Calling for Global Financial Reforms, Urgent Climate Action, Secretary-General Tells Meeting of Ministers for Group of 77 and China ‘We Are Moving Backwards’

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the opening ceremony of the forty-sixth annual meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, in New York today:

For decades, the Group of 77 and China have pushed us to be ambitious and relentless in pursuing development.  You’ve kept the developing world’s priorities front and centre.  I congratulate Pakistan for guiding the Group amidst troubled times and keeping the compass pointed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals has been my focus during the high-level week and will remain front and centre throughout the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly.  Because as we reach the halfway point to the 2030 Agenda, let us be clear, we are moving backwards.

The COVID-19 pandemic and an unequal recovery have cost us at least three years’ worth of development progress.  Developing countries are drowning in debt, with no fiscal space or access to financial resources to invest in recovery.  Families and communities face steep price rises that are increasing poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and fuelling social and political unrest.

The climate crisis is upending your countries — look no further than Pakistan, where I saw first-hand the colossal flood damage.  And the war in Ukraine has added further turmoil to supply chains, and energy and food markets, creating an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis affecting up to 1.7 billion people around the world.

As we mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development, these challenges remind us how the global community is failing your countries.  Rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals requires Governments to invest heavily in their people and the systems that support them: health, education, social protection, housing and decent work.

It also requires major transitions in renewable energy, food systems and digital connectivity.  But at every turn, developing countries are blocked in their efforts to invest in recovery and development.  As a moral and practical imperative, this must change.

I am calling for action on six fronts.  First — and our fronts are very similar — first, we need urgent action on debt to increase liquidity and ease the pressure on developing countries.  Credit and financing facilities, both public and private, need to go into crisis mode.  The Debt Service Suspension Initiative should be extended and strengthened.

But we need an effective mechanism for debt relief for developing countries, including middle-income countries, that are in distress.  New innovative instruments — like debt swaps to fund Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation — should be put in place.  The issuing of special drawing rights by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the pandemic was a step forward.  But they went largely to developed countries that need them least, and we are still waiting for nineteen months, for the promised reallocation.  A new round of special drawing rights (SDRs) should be handled according to developing countries’ needs.

Second, we need an increase in concessional funding from multilateral development banks.  These banks must boost their risk appetite and increase access to financing for developing countries.  The IMF should operationalize its Resilience and Sustainability Trust immediately.

We need to break down the barriers that keep developing countries from accessing the financing they need.  Multilateral development institutions must do much more to leverage private finance through guarantees assuming first risk in consortia and many other ways in which their funds can be multiplied in a meaningful way.

Third, we need to reform a morally bankrupt global financial system.  This system was created by rich countries to benefit rich countries.  Practically no African country was sitting at the table of the Breton Woods Agreement; and in many other parts of the world, decolonization had not yet taken place.  It perpetuates poverty and inequalities.

We need to balance the scales between developed and developing countries and create a new global financial system that benefits all.  This must include lending criteria that go beyond gross domestic product (GDP) and provide a true view of the vulnerabilities faced by developing countries.  These are two central objectives — the reform of international financial systems and beyond GDP, these are two central objectives of our common agenda.

Fourth, we need urgent action on climate.  I will never forget the devastation I witnessed in Pakistan that I could not imagine before.  The countries that have done least to contribute to global warming are its greatest victims.  Developed countries must deliver on their promises and support developing countries as they adapt to worsening climate impacts.

They must present credible roadmaps to meet their $100 billion-per-year pledge, and double adaptation finance to $40 billion annually as a first step as the needs are estimated at $300 billion per year for adaptation in the developing world.  I renew my call for developed economies to tax the record fossil fuel profits and redirect them to countries that have suffered irreversible loss and damage from the climate crisis.

I also renew my call for universal early warning system coverage within five years to save lives and livelihoods — the plan for which will be presented at the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27).  And I urge all countries, especially Group of 20 (G20) members, to spare no effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Fifth, we need a proliferation of peace around the world, and a deployment of the tools of our trade — diplomacy, dialogue and negotiation, along with a clear pathway to disarmament.  As the devastating impacts of the war in Ukraine are showing, development is impossible without peace.

And sixth, we need to reform global governance.  This includes a New Global Deal to rebalance power and resources between developed and developing countries, as set out in my report on Our Common Agenda.  A revitalized multilateralism is an essential instrument of development, and a vital key to rescue the SDGs.  We need innovative and ambitious outcomes from 2024’s Summit of the Future.

Your active and vocal support will be critical.  I look forward to continued collaboration as we look towards the Summit and develop solutions to shape a better, fairer world for all.  Your support of our Organization is needed now, more than ever.  I deeply appreciate our partnership and am fully committed to working with you and all Member States across our essential work for justice and truth.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.