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Secretary-General Spotlights ‘Group of 77 and China’ Role in Charting Greener, More Equitable Pandemic Recovery Path, at Chairmanship Handover

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as delivered, at the handover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China for 2021, today:

I congratulate the Republic of Guinea as it assumes the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China for 2021.  I assure you of continued support of the United Nations Secretariat.  I commend Guyana for its expert guidance of the group throughout 2020, an unprecedented year in the history of our Organization.

I want to thank the entire G-77 membership.  Facing multiple and intersecting challenges, you played a crucial role in responding to the immediate COVID-19 health, humanitarian and development emergencies, while maintaining a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals.  I am deeply grateful for our collaboration across a period when the needs of your membership were highlighted in urgent and dramatic fashion.

In such a challenging context, I would like to thank you for your support in approving our programme budget for 2021 and in advancing the ongoing reform implementation efforts.

Despite persistent efforts to contain its spread, the pandemic continues to ravage the world.  In addition to its impacts on health, COVID-19 has pushed us towards the worst recession in decades.  The pandemic has exposed the fragilities of our world.  It has amplified inequalities, both between and within countries.

Once again, the poorest and most vulnerable are suffering disproportionately.  After many years of progress, poverty and hunger are on the rise.  Resources for social protection and stimulus packages are falling way short in many countries — a deeply troubling failure of global solidarity.

Sovereign default risks are on course to rise further in 2021 in developing and middle-income countries, from already three in 2020 to four more in 2021, some for the first time in their history.  And once again, women, girls and young people are the most affected by the damage done to economies and societies.

Unfortunately, we cannot blame the pandemic for all our shortcomings.  Even before the virus, we were off track in our efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  Rising inequalities and persistent levels of poverty have characterized the last decade.  Temperatures are reaching record highs, deserts are spreading and entire regions have become uninhabitable.  Biodiversity is disappearing at alarming rates.

The pandemic has deepened all these challenges.  Yet, we have made some progress to lay foundations for a sustainable recovery from the crisis we face.  We moved the United Nations development system into emergency mode and pivoted quickly to provide support for your immediate socioeconomic needs.  There has been important movement on climate action, with pledges to reach carbon neutrality growing in both number and ambition.  Many of your leaders brought ambitious commitments to the recent Climate Ambition Summit in December, and I am grateful for those steps.

At last year’s “SDG Moment”, Summit on Biodiversity, Special Session of the General Assembly on COVID-19 and High-level Political Forum, Member States committed to an inclusive and sustainable recovery from the pandemic, centred on the 2030 Agenda.  Through the 2020 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, Member States gave clear directions to the United Nations system on how it can best accompany and support you in recovering from this crisis and accelerating Sustainable Development Goals implementation.

Looking ahead, it is clear that the old “normal” of inequalities and injustices must give way.  Vaccines are here, and they must be a global public good, available to everyone, everywhere.  That requires full funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its COVAX facility.  We need manufacturers to step up their commitment to work with the COVAX facility and countries around the world, in particular the world’s leading economies, to ensure enough supply and fair distribution.

“Vaccinationalism” is self-defeating and would delay a global recovery.  I continue to strongly advocate for greater international support from developed countries and international financial institutions and development banks.

The recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity to change course.  With smart policies and the right investments, we can chart a path that brings health to all, revives economies and builds resilience.  But developing countries must have the necessary resources to do so.

The high-level events that I convened [in 2020] together with the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica on “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond” highlighted the massive and urgent need for solidarity and financial support.  These Summits — gathering more than 50 Heads of State, Government and international institutions — and Working Groups have made a wide range of proposals and put a number of ideas on the table.

Governments must have the resources to invest in job creation and get education and businesses back on track, in order to build forward, greener and better.  This includes debt relief for all countries that need it, so that no one is forced to choose between providing basic services for their people or servicing their debts.  The international community must do more to increase the financial resources available to developing and middle-income countries, many of which are highly vulnerable.

We also go on needing a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights to the benefit of developing countries, and a voluntary reallocation of unused Special Drawing Rights.

Power, resources and opportunities must be shared more equitably.  [The year] 2021 must be a turning point for nature and for humanity.  A series of summits and high-level meetings in the months to come gives us important opportunities, from the oceans and transport conferences, to COP26 on climate change, as well as COP15 on biodiversity and the Food Summit.  Let’s not waste them.

That starts with building a truly global coalition for carbon neutrality.  This is the central objective for the United Nations for the year, and it must be everyone’s priority.

We also need a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience and ensure that the $100-billion-a-year commitment by developed countries to developing countries for climate action is fulfilled.  We must align global finance behind the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement [on climate change], the world’s blueprint for climate action and for justice.

We are not there yet.  This is a matter of equity, fairness, solidarity and enlightened self-interest.  It is imperative that developing countries have adequate, predictable and balanced means of support available to protect and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Adaptation must not be the forgotten component of climate action.  But until now, it represents only 20 per cent of climate finance.  Donors and the multilateral and national development banks should commit to increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50 per cent of their climate finance support.

We are also yet to meet any of the global biodiversity targets set for 2020, and biodiversity is facing a financing gap of $711 billion per year until 2030.  Our meeting in Kunming, China, this year is a vital step in establishing a post-2020 global framework for biodiversity and stopping the extinction crisis.

The Food Systems Summit will explore a holistic and systemic response to hunger and related sustainable development challenges.  The High-level Political Forum will take the full measure of the impact of COVID-19 on the Sustainable Development Goals and on the developing world.  The SDG Moment will allow us to look beyond the crisis and set our sights on the progress we can make together, between now and 2025.  And the General Assembly’s review of the Resident Coordinator system provides an opportunity to ensure the sustainability of the progress made in repositioning the United Nations development system these past three years.

As requested by the General Assembly in its resolution marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, we have started a consultation on shaping a vision for advancing our common agenda.  I count on your vital contributions to this effort.

The role of G-77 and China, under the presidency of Guinea, will be crucial to achieve ambitious outcomes.  I count on your full engagement and vision to help us build a sustainable, resilient and just future for all.  You can count on my strong support across our shared agenda.

For information media. Not an official record.