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Secretary-General, at “Group of 77” Developing Countries and China Foreign Ministers Meeting, Stresses Need for Vaccine Equity, Fairer Global Economic Architecture

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SG/SM/21053
30 NOVEMBER 2021

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks to the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, in New York today:

It is a pleasure to join the Group of 77 and China — a steadfast supporter of multilateralism and the United Nations. Your founding principles of unity, complementarity, cooperation and solidarity are especially relevant in these times of crisis. You have been leaders in placing development at the centre of the United Nations agenda. I congratulate Guinea for guiding the Group through many complex processes during this difficult year.

We are now in the second year of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Despite the development of effective vaccines in record time, more people have died in 2021 than in 2020. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on developed and developing countries alike. The only way out of a global pandemic — and out of this unjust and immoral situation — is through a global vaccination plan.

The entire United Nations system stands behind the COVID-19 vaccination strategy set out by the World Health Organization (WHO), with the aim of getting vaccines into the arms of 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of this year, and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022. And I repeat all countries because everyone, everywhere must have access to COVID‑19 vaccines, tests and treatment. I count on the support of all countries for the WHO strategy, and for the Access to COVID‑19 Tools (ACT)-accelerator and its COVAX facility.

Vaccine inequality and lack of solidarity is entrenching many other inequalities and injustices between countries and regions, between rich and poor, and between the global North and the global South. The world economy is projected to grow by 5.9 per cent this year. But the pace of recovery is extremely uneven. This is not surprising, when developed economies are able to invest 28 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) in recovery, but middle-income countries can only invest 6.5 per cent and the least developed countries only 1.8 per cent of a far smaller amount.

The consequences are terrible. In sub‑Saharan Africa, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that cumulative economic growth per capita over the next five years will be 75 per cent less than the rest of the world. Africa should be growing much faster than the rest of the world — it’s not the case because of the inequalities I’ve described. This dangerous divergence threatens to widen as growth rates are expected to decrease in 2022. Rising inflation could also have a negative impact on the cost of borrowing and servicing debt, especially for developing countries.

Beyond universal access to COVID‑19 vaccines, we must provide developing countries with the liquidity they need so that they can invest in a sustainable recovery, restart their economies and restore their vibrant societies. Many developing countries, especially least developed countries, have already defaulted on their debt, or are on the brink of default.

I welcome the IMF approval in August of a $650 billion allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to boost liquidity temporarily. However, most of these SDRs are going to the richest countries, which is an injustice in itself. And so, I repeat my call for developed countries to massively reallocate their unused SDRs to the developing countries that need them most.

I also welcome steps by the International Monetary Fund, the Group of Twenty and others to alleviate the debt burden, including through the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and Common Framework for Debt Treatment. But they do not go far enough. We must have effective debt relief for all developing countries in need, including vulnerable middle-income countries and small island developing States that require it.

I call on the Group to support universal access to the new Resilience and Sustainability Trust under the International Monetary Fund, so that all developing countries that need help can access it through the SDRs. No country should be forced to choose between servicing its debt or serving its people.

In the longer term, we must go beyond stopgap solutions. We need a global financial system that actually works for all countries — that helps them build resilience and invest in their people. Even before the pandemic, our world was far off track to meet the commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. We must intensify our efforts in this Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is vital to achieving a fair globalization, boosting economic growth and preventing conflict.

There is a gaping annual financing gap for the SDGs of at least $4 trillion. The outcome of twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow was the bare minimum required to keep the 1.5°C promise of Paris alive.

Science tells us that the absolute priority must be rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions in this decade. But present commitments still put the world on a pathway that will clearly lead us to well above 2°C by the end of the century. I count on the leadership of the Group over the coming year to increase ambition and push for that ambition not only on mitigation, but on adaptation — a basic need for so many countries — on finance, and on loss and damage, where we still have such a long way to go.

My recent report on Our Common Agenda is aimed at putting global governance on a fairer and more equitable footing. We need a quantum leap in unity and solidarity to make collective decisions on the global challenges we face, from the climate crisis to our suicidal war on nature, unsustainable levels of inequality, and the unchecked development of new technologies.

Rethinking the global debt architecture to address longstanding weaknesses is an important element of the report. Multilateral institutions should be empowered to ensure the implementation of international commitments, with transparency and accountability. Our Common Agenda proposes that the temporary economic measures introduced to help people through the pandemic should be turned into a renewed social contract between Governments and people, taking into account the specific characteristics of each country and centred on people and their rights.

We need to accelerate progress on universal social protection, strong health systems, gender equality, access to education and training, job creation in the green and care economies, and bridging the digital divide. But developing countries can only do it in the context of a more just and equitable global economy.

We also need to look consciously into the future, to make sure that decisions taken today do not rob generations to come of security and opportunity. My report proposes ways we can advocate for the needs and interests of today’s young people and future generations.

The United Nations has stayed and delivered around the world throughout the pandemic, helping countries respond to both its health impact and the accompanying social and economic shocks. We have delivered medical, food and humanitarian supplies; provided electoral assistance; undertook mediation efforts; led and supported peace talks; and spoke up for the human rights of the most vulnerable. Our reforms enabled us to adjust our business operations and respond quickly. The new structures in place helped us launch a fast and unified response, in full respect of national ownership.

United Nations Country Teams rolled out socioeconomic response plans covering 139 countries and territories — once again in direct contact with Governments to respect national ownership. More than $3 billion was repurposed, and an additional $2 billion was mobilized, to prioritize immediate support. As a result, more than 90 per cent of host Governments have indicated that the United Nations today is more relevant to their country’s development needs when compared to three years ago.

The peace and security reforms have enabled us to implement comprehensive strategies, aligned with regional and subregional organizations and other stakeholders. Management reform has brought substantial changes in structures, accountability, delegation and internal operations that have been critical to business continuity. We now have dedicated capacities to focus on key areas of concern, including health and supply chain management.

Our new annual programme budget enabled us to adapt more quickly to changes in mandates and to adjust our planning, improving mandate delivery and accountability. Although we face a continued liquidity crisis, recent increases in cash collections have allowed us to lift hiring freezes. I have asked senior managers to ensure that in filling vacancies, they advance gender parity but they strive for more equitable geographical representation. I am committed to ensuring that our staff reflect the international character of our Organization.

As Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations is your home. In us, you have a global platform to define solutions, drive partnerships, advocate for your priorities, demand justice and equality, and galvanize global solidarity. I count on your support as we strive to build a more networked and inclusive multilateralism that is fit for the future.

I am fully committed to working closely with the Group of 77 and China, together with other Member States, to move forward with the proposals of Our Common Agenda, to recover better and faster, to achieve the SDGs, and to shape a better world for future generations based on the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

For information media. Not an official record.