Inter Press Service » G77 News and Views from the Global South Wed, 26 Oct 2016 00:26:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Development as Human Right: An Unfulfilled Promise to Billions Wed, 28 Sep 2016 23:12:54 +0000 an IPS Correspondent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the commemoration event for the 30th anniversary of Declaration on Right to Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the commemoration event for the 30th anniversary of Declaration on Right to Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By an IPS Correspondent

As the United Nations commemorated the 30th anniversary of the “Right to Development”, the Group of 77 (G77) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) expressed strong collective support for one of the basic human rights described as a key element in the implementation of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

“Development as a human right is still an unfulfilled promise for billions of people,” said a joint statement issued September 22 by two of the largest economic and political groupings at the United Nations.

The 133-member G77 (joined by China) and the 120-member NAM said 30 years ago, “we recognized the human person as the central subject of the development process and  therefore development policy should make the human being the main participant and beneficiary of development.”  And it placed people at the center of development while demanding equal opportunities and equitable distribution of economic resources.

Since then, said the joint statement, the international community has embraced the concept of “people-centred” development.

At the same time, it has recognized that, despite continuous efforts on the part of the international community, “the gap between developed and developing countries remains unacceptably wide, that most of the developing countries continue to face difficulties in participating in the globalization process and that many risk being marginalized and effectively excluded from its benefits.”

The resolution on the ‘Declaration on the Right to Development’ was adopted at the 97th plenary meeting of the General Assembly back in December 1986.

Addressing a high level meeting of the General Assembly commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Right to Development on September 22, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said despite great strides forward, developing countries still struggle with the diversification of their economies, international trade, macroeconomic and fiscal issues and ensuring equitable and sustainable frameworks for the use of natural resources.

There are more least developed countries (LDCs) now than in 1986. Even among middle-income countries, few are on paths that can ensure sustained, sustainable and equitable growth and poverty eradication.

Developed countries also face new challenges, such as rising inequality and financial crises, he said.  “We have new prospects for realizing the right to development, thanks to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG 17 on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership, together with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.”

"it is an opportune time to demonstrate and reiterate our unequivocal commitment to the right to development, in particular the need to strive for greater acceptance, operationalization and the realization of this right at the international level.”

The 2030 Agenda explicitly recognizes the Declaration of the Right to Development and reflects its spirit. Its emphasis on equality, participation, empowerment and ensuring that no one is left behind, echoes the definition of the right to development as “an inalienable human right”.

It recognizes, like the Declaration, that each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development while affirming that international cooperation and partnership are essential to ensure implementation.

The 2030 Agenda has unprecedented potential to fulfil the aspirations that motivated the Declaration on the Right to Development, and that remain critical to this day.  “Let us celebrate the Declaration for its past – and more importantly for the promise it holds for the future,” Ban declared.

The President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson told the high level meeting that  many of the commitments on the UN’s post-2015 development agenda mirror duties arising from the Declaration on the Right to Development.

It includes a duty on each government to put the well-being of the entire population, and of all individuals, at the heart of their policies and strategies. This includes by ensuring their free and meaningful participation in development efforts and decision-making process, and in the distribution of the resulting benefits.

It includes the duty to remove structural obstacles and to address both historical and contemporary inequities that are holding back developing countries, he noted.

And it includes the need for international cooperation in support of those countries that remain in vulnerable situations – whether they be the least developed countries; those affected by conflict and instability; or those struggling to adapt to the impacts of climate changes, Thomson told delegates.

“As we mark this Anniversary, let us recognize that if we are to realize the Right to Development, we must do so together; working in responsible and ethical partnerships between governments, the UN system, civil society, the private sector and others.”

Addressing the high level meeting, the European Union’s (EU) Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrindis, said: “We wish to reiterate our support for the right to development, as based on the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights as outlined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the multidimensional nature of development strategies and the role of individuals as the central subjects of the development process.”

He pointed out that the EU is fully committed to a rights-based approach to development, encompassing all human rights, including the right to development. The right to development requires the full realisation of civil and political rights, together with economic, social and cultural rights, and a mix of policies, creating an enabling environment for individuals, involving a wide range of actors, at all levels.

“We emphasise that the primary responsibility for ensuring that the right to development is realised is one owed by States to their citizens. We must recognize that divergent views in the understanding of the right to development remain.”

But he re-stated the EU position that it is not in favour of the elaboration of an international legal standard of a binding nature “as we do not believe that this is the appropriate mechanism to realise the right to development.”

With its universal applicability and its importance in shaping development priorities, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will open up new avenues to integrate human rights into global and national policies in both developed and developing countries over the next 15 years, he added.

Meanwhile, in its joint statement, the G77 and NAM said the Right to Development is crucial to the three agreements reached last year: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development (FfD) and the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which have vowed to “leave no one behind.”

“There is no doubt that in order for us to reach that goal, the right to development must be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development taking into account countries and peoples who face specific challenges, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States as well as specific challenges that many middle-income countries face, as well as countries facing conflict and post-conflict situations, humanitarian emergencies, the effects of climate change and global pandemics.”

The statement also said “We must take resolute steps to eliminate the massive and flagrant violations of human rights of peoples and human beings affected by situations such as those resulting from apartheid, all forms of racism and racial discrimination, colonialism, foreign domination and occupation, aggression, foreign interference and threats against national sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity, threats of war and refusal to recognize the fundamental right of peoples to self-determination.”

According to the statement, the 30th Anniversary coincided with the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  “So it is an opportune time to demonstrate and reiterate our unequivocal commitment to the right to development, in particular the need to strive for greater acceptance, operationalization and the realization of this right at the international level.”

“We must continue our efforts also, to mainstream this right in our work at the national and regional level and in the United Nations, particularly in the Human Rights mechanisms, as well as international financial and multilateral trading systems in the context of the elaboration of their policies in line with the 2030 Agenda.”

One of the recurring themes in recent conversations and panel discussions was the understanding that the realization of the right to development is a necessity now, more than ever.  “The ambitious goals we have committed ourselves to, the massive challenges and violations of human rights caused by situations resulting from, among others, unilateral coercive measures and unfair sanctions, can only be reached and overcome if we embrace the tenets of the Declaration.”

In this regard, the statement said: “We urge all States to expand and deepen mutually benefiting cooperation with each other in promotingdevelopment and eliminating obstacles to it, in the context of promoting an effective international co-operation for the realization of the right to development, bearing in mind that lasting progress towards the implementation of the right to development requires effective development policies at the national level as well as equitable economic relations and a favorable economic environment at the international level; and to work together towards the elaboration and adoption of a Convention on the Right to Development.”

The G77 and NAM pointed out there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

“It is our collective hope that on this auspicious 30th Anniversary of this landmark Declaration, we are rightly reminded of the work that still needs to be done to realize this fundamental right.”

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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Poverty Eradication Greatest Global Challenge, Say G77 Ministers Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:18:31 +0000 an IPS Correspondent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

By an IPS Correspondent

The 133-member Group of 77 (G77), joined by China, unanimously endorsed a Ministerial Declaration strongly reiterating its support to the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change agreement.

The Declaration, which was adopted at the 40th annual meeting of G77 Foreign Ministers on September 23, reaffirmed “the overarching objective of eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions,” describing it as “the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

Reiterating that poverty eradication is a central imperative of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Ministers emphasized “the need to address poverty in all its forms and dimensions in order to truly leave no one behind.”

The targeted deadline for the eradication of poverty worldwide is 2030.

General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (Ret), Prime Minister of Thailand and G77 chair of the Ministerial Meeting said: “This year, we have together taken the first steps in translating vision into concrete action, in line with developing countries’ needs and interests and to realize the SDGs.”

Since the start of this year, he pointed out, the Group has played an active role in implementing the 2030 Agenda through (1) negotiating a resolution on Follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level; (2) reviewing global agenda outcomes under the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; (3) following-up on Financing for Development (FfD); (4) determining a global indicator framework for SDGs; (5) supporting implementation of the Agenda in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through negotiating a political declaration for the High-Level Mid-term Review according to the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs; and (6) strengthening cooperation among developing countries on the High-Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation.

Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the key role played by the G77 in the adoption of both the SDGs and the Climate Change agreement last year.

The United Nations and the G-77 have an invaluable partnership, he told the Ministers. ”Together, we have made enormous progress for human rights and human dignity.”

The Ministers called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

Singling out the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development on September 29, Ban said the G-77 was also a driving force behind the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “our truly transformative plan for the planet and all people.”

“Many G-77 countries also helped push for the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Thank you for this advocacy,” he said.

Ban pointed out that G-77 kept its distinctive name even after the membership expanded to 133 countries, joined by China (from the original 77). ”In the same way, I hope you keep the Group’s founding spirit to stand up for the countries of the South while expanding your engagement to tackle emerging threats. “

With this mix of timeless values and timely action, he declared, “we can build on our proud record and leave a better world for generations to come. Thank you for your leadership and commitment.”

40th Annual Declaration

Some of the key elements of the Declaration include the following:

The Ministers highlighted that the year 2016 marked the first year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development towards a sustainable future. Thus, it is important to show the international community the Group’s continued unwavering commitments to further translate ambitions set out in the Agenda into real actions.

In this context, the Ministers noted that 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 which adopted in October 1967 the “Charter of Algiers”, the first platform of the G-77 calling for joint efforts by developing countries towards economic and social development, peace and prosperity.

The Ministers welcomed the progress made by Member States in their national  implementation, but stressed that implementing the 2030 Agenda at all levels requires a revitalized global partnership and the full implementation of the 17th Sustainable Development Goal, which is dedicated to this purpose.

In this context, said the Declaration, enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology on favorable terms including on concessional and preferential terms, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system.

The Ministers urged the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

They appreciated the G20 2016 Summit, which took place in Hangzhou, China in September 4-5, being the first G20 Summit which took place in a developing country after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with broad participation of developing countries, including the Chair of G77, which endorsed the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an important contribution to the global implementation of the 2030 Agenda

The Ministers also approved the Report of the 31st Meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) and endorsed its recommendations.

The Ministers commended the Chairman of the PGTF for his continued commitment and expressed their satisfaction with the results achieved by the PGTF.

In light of the substantial decrease in the interest earnings of the Fund caused by the current world financial situation, as reported by the Chairman of the PGTF, the Ministers appealed to every Member State to make a significant contribution to the PGTF on the occasion of the UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities to be held in New York on 7 November 2016.

Thailand, ahead of the conference, made a contribution of $520,000 to the PGTF.

The Ministers noted the commemoration of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) + 40 to be held in 2018 which represented an opportunity to enhance the current institutional arrangements to better support South-South cooperation and promote the South-South agenda.

In this context, the Ministers strongly recommended the consolidation of existing mechanisms of South-South cooperation and called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

The Ministers underlined that the achievement of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda will depend on enabling international environment for development, facilitating the necessary means of implementation, particularly in the areas of finance, international trade, technology and capacity-building to developing countries.

In this regard, they called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries.

The Declaration also said there was a dire need for development partners to meet their current official development  assistance  (ODA) commitments  and  to  upscale  these  in  support  of  the aspirations that have been set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

The Ministers reasserted that developing  countries  will  continue  to  advocate  for additional  funding  for  development  to  be  made  available,  with  North-South cooperation central to these efforts

While commending the few countries who reach the ODA target, the Ministers stressed the need to urgently address the unmet ODA commitments since North-South Cooperation is still the main channel of financing for development for developing countries.

