unctad.org | The Ceremony for the Hand-over of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China
Statement by Mr. Dirk J. Bruinsma, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD
The Ceremony for the Hand-over of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China
18 Jan 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this morning. As this is my first official meeting with many of you since taking office as Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD on 1 January, please allow me to say a few words before beginning my official remarks. I was deeply honoured to have been asked to join UNCTAD, an organization which I have long held in high regard. Its role in helping developing countries integrate into the world economy and reap the development gains continues to be vital. Together with Dr. Supachai, whom I have known for almost 10 years, I will make every effort to strengthen this organization so that it can better assist its member States.

As one of my first official functions on behalf of the UNCTAD secretariat, I am pleased to express my sincere congratulations to you, Ambassador Khan, on your election as the new Chairman of the Group of 77 and China. I am confident that under your leadership, the Group will continue to strengthen its role and become an even stronger voice for development. I look forward to working closely with you and all the members of your Group.

But first of all, I would also like to thank Ambassador Mindua Kesia-Mbe, who has steered the Group of 77 and China with admirable determination and style this past year. While I did not have the privilege of observing your skills firsthand, as I was not with UNCTAD at the time, my colleagues in the secretariat have spoken to me often about your skill, your patience and your professionalism. As a result, during your term as Chairman, the Group´s close relationship with UNCTAD has prospered. Thank you very much for that.

Ever since their establishment in 1964, UNCTAD and the G77 have been bound together by their shared concern for development. To this day, the Group plays a vital role in highlighting imbalances in the international trading and financial system. Through its intergovernmental work, policy advice and technical cooperation activities, UNCTAD for its part endeavours to help overcome these imbalances and to turn trade and investment into forces for poverty reduction and development. The two organizations are linked by a common purpose, have an interest in each other´s vitality and will achieve the best results if they collaborate closely. The UNCTAD secretariat, including the new management, stands ready to assist the G77 in furthering the cause of developing countries and of development in general. We definitely should find a way that suits all our members, defining this close cooperation between UNCTAD and G77.

It is now almost commonplace to assert that developing countries have become more prominent players in international trade and investment. This phenomenon, which has often been called the "new geography of international economics", refers to the growing share of developing countries in world trade, the increased sophistication and diversification of their exports and their emerging role as destinations for foreign direct investment. Much more work is needed, however, on how best to put this trend to work for development.

The phenomenon of the "new geography" adds significantly to the potential gains from South-South cooperation. Given that more than 40% of developing countries´ exports are destined for other developing countries, and that this South-South trade is growing at nearly twice the rate of world exports, the reduction of tariffs among developing countries is likely to generate further opportunities for trade. The negotiations under the GSTP provide an opportunity to achieve just that. The GSTP can be a useful complement to multilateral trade liberalization, particularly when multilateral market access is harder to achieve. But the rising role of the developing world is not limited to trade in goods and services; it applies also to such areas as commodities, investment and technology, creating further opportunities for expanded South-South cooperation in harnessing these areas and others for development. The efforts made in this regard at the recent Second South Summit in Doha are thus to be welcomed.

While this trend is cause for optimism, there are of course a number of caveats to bear in mind. First, there is no doubt that North-South trade remains important for development. Achieving a meaningful, development-friendly outcome to the Doha Round is therefore of crucial interest to the developing countries. Second, we must not forget that despite the phenomenon of the "new geography", many developing countries remain marginalized in international trade and receive only a negligible share of foreign investment flows. The plight of the least developed countries and other countries with special needs must be mentioned here. But even a number of middle-income developing countries have not yet been able to benefit fully from the "new geography".

The tasks ahead for our member States this year include reviewing how the international community is addressing these challenges and how it is measuring up to past commitments. The past 18 months have been an intense period of summits and commitments, as we have already noted; the coming year must be one of follow-up and implementation. As you know, this means that the real work begins now. Please allow me to briefly flag some of the crucial issues that will require our joint attention.

One of the broadest and most prominent is undoubtedly the upcoming Mid-term Review of UNCTAD XI. The São Paulo Consensus not only reaffirmed UNCTAD´s mandate as contained in the Bangkok Plan of Action, but also added a number of areas of key interest to developing countries, including the work on the "new geography". The Mid-term Review represents a major opportunity to evaluate the implementation that has taken place to date across the broad range of issues of UNCTAD´s work and make the adjustments deemed necessary to better target our work. Together, our goal is to make UNCTAD a more effective organization for development. This means that maybe we can use the Mid-term Review of UNCTAD to show members that UNCTAD is focusing on those issues that really matter for developing countries and make a difference in the lives of individuals. The intergovernmental character of the MTR creates an extra opportunity to benchmark best practices and help governments to implement the most effective policies.

The same goes for the implementation of the decisions taken at the recent World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in both the Geneva and the Tunis phases. As you know, the Summit not only drew greater attention to the crucial role that information and communication technologies can play in the development process, but also requested a review of the mandate of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, whose secretariat UNCTAD provides. I have no doubt that with your input, the Commission´s potential role in translating the results of WSIS into concrete action can be significantly strengthened.

In the trade area, the outcome of the recent Hong Kong Ministerial Conference of the WTO will also require our attention. As you know, the meeting resulted in a number of welcome commitments in the area of market access for LDCs and for producers of cotton in developing countries. If implemented, these commitments could contribute enormously to improving the situation of some of the neediest countries. But the bulk of the difficult, substantive work of the Round has unfortunately been postponed to this year. And indeed, if this Round is to generate meaningful opportunities for the great majority of developing countries, then crucial progress will have to be made in the areas of agriculture, NAMA and services, including Mode 4, in the coming months. UNCTAD will of course be happy to work with the G77 as a strong advocate of development in seeking solutions for the remaining issues.

One promising area is Aid-for-Trade. We are greatly heartened by the increased recognition of the need for adequate supply capacity in order to benefit from trade, and by the increasing sums being committed to Aid-for-Trade initiatives. Funding for such trade-related capacity-building can certainly act as a multiplier for the gains to be had from trade liberalization. UNCTAD definitely can and will offer its experience and commitment to implement the Aid-for-Trade initiatives. In short, and of course in close cooperation with the WTO, UNCTAD can play an important role in this phase of the Doha Round as well.

This year will also see the review of the Brussels Plan of Action for the Least Developed Countries, which will allow us not only to review our work in this area since 2001 but also to renew our attention to the difficulties these countries face. The fact that only one country has graduated from this category since its creation in 1971, while 26 have had to be added to the list, is a matter of the gravest concern. We also need to continue our follow-up work on the Mauritius Strategy for the Small Island Developing States and on the Almaty Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries.

Needless to say, all of our efforts to review and improve our work across the broad spectrum of our activities will have to be informed by the broader follow-up to the NY World Summit of last September and by the wider UN reform processes under way at UN Headquarters. It is my hope that with the support of a strong G77, all of these review processes, along with the broader UN reform, will give adequate priority to development and result in a UN system that is better able to serve its membership and address these concerns.

I look forward very much to working with you on meeting these challenges, and I wish Ambassador Khan and his team all success.

Thank you very much.


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