20 January 1997

Press Release



Following is the statement made today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the ceremonial take-over by the United Republic of Tanzania from Costa Rica of the Chairmanship of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China:

I am delighted to be able to join you this morning for this important occasion. My warmest congratulations to Ambassador Daudi Ngelautwa Mwakawago of Tanzania on his election as Chairman of the Group of 77. Ambassador Mwakawago's recognized diplomatic skills and leadership qualities bode well for the future success and influence of the Group. I would also like to express my appreciation to Ambassador Fernando Berrocal Soto of Costa Rica for his outstanding leadership over the past year and his untiring commitment to the ideals of the United Nations. The Group of 77 is the moving spirit in the United Nations in the areas of economic and social development. You have the responsibility of representing the interests, the hopes, and the aspirations of the majority of the world's peoples. The Group has always been a vital springboard for new development ideas and initiatives. Your work has enabled the United Nations to respond positively to the challenges of a rapidly changing international economic and social environment. You can take pride at your success in keeping development issues and the eradication of poverty at the top of the United Nations agenda. One of the principal lessons of the past 50 years has been that peace cannot be built in societies burdened by extreme poverty, human degradation and political oppression. Lack of development has been one of the root causes of instability and civil strife in the post-cold war period. If we are to have effective peace-building, we must recognize the urgent need to encourage sustained economic and social growth throughout the developing world. For our part, the United Nations has worked hard to encourage implementation of the important development goals and objectives adopted at recent international conferences, in Rio, Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing and Istanbul.

- 2 - Press Release SG/SM/6148 20 January 1997

And later this year, the General Assembly will meet in special session to review progress made towards the implementation of commitments made at Rio. This session will give the international community and important opportunity to take stock. My sincerest hope is that the special session will accelerate the political momentum towards full implementation of Agenda 21 and provide a platform for identifying important new development measures and initiatives.

Above all, the special session provides an opportunity to define international development priorities for the period beyond 1997.

I would highlight two. First we must do more, all of us, to enhance South-South cooperation.

The United Nations system will continue to offer support and encouragement, but, ultimately, the impetus and the political will must come from within the Group of 77. Developing countries can and must do more to take a lead in this area.

Already, the San José declaration and plan of action adopted last week, heralds a significant new phase in South-South dialogue and cooperation.

Second, Africa continues to demand special and urgent attention. We must spare no effort to build successfully on the political, economic and social initiatives taken by countries throughout the continent. We must spare no effort to ensure that the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa has tangible and lasting results.

Today, the Group of 77 has a key role to play in ensuring that the United Nations is more responsive and more effective in meeting the needs and interests of the developing world.

This means emphasizing the importance of economic and social development; urging greater action against starvation and disease; and working together to ensure that United Nations humanitarian and peace-keeping efforts meet the needs of people throughout the developing world.

As the United Nations embraces change and new reforms, nothing we do must detract from our responsibility to meet the needs and legitimate demands of the world's developing nations. I am determined to ensure that development remains a top priority in the work of a reformed and restructured United Nations.

Members of the Group of 77 have a vital role to play in all these areas. Your active contribution to the reform process and your efforts in creating a more effective United Nations are crucial to our success. I know that the United Nations can count on your commitment, your expertise and your support.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.