They noted with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in the 2016 outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address these important issues.

The Ministers reaffirmed the paramount importance of ODA in supporting the sustainable development needs of developing countries, in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small islands developing States and the middle-income countries and countries in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In this context, developed countries must commit to fully implementing their ODA commitments in keeping with their previously made undertakings and to upscale these efforts to play a meaningful role in eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. The Ministers called for the global partnership for development to be revitalized and reinvigorated.

The Ministers reiterated their position that South-South cooperation is a complement to, rather than a substitute for, North-South cooperation, and reaffirmed that South-South cooperation is a collective endeavour of developing countries and that, consequently, South-South cooperation deserves its own separate and independent promotion, as reaffirmed in the Nairobi outcome document.

In this context, the Ministers stressed that South-South cooperation and its agenda must be driven by the countries of the South. South-South cooperation, which is critical for developing countries, therefore requires long-term vision and a global institutional arrangement, as envisioned at the Second South Summit.

The Ministers stressed that developing countries attach importance to scaling up international tax cooperation and combating illicit financial flows in order to mobilize domestic resources for the SDGs.

The Ministers welcomed the convening of the G-77 Bangkok Roundtable on Sufficiency Economy: An Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 28-29 February 2016 and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in Business: A G-77 Forum on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 1-2 June 2016.

They noted that there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

And, in this regard, welcomed the initiative by the Kingdom of Thailand to share its development experience and promote partnership among G-77 members on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular through applying the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) as an approach for sustainable development that focuses on transforming the economics of exploitation into the economics of moderation, resilience and self-immunity guided by knowledge as well as ethics and moral consideration with a view to harmonizing the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects of development.

The Ministers welcomed the fruitful and productive discussion from the interactive thematic dialogue on SEP for Sustainable Development Goals convened on the occasion of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 under the leadership of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand as chair country of the Group of 77.

They noted the various experiences and home-grown approaches to achieve the SDGs and the importance of learning and sharing of best practices including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

They recognized the SEP as a practical approach that can support the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and its universality underscored by its successful application in various development projects in a number of G-77 countries, including “SEP for SDGs Partnership”

The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of respect for the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, in particular of peoples living under colonial or foreign occupation and other forms of alien domination, which adversely affects their social and economic development, respect for the independence of States, national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, including through the use of information and communications technologies, in particular social networks, contrary to the principles of international law, for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the international covenants on human rights, and stress that full respect for the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter and international law inspire full commitment to multilateralism.

The Ministers reaffirmed that the right of self-determination is a primordial right that anchors the United Nations. For developing countries, it has been and continues to be a beacon of hope for all those who struggle under the weight of occupation.

In this context, in the implementation and the follow-up and review of 2030 Agenda, the international community must not forget the severe difficulties faced by peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation and strive to remove the obstacles to their full realization of the right of self-determination, which adversely affect their economic and social development and their ability to achieve and implement the sustainable development goals and to ensure that they will not be left behind.

The Ministers stressed the importance of eliminating safe havens that create incentives for transfer abroad of stolen assets and illicit financial flows. They reiterated their commitment to working to strengthen regulatory frameworks at all levels to further increase transparency and accountability of financial institutions and the corporate sector, as well as public administrations.

The Ministers reaffirmed that they would strengthen international cooperation and national institutions to combat money-laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Ministers expressed their concern over illicit financial flows and related thereto tax avoidance and evasion, corruption and money laundering, by using certain practices, with negative impacts for the world economy and, in particular, for developing countries.

They maintained that, while there is increasing recognition of the central role of tax systems in development and the importance of international cooperation on tax matters, there is still no single global inclusive forum for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level.  There is also not enough focus on the development dimension of these issues.

In this context, the Ministers reiterated the need to fully upgrade the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into an intergovernmental body and to provide adequate resources to the Committee to fulfill its mandate as well as increase the participation of experts of developing countries at its meetings.

This will be critical in transforming the current Committee from experts acting in their own capacity to an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, with experts representing their respective Governments.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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Global South Address Sustainable Development Challenges Sun, 25 Sep 2016 03:04:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

On Friday, a group of 134 developing nations, known as the Group of 77 (G77), came together for a meeting to address challenges and solutions in achieving sustainable development. In attendance were G-77 Foreign Ministers, the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General and other UN senior officials.

During the 40th Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, whose country is currently Chair of the group, highlighted the need to translate the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into concrete action in line with developing nations’ needs and interests.

“There is no one size fits all approach for development,” he told delegates.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha pointed to several resources to ensure the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including human resources.

“Human beings are full of potential and are the source of innovation and creativity. The challenge is how to tap that potential,” he said. Prime Minister Chan-o-cha looked to education and the improvement of quality of life as ways to build human capacity.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” -- Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long.

Another key challenge that arose during the meeting was ensuring equal participation of developing nations in discussions and solutions.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha expressed his delight in being invited for the first time to the recent G20 Summit in China and called it an “opportunity” for the G77 and developing nations to be heard. However, he still stressed the need to build a global partnership within and beyond developing nations.

“Thailand, as a Chair of the Group, is working as a bridge-builder among all actors that share the same goal in creating a better world, a world without poverty,” he stated. He added that developed nations should assist G77 countries through short-term assistance and capacity building to pave the way for a long-term outcome with the group’s needs in mind.

During the meeting The Kingdom of Thailand made a contribution of 520,000 US dollars to the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF) for South-South Cooperation. The fund supports economic and technical cooperation among developing countries.

President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly (GA) Peter Thomson particularly underlined the importance of cooperation within the Global South.

“South-South cooperation represents the best expression of solidarity and interdependence among developing countries, and will be pivotal in complementing North-South, public and private SDG-implementation initiatives,” he told delegates in his opening address.

Thomson was Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, making him the first GA President from the Pacific Islands. Fiji is also a member of the G77.

Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long told delegates that there needs to be a “re-founding” of the multilateral system in order to increase solidarity.

“We need a UN with more voices and fewer vetoes,” he stated.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” Long continued.

Ecuador is next in line for chairmanship of the G77 in January 2017, which marks the first time the country will assume the position.

The G77, which began with 77 nations, has since grown to include 134 member states from around the world. It has become the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the UN, allowing the Global South to express their needs and promote cooperation for development.

Both Thomson and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that the G77 is an “indispensable” and “invaluable” partner of the UN.

Thailand will continue as chair of the G77 until the end of December 2016.

During the meeting Prime Minister Chan-o-cha also presented an award to G77Executive Secretary Mourad Ahmia to express appreciation for his leadership andsupport provided by the G77 Secretariat team to the Kingdom of Thailand as Chair country and to all the Member States.

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UN Negotiations Focus on What Lies Beneath the High Seas Tue, 30 Aug 2016 01:12:15 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 1 Developing Nations Seek Tax Body to Curb Illicit Financial Flows Mon, 08 Aug 2016 10:04:04 +0000 Thalif Deen 0 Q&A: Representing Developing Countries at the United Nations in New York Mon, 01 Aug 2016 07:11:58 +0000 an IPS Correspondent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77.  Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By an IPS Correspondent

IPS spoke with the Virachai Plasai, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77 about what it’s like to represent 134 developing countries, including China, at UN meetings in New York. Plasai spoke about some of the group’s priorities for 2016, including the selection of the ninth UN Secretary-General, the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

IPS: The UN is currently selecting a Secretary-General for 2017 and G77 members have had the opportunity to question most of the candidates. Has this process been beneficial to G77 members? Do you think that this new, more open selection process will help ensure that the next Secretary-General will be somebody who understands the interests of developing countries?

Ambassador Plasai: The selection and appointment of the Secretary-General this year benefits from efforts to bring greater transparency and openness to the process, which G77 wholeheartedly support.

Of particular importance is the informal dialogues with candidates organised by the President of the General Assembly as mandated by the General Assembly. The Chair of G77 and several G77 members took part actively in these informal dialogues by posing questions on issues of interest to developing countries to the candidates. In addition, the Group have positively responded to the request from the candidates who wished to present their vision as Secretary-General to the Group and interact with the Group members.

These exercises have brought issues of concern for G77 members to the attention of the candidates. We can thus reasonably expect that the successful candidate will be well aware of the issues of concern for developing countries.

IPS: How would you describe the role of the G77 at the UN in ensuring early implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Plasai: The G77 have been committed to and have contributed constructively in ensuring early implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Group has called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries. We believe that the United Nations has a critical role to play in urging national leaders and actors to follow up on their commitments, especially in the Financing for Development Forum and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF).

In this regard, the Group called for an intergovernmental process to discuss the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda in the form of a General Assembly resolution. The Group advocates for the following points in such a process:

All 17 goals are integrated and indivisible, ambitious and evolving. The review should be systematic, and promotes a holistic understanding of the significant interlinkages across the goals and targets.

All inputs and reports, including from functional commissions, should be fed into the HLPF.

It is up to each Member State to decide how to present the voluntary national review at the HLPF. It is important not to overburden countries, especially those with limited capacities and resources.

The follow-up and review at the regional level and sub-regional levels can, as appropriate, provide opportunities for peer learning, sharing of best practices and discussions on shared targets. It is important to build on existing mechanisms.

It is important to reinforce the existing modalities of Groups of countries in special situations, including the most vulnerable ones, in particular LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS and African countries. Particular challenges facing the middle-income countries in achieving SDGs should also be recognized and supported by the international community. Moreover, we must not leave peoples and countries under foreign occupation behind.

The UN system must support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by ensuring coherent and integrated support of the system-wide strategic planning implementation and reporting.

The Secretariat must support member states in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and must not work in silos.

IPS: The high-level signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement took place in New York on 22 April 2016 – what were some of the highlights of the day for the G77?

Plasai: The Group highlighted the following key points:

First, the Agreement is a result of the collective and tireless efforts of all parties working constructively in a spirit of compromise. It represents a step forward in our efforts on climate change.

Second, we must not forget the urgent need to enhance pre-2020 ambition, including the ratification of the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which will provide a strong basis for post-2020 efforts under the Paris Agreement. We also need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with the target to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. We should also make efforts to limit this temperature increase to 1.5º C.

Third, the focus now should both be on the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and on delivering the major tasks to enhance pre-2020 implementation. This includes action on adaptation which is an urgent priority for developing countries. Financing for adaptation is critical; and securing the continued role of the Adaptation Fund pre 2020 and beyond 2020 is welcomed and should be enhanced.

Fourth, on mitigation, developed countries should continue taking the lead by undertaking and increasing economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets for their pledges and nationally determined contributions (NDCs). For developing countries, capacity-building support for climate action is critical. This support should be based on and responsive to national needs and country ownership. The process of capacity-building must be participatory, country-driven, and cross-cutting. Enhanced financial and technological support from developed countries will allow effective implementation and enhance ambition of developing countries.

Fifth, transformation of our economies to low carbon development pathways requires adequate, predictable and sustainable climate financing. Means of implementation is a key pillar for the implementation of the Agreement. We welcome the approval of the first projects by the Green Climate Fund. We envision that a substantive decision on increasing climate finance will be an important outcome of COP 22 in Morocco.

