(Geneva, 18 January 2021)

Chair of the Eighty-first Session of the Working Party, Ms. Cecilia Gutiérrez,
Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD Isabelle Durant,
Vice-Chair-cum-Rapporteur of the Eighty-first Session of the Working Party, Ms. Charline Van der Beek,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. The Group of 77 and China would like to start by congratulating the Chair and Vice-Chair-cum-Rapporteur for their election and to assure them of the support of our Group to steer this meeting to a successful conclusion.

2. Before we address the substance of this session, the Group of 77 and China would like to express its appreciation for the spirit of consensus that led us to agree on the terms of reference of the Working Party, now renamed Working Party on the Programme Plan and Programme Performance. Indeed, this will be our first formal meeting under the new terms-of-reference. We hope that the clear consensus as to the role of the Working Party in relation to the programme plan will facilitate our work during this session and thus strengthen our oversight role over the work of the UNCTAD Secretariat.

3. We would like to acknowledge the remarks of the Deputy Secretary-General Madame Durant about the focus of UNCTAD’s programme plan document for 2022. Indeed, it is difficult for our Group to make a clear determination of priorities for 2022, pending the definition of the outcome for UNCTAD 15 and of the new mandates or changed focus of the programme of work that might result from that outcome.

4. Nevertheless, there are issues that we can anticipate being of relevance to our Group for the years to come, and which we would like to see duly reflected in the priority-setting of UNCTAD. For instance, we have the multi-faceted issues related to the pandemic, including trade-related aspects of the access to medical treatment, supplies, vaccines and others, as well as the economic recovery from the impact of the pandemic. We are therefore pleased to see that this has already been captured as a priority within the foreword and throughout the programme plan already in the foreword and also throughout the document.

5. Our Group also takes note that many of the other aspects that are deemed as priorities for our Group, such as those captured in our position paper for UNCTAD 15, are also duly captured in the document, such as:

– Debt issues, financing for development, industrial policy and illicit financial flows and the activities underlying their occurrences in subprogramme 1;
– Investment and enterprise for development, including investing in the SDGs and in pandemic recovery in subprogramme 2;
– Trade in services, formalizing the informal sector, trade barriers, the oceans economy in subprogramme 3;
– Trade facilitation and digital readiness in subprogramme 4; and
– LDC graduation, Africa’s participation in regional and global value chains, and building productive capacities and resilience in vulnerable countries in subprogramme 5.

6. We value the efforts of the Secretariat in incorporating these priorities and, although our Group understands that the format of the document is not meant to be an exhaustive inventory, we would like to take the opportunity to reiterate some other areas that we consider should continue to be given adequate attention. For instance, developing countries have been heavily hit regardless of their level of income and development. We therefore consider that the plight of all developing countries should be duly taken into account, including LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS, middle income countries and other that can be in vulnerable situations for a variety of reasons.

7. We would also like to see the Secretariat continue to pay attention to the multifaceted issues of digitalization, including addressing the digital divide and the issues of competition and exclusion that can arise from the acceleration of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We must also not forget the development consequences of climate change for developing countries. The effects of droughts, storms, changing weather patterns and others have had devastating consequences for developing countries. Diversification away from commodity dependence has close linkages with climate change and as such needs special attention. This is particularly the case as food commodities production is affected by the effects of climate change, and as markets for fuel commodities are affected by climate change adaptation. In both cases, developing countries take the brunt of the impact.

8. Our Group is also a staunch defender of multilateralism. In the aftermath of the pandemic, we believe there is a role to be played by UNCTAD in contributing to the mechanisms needed to deliver truly global solutions to the undoubtedly global challenges we face. We have seen how the initial efforts of protectionism and unilateral efforts at the start of the pandemic led nowhere, as it became quickly evident from our interdependence that working together was the way forward. There is therefore much work to be done in this respect, and we call on UNCTAD to continue providing policy options, solutions and advice for our consideration.

9. We will be commenting more specifically once we move into specific parts of the document when we move to the informal format.

Madame Chair,

10. Before we close, our Group would like to reiterate its concern about the impact of the ongoing liquidity crisis on the work of the Secretariat. We take note of the various facets of impact this crisis has had on the work of UNCTAD in 2020, as reflected in the programme of work in front of us, and we reiterate our call on all Member States to fulfill their financial obligations with the organization, in order to ensure the proper functioning of the United Nations for the benefit of all its members.

I thank you, Madame Chair.

© The Group of 77