(Geneva, 18 January 2007)

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you so much for being with us here today on this occasion when one chair is passing the baton to another chair; one region is handing over this responsibility to another region. This is a gift from Asia to Latin America to work for a common cause.

Chairing the Group of 77 and China has been a great honour for Pakistan. Pakistan has always been in the forefront of the efforts to forge unity amongst developing countries and to promote dialogue, understanding, and meaningful cooperation between developing and developed countries. It is within this overall strategic context that Pakistan has made its contribution. It is an honour for Pakistan to now start its chairmanship of the Group of 77 in New York. I can assure you that this kind of succession was not planned.

This past year was not bad for the Group of 77 and China. Not bad at all. Together, we were able to launch and sustain many initiatives. Most of them succeeded. Others are work in progress. Our biggest achievement was that we were able to establish a genuine partnership with all other members of the UN family – developed countries and international organizations. When we started out, this was not a given. It required endeavour and ingenuity on both sides. Walking towards each other and meeting half way requires courage and flexibility. We all demonstrated that. As a result, we had new synergy running through our negotiations. In UN lingo we would be able to say we built confidence and consensus.

This past year, we had consensual outcomes during Mid Term Review of UNCTAD XI and meetings of the Trade and Development Board. We commend the leading role played by Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya, Ambassador Mohamed Saleck Ould Mohamed Lemine, and Ambassador Ransford Smith.

This past year, UNCTAD’s very existence and its mandate were under threat. Several proposals were floated to encroach on the activities of UNCTAD or to subsume it within a bigger organism or to alter its character. We, in consultation with developed countries and UNCTAD secretariat, did not let that happen. The G-77 countries last July with one voice conveyed their point of view to the UN High Level Panel on System Wide Coherence, when Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, co-chair, and five other panelists addressed us. Your advocacy had an impact.

In 2006, the G-77 was not an isolated group suffering from localitis. We reached out to IOM, ILO, ITU, WIPO, WTO, ITC, WHO, UNHCR, High Commissioner for Human Rights. Most of them responded with enthusiasm and had dialogue with us. Their heads took the time to talk to us. We also took our vision and perspective to the G-77 Chapters’ Meetings in Paris and Vienna. Our point of view was appreciated; and the content contributed by us was reflected in the Chapters’ final documents.

Some ask if the G-77 is still relevant. They say the times have changed. The character of international politics has changed. Detractors call it a relic of the past. This is not true. There is a real South exceeding 77 countries within the G-77 family who are facing problems of abject poverty, illiteracy, ill health, and underdevelopment. They need support and sustenance. Those within the G-77 who have acquired higher degree of development have not exactly become or joined the North. With UNCTAD, the group’s relationship is special. The group and UNCTAD are coeval; and their work symbiotic.

The G-77 is an important actor in the international community’s quest for a just international economic order and an equitable global trading regime. In that context, the effort to promote development through trade is almost full time preoccupation of the G-77 and China in Geneva. The Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved in isolation. They require an enabling environment for holistic solutions. The G-77 and China act as a catalyst in creating that environment. We shall continue to work with our developed partners for a world free of poverty, disease and ignorance. This is our shared responsibility.

As we prepare for UNCTAD XII, this group has to maintain and build on its internal cohesion. This gives us traction vis-à-vis our negotiators.

Let me welcome and thank Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General UNOG, for his constant support to the Group of 77 and China. Without his help we would not have a new office for the G-77 within the premises of Palais des Nations. This was a singular achievement. In the same breath, I would like to thank Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi for his support to our office and for the appointment of a liaison officer for the group.

Dr. Supachai, you have done so much for UNCTAD and for the Group of 77. You have brought a new style of leadership to UNCTAD which is anchored in political seniority, engagement and outreach. Your able deputy, Mr. Dirk Bruinsma, has always helped us. And of course, Ms. Jo Butler gave us wise council and solid backing in our efforts. Thank you Ms. Butler. On this occasion, I would like to record our deep gratitude for the hard work done by Mr. Edward Chisanga, Group Liaison Officer; Mr. Saeed Malik, who consistently and assiduously supported us; and their colleagues – Zohra Amijee, Patricia Almeida and Yvette Fernandez.

I must also thank the following regional coordinators for their hard work, ceaseless efforts and guidance: Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Angola, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Thailand. Without naming them, I want to thank some 20 to 25 hard core negotiators who constitute the intellectual muscle and indeed a critical mass of the Group of 77 and China. Our special thanks to Ambassador Sha Zukang of China, who helped us move towards conciliation and consensus. I also want to thank the support given to us by Norway, Austria, Finland, Germany, the UK and the US. Ambassador Nick Thorne of the UK and Ambassador Enrique Manalo of the Philippines stepped up to the plate to bridge differences at a very crucial moment.

I also want to recognize the presence of H.E. Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios of Cuba, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement. Historically, the NAM and the G-77 and China have been working together to advance collective concerns and interests of the developing countries.

Last, but not the least, let me move to the primary objective of today’s event. Honduras takes over the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China under the dynamic leadership of H.E. Delmer Urbizo. Ambassador Urbizo has had most impressive public profile. Ordinary mortals can only aspire to what he has already achieved. He has been the Minister of Administration and Justice; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Economy and Commerce. He has worked closely with the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. He has thus experience in both multilateral and bilateral diplomacy. I wish him well. We wish his delegation well.

© The Group of 77