IPS: What are the challenges and opportunities for the Group of 77 with regard to the global indicator framework for the 2030 Agenda?

Plasai: The challenge is that the development of the global indicators is a technical process which should continue to be led by the national Statistical Offices. At the same time, it has political implications. We believe that the political balance and ambition of the 2030 Agenda should be preserved without reinterpreting the scope or intent of the targets. The tricky part is that our national Statistical Offices need to understand the inherent political sensitivity of the SDG negotiations.

In this regard, we need to avoid undue haste to prematurely conclude the work of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). The adoption of the Report of the IAEG-SDGs by the Statistical Commission in March is just a starting point of the work on the global indicators. Further methodological work will be required with a view to continuously improving the indicators and the availability of data to address their shortcomings.

The opportunity lies in our insistence for a coordinated effort in the United Nations System to enhance statistical capacity in developing countries. Capacity-building is needed to strengthen statistical capacities at national and sub-national levels.

IPS: Achieving the SDGs will require a rethinking of how public and private funds are spent. In 2015, G77 countries called for global tax cooperation as one way to help governments in developing countries to increase their budgets. Is establishing a global tax cooperation body still a priority for the G77 countries? How will tax cooperation help developing countries to fund the SDGs?

G77 have continuously urged an upgrade of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters to an inter-governmental subsidiary body.

We believe that such a global tax body can contribute to a coherent global tax system, less double taxation and double-non-taxation, stronger implementation, fair and consistent global action against tax havens, and more financing for development in the poorest countries.

Besides, such a global tax cooperation body will also allow all Member States to take part in and make decisions on tax matters, on a truly equal footing, and in a more accountable and transparent manner. This is all the more important in light of the recent high-profile international tax evasion cases.

It can be expected that such a global tax cooperation body can result in more effective tax policy and a more efficient domestic tax collection. At the same time, unfair international tax distortion and tax evasion can be reduced. More effective mobilization of domestic resources undoubtedly benefits the implementation of SDGs, and thus should be part of national sustainable development strategies.

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UN Trade and Development Conference a “Big Win” for Multilateralism Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:43:00 +0000 an IPS Correspondent Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) poses for a photo with Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), President of the Republic of Kenya, and Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the opening of the fourteenth UNCTAD session, taking place in Nairobi, 17-22 July 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) poses for a photo with Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), President of the Republic of Kenya, and Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the opening of the fourteenth UNCTAD session, taking place in Nairobi, 17-22 July 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 29 2016 (IPS/G77)

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) concluded its five-day meeting in Nairobi on a positive note—the launch of a new e-trade initiative and a multi-donor trust fund on trade and productive capacity.

The meeting, attended by more than 5,000 delegates from 149 countries, also launched the first UN statistical report on specific indicators on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a commitment for a roadmap on fisheries subsidies.

The negotiations ended in the early hours of July 22 after two marathon all-night sessions. The resulting Nairobi consensus, “the Maafikiano”, also sets UNCTAD’s work programme for the next four years.

Billed as UNCTAD 14, the conference was formally opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in the presence of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and the vice-President of Uganda, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi.

The meeting also launched the 2016 report on ‘Economic Development in Africa’, and highlighted issues around non-tariff measures, debt, and illicit financial flows, along with a fashion show focusing on the creative and commercial potential of Kenya’s fashion industry.

In his opening address, the Secretary-General warned about the “worrying signs that people around the world are increasingly unhappy with the state of the global economy.”

He said high inequality, stagnant incomes, lack of enough jobs – especially for youth — and too little cause for optimism stoke legitimate fears for the future for many in all regions.

“The global trade slowdown and a lack of productive investment have sharpened the deep divides between those who have benefited from globalization, and those who continue to feel left behind. “

And rather than working to change the economic model for the better, Ban said, many actual and would-be leaders are instead embracing protectionism and even xenophobia.

"International financial institutions, which are one of the main sources of financing for development of developing countries, need to be universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable." -- Apichart Chinwanno.

“The vision set out in the SDGs – for people, planet, prosperity and peace – will not succeed if shocks and stresses in our global economic and financial system are not properly addressed,” he noted.

Trade must provide prosperity in ways that work for people and planet and respond to the challenges of climate change, said Ban.

A Ministerial Declaration adopted by the 134 members of the Group of 77 and China on the occasion of UNCTAD addressed the “key issues that are of major concern to developing countries,” said Apichart Chinwanno, Permanent Secretary And Special Envoy Of The Minister Of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom Of Thailand, speaking on Behalf of ‘The Group Of 77 and China In New York’.

“These (key issues) include the need to tackle subsidies and various forms of market access restrictions, tax evasion and tax avoidance, illicit capital flows, sovereign debt crisis as well as the need to uphold principles of equity, inclusiveness, common but differentiated responsibilities, special and differential treatment, and the right to development, just to name a few,” said Chinwanno at a Ministerial Meeting Of The Group Of 77 held on the occasion Of UNCTAD in Nairobi on July 17.

“International financial institutions, which are one of the main sources of financing for development of developing countries, need to be universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable,” added Chinwanno.

Chinwanno also noted that Official Development Assistance (ODA) remains at an average of just “0.29% of the aggregate donor Gross National Income in 2014, well below the commitment of 0.7%.”

According to an UNCTAD press release, this year’s conference, with the tagline “From decision to action”, had added significance because it was the first UNCTAD conference since the global community established the Sustainable Development Goals and mandated – via the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – with UNCTAD as one of five international organizations to mobilize financing for development.”

The other four organizations are the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Martin Khor, Executive Director of the Geneva-based South Centre said an important aspect of today’s global economy is that the economic weight of the South has undeniably increased, with China and India accounting for a large share of this increase.

He said developing countries as a whole are more integrated into the world economy.  However, these changes have not yet constituted a full scale shift in the global landscape.

The development gap between the North and the South still exists, even exacerbated for some countries.  The task of bridging this gap is becoming more complex and difficult in today’s global economic environment, he cautioned.

Throughout the various major international negotiations that took place last year that resulted in the recently concluded international outcomes like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Paris Agreement, the South continuously highlighted the need to close the development gap faster and in a more sustainable and equitable manner, he noted.

“None of these outcomes of the international community could have been achieved without the support and leadership of the Group of 77 and China,” said Khor.

“I’m delighted that our 194 member states have been able to reach this consensus, giving a central role to UNCTAD in delivering the sustainable development goals,” UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, said, just after the conclusion of the meeting.

“With this document, we can get on with the business of cutting edge analysis, building political consensus, and providing the necessary technical assistance that will make globalization and trade work for billions of people in the global south,” he said.

UNCTAD14 President, Amina Mohamed, said: “As the President of this conference, I cannot begin to tell you how I feel right now.”

“It’s a good day for Kenya, a good day for UNCTAD, and a big win for multilateralism,” she said.

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President of UN General Assembly Continues Push for Openness, Transparency Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:01:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands

The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, has helped spearhead a push for a more open and transparent selection process for the next UN Secretary-General.

IPS spoke with Lykketoft one week after the 15 members of the UN Security Council cast their first votes in a straw poll to indicate which of the 12 candidates for the UN’s top job they support.

The results of the informal initial vote, which took place on Thursday 21 July, were not publicly released, but were leaked almost immediately.

Since the results were leaked, the straw polls only have a “formality of secrecy”, Lykketoft told IPS.

On behalf of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly, Lykketoft publicly called for the Security Council to convey the results to the other UN member states soon after the vote took place.

However Lykketoft also noted that the straw polls are an initial vote and that the positioning of candidates may well change, noting that new candidates may also emerge.

“It’s much too early to draw conclusions from the straw polls,” said Lykketoft. “Positioning and tendencies … can change over time.”

“The real influence from the membership is now to express to their colleagues in the Security Council if they have preferences among the candidates,” -- Mogens Lykketoft.

A second straw poll is planned for next Friday August 5, he added. However one potential further candidate, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced on July 29 that he would not be running, as he did not receive an endorsement from the Australian government.

“We’ll try to arrange as quickly as possible, if a new candidate comes forward, the same kind of hearings that we have had with the 12 candidates,” he said.

However while the informal dialogues have opened up the selection process for the next Secretary-General to the 193 member General Assembly, it is still likely that the UN Security Council will ultimately decide a single candidate to put forward to the assembly for endorsement.

There have been calls for the Security Council to break with this custom and put forward more than one candidate to the General Assembly, however Lykketoft noted that any change to the current system was up to the Security Council, and that it wasn’t even clear whether the “majority of the General Assembly would ask for more candidates.”

“The real influence from the membership is now to express to their colleagues in the Security Council if they have preferences among the candidates,” said Lykketoft.

“Because we’ve had these informal dialogues, these hearings, we much better know the personalities and the priorities of candidates than one did at any previous occasion, simply because all the other times there wasn’t an established list of candidates, we didn’t even know outside the Security Council which names were brought to the table.”

“That has changed and that means also that all the friends, allies and colleagues of the members of the Security Council can express to them their priorities and that gives a real possibility for influence.”

“I have also said continuously if among the many candidates (there are) clear favourites, I don’t think the Security Council would come up with some quite different names. But we’ll see.”

Group of 77 with candidates for the position of next UN Secretary-General  Ant—nio Guterres (Portugal). UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

António Guterres (centre), former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and candidate for the position of next United Nations Secretary-General, addresses the Group of 77 in a closed meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. Also seated on the panel, from left, are: Álvaro José Costa de Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN; Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN, and Chairperson of the Group of 77 (G-77); and Mourad Ahmia, Executive Secretary of the Group of 77 Secretariat. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

In addition to consultations with the General Assembly as a whole, candidates for Secretary-General had separate consultations with the 134 members of the Group of 77, as well as with the regional groups, which Lykketoft described as a “very useful” addition to the selection process.

He noted that members of the Group of 77, which represents 134 developing countries at the United Nations including China, see development issues and climate change as priorities.

This was reflected in questions posed to the 12 candidates for the role of Secretary-General on behalf of the Group during the informal hearings in the General Assembly. Each of the 12 candidates also held closed hearings with the 134 members of the Group of 77 at the UN on 13 and 14 July 2016.

The Presidency of the General Assembly

Reflecting on his own role, Lykketoft touched on changes to the office of the President of the General Assembly.

Fiji has been elected to hold the 71st Presidency of the UN General Assembly, when Denmark’s term finishes in September 2016.

Lykketoft noted that as a Small Island Developing State, Fiji does not have the same resources to draw on to support the office of the President as other richer and bigger countries.

The office of the President of the General Assembly relies on contributions from member states. Lykketoft particularly highlighted the importance of member states seconding staff to the office.

“There’s been 35 people from 26 different countries working in the office of the President of the General Assembly, which is a very interesting and very well functioning operation,” said Lykketoft.

“Most of those people are actually a gift from member states to us.”

Lykketoft said he hoped that more countries would come forward to help support Fiji’s Presidency.

“Hopefully there will be more contributions, in particular from countries of the South, because it’s obvious that Fiji is not a rich and big country themselves.”

He also said that there is “a strong wish” in the General Assembly for the UN to provide more resources to the office, in particular to make sure that information is passed on and recorded between presidencies, he added.

