President of the Trade and Development Board Ambassador Bahtijors Hasans,
Secretary-General of UNCTAD Ms. Rebeca Grynspan,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. The Group of 77 and China would like to start by congratulating you, Mr. President as well as the rest of the Bureau, on your election. We trust that you will guide us successful through a year which is not only expected to pose fundamental challenges for development, but is poised to be a critical milestone in the implementation of the Bridgetown Covenant. In this connection, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight the true spirit of multilateralism that has prevailed here today and thank all parties for the flexibility and constructiveness demonstrated.

2. Mr. President, the Group of 77 and China wishes to take a moment to thank our dear sister Ambassador Maimuna Tarishi of Tanzania, who so skilfully guided us through the preparatory process for UNCTAD 15. Ambassador Tarishi, you were that beacon of patience and perseverance that helped us stay the course. We thank you.

Mr. President,

3. We would now like to turn to some general comments on the various issues that have been raised in the presentations thus far, in particular on the work of the Global Crisis Response Group that Secretary-General Grynspan has briefed us on and on the looming scenario that is threatening global financial stability, as well as food and energy security, particularly in developing countries.

4. Our Group concurs with the assessment of the Secretary-General that this is a global catastrophe in the making. She has recently spoken of the world being on the brink of the most severe global cost-of-living crisis in a generation. The Group of 77 and China is particularly worried about the possibility of what has been characterised as a “food catastrophe” in 2023.

5. As with many conflicts, the most vulnerable are the most affected. In today’s highly interconnected world, this means that not only the most vulnerable within the territory of the conflict, but also those in our developing country grouping. The food and energy security crises are disproportionately affecting the populations that spend the largest share of their incomes in these items, and those are the poor in developing countries.

6. The paradox in this case is that developing countries are suffering the most while having no control or influence over the geopolitical scenario. Such an asymmetry is familiar to us when we look at, for instance, which countries are most impacted from climate change versus which countries are most directly responsible for the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

7. This situation calls for resolute action from the international community. In this regard, the second brief of the Global Crisis Response Group identifies a number of critical actions on all three main streams: food, energy and finance, that we would like to briefly touch upon.

8. Stabilising global food markets, reducing volatility, and tackling the uncertainty of commodity prices, whilst resolving issues relating to the availability of fertiliser, are all critical and urgent actions that need to be taken now. The proposal of a Food Import Financing Facility is another critical element on ensuring that people don’t go hungry waiting for the corridors of diplomacy to continue their work. Indeed, protecting the most vulnerable wherever they are, should be a joint responsibility of the international community.

9. Such a daunting task cannot be achieved without adequate finance. As Secretary General Grynspan said, developing countries urgently need financial support from international financial institutions so that they can help their poor and vulnerable populations through social protection and safety nets schemes. The fiscal space of developing countries, already narrowed by the pandemic, is reaching a breaking point that can affect the ability to pay their food and energy import bills, let alone to remain financially stable and continue to protect the most vulnerable.

10. Our Group therefore supports the calls for international financial institutions to reactivate all of their rapid disbursement mechanisms and for multilateral development banks to be capitalised and apply more flexible lending ratios. The current situation also gives renewed urgency for a new emission of Special Drawing Rights from the International Monetary Fund, as well as more pledges to recycle the already issued Special Drawing Rights from countries with strong foreign reserve positions, towards the resilient and sustainability trust in the IMF. Other international initiatives on debt sustainability should be continued in the absence of a durable solution to debt issues that would be provided through a reform of the international financial and debt architecture.

11. All of these actions are urgent and are aimed at averting suffering. These are necessary and urgent actions that our Group will lend its full support to. At the same time, our Group would be remiss if we did not stop for a moment to take stock of the broader development scenario and possible path ahead that we had charted before the start of the ongoing conflict.

12. Some 8 months ago we adopted, in a joint Geneva-Bridgetown closing ceremony of UNCTAD 15, a comprehensive agenda of transformation in the form of the Bridgetown Covenant. The Covenant recognised the uneven pace of development progress already before the pandemic, the exacerbation of development challenges as a result of the pandemic, while charting a path toward the four transformations that we concurred would be needed to set us on the right path.

13. Whilst it is paramount that we tackle the challenges arising from the ongoing food, fuel and financial crisis, we must not lose sight of the commitments that we have very recently made. Therefore, as we work towards implementing the recommendations of the Global Crisis Response Group, we must not falter in our resolve to tackle climate change, promote digitalization, diversification, investment for development, enhance competition, promote growth, reduce inequality, and tackle the multiple integrated challenges and transformations outlined in the Bridgetown Covenant.

14. As our Group mentioned in our position paper for UNCTAD 15, it is paramount that we consider the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the development prospects not only of the targeted countries but also on those that trade or are financially integrated with them.

15. Indeed, going from inequality and vulnerability to prosperity for all, which we agreed as out theme for UNCTAD 15, is not only a matter of implementing a mandate, but a roadmap to achieve the resilience that would protect from crises such as the one we face now.

16. For this reason, we look forward to further engage with you tomorrow, Madam Secretary-General, in the discussion of the implementation of the Bridgetown Covenant and we look forward to continue to support you on this common path.

17. In closing Mister President, the G77 and China has had the opportunity to meet and reflect on our founding principles and raison d’être as a Group. We all have a resounding sense of belonging and solidarity to pursuing the interests of our diverse Membership and to ensuring that UNCTAD is not only fit for purpose but ensures that the interests of our Members are prioritised and taken forward. We look forward to working with you, Mister President and the UNCTAD Secretariat as we chart a path for a renewed and re-energised Group of 77 and China.

I thank you very much.

© The Group of 77