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We Face Greatest Test of Global Solidarity in Generations, as COVID-19 Inflicts Unprecedented Harm, Secretary-General Tells Group of 77 Ministers

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as delivered, to the annual ministerial meeting of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, today:

It is an honour to address the ministerial meeting of the Group of 77 and China.  I want to strongly congratulate the Cooperative Republic of Guyana for its very dynamic leadership of the group et j'en profite pour féliciter et présenter mes meilleurs voeux à la République de Guinée pour sa présidence, en l'assurant de toute la coopération, tout l'appui de moi-même et du Secrétariat.

We are at a historic moment as we face the greatest test of global solidarity in generations.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict unprecedented harm on people, societies and economies around the world.  The pandemic has pushed us towards one of the worst recessions in modern times, which is having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable countries and peoples.

The progress we have made together over recent decades on your top priorities — eradicating poverty and hunger, increasing opportunities for all, and reducing inequalities within and between countries — that progress is being eroded in a matter of months.

At the beginning of this year, we launched the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.  Our aim was to accelerate implementation in those areas where we are off track and to address major financial gaps.

But today, we face even more serious headwinds.  But within this crisis lies an opportunity — a chance to embark on a path to revive economies, ensure gender equality, protect our planet and achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] by 2030.

A path that ensures universal access to social protection, health care, quality education and digital connectivity.  A path towards a rapid and just transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies that generate investment, growth and employment.  A path that nurtures social cohesion, advances human rights and builds peace.

The United Nations is calling for a transformative response and recovery, based on unity and solidarity.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement [on climate change] and the Sendai Framework [for Disaster Risk Reduction] remain our guiding lights.  They must be at the heart of all national and global response and recovery efforts.

First, I have advocated from the start for providing enough resources, resources at scale to developing countries, through the international financial institutions using existing facilities or innovative initiatives.

Governments must have the resources to invest in businesses, public services and households, and align their budgets with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, in order to build back stronger, greener and better.

Second, many developing countries are suffering from severe liquidity crises related to skyrocketing debt.  I hope the G20 [Group of 20] Debt Service Suspension Initiative will be further extended, and its scope must be expanded to all developing and middle-income countries that are in need.  The private sector, including the credit rating agencies, must also be fully engaged in debt relief efforts.

The international community should also increase the resources available to the International Monetary Fund, to be put at the disposal of developing countries, through the allocation of special drawing rights (SDRs) and a voluntary reallocation of existing special drawing rights.

I hope for your continued support so that the policy options developed through our initiative on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and beyond are taken forward at all levels.

Third, I have urged the international community to take a collective decision to provide the $35 billion needed for the ACT-Accelerator [Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator], to ensure equitable access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.  We need any future vaccine to be a people’s vaccine, a global public good, available and affordable to all, especially to those most in need.

Fourth, recovery from the pandemic, securing climate action and implementing the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] must be one single effort.  Social and economic recovery policies, domestic stimulus strategies and nationally determined contributions must be coherent and mutually reinforcing.  I will continue to advocate for these policies with international financial institutions and at the virtual G20 summit next week.

This has not been a good year for multilateralism and international cooperation.  So far, the world has not seen the unity and solidarity needed to tackle the pandemic, beat the climate crisis, end the weakening of nuclear safeguards, and strengthen cooperation around digital technology.  I hope [2021] will be the year in which we reverse these trends and the year we are able to forge a global alliance for carbon neutrality.

Many developing countries are prioritizing adaptation and resilience as part of their nationally determined contributions.  I urge those who have not done so to enhance adaptation plans.  By investing less than $2 trillion in adaptation, including early-warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure and dryland agriculture could generate more than $7 trillion in benefits between now and 2030.

I am very encouraged that more than 110 countries have already pledged carbon neutrality by 2050 and that China will do so before 2060.  There is a duty on all to take climate action, under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities in light of the different national circumstances, as is clearly spelt out in the Paris Agreement.

We need to dramatically scale up public finance from developed countries, bilaterally and through multilateral development banks.  This must go beyond small adaptation trust funds and instruments that are triggered by catastrophes.  And we need to improve access to funding, particularly for least developed countries and small island developing States.  These countries contributed least to global warming and are now even more vulnerable as a result of the global pandemic.

Multilateral development banks need to rethink their private finance mobilization strategies, to unlock the trillions held by institutional investors to finance low-carbon, climate-resilient development in the developing world.  Developed countries must meet the goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries.  This remains a key pillar underpinning the global climate finance architecture.

Looking ahead, we must recognize the need for ever-more effective coordination in the face of global challenges.  In our interconnected age, solidarity is self-interest.  We can only tackle shared threats through shared resolve.  I am now embarking on a process of deep reflection on how we can best advance our common agenda and respond to current and future challenges, as the General Assembly requested in its Declaration on our seventy-fifth anniversary.

I look forward to engaging with the G77 and China on how we can reinvigorate multilateralism so that it can deliver on critical global public goods while enabling us to prepare for the threats and opportunities of the future.  Three years ago, we embarked on reforms of the peace and security pillar, the development system and the management of our Organization in 2017 — thanks in large part to the strong support of the G77 and China.

A new generation of United Nations country teams and resident coordinators are now working hand-in-hand with your Governments in full respect for the principle of national ownership to support the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The peace and security reforms have enabled us to implement comprehensive regional strategies, leading to greater alignment with regional and subregional organizations and other stakeholders.  The partnership between the African Union and the United Nations is an extremely relevant example of this common effort.

Management reform has brought substantial changes in structures, accountability, delegation and our internal operations.  These have been critical to sustain the business continuity of our global operations during the pandemic.  The reforms enabled us to adapt international policies and procedures and internal action quickly as circumstances changed and helped to ensure dedicated capacities were ready to focus on key areas.

I thank you for your work to lead the reform agenda, and your contributions to the policy review of UN operational activities that is currently under way.  I count on your continued support, including to consolidate the new resident coordinator system as the General Assembly takes stock next year, so that together we can accelerate and scale action towards the 2030 Agenda.

I also count on your support so that the annual budget reforms can be implemented without disruption during the three-year trial period.  Unfortunately, our liquidity crisis continues to hamper our ability to fulfil our obligations to the people we serve.  The United Nations can only deliver on its mandates if Member States meet their financial obligations in full and on time.  I count for the continued strong support of the G77 and China to help solve this crisis.

I also acknowledge the consistent support of the Group for the Organization’s budget proposals.  For the 2021 budget, I trust that Member States will adopt a reasonable level as any major cuts will mean cuts in our activities or operations and particularly to the detriment of the developing world.  And I hope Member States will be able to adopt the budget as early as possible to avoid disrupting our operations on 1 January.

The G77 and China has always been on the frontlines of multilateralism and is foundational of a strong United Nations, fit for the future.  Together, let us recover from this pandemic and make the next ten years a Decade of Action, ambition, transformation and peace.  I look forward to working in close partnership with the G77 and China to build new hope and to galvanize progress in justice.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.