The Candidates

There are currently 12 candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General. They include former heads of state and high-level UN officials.

According to leaked reports, Antonio Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal and former head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, topped the first straw poll, with Danilo Turk, former President of Slovenia, placing second and Irina Bokova, of Bulgaria who is currently Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed third. Other candidates which received “encourages” from 8 or more members of the SC include Srgjan Kerim, of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Vuk Jeremić of the Republic of Serbia and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of  New Zealand and Administrator of the UN Development Programme.

In addition to the push for the selection of the next Secretary-General to be more open and transparent, there have also been calls for the ninth Secretary-General to be the first to come from Eastern Europe or the first to be a woman.

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African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Official Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:48:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016 (IPS/G77)

Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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Beyond Rhetoric: UN Member States Start Work on Global Goals Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lyndal Rowlands

UN member states “are going beyond rhetoric and earnestly working to achieve real progress” towards the Sustainable Goals, the members of the Group of 77 and China said in a ministerial statement delivered here on 18 July.

The statement was delivered by Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Chair of the Group Of 77 (G77) and China during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 18 to 20 July.

During the forum, the 134 members of the G77 and China reaffirmed the importance of not only achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also the driving principle of leaving no one behind.

“We must identify the “how” in reaching out to those furthest behind,” said Plasai who is also Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the UN.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours,” Plasai added.

The UN’s 193 member states unanimously adopted the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in September 2015. The goals reflect the importance of the three aspects of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and countries will work towards achieving them by the year 2030.

However more still needs to be done to ensure that developing countries have access to the resources they need to meet the goals, said Plasai.

“We reiterate that enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building, and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system,” he said.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda... but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours." -- Ambassador Virachai Plasai

“We urge the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including through the G20 Summit in China which will focus on developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

At a separate meeting during the High Level Political Forum the G77 and China noted some of the specific gaps that remain in financing for development.

During that meeting the G77 and China expressed concern that rich countries are failing to meet their commitments to deliver Official Development Assistance (ODA) – the official term for aid – to developing countries.

“We note with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in this year’s outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address (gaps in ODA),” said Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Of The Kingdom of Thailand to the UN, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Speaking during the forum on July 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the High Level Political Forum, “as the global central platform for follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ban presented the results of the first Sustainable Development Goals report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on July 20. The report used “data currently available to highlight the most significant gaps and challenges” in achieving the 2030 Agenda, said Ban.

“The latest data show that about one person in eight still lives in extreme poverty,” he said.

“Nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger.”

“The births of nearly a quarter of children under 5 have not been recorded.”

“1.1 billion people are living without electricity, and water scarcity affects more than 2 billion.”

Leaving No One Behind

Ban also noted that the importance of collecting data about the groups within countries that are more likely to be “left behind”, such as peoples with disabilities or indigenous peoples.

Collecting separate data about how these groups fare is considered one way for governments to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 which aims to decrease inequality within countries.

However SDG 10 also aims to address inequalities between countries, an important objective for the G77, as the main organisation bringing together developing countries at the UN the G77 wants to make sure that countries in special circumstances are not left behind.

Countries in special circumstances include “in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as countries in conflict and post-conflict situations,” said Chartsuwan.

However while the world’s poorest and most fragile countries have specific challenges, many middle income countries also have challenges too, the G77 statement noted.

Climate Change Agreement Needs Implementation

Developing countries, and particularly countries with special circumstances, are among those that are most adversely affected by climate change, and therefore wish to see speedy adoption and implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement alongside the 2030 Agenda.

Ban told the forum that he will host a special event during the UN General Assembly at 8am on September 21 for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification.

“We have 178 countries who have signed this Paris Agreement, and 19 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification.”

“As you are well aware, we need the 55 countries to ratify, and 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions accounted.”

“These 19 countries all accounted is less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“So we need to do much more,” he said.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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Progress of The World’s Least Developed Countries to be Reviewed Fri, 13 May 2016 01:05:36 +0000 Aruna Dutt Progress for Least Developed Countries could be a mixed blessing. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

Progress for Least Developed Countries could be a mixed blessing. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

By Aruna Dutt

The United Nations will undertake a major review of progress made in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) later this month.

“Many positive steps have been made by the world’s most vulnerable countries, demonstrating what they can do with the right support, but much more needs to be done given the persistent challenges and structural bottlenecks”, Gyan Chandra Acharya, High Representative for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States said at a press conference here Tuesday.

The Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries will take place in Antalya, in the south of Turkey, from 27 to 29 May.

The countries defined by the UN as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) represent the poorest and under-developed segment of the international community. Two thirds of the 48 countries are in Africa, with the remaining one-third in the Asia-Pacific region, with Haiti the only LDC in the Americas. They comprise more than 880 million people – 12 per cent of the global population – half of which currently lives below the poverty line.

“We do not want to see a situation where a country graduates [from the LDC category] and then comes back again." -- Gyan Chandra Acharya.

In the past five years, the LDCs have made progress, including through access to the internet and telephone networks, infrastructure expansion, access to energy, reduction of child and maternal mortality rates, access to primary education, and women’s representation in parliament.

However development for the LDCs can be considered a mixed blessing, since many special forms of development assistance are directly targeted at these countries.

According to Acharya, this is why so-called graduation from the LDC category is more of a transition which takes place over a period of several years.

“We do not want to see a situation where a country graduates [from the LDC category] and then comes back again as an LDC,” he said.

He pointed to examples of recently graduated countries such as the Maldives and Samoa which are still receiving many of the facilities provided to the LDCs.

Acharya also said that consideration of when a country will graduate from LDC status was not only based on income.

To constitute a country as an LDC, three aspects of development are looked at, Gross National Income (GNI), Human Assets Index (HAI) and the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI).

This reflects other aspects of an LDCs development, including their resilience to set-backs such as conflict, climate change and natural disasters.

According to the Group of 77 plus China (G77) which represents developing countries at the United Nations, “LDCs are the major victims of climate change.”

They are also vulnerable to “major health crises, natural calamities, price fluctuations of commodities, and external financial shocks,” the group said in its most recent statement on the upcoming review.

The G77 says that although the Istanbul Programme of Action stressed the importance of building the resilience of developing countries to withstand such shocks, “no visible international support has been devoted to build resilience of the LDCs.”

Acharya is hopeful for the meeting in Turkey, the review “provides an important opportunity for the global community to reaffirm its commitment to the world’s most vulnerable nations,” he said.

“Now is the time for action to ensure that no one is left behind as we build new and transformative partnerships, forging an inclusive and empowering future for millions of people living in Least Developed Countries.”


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G-77 Should Adopt South-South Climate Change Program of Action: Ambassador Djoghlaf Tue, 26 Apr 2016 18:53:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands The beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol, said Ambassador Djoghlaf. Credit: Ahmed Djoghlaf.

The beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol, said Ambassador Djoghlaf. Credit: Ahmed Djoghlaf.

By Lyndal Rowlands

The 134 members of the Group of 77 and China (G-77) made their mark on the Paris Climate Change Agreement and should now adopt a program of action to implement it, Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf told IPS in a recent interview.

Djoghlaf, of Algeria, was co-chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), together with Daniel Reifsnyder, of the United States, a position which allowed him to “witness very closely” the negotiation of the Paris Agreement.

“As the co-chair of the preparatory committee I can tell you that the G-77 has been a major actor during the  negotiation and a major player for the success of the Paris conference,” said Djoghlaf.

Djoghlaf said that the Group of 77 and China made its mark on the Paris agreement by mobilising a diverse range of countries and sub-groups, to “defend the collective interests of the developing countries.”

The group helped to find balance in the agreement “between mitigation issues that are important for developed countries and adaptation issues that are very close to the heart of the developing countries,” said Djoghlaf.

He also said that the group fought for equity, response measures, loss and damage as well as means of implementation, including financing, capacity building and transfer of technology.

“Those that are suffering the most nowadays are those that have less contributed to climate change crisis and they are using their own limited financial resources to address them, to adapt, to adjust to the consequences created by others,” he said.

Program of Action in Marrakech

“I hope that the G-77 through the leadership of Thailand will be able to take the lead and submit to its partners at the next conference of the parties in Marrakech a draft work program on capacity building for the implementation of the Paris agreement,” said Djoghlaf.

The 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7 to 18 Nov. 2016.

Djoghlaf said the program should address North-South as well as South-South capacity building, which is needed to ensure that developing countries can implement their commitments including on issues related to the finalisation of their nationally determined contributions and preparation of their future contributions.

“It would be important for the developing countries to be able to identify their own capacity building needs and let others do it for them. It will be also important to have a framework to coordinate the South-South cooperation on climate change similar to the Caracas Plan of Action on South-South Cooperation or the Buenos Aires Plan of Action on economic and technical cooperation among developing countries,” he said.

Quoting Victor Hugo Djoghlaf said that “not a single army in the world can stop an idea whose time has come, I do believe when it comes to South-South cooperation on climate change it’s an idea whose time has come also.”

“Within the G-77, the diverse group, you have emerging countries that are now leaders in renewable energy and the energy of tomorrow and the they have I think a responsibility to share their experience and to allow other countries from the same region and the same group to benefit from their experience,” he said.

"It is crystal clear that the Paris agreement will enter into force well before the original expected date of 2020. The clock is ticking and we cannot afford any delay” -- Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf

“I also believe that time has come for the G-77 to initiate it’s own program of action on climate change,” he said.

Djoghlaf said that developing countries need capacity building to ensure that they can continue to participate fully in the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Unlike developed countries, which “have fully-fledged ministries dealing with climate change,” he said, “In the South there is not a single country that has a Minister of Climate Change.”

He spoke about how during the negotiations of the Paris agreement many countries of the South had only one focal point and yet sometimes there were 15 meetings taking place at the same time and the meetings also often continued into the night.

It can be difficult for this focal point “to be able to understand and to participate, let alone be heard” when there is a “proliferation of simultaneous meetings,” he said.

Djoghlaf said that countries of the South could help address this disparity by establishing national committees, which include representatives from a number of different ministries.

“There’s not a single sector of activities which is not nowadays affected by the negative impact of climate change,” said Djoghlaf.

“All the sectors need to be engaged and we will succeed to win the battle of climate change when all these ministers, economic ministers and social ministers, will be fully integrating climate change in their planning and in their decision making processes,” he said.

Djoghlaf acknowledged it’s not easy for ministers in developing countries to engage because they have other urgent priorities. “They tend not to see the importance of the impact of climate change because they believe that this is not a priority for them,” he said. Yet there is often evidence that supports a more cross-cutting approach. For example, said Djoghlaf, World Health Organization research, which shows that 7 million people die from air pollution every year, demonstrates that climate change should also be a priority for health ministries.

The beauty of the Paris agreement

Djoghlaf said that the beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol. The Paris agreement is “very balanced” and should last for years to come because it takes into in to consideration the evolving capacities and the evolving responsibilities of countries, he said.

“We need a North-South and a South-South global climate solidarity,” said Djoghlaf.

“Without judging the past, who is responsible now, and who is responsible tomorrow, and who is responsible yesterday, I think we are all in the same boat, we are all in the same planet and we have to contribute based on our capacity,” he said.

