(Geneva, 22 June 2021)

President of the Trade and Development Board Ambassador Maimuna Tarishi of Tanzania,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Madame President,

1. This is no ordinary Trade and Development Board session. In addition to being on the road to UNCTAD 15, we are also faced with a historic crisis and as a historic opportunity.

2. We have on one hand a compound crisis that threatens to wipe our development advances achieved with great effort over many years. However, developing countries lack the means to stimulate economic activity in the way advanced economies have, making it difficult to reach even pre pandemic GDP levels. And this slow recovery is rendered even more sluggish by the obstacles that prevent most developing countries from stepping up vaccination. Every day that passes without the possibility of a gradual return to normal levels of activity, is another day that does not contribute to the recovery. This scenario, in combination with mounting debt levels and other systemic issues, makes for a very steep way forward.

3. Nevertheless, on the other hand we also see an unprecedented opportunity. An opportunity to ensure that our aspirations do not simply stop at returning to the pre-pandemic order itself, already skewed against developing countries. The opportunity is due to the paradigm shift that the pandemic has brought about. The consensus on a stronger role for the State, one of the traditional views of the Group of 77 and China, is now a mainstream concept. The traditional taboos surrounding the idea of a developmental State, should therefore no longer be an element preventing us from finding innovative solutions to longstanding development questions.

4. The UNCTAD Conference assembles every four years. This is the only development Conference that is convened at regular intervals without the need for a separate intergovernmental decision. UNCTAD 15 therefore offers us the possibility to seize the historic opportunity in our hands, and the Group of 77 and China believes it is our duty to make sure we deliver accordingly.

5. The common thread throughout the draft UNCTAD 15 outcome is clear as to the level of our aspirations: and that is Transformation. We must therefore think big and ensure that we take a transformational approach to our work along the four lines of transformation we currently identified:

– Transforming our economies, means that we need to build the productive capacities to underpin economic activity and thus promote development. It means securing investment that contributes to development and is aligned with national priorities and ensuring that there are opportunities for trade to truly be an engine for development. It also means bridging the digital divide and ensuring that available technology is put to the service of development.

– Transforming to more sustainable economy means that we need to ensure that we tackle environmental vulnerabilities to let our world heal, and that we avoid the worst effects of climate change, even while we seek to achieve inclusive prosperity. The contribution to the structural changes that are required needs to be distributed in a way that recognizes historic patterns and responsibilities and in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

– Transforming how development is financed means bridging the multi-trillion-dollar gap needed to achieve the SDGs. This requires not only ensuring that ODA commitments are fulfilled, but also ensuring that we deal with domestic resource mobilization, tackle illicit trade and illicit financial flows, mobilize FDI, and perhaps most importantly, that we find a durable and comprehensive solution to the issue of debt.

– Lastly, these transformations require transforming multilateralism too. A fairer world requires inclusive multilateralism, with an appropriate voice and participation of developing countries. It requires a multilateral trading system that supports and promotes development, and it means reaffirming special and differential treatment. Transforming multilateralism also means avoiding any sort of unilateralism that adversely affects the economies and development efforts of developing countries, including protectionism and unilateral economic, financial or trade measures or any other measures of a punitive or coercive nature that are not in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.

6. These transformations will not be possible, in the view of the Group of 77 and China, without a strong UNCTAD to support them. Only with strong mandates and adequate resources can we ensure that UNCTAD contributes to the world we believe in. Such aspirations led us to create this noble institution in 1964, and they are more relevant than ever.

7. These are our objectives for UNCTAD 15. In line with the spirit of solidarity of the Group of 77 and China, we are unable to speak of priorities without special consideration to the long-standing occupation of the Palestinian territory and to the conditions and important constraints it imposes on the Palestinian people and their development aspirations.

Madame President,

8. As we move ahead with the negotiations, we hope that our development partners will be able to muster the political will during this session and over the next weeks, so that together we respond to the needs of development with concrete steps.

9. Before concluding, our Group would like to point out that the appointment of a new Secretary General of UNCTAD offers an additional opportunity. We must therefore seek reinvigorate the institution and bring it to its rightful status, as both a beacon of the Global south but also a place of convergence of ideas between North and South on the ways and means to build a better world. The Group of 77 and China therefore welcomes the appointment of Ms. Rebecca Grynspan of Costa Rica to be the next Secretary-General of UNCTAD. We look forward to working with her for a stronger UNCTAD and for a more inclusive, fairer, and more equal world.

© The Group of 77