeat of apartheid, for the manner in which they ensured that it became clear in the UN General Assembly that apartheid was not only untenable, but also that it was a crime against humanity. As South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy, coinciding with the historic milestone of the 50th Anniversary of the G77, we are thankful for the key role that the Group played in successfully generating Resolutions, and ensuring that they were carried in the General Assembly, which laid the path for our peaceful transition to democracy.

For the G77, a key question is how best should the Group leverage its collective negotiating power to get the best possible outcome for developing countries?  Lately, however, following the global economic slowdown, which has turned the global development agenda into highly contested terrain, with many countries seeking to reshape it completely in order to try and restore their comparative economic advantage, maintaining unity among the countries of the South, and therefore within the G77 itself, has become a real challenge. Due to differing economic interests and levels of development in member countries, the Group is increasingly composed of smaller sub-groupings, such as, for example, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC), the like-minded Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Divisions are probably most acutely visible in the climate change negotiations, due to diverse national interests.

For all its diversity, it is precisely because of its formidable collective negotiating power that the G77 generally manages to preserve its cohesiveness and unity and function effectively in its various Chapters. Bolivia is the current Chair of the G77 in New York. Other G77 Chapters are in the multilateral centres in the UN system of Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Paris, Nairobi and Washington, D.C. In each Chapter, the G77 is the negotiating forum through which regional groupings such the African Group, the Asian Group and Latin America and the Caribbean Group (GRULAC) filter their common positions in the UN. Thus, in effect, it is fairly rare that individual countries or regional groupings negotiate in their own right. The exception arises when difficult or controversial issues arise in negotiations and national and regional interests predominate, making consensus-building to achieve common Group positions a major challenge. A recent example is the conclusion of the work of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG-SDGs), which met during its last session from 14 to 18 July 2014, in order to conclude its report to the General Assembly, for consideration. Given the complexity of human development and the high economic stakes for all countries, apart from agreement on the Means of Implementation and a few general principles, reaching consensus within the Group on proposed Goals and targets proved to be impossible. Particular challenges were the implications entailed by the SDGs for countries’ competitiveness and trade. Member countries therefore tended to revert to their traditional negotiation blocks which cut across regional and continental groups and, in some cases, negotiated in their own national capacities.

The deadline for achieving the MDGs has stirred the global debate on what should follow beyond 2015. The world currently stands at a critical juncture when the international community is deliberating on the UN development agenda which will frame our collective development aspirations beyond 2015, in order for our people to enjoy peace, sustainable development and prosperity. In the context of the global discourse on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in addition to negotiations towards a new legally binding instrument for climate change, eradicating poverty in all its forms is an overarching but elusive goal for developing countries.

Understanding the critical need for effective delivery on the global development agenda, the G77 has been especially active in emphasising at every opportunity the need for Financing for Development. The Group has called for a Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and of the Doha Declaration, with a view to contributing to the Post-2015 Development Agenda process. The G77 was central to getting agreement in General Assembly Resolution 68/204 of 20 December 2013 to convene, in 2015 or 2016, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. The decision notes that the Conference will have a comprehensive agenda, including to reinvigorate and strengthen the financing for development follow-up process. In addition, the Conference will identify obstacles and constraints and address new and emerging issues, given the need to support the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

Since the Bandung Conference in 1955, there has been a proliferation of South initiatives. South-South Cooperation is pursued, inter alia, as a strategy for economic independence and self-reliance. Supporting the development of developing countries is a priority, as it is one of the most important ways that we developing countries of the South can take responsibility for our own destinies and build the foundations for strong, sustainable and equitable global growth and development. Given the challenges that require our collective action, and the opportunities that South-South cooperation presents, South-South Cooperation is the cornerstone for international cooperation and partnerships for development, especially in terms of global, regional and country-level efforts to achieve balanced sustainable development.

The G77 and China is the embodiment of South-South Cooperation. Some outside the Group are seeking to define South-South Cooperation, to try and regulate it under the UN system, seeking to structure and manage it. In reality, however, South-South Cooperation is an initiative of developing countries of the South and was never intended to be a substitute for the obligations and responsibilities of the developed North. In guarding against efforts to distort South-South Cooperation, the G77 is seeking to ensure that outside parties have no place in trying to regulate how developing countries cooperate amongst themselves.