He described the success of the signing ceremony held here Friday, where in total 175 countries signed and 15 countries deposited their instruments of ratification as “unprecedented”. “This has never happened before,” he said, referring to the developing countries, which also ratified the agreement. “It is a resounding political message and a demonstration of leadership,” he said. “It is crystal clear that the Paris agreement will enter into force well before the original expected date of 2020. The clock is ticking and we cannot afford any delay.”

Djoghlaf also said that he was not concerned about upcoming changes to the United States domestic political situation.

“When you are a party to the Paris agreement you can’t withdraw before three years after its entry into force. In addition I do believe that this historical agreement is in the long term interest of all Parties including the United States of America” he said.

“I believe that this Paris agreement is in the long term strategic interests of every country,” in part because eventually fossil fuel energy is going to disappear.

Investment in renewable energy was six times higher in 2015 than in 2014, he added.

“We tend to ignore the tremendous impact and signal the Paris agreement has already been providing to the business community,” he said.

Another part of the Paris agreement which Djoghlaf is happy about is what he describes as a “fully-fledged article on public awareness and education.”

“It’s to ensure that each and every citizen of the world, in particular the developing countries, are fully aware about the consequences of the climate change and the need for each of us as an individual to make our contribution to address the climate change,” he said.

“There is a need also to educate the people of the world of the need to have a sustainable lifestyle this throw away society can not continue to exist forever and we need to establish a sustainable pattern of production and consumption,” said Djoghlaf.

However Djoghlaf, who was the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said that he was concerned that the negotiations in 2015 didn’t adequately reflect the importance of ecosystems and biodiversity.

“Healthy biodiversity and healthy ecosystems have a major role to play to combat climate change,” said Djoghlaf, adding that 30 percent of carbon dioxide is absorbed by forests and 30 percent by oceans.

“For each breath that we have we owe it to the forests, but also to the ocean, also wetlands have a major contribution to make, the peat lands have a major contribution to make, the land itself, the fertile soil of course has a major contribution to play, so biodiversity is part and parcel of the climate global response,” he said.

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Opinion: China’s New South-South Funds – a Global Game Changer? Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:02:16 +0000 Martin Khor

Martin Khor is the executive director of the South Center, based in Geneva.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Nov 16 2015 (IPS)

South-South cooperation is usually seen as a poor second fiddle to North-South aid in the world of development assistance. Indeed, developing countries’ policy makers themselves insist that South-South cooperation can only supplement but not replace North-South cooperation.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

However, this widespread view received a jolt recently when China announced it was setting up two new funds totalling a massive 5.1 billion dollars to assist other developing countries.

The pledges, made by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to the United States in September , have given an immediate boost to the status of South-South cooperation in general, and to the rapidly growing global role of China.

President Xi first announced that China would set up a China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to provide 3.1 billion dollars to help developing countries tackle climate change.

Secondly, speaking at the United Nations, Xi said that China would set up another fund with initial spending of 2 billion dollars for South-South Cooperation and to aid developing countries to implement the post-2015 Development Agenda.

The sheer size of the pledges gives a big political weight to the Chinese contribution. Xi’s initiatives have the feel of a “game changer” in international relations.

It is significant that Xi used the framework of South-South cooperation as the basis of the two funds.

In the international system, there have been two types of development cooperation: North-South and South-South cooperation.

North-South cooperation has been based on the obligation of developed countries to assist developing countries because the former have much more resources and have also benefitted from their former colonies.

Indeed, developed countries have committed to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) as development assistance, a target that is regularly monitored and taken seriously but unfortunately is currently being met by only a handful of countries.

South-South cooperation on the other hand is based on solidarity and mutual benefit between developing countries as equals, and without obligations as there is no colonial history among them.

This is the position of the developing countries and their umbrella grouping, the G77 and China.

Xi himself described South-South cooperation as “a great pioneering measure uniting the developing nations together for self-improvement, is featured by equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit, win-win result, solidarity and mutual assistance and can help developing nations pave a new path for development and prosperity.”

In recent years, as Western countries reduced their commitment towards aid, they tried to blur the distinction and have been pressing big developing countries like China and India to also commit to provide development assistance just like they do, and preferably within the framework of the OECD, the rich countries’ club.

However, the developing countries have stuck to their political position: the developed countries have the responsibility to give adequate aid to poor countries and should not shift this on to other developing countries. The developing countries however will also help one another, through the arm of South-South cooperation.

This has increasingly led some developed countries to advocate, during negotiations at several UN meetings, that for them to continue with their aid commitment, some of the developing countries should also pay their share.

The traditional framework in international cooperation may now be changed by the two Chinese pledges, both interesting in themselves.

It is noted by many that the 3.1 billion dollar Chinese climate aid exceeds the 3 billion dollars that the US has pledged (but not yet delivered) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) under the United Nations Climate Convention.

China has now taken that South-South route by announcing it will set up its own South-South climate fund, with the unexpectedly big size of 3.1 billion dollars, an amount larger than any developed country has pledged at the GCF.

With such a large amount, the Chinese climate fund has the potential to facilitate many significant programmes on climate mitigation, adaptation and institutional building.

As for the other fund announced by Xi, the initial 2 billion dollars is for South-South cooperation and for implementing the post-2015 development agenda just adopted by the United Nations. The agenda’s centrepiece is the sustainable development goals. Xi mentioned poverty reduction, agriculture, health and education as some of the areas the fund may cover.

This new fund has the potential of helping developing countries learn from one another’s development experiences and practices and make leaps in policy and action.

Xi also said an Academy of South-South Cooperation and Development will be established to facilitate studies and exchanges by developing countries on theories and practices of development suited to their respective national conditions.

The next steps to implement these pledges would be for China to set up the institutional basis for the funds, and design their framework, aims and functions. It is a great opportunity to show whether South-South cooperation can contribute as positively as North-South aid.

Of course, aid is not the only dimension of South-South cooperation, which is especially prominent in the areas of trade, investment, finance and the social sectors.

The regional trade agreements in ASEAN, East Asia, and the sub-regions of Africa and Latin America, as well as the trade and investment links between the three South continents, have shown immense expansion in recent decades.

Recently, the world’s imagination was also captured by the creation of the BRICS New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Chinese One Belt One Road programme, which all contain elements of South-South cooperation.

South-South cooperation in aid, however, is symbolically and practically of great importance, as it tends to assist the more vulnerable – including poor people and countries, and fragile environments including biodiversity and the climate undergoing crisis.

Let’s hope that the two new funds being set up by China will give a much-needed boost to South-South cooperation and solidarity among the people.


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Opinion: International Tax Cooperation Crucial for Development Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:25:40 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Oct 7 2015 (IPS)

It has become clear that the South, including the least developed countries, has little reason to expect any real progress to the almost half century old commitment to transfer 0.7 percent of developed countries’ income to developing countries. But to add insult to injury, developing countries have, once again, been denied full participation in inter-governmental discussions to enhance overall as well as national tax capacities.

The ability to pursue development policies depends crucially on available fiscal space, which relies mostly on domestic revenues, especially taxes. However, tax revenues in most low- and lower middle-income developing countries are low. The average tax-GDP ratios in low-income and lower-middle income countries are around 15 and 19 per cent respectively, compared to the OECD average of around 34 per cent.

Although non-tax revenues may add significantly to total revenues in some countries, these ratios are typically low even in countries with considerable non-petroleum mineral resource extraction activity. Therefore, low- and lower-middle-income countries should take steps to increase their revenues after considering various options for doing so.
This is necessary because the main approach in recent decades has been to increase tax rates only if unavoidable. It was presumed that lower rates would ensure better compliance with tax laws, and thus raise revenue.

The prevailing tax wisdom also favoured broadening the tax base, even when taxation capacities are modest. Thus, indirect taxation has tended to increase while direct taxation of corporations and individuals has tended to decline. The latter was supposed to be good for investment and growth although the empirical support for this presumption is dubious.

In the vast majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, the tax to GDP ratio has actually stagnated or declined, as international trade taxes accounted for the largest share of tax revenue. As tariffs and export duties declined with trade liberalization, the share of trade taxes has fallen.

Unfortunately, other taxes have not grown to compensate for the lower trade taxes. There is an urgent need to reverse this trend, with greater commitment to revenue generation in order to improve social protection, create employment and otherwise contribute to sustained economic recovery.

For many developing countries, total tax revenues were mainly from three sources: domestic taxes on goods and services (general sales tax, excises), foreign trade taxes (mostly import duties) and direct taxes (mostly from corporations, rather than individuals). Wealth and property taxes as well as social security contributions continue to make modest contributions.

For rich countries, however, income taxes (mostly from individuals) make the largest contribution (around 34 per cent), with consumption taxes at the around the same level, with social insurance contributions accounting for 26 per cent of total tax revenue and trade taxes quite insignificant.

With their different economic circumstances, it does not make sense for developing countries to simply emulate developed economies in trying to generate revenue. Even among developing countries, no one size fits all.

And certainly not for all time, as tax systems must evolve with changing economic circumstances. A key question is: which taxes are most likely to meet the requirements of effective collection, buoyancy and stability?

Globalization and Tax Evasion

Revenue losses due to globalization need to be addressed. There are three main reasons for revenue losses:

First, capital movements increase opportunities for tax evasion because of the limited capacity that any tax authority has to check the overseas incomes of its residents; evasion is easier as some governments and financial institutions systematically facilitate the concealment of relevant tax information from home tax authorities.

Where dividends, interest, royalties and management fees are not taxed in the country in which they are paid, they more easily escape notice in the countries where the beneficiaries live. There have been large non-resident aliens’ bank deposits in some countries like the US that impose no taxes on interest from such deposits.

Second, avoidance (not evasion) may increase, given international differences in tax rules and rates, because of the choice of tax regime that international-tax-treatment of enterprise income commonly offers. This is more likely for taxation of profits from corporations’ international operations. Transfer pricing for goods, services and resources – moving among branches or subsidiaries of a company – provides opportunities for shifting income to minimize tax liability.

Third, international competition for inward foreign direct investment may lead governments to reduce tax rates and increase concessions for foreign investors. Income tax rates have fallen sharply since the 1980s. The tax rates that governments can impose are thus constrained by international competition. They are reluctant to raise rates or to tax dividend and interest income for fear of capital flight. Yet, it has long been known that direct-tax concessions have little or no effect in diverting international investment, let alone in attracting such flows. Hence, such tax concessions constitute an unnecessary loss of revenue.

Beggar-thy-neighbour policies have led to revenue losses for many developing countries in a race-to-the-bottom also involving labour and environmental standards, which in turn erodes the prospects for balanced, inclusive and sustainable development.

Finance ministries and tax authorities in developing countries need to cooperate among themselves and with their developed economies counterparts in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to learn from one another and to close existing loopholes in their mutual interest. With the huge and growing size of public debts and the real and imagined fiscal constraints to sustained global economic recovery, inclusive international tax cooperation is more urgent than ever.

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Emerging Industrial Power Rises From Aid Beneficiary to Donor Nation Thu, 27 Aug 2015 18:12:22 +0000 Thalif Deen In the past two decades South Korea has made such vibrant progress that it now counts itself as one of the world’s leading economies. Credit: Anton Strogonoff/CC-BY-2.0

In the past two decades South Korea has made such vibrant progress that it now counts itself as one of the world’s leading economies. Credit: Anton Strogonoff/CC-BY-2.0

By Thalif Deen

Back in 1996, when South Korea voluntarily quit the 132-member Group of 77 (G77) – described as the largest single coalition of developing nations — it joined the 34-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), long known as the “rich man’s club” based in Paris.

