(Geneva, 29 October 2020)

President of the Trade and Development Board Ambassador Federico Villegas,
Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD Isabelle Durant,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China to introduce the position paper of the Group for UNCTAD 15, which was adopted at the ambassadorial meeting of the Group of 14 October 2020.

Mr. President,

2. In the discussion of our Group to prepare our position paper, it was clear that the world is at a crossroads. We are faced with a pandemic that is making a comeback in the form of a second wave in many corners of the world, generating increasing negative impacts affecting most of all the most vulnerable, and wiping development gains painfully achieved over years. It is a crossroads as we could follow several paths from here. One possibility is to stand together in solidarity and reinforce the multilateral system we have, to build back better together. Another possibility is to retrench into protectionism, closing borders and acting alone, hoping to isolate oneself from a crisis that is global in nature. The choice is clear to us.

Mr. President,

3. The Group of 77 and China sees UNCTAD 15 as an opportunity to express its political will to work together towards a new multilateralism, characterized by solidarity and a new way of thinking about development. This is the reason why we have made the Multilateral economic and trading system the first subtheme of our position paper. Under this subtheme we have explored issues related to the challenges to multilateralism in light of recent unilateral trends in the areas of international trade, of governance structures, of climate change, and others. We explore more specifically the ongoing trade tensions and its consequences, as well as issues related to unilateral coercive measures and other forms of unilateral actions. With this area of focus, the Group of 77 and China wishes to reaffirm its commitment to multilateralism and the need to build back better together, providing global and coordinated solutions for a global crisis.

4. Further along, the next subtheme of our position paper for UNCTAD 15 is Structural Transformation: building economic resilience to address persistent and emerging development challenges. In this part, the Group explores the challenges and possible ways to address the need for developing countries; to fundamentally transform our economies to build economic structures that can sustain development and help achieve development objectives. Some of the more specific issues explored under this subtheme include economic resilience and diversification, overcoming commodity dependence, ensuring that investment contributes to development, LDC graduation, the role of SMEs and the creative economy, regional integration and industrialization, among others. Emerging development challenges, such as those related to the interface of trade and development, on one hand, and various challenges linked to health, notably the ongoing pandemic, as well as peace and security, and migrant and refugee flows, on the other hand, are also an integral part of this subtheme, as are the development challenges faced by the Palestinian people in light of the continued occupation of Palestinian territories.

5. The Group of 77 and China is also conscious of the need to not lose track of global challenges linked to the environment and other related vulnerabilities, and has therefore integrated these into a subtheme Climate Change, Natural Disasters and Environmental Vulnerability and their Impacts on Trade and Development. Under this subtheme, the challenges posed by climate change are considered, particularly acknowledging the cross-cutting link of climate change to all 17 SDGs and the fundamental relationship to align economic development and trade policies to the challenges of climate change. The Group has also tackled under this subtheme issues linked to disasters, including industrial disasters, as well as maritime accidents, in particular given some recent high-profile tragic events that touched some of the members of our Group.

Mr. President,

6. As it has been clear for some time, the digitalization of our economies is a fact that we need to live with and accept. The Group of 77 and China explores this reality under the subtheme Development implications of the digital economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Indeed, the challenges are many, including to the survival of microenterprises and SMEs and to the structure of our economies and on competition and consumer protection. At the same time, the opportunities are the other side of the equation, as growth areas for microenterprises and SMEs emerge, as has become evident during the ongoing pandemic. More importantly, the advent of rapid technological change and frontier technologies is a reality that we need to better understand and harness rather than just reacting to it, as our position paper acknowledges.

7. Last but not least, the Group of 77 and China also acknowledges that, more than ever, a serious discussion of development cannot take place without a careful consideration of the resources needed. The last subtheme of our position paper therefore deals with Financing for development and debt issues. In particular, our Group explores in this part issues related to Official Development Assistance and FDI, but also dynamic that have a great impact on the resources available to developing countries, for instance illicit financial flows and illicit trade and most notably, issues related to debt sustainability, in particular as it has been affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Mr. President,

8. In addition to these subthemes, the Group of 77 and China believes there is a need to put UNCTAD in its rightful place in the development architecture we want, by reinforcing its intergovernmental machinery and our role within it. UNCTAD 15 should therefore serve as an opportunity to take meaningful steps in this direction, for which we have included some concrete proposals in our position paper.

Mr. President,

9. The Group of 77 and China has, through its position paper for UNCTAD 15, captured what we see as the main development questions that we currently face, in a spirit of solidarity and of leaving no one behind. We believe that UNCTAD 15 is an opportunity to have a strong message as international community on these matters, reaffirming our conviction that constructive engagement at the multilateral level is the way forward. We must not fail to deliver that message in the strongest terms.

I thank you, Mr. President.

© The Group of 77