Statement by Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the 45th Annual Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Member States of the Group of 77, 30 November 2021
Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guinea, and Chairperson of Member States of the Group of 77,
Your Excellency, Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation,
Your Excellency, Mr Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly and,
South Africa expresses its congratulations to the delegation of Guinea as Chair of the Group and complements the excellent manner they are guiding our work.
Chairperson, our meeting this year takes place against the backdrop of the devastating impact of COVID-19 pandemic, which has been particularly severe on developing countries.
The destructive and disruptive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic not just on global health systems, but the economic, financial, social impacts, compels us to build back differently and better. As stated in South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, building back means that: “We are determined not merely to return our economy to where it was before the Coronavirus, but to forge a new economy in a new global reality.”
The pandemic has further rolled back the progress we have made on the urgent tasks confronting our generation. This includes our agenda as the Group of 77 of fostering implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development; Financing for Development; and addressing the effects of climate change.
The pandemic has also highlighted the urgency with which we must strive to meet all the Sustainable Development Goals, but more importantly Goal 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. We must strive to eradicate global poverty or fall short of realising our vision of the 2030 Agenda.
African economies have been severely damaged and growth prospects are greatly diminished. Many of the continent’s developmental gains may be reversed as the fight against the pandemic takes precedence over other national priorities like poverty eradication. According to the IMF data, 41 developing countries had no choice but to reduce their total expenditures in 2020 amid the global health crisis.
South Africa is committed to global responses to global challenges and to solidarity. We join efforts to help the world recover better by ending the pandemic as a priority, first to ensure that developing countries have access to the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics; addressing food security and hunger, getting all children back to school, and protecting the most marginalised.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hampered economic activity around the world and has resulted in weakening public financing mechanism and resource mobilisation capacity of developing countries. Rather than finding ourselves in the closing decade of implementation, we are at ground zero and back at the starting line of the 2030 Agenda. This grave situation is further compounded in the African continent because we are also experiencing a severe liquidity and debt crisis. An increasing proportion of least developed as well as middle income countries are in debt distress or high risk of debt distress.
Key in reversing this human tragedy is accelerated investment in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to accelerate the provision of the means of implementation, as well as addressing the short-term and long-term debt sustainability framework for debt treatment.
The G20 Debt Standstill Initiative provides a welcome and useful initial response to the fiscal and liquidity challenge of least developed countries. However, it should broaden its scope to include middle-income countries, which have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and experienced increasing debt vulnerabilities. We further welcome the new general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR), by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has made available the equivalent of USD 650 billion in additional reserves globally and the recent pledges SDRs pledges worth around USD 45 billion, as a step towards a total global ambition of USD 100 billion of voluntary contributions for countries most in need. Given the significant global liquidity and debt challenge faced by developing countries, more however will be required.
Many G77 countries are confronted by the increasingly severe climate change and global environmental crisis, which directly impacts the ability of developing countries to achieve any of the SDGs. The key to addressing the climate change is to secure international collaboration to take the necessary mitigation and adaptation measures, and to ensure that all developing countries that require means of implementation support, or assistance in responding to loss and damage caused by climate change, receive such support.
Developing countries require time, policy space and most importantly, support, in the context of an Equitable and Just Transition, in addressing this complex challenge.
South-South Cooperation remains an important pillar of South Africa’s foreign policy, and the Group of 77 is an ideal and critical platform where this finds expression. It is also of paramount importance to stress that South-South Cooperation is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South Cooperation, in line with the aforementioned outcome document, that we fondly refer to as BAPA + 40.
The pandemic has proven that no country can isolate and act alone to address these cross-cutting and cross-border challenges. The UN and its member states should seek practical ways of building better through multilateral cooperation.
A UN that is responsive, adaptable, and able to deal with contemporary challenges is required to fulfil its mandate guided by the principles of the UN Charter, which is the cornerstone of International Law.
Key to the reform of the global governance system is securing an enhanced voice and equitable geographical representation for developing countries at all levels of international organisations, including decision-making structures, in accordance with Article 101 of the UN Charter. Furthermore, South Africa attaches a lot of importance to the issue of gender parity in the United Nations and commends the efforts of the Secretary-General in this regard.
South Africa supports efforts by the United Nations to ensure that all member states pay their financial obligations in full, on time and without preconditions. We also note that this year, the United Nations will once again adopt a new Scale of Assessment of contributions both to the Regular Budget and Peacekeeping Operations. We thus wish to underscore that the existing methodology as a whole and all its elements for the preparation of the scale of assessments of the United Nations must be kept intact, especially at a time when most developing countries are facing unprecedented health, economic and social challenges amid a global pandemic.
As I conclude, let me emphasise that it is critical that the G77 remain true to its founding principles of unity and solidarity within the Group. We must also continue to work together towards placing developing countries on an accelerated trajectory of rebuilding, recalibrating and recovering.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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