As one of only three countries to leave the G77 for the OECD – the other two being Mexico and Chile – Korea elevated itself from the ranks of developing nations to the privileged industrial world.

Perhaps more significantly, Korea also swapped places at the negotiation table: from an aid recipient to a donor nation.

“To play a greater role in the global community and fulfill its responsibility as one of the important donors, Korea will continue to increase its ODA [official development assistance]." -- Ambassador Choong-Hee Hahn, South Korea’s deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Since then, the Korean government has made a significant contribution to development aid, providing assistance to some 26 developing nations.

Ambassador Choong-Hee Hahn, South Korea’s deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told IPS Korea has selected 26 priority partner countries – out of 130 partner countries – for development assistance.

The countries have been singled out based on their income level, political situation, diplomatic relations with Korea, and economic cooperation potential.

To enhance aid effectiveness, he pointed out, the Korean government provides 70 percent of its Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 26 countries, namely, Ghana, Nigeria, Nepal, East Timor, Laos, Rwanda, Mozambique, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Viet Nam, Bolivia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Cameroon, Cambodia, Colombia, DRC, Paraguay, Pakistan, Peru, and the Philippines.

In 2014, Korea’s net ODA amounted to 1.85 billion dollars, ranking 16th in volume among OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members.

Korea’s ODA-Gross National Income (GNI) ratio reached 0.13 percent, ranking 23rd among the OECD DAC members.

“To play a greater role in the global community and fulfill its responsibility as one of the important donors, Korea will continue to increase its ODA,” the Korean envoy said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former foreign minister of South Korea, points out that the international community must make progress on the three pillars of United Nations engagement.

First:  sustainable development. Second: conflict prevention and resolution. And third:  advancing human rights and democracy.

“Korea has unique lessons to share on all three pillars and can be an active catalyst in bringing the world together on these issues,” the U.N. chief said.

He said Korea evolved from a developing to a developed country within the span of a single generation, and successfully hosted the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in 2010.

“The international community is looking to Korea with high expectations,” said Ban praising his home country “for rising from a beneficiary to a donor.”

As it continues to enhance its international profile, Korea is now home to the Global Green Growth Institute and also host to the new secretariat of the Green Climate Fund.

Over the last 20 to 30 years, Korea has made such vibrant economic progress that it is now one of the world’s, if not Asia’s, leading economies, with global brand names such as Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, LG and Daewoo.

Asked about the secret of his country’s economic success, Ambassador Hahn told IPS Korea went through an unprecedented transformation from one of the least developed countries to a member of the OECD within a generation. Such economic success can be explained by several key factors.

First, Korea set ambitious yet realistic goals based on sustainable economic development plans.

He said this was achieved through the implementation of five-year economic development plans in the initial stage, even as Korea has made steady progress from the light industry to heavy industry, then to the service industry.

Second, human capital secured through quality education has been another major factor.

In sync with economic development, he pointed out, mandatory primary and secondary education was phased in.

“The strong will of the Korean people to educate also led to the establishment of high quality higher education infrastructure.”

Third, traits such as diligence, self-help, and cooperation contributed to the improvement in the ownership of the country’s development.

Especially, the concept of ‘Saemaul Undong’, which decisively contributed to poverty eradication and development of rural areas in the 1970s, created systematic cooperation between the central and local governments and motivated local governments and communities to foster leadership and ownership of poverty eradication.

These elements, he said, can be seen as the key characteristics of the Korean rural development model, which continues to be a good role model for developing countries today.

Lastly, securing efficiency and accountability through the establishment of democratic and efficient governance led to successful poverty eradication and democratization.

“I believe inclusive institutions, rule of law, and a healthy civil society played a significant role in progressing towards a democratic and open society that is respectful of justice and human rights, considerate of the vulnerable, and that emphasizes human dignity.”

Asked if North and South Korea will one day join into a single union – as East and West Germany did decades ago – Ambassador Hahn said this year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea.

Just as South Korean President Park Geun-hye repeatedly called for bringing down the barriers dividing the Korean peninsula, “it is our sincere hope that conditions for a peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula are created in the near future, and that the Korean peninsula becomes a foothold to realize a ‘world free from nuclear weapons’,” he stated.

“Based on the Trust-building Process on the Korean Peninsula, we currently make efforts to lay the ground for unification by further developing inter-Korea relations, building confidence and easing tensions in the Korean peninsula,” he declared.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Developing Nations Set to Challenge Rich Ahead of SDG Summit Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:18:12 +0000 Soren Ambrose

Soren Ambrose is Head of Policy, Advocacy & Research at ActionAid International

By Soren Ambrose
NEW YORK, Jul 27 2015 (IPS)

The final round of negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals – the successor to the Millennium Development Goals, due to be inaugurated in September at the U.N. General Assembly – is now underway in New York.

Courtesy of Soren Ambrose/ActionAid

Courtesy of Soren Ambrose/ActionAid

The United Nations and many member governments want to conclude the debates by the end of July, so that there will not be open debate during the SDG Summit. But reports indicate that the atmosphere in the room is one of seething distrust.

That’s because of what happened during the Financing for Development (FfD) conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month.

The developing countries – those grouped together in the “G77,” which 50 years after its founding actually has 134 members – were pushing a proposal for a universal intergovernmental organisation, within the U.N., which would have as its mandate reform and maintenance of the international tax system.

While this proposal would not have immediately remedied any of the myriad ways that corporations dodge taxes in developing countries, it would be a decisive change to the system that has allowed such activities to flourish.

To the extent that there are international rules, or standards and guidelines, on taxation now, they are proposed and elaborated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), a club of 34 of the world’s richest countries. Every once in a while they make a show of consulting those other 134 countries, but those others never actually get a vote.Ultimately it’s the pressure of the people which will force their governments to be responsible. The movement to stand up to those who have hijacked our power is building.

In the new proposed way of making decisions on international tax rules, every country would have an equal voice and equal vote. This fight matters is because developing countries are confronting the need to change how the rules are made, and who makes the rules.

Until they manage that, they will always, at best, be running to stay in place. Changing who makes the rules is a necessary, although not sufficient condition, for creating permanent change.

Taxation is vital because wealthy companies and individuals get and stay rich by using a portion of their considerable resources to hire lawyers and accountants to guide them in dodging the taxes they should be paying in the countries where they excavate, grow, or purchase their raw materials, assemble their products, and make an increasing proportion of their sales.

If they don’t have such staff in-house, they can hire the services of big accounting firms for whom this is the most lucrative activity.

Most big companies manipulate “tax treaties” between countries and tax havens like Switzerland, Mauritius, and the Cayman Islands to create legal fictions that exempt them from paying most of the taxes they owe.

What they do is usually not technically illegal, because of the impossibility of keeping up with the tactics of the armies of experts dedicated to avoiding taxes. But neither is it quite ethical.

This deprives countries of the revenue – to the tune of at least 100 billion dollars every year – that they need to fund development, and ensures the perpetuation of the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few. That wealth translates to power – a veritable global plutocracy.

The OECD, to be fair, has made some moves to clamp down on the most egregious forms of tax avoidance, including their “base erosion and profit shifting” (BEPS) process begun in 2013.

The corporate lawyers and accountants were a little nervous about BEPS, but with the process winding up, it appears that any reforms it demands will not be manageable. The promises at the outset of the process to include developing countries never amounted to much.

The FfD process in the U.N. was, of course, universal. The U.N. and national governments usually like to have the “outcome document” finalised before a summit meeting. The prospect of a messy negotiation with thousands of advocates just outside the door makes them nervous.

But after months of negotiations in New York and a series of missed deadlines, the big debate over the tax body was not resolved. The ministers would go to Addis facing open negotiations.

Bolstered by the support of hundreds of civil society groups, the G77 governments – a group that has to accommodate the interests of very disparate countries – held together. Three BRICS countries – South Africa as the chair of the G77, along with India and Brazil – were vocal actors on the side of the developing countries, something they can’t always be relied on to do as they ascend the global power ladder.

With negotiators starting to meet before the formal start of the meetings on July 13, there were several days filled with ever-shifting rumours. But on the evening of July 15, the eve of the scheduled end of the conference, the announcement came: there would be an outcome document little changed from the unsatisfactory draft they brought from New York.

Promises were made to expand the resources and prestige of the existing U.N. Committee of Tax Experts, but nothing more. No universal membership, and no mandate for reform.

The G77 held out to the end. But the rich countries, led by the United States with the steady support of the European Union, Canada, Japan, and Australia, refused to give up the regime of loopholes and havens and double-dealing that adds up to billions in lost revenue every year.

Make no mistake, ordinary people in rich countries also lose out as corporations dodge taxes. But with their territories serving as the leading facilitators of tax avoidance in the world, their governments showed they want the present system to endure.

The current global hyper-capitalism now puts no constraints on capital. Unlimited profits, unlimited wealth, and unlimited power have been accruing to the finance industry and the wealthy corporations and individuals it serves for over 40 years.

The rich countries’ politicians not only put up with it, they tout the “private sector” as the panacea for development in poor countries, with nearly no evidence to support them.

And at home, they cut public services and impose austerity, explaining that government just can’t afford to serve the people. Their priority has been corporations’ and investors’ bottomless appetite for profit and power.

As my colleague Ben Phillips has written about the FfD, it’s actually good news that the rich countries had to put an ugly stop to the negotiations, with barely a face-saving compromise to point to. Usually they manage to find a way to assign the blame to someone else.

Forcing them to show their hand is valuable; it’s clear that those making the rules are far more identified with a powerful few than with the public they claim to serve.

The next step is at the SDG Summit at the end of September, at the time of the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings. There we will learn whether and to what extent the developing countries will stand up to those who have monopolised power for so long. If they do, we may be on the road to reversing parts of the system that perpetuates the status quo.

Whatever happens, we aren’t going anywhere. Civil Society won’t change this global dynamic by attending these conferences, or through polite lobbying. We will have to endure many more meetings, and more setbacks.

But ultimately it’s the pressure of the people which will force their governments to be responsible. The movement to stand up to those who have hijacked our power is building.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: From New York to Addis Ababa, Financing for Development on Life-Support – Part Two Fri, 10 Jul 2015 15:49:23 +0000 Bhumika Muchhala Bhumika Muchhala of Third World Network. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Bhumika Muchhala of Third World Network. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

By Bhumika Muchhala
NEW YORK, Jul 10 2015 (IPS)

The key priorities of the Group of 77 developing countries (G77) remain somewhat aligned around a set of issues that have been present from the beginning of the FfD negotiations in New York.

This set of issues includes a re-commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA) by developed countries, including the provision that climate finance and biodiversity financing is new and additional to traditional official development assistance (ODA). This language, regrettably, is not present in the current July 7 draft outcome document.In the context of vested geo-political interests and the wide gap between North and South, a strengthened ethos of multilateralism is at its most critical imperative next week in Addis Ababa.