Also, over the last few years, several developing countries have become the key drivers of global growth and their development is having a significant impact on the world economy. This has added a completely new dimension to the multilateral landscape. Many developing countries that have large populations are now perceived as providing a ready market for investors, in terms of their comparative advantage and unquestioned potential to consume the outputs of their economies. Growth and economic development in the South has significantly altered the strategic balance of power towards the countries of the South. The growing importance of the BRICS in this regard cannot be understated.

The G77 is an important strategic partner for the promotion of the African Agenda. This is one of the reasons why world Leaders recognised in the Millennium Declaration the “Special Needs of Africa”. In successive reviews of progress towards achieving the MDGs that were derived from it, UN Member States have continued to recognise Africa’s special needs. The G77 has repeatedly stressed that addressing the special development needs of Africa is central to the success of global efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve all Internationally Agreed Development Goals, including the MDGs. In this regard, the Group has attached great importance in the establishment of an effective and comprehensive monitoring mechanism of the commitments on Africa's development, in order to ensure a periodic review for the full and timely fulfilment of commitments, in accordance with the Political Declaration on Africa's development needs.

The Group has frequently expressed concerns about the wide gap between donor commitments and actual aid flows to Africa, in addition to the fact that the quality of aid is below what is needed to ensure accelerated and sustained growth on the continent.

Equally, the G77 has expressed concerns that African countries still do not have fair representation in decision-making organs of international institutions, sensitising Member States of the UN to a serious democracy and governance deficit in these institutions, given that the decisions of such institutions directly affect African countries and the lives of African peoples.

In the context of Africa’s participation in the global system of governance, the G77 has consistently maintained that the capacity to generate full employment and decent work are fundamentally linked to reviving and enhancing productive development strategies, through adequate finance, investment, and trade policies.

In a broader context, the failure of many of the International Organisations that make up the global governance architecture to deal effectively with the realities of the current world order has led the G77 to question the ability of the system to address the needs of Member States, most especially those of developing countries. Ad hoc arrangements have become increasingly prevalent, frequently undermining multilateralism.

The G77 remains a champion for a more legitimate and accountable global system of governance. The meaningful reform of the present global governance system, largely constructed out of the ruins of World War II, has long been overdue. For too long, developing countries have been marginalized in global standard-setting and decision-making processes that impact on their development.  It is critical, therefore, that the countries of the South continue to push, through the G77, for the reform of the global governance system, in particular, for the enhanced voice and representation in the decision-making structures of International Organisations.

The UN, through the legitimacy derived from its universal membership and the broad mandate entrusted to it by Member States through its Charter, occupies a central and indispensable role within the global system of governance. The positive approach that guides the work and the role of the G77 in contributing to the effective functioning of the UN system when dealing with international economic and development issues makes the Group a key forum for continuing to advocate for the reform of global governance structures.  However, the G77 has also made it very clear that the UN itself also needs to be reformed in order to be more responsive to the interests and needs of developing countries.

The persistence of the global recession has also exposed the need for urgent reform of the international financial architecture and the urgent need for a global, universal and integrated response by the international community. In this context, the G77 continues to call for the reform of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in relation to their mandate, representation, scope, governance, responsibility, responsiveness and development orientation, in order to ensure that they are democratic, responsive and accountable. 

The G77 has been effective in making its voice heard on the central role of the United Nations in global economic governance, which is of the utmost importance for strengthening and enhancing the global partnership for development, with a view to creating a supportive and enabling global environment for the attainment of sustainable development, as well as to ensure financial and economic stability.

The G77 has therefore been bold in affirming the need for ensuring synergy between the work of UN agencies and the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and other international organizations that deal with, among other development-related issues, trade, finance, labour and capital, intellectual property rights, health and technology, respectively.

When South Africa chaired the G77 in New York in 2006, we worked hard to preserve the unity and cohesion of the Group, to promote engagement with the Group in inter-governmental processes as a responsible negotiating partner. The G77 has a vision for fair and equitable multilateral relations. Given the commitment of its Member States to the wellbeing of the peoples of the South, as well as their commitment to mutually beneficial co-operation with the developed countries of the North, in the interests of promoting the development of the South, it is precisely as a responsible negotiating partner that the G77 continues to stand out as the global voice of the South.

Thank you.



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