In the final plenary, the tone of the G77 was to remain within the main areas of debate while leaving the majority of the text, whose language has been arrived and agreed upon through arduous negotiations, closed to further negotiation in Addis Ababa. In other words, the entire text should, preferably, not be re-opened to negotiation.

However, the U.S. and Japan were far more aggressive, with Japan stating that it is important to emphasise that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and the U.S. making note of “a list” of problem issues, essentially warning Member States that some of the text could be at risk if consensus was not achieved.

The European Union noted that they were not in agreement with the formulation of South-South cooperation and fossil fuel subsidies, in that these sections are “too weak.” The long-standing position of the EU is that more obligations and commitments should be taken on through South-South cooperation and that fossil fuel subsidies should be rationalised with more determination.

Across all U.N. discussions, the issue of South-South cooperation is a centrifugal point. Developing countries routinely clarify that South-South cooperation is a complement, not a substitute, to North-South cooperation and that international development financing commitments are to be met by developed countries taking the lead in the framework of the global partnership for development.

Paragraph 56 in the July 7 text mentions South-South cooperation as having increased importance and different history and particularities, and stresses that “South-South cooperation should be seen as an expression of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South, based on their shared experiences and objectives.

It should continue to be guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit.”

Paragraph 57 welcomes the increased contributions of South-South cooperation to poverty eradication and sustainable development and encourages developing countries to voluntarily step up their efforts to strengthen South-South cooperation, and to further improve its development effectiveness in accordance with the provisions of the Nairobi Outcome document of the High Level U.N. Conference on South-South Cooperation.

The U.S. referred to a “list” of issues that, in their view, have not been agreed upon, and which they did not clarify. This list is a potential source of stalemate in Addis Ababa. It could become the foundation for contentious trade-offs and further dilution of an already extremely diluted outcome document.

The danger here is the reopening of hard-won text where there is already some degree of intergovernmental agreement. If developed countries reserve their option to ask for further movement in their favour, across the spectrum of issues ranging from public and private finance, debt and systemic issues, the opening paragraphs and systemic issues, a united G77 defence of FfD for developing countries would be critical.

In the context of vested geo-political interests and the wide gap between North and South, a strengthened ethos of multilateralism is at its most critical imperative next week in Addis Ababa. There is still ample space and prospect for Member States to push for the best possible compromise and outcome in Addis Ababa.

A genuine global partnership for development requires efforts where negotiations are conducted in good faith, without backhanded tactics to manipulate text, and without resorting to undemocratic measures to influence the text.

The very integrity of FfD as an international conference is that it addresses, with the most universal membership available in global governance fora to date, systemic issues in the international architecture for development finance, private finance, capital flows, debt, trade and now this year, technology as well.

The significance of FfD is that it can decide on intergovernmental commitments to deliver concrete and actionable commitments on development finance, as well as generate political momentum for much-needed reforms in the international systemic and structural architecture.

For example, it has the potential to push for reforms on financial regulation, debt sustainability, trade and the international monetary system. The history of political and social change involves a vital role for the international norm setting that can take place through the FfD conference.

As the draft civil society declaration for Addis Ababa states, the level of ambition witnessed in this year’s FfD negotiations is hardly suited to function as the operational MOI for the post-2015 development agenda, which is one of the goals, though not the only one, of this conference.

Even more unfortunately, there is now a serious risk of retrogression from the agreements in the Monterrey Consensus of 2002 and the Doha Declaration of 2008. The countries that historically, and with good reason, have taken on a large part of the responsibility to lead in delivering MOI, have gone to great lengths to shed this responsibility or shift them to others.

The FfD text as of the current draft of July 7 fails to ensure the space to undertake normative and systemic reforms that would enable developing countries to mobilise their own available resources. This combination makes it impossible for countries to generate the requisite resources to deliver a sustainable agenda.

Civil society has expressed its disappointment that save for an explicit decision in Paragraph 123 to establish a Technology Facilitation Mechanism at the U.N. post-2015 Development Summit in order to support the SDGs, the FfD draft outcome document is almost entirely devoid of actionable deliverables.

While not a pledging conference it is deplorable that a conference on financing fails to scale up existing sources and commit new financial resources. This calls into question governments’ commitment to realize a development agenda as expansive and multi-dimensional as the SDGs.

In particular, civil society notes the rejection of a U.N. tax body which would create significant sustainable financing for development through, for example, combating corporate tax dodging in developing countries.

A very low window of opportunity was expected if the FfD outcome document was closed in New York. On this note, it is a positive development that concrete negotiations will carry forth into Addis Ababa next week.

While inevitable friction will ensue across well-established battle-lines, the 3rd FfD conference still has a breath of hope for a better outcome.

Part One can be found here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Rich Countries Pony Up (Some) for Climate Justice Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:24:04 +0000 Oscar Reyes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the Climate Summit 2014 at UN headquarters in New York on Sep. 23. Credit: Green Climate Fund

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the Climate Summit 2014 at UN headquarters in New York on Sep. 23. Credit: Green Climate Fund

By Oscar Reyes
WASHINGTON, Nov 26 2014 (IPS)

It’s one of the oldest tricks in politics: Talk down expectations to the point that you can meet them.
And it played out again in Berlin as 21 countries—including the United States—pledged nearly 9.5 billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. body tasked with helping developing countries cope with climate change and transition to clean energy systems.Despite its green mandate, the Green Climate Fund may also support an array of “dirty energy” projects—including power generation from fossil fuels, nuclear power, and destructive mega-dam projects.

The total—which will cover a four-year period before new pledges are made—included three billion dollars from the United States, 1.5 dollars billion from Japan, and around one billion dollars each from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

That’s a big step in the right direction. But put into context, 9.5 billion dollars quickly sounds less impressive.

Floods, droughts, sea level rises, heat waves, and other forms of extreme weather are likely to cost developing countries hundreds of billions of dollars every year. And it will take hundreds of billions more to ensure that they industrialise more cleanly than their counterparts did in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.

Developed countries should foot a large part of that bill, since they bear the greatest responsibility for causing climate change.

The politics of responsibility

Determining who pays for what is an integral part of achieving an international climate deal. And so far, pledges from rich countries have tracked far behind previous requests and recommendations.

Back in 2009, developed countries signed the Copenhagen Accord, which committed them to move 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to developing countries. A year later, the U.N. climate conference in Cancún called for the Green Climate Fund to be set up to channel a “significant share” of the money developing countries need to adapt to climate change.

Earlier this year, the G77—which is actually a grouping of 133 developing countries—called for 15 dollars billion to be put into the Green Climate Fund. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres set the bar lower at 10 billion dollars. The failure to even reach that figure is likely to put strain on negotiations for a new multilateral climate agreement that is expected to be reached in December 2015.

But it’s not just the headline figure that’s important. Plenty of devils are likely to be lurking in the details.

Delivering on the U.S. pledge requires budgetary approval from a hostile Congress, although a payment schedule stretching over much of the next decade could make that more politically feasible than it initially sounds.

More concerning are the conditions attached to the U.S. pledge, which include a threat that some of the money could be redirected to other funds—likely those run by the World Bank—if “the pace of progress” at the Green Climate Fund is inadequate. Given that the United States is advocating rules on how the fund makes decisions that would tip the balance of power in favor of contributor countries, the threat is far from innocuous.

France will provide a significant proportion of its share as loans rather than grants, while the small print of the UK contribution is likely to reveal that part of its money comes as a “capital contribution,” which can only be paid out as loans.

Those restrictions could limit the scope of activities that the fund can finance, since much of the vital support and infrastructure needed to support community resilience in the face of climate change is too unprofitable to support loan repayments.

Future of the fund

Looming over these issues is the larger, unresolved question of what the fund will actually finance. Some donor countries—including the United States—are pushing for a fund that would support transnational corporations and their supply chains, helping them turn profits from investments in developing countries.

Despite its green mandate, the Green Climate Fund may also support an array of “dirty energy” projects—including power generation from fossil fuels, nuclear power, and destructive mega-dam projects. That’s the subject of an ongoing dispute on the fund’s 24-member board and a persistent complaint from a range of civil society organisations.

That battle is not yet lost.

Despite its shortcomings, the Green Climate Fund has great potential to support a global transition to renewable energy, sustainable public transport systems, and energy efficiency. And with its goal of spending 50 percent of its funds on “adaptation” activities, it could also serve as a vital lifeline for communities already facing the impacts of climate change.

An important milestone was passed with the billions pledged to the Green Climate Fund. But achieving a cleaner, more resilient world will take billions more—along with a commitment to invest the money in projects that mitigate climate change rather than cause it.

This article is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus and

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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OPINION: The Group of 77 & IPS at 50 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:11:32 +0000 Mourad Ahmia

Mourad Ahmia is the Executive Secretary of the Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations

By Mourad Ahmia

When the Group of 77 commemorated its 50th anniversary recently, Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency was not far behind.

Established in 1964 as the largest news agency of the global South, IPS has been the voice of both developing nations and the Group of 77 for the past 50 years.

Mourad Ahmia. Courtesy of the G-77

Mourad Ahmia. Courtesy of the G-77

Both are linked together by a single political commitment: to protect and represent the interests of the developing world.

The 50th anniversary celebration of the G-77 and IPS represents an opportunity to enhance and strengthen the joint partnership in projecting and promoting the concerns of the countries of the South.

For five decades the agency has, in its own way, provided technical help to delegations of the South in promoting the global development agenda of the South.

The integral role played by the Group of 77 in economic diplomacy and projecting the development interests of the global South is a testimony to its continued relevance in the ongoing global development dialogue.

IPS’s priceless contribution in that endeavor translates into promoting a new platform for global governance through critical information and communication.

IPS supported the publication for many years of the first ever G-77 newsletter: “The Journal of the Group of 77,” as well as publishing special editions of Terra Viva on various occasions, particularly the celebration of anniversaries of the Group of 77 and the South Summits.

The initiative to establish a global network of news agencies of the South, launched in 2006 by the G-77 and IPS under the chairmanship of South Africa, is still a work in progress.

Meanwhile, the G-77 has its own 50-year history of accomplishments.

When it was established on Jun. 15, 1964, the signing nations of the well-known “Joint Declaration of Seventy-Seven Countries” formed the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations to articulate and promote their collective interests and common development agenda.

Since the First Ministerial meeting of the G-77 held in Algeria in October 1967, and the adoption of the “Charter of Algiers”, the Group of 77 laid down the institutional mechanisms and structures that have contributed to shaping the international development agenda and changing the landscape of the global South for the past five decades.

Over the years, the Group has gained an increasing role in the determination and conduct of international relations through global negotiations on major North-South and development issues.The G-77 adheres to the principle that nations, big and small, deserve an equal voice in world affairs... Today the Group remains linked by common geography and shared history of struggle for liberation, freedom and South-South solidarity.

The Group has a presence worldwide at U.N. centres in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Washington D.C., and is actively involved in ongoing negotiations on a wide range of global issues including climate change, poverty eradication, migration, trade, and the law of the sea.

Today, the G-77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the U.N system. The growing membership is proof of its enduring strength.

From 77 founding member states in 1964 to 134 and counting in 2014, it is the largest intergovernmental organisation of the global South dealing with the Development Agenda.

The Group was created with the objective to collectively boost the role and influence of developing countries on the global stage when it became clear that political independence, to be meaningful, required changes in the economic relations between North and South.

Thus, political independence needed to be accompanied by economic diplomacy with the ultimate objective of the reform of the international economic order.

Today, the G-77 represents the greatest coalition of humanity and remains a vital negotiating instrument in economic multilateral diplomacy, and for ensuring international peace and justice through international cooperation for development within the framework of the United Nations.

This has been the thrust of the joint expression of South-South solidarity since the Group’s creation, and its collective voice has spread to every institution and international organisation representing the hopes and aspirations of the majority of humanity.

The integral role played by the G-77 in economic diplomacy and projecting the development interests of the global South is a testimony to its continued relevance in the global development dialogue.

The Group has, through its compact Executive Secretariat limited resources, managed to work successfully with its development partners to analyse issues and propose alternative solutions to development challenges.

For 50 years the G-77 contributed to the formulation and adoption of numerous U.N. resolutions, programmes, and plans of action, most of which address the core issues of development. Its role in generating global consensus on the issues of development has been widely acknowledged by world leaders, diplomats, parliamentarians, academia, researchers, media and civil society.

It is a tribute to the historical validity of the conception, purposes, and endeavours of the Group, which have withstood the test of time.

The essential rationale for the Group was, and remains, to strive for a wider participation of developing countries in global economic decision-making and for inserting a development dimension in international institutions and policies within the framework of the United Nations system.

The Group presently consists of 134 countries, comprising over 80 per cent of the world’s population and approximately two-thirds of the United Nations membership.

The Group is the world’s second largest international organisation after the 193-member United Nations, and many countries, from emerging developing economies to least developed countries and small island developing states have chaired the Group, ranging in regions from Africa, Asia-Pacific to Latin America and the Caribbean.

2014 marks a milestone in the life of the Group with the celebration of the fiftieth year of its establishment, a period during which it has nearly doubled in membership and multiplied its south-south cooperation achievements while continuing to operate as a coalition of nations in promoting North-South dialogue for development.

It is remarkable that with such a diverse membership and without a formal constitution it has managed to endure the world’s political and economic turbulence for 50 years and remain true to its original mission in promoting the United Nations’ development agenda.

The G-77 has devoted five decades working to achieve development. It adheres to the principle that nations, big and small, deserve an equal voice in world affairs.

Today the Group remains linked by common geography and shared history of struggle for liberation, freedom and South-South solidarity.

In its 50 years, the Group of 77 has solidified the global South as a coalition of nations, aspiring for a global partnership for peace and development.

Today, the Group of 77 is recognised for its work to promote international cooperation for development towards a prosperous and peaceful world.

The commitment and dedication of the Group in selflessly shaping world affairs has benefited billions of lives worldwide, and such recognition of its significant contribution during the Group’s fiftieth anniversary is most appropriate.

Happy 50th anniversary for both G-77 and IPS!

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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OPINION: International Relations, the U.N. and Inter Press Service Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:37:48 +0000 Roberto Savio This is the first in a series of special articles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of IPS, which was set up in 1964, the same year as the Group of 77 (G77) and UNCTAD.]]> IPS's then Director-General Roberto Savio honours the director-general of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavía of Chile, Oct. 29, 1999. Credit: UN Photo/Susan Markisz

IPS's then Director-General Roberto Savio honours the director-general of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavía of Chile, Oct. 29, 1999. Credit: UN Photo/Susan Markisz

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Aug 22 2014 (IPS)

In 1979, I had a debate at the United Nations with the late Stan Swinton, then the very powerful and brilliant director of Associated Press (AP). At one point, I furnished the following figures (which had been slow to change), as an example of Western bias in the media:

In 1964, four transnational news agencies – AP, United Press International (UPI), Agence France Presse (AFP) and Reuters – handled 92 percent of world information flow. The other agencies from industrialised countries, including the Soviet news agency TASS, handled a further 7 percent. That left the rest of the world with a mere 1 percent.In a world where we need to create new alliances, the commitment of IPS is to continue its work for better information, at the service of peace and cooperation.

Why, I asked, was the entire world obliged to receive information from the likes of AP in which the United States was always the main actor? Swinton’s reply was brief and to the point: “Roberto, the U.S. media account for 99 percent of our revenues. Do you think they are more interested in our secretary of state, or in an African minister?”

This structural reality is what lay behind the creation of Inter Press Service (IPS) in 1964, the same year in which the Group of 77 (G77) coalition of developing countries saw the light. I found it unacceptable that information was not really democratic and that – for whatever reason, political or economic – it was leaving out two-thirds of humankind.

We set up an international, non-profit cooperative of journalists, in which – by statute – every working journalist had one share and in which those like me from the North could not account for more than 20 percent of the membership.

As importantly, we stipulated that nobody from the North could report from the South. We set ourselves the challenge of providing journalists from developing countries with the opportunity to refute Northern claims that professional quality was inferior in the South.

Two other significant factors differentiated IPS from the transnational news agencies.

First, IPS was created to cover international affairs, unlike AP, UPI, AFP and Reuters, where international coverage was in addition to the main task of covering national events.

Second, IPS was dedicated to the long-term process and not just to events. By doing this, we would be giving a voice to those who were absent in the traditional flow of information – not only the countries  of the South, but also neglected actors such as women, indigenous peoples and the grassroots, as well as issues such as human rights, environment, multiculturalism,  international social justice and the search for global governance…

Of course, all this was not easily understood or accepted.

We decided to support the creation of national news agencies and radio and TV stations in the countries of the South because we saw these as steps towards the pluralism of information. In fact, we helped to set up 22 of these national news agencies.

That created distrust on both sides of the fence. Many ministers of information in the South looked on us with suspicion because, while we were engaging in a useful and legitimate battle, we refused to accept any form of state control. In the North, the traditional and private media looked on us as a “spokesperson” for the Third World.

In 1973, the Press Agencies Pool of the Non-Aligned Movement agreed to use IPS, which was growing everywhere, as its international carrier. At the same time, in the United Nations, the call was ringing for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and was approved by the General Assembly with the full support of the Security Council.

It looked like global governance was on its way, based on the ideas of international economic justice, participation and development as the cornerstone values for the world economic order.

In 1981 all this came to an end. Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom decided to destroy multilateralism and, with it, the very concept of social justice.

One of the first actions taken was to ask all countries working with IPS to cut any relation with us, and dismantle their national systems of information. Within a few years, the large majority of national news agencies, and radio and TV stations disappeared.  From now on, information was to be a market, not a policy.

The United States and the United Kingdom (along with Singapore) withdrew from the U.N. Scientific, Cultural and Educational Organisation (UNESCO) over moves to establish a New International Information Order (NIIO) as a corollary to NIEO, and the policy of establishing national systems of information disappeared. The world changed direction, and the United Nations has never recovered from that change.

IPS was not funded by countries, it was an independent organisation, and even if we lost all our clients from the world of national systems of information, we had many private media as clients. So we survived, but we decided to look for new alliances, with those who were continuing the quest for world governance based on participation and justice, with people interested in global issues, like human rights, the environment and so on.

It is worth noting that the United Nations was moving along a parallel path. In the 1990s, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth U.N. secretary-general, launched a series of world conferences on global issues, with the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) – also widely known as the ‘Earth Summit’ – the first in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

For the first time, not only we of IPS – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) recognised by the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – but any NGO interested in and concerned with environmental issues could attend.

Actually, we really had two conferences, albeit separated by 36 kilometres: one, the inter-governmental conference with 15,000 participants, and the other the NGO Forum, the civil society conference with over 20,000 participants. And it was clear that the civil society forum was pushing for the success of the Earth Summit much more than many delegates!

To create a communication space for the two different gatherings, IPS conceived and produced a daily newspaper – TerraViva – to be distributed widely in order to create a sense of communality. We continued to do so at the other U.N.-organised global conferences in the 1990s (on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, on Population in Cairo in 1994, on Women in Beijing in 1995, and the Social Summit in Copenhagen, also in 1995).

We then decided to maintain it as a daily publication, to be distributed throughout the United Nation system: this is the TerraViva that reaches you daily, and is the link between IPS and members of the U.N. family.

Against this backdrop, it is sad to note that the world suddenly took a turn for the worse with the end of the Cold War at the end of the 1980s, when an endless number of unresolved fault lines that had been frozen during the period of East-West hostility came to light.

This year, for example, the number of persons displaced by conflict has reached the same figures as at the end of the Second World War.

Social injustice, not only at national but also at the international level, is growing at an unprecedented speed. The 50 richest men (no women) in the world accrued their wealth in 2013 by the equivalent of the national budgets of Brazil and Canada.

According to Oxfam, at the present pace, by the year 2030 the United Kingdom will have the same level of social inequality as during the reign of Queen Victoria, a period in which an unknown philosopher by the name of Karl Marx was working in the library of the British Museum on his studies of the exploitation of children in the new industrial revolution.

Fifty years after the creation of IPS, I believe more than ever that the world is unsustainable without some kind of global governance. History has shown us that this cannot come from military superiority … and events are now becoming history fast.

During my life I have seen a country of 600 million people in 1956, trying to make iron from scraps in schools, factories and hospitals, turn into a country of 1.2 billion today and well on the road towards becoming the world’s most industrialised country.

The world had 3.5 billion people in 1964, and now has over 7.0 billion, and will be over 9.0 billion in 20 years’ time.

In 1954, sub-Saharan Africa had 275 million inhabitants and now has around 800 million, soon to become one billion in the next decade, well more than the combined population of the United States and Europe.

To repeat what Reagan and Thatcher did in 1981 is therefore impossible – and, anyhow, the real problem for everybody is that there is no progress on any central issue, from the environment to nuclear disarmament.

Finance has taken a life of its own, different from that of economic production and beyond the reach of governments. The two engines of globalisation, finance and trade, are not part of U.N. discourse. Development means to ‘be more’, while globalisation has come to mean to ‘have more’ – two very different paradigms.

In just 50 years, the world of information has changed also beyond imagination. The internet has given voice to social media and the traditional media are in decline. We have gone, for the first time in history, from a world of information to a world of communication. International relations now go well beyond the inter-governmental relations, and the ‘net’ has created new demands for accountability and transparency, the bases for democracy.

And, unlike 50 years ago, there is a growing divide between citizens and public institutions. The issue of corruption, which 50 years ago was a hushed-up affair, is now one of the issues that begs for a renewal of politics. And all this, like it or not, is basically an issue of values.

IPS was created on a platform of values, to make information more democratic and participatory, and to give the voice to those who did not have one. Over the last 50 years, through their work and support, hundreds and hundreds of people have shared the hope of contributing to a better world. A wide-ranging tapestry of their commitment is offered in The Journalists Who Turned the World Upside Down, a book written by over 100 personalities and practising journalists.

It is evident that those values continue to be very current today, and that information continues to be an irreplaceable tool for creating awareness and democracy, even if it is becoming more and more a commodity, event-oriented and market-oriented.

But, in my view, there is no doubt that all the data show us clearly that we must find some global governance, based on participation, social justice and international law, or else we will enter a new period of dramatic confrontation and social unrest.

In a world where we need to create new alliances, the commitment of IPS is to continue its work for better information, at the service of peace and cooperation … and to support those who share the same dream.

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS and President Emeritus.

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

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