7:38 AM Sep 27, 1994


Geneva 26 Jun (TWN) -- The Group of 77 in Geneva commemorated its 30th anniversary at a special function attended among others by former Tanzanian President and Chair of the South Centre, Mwalmu Julius Nyerere, former UNCTAD Secretary-General Gamani Corea and the Officer-in-charge of UNCTAD, Carlos Fortin.

All the speakers while lauding the past achievements, also spoke of the more difficult tasks ahead and the need for solidarity and unity of its members.

More than one speaker referred to the origins of the Group at UNCTAD in 1964 and the gradual extension of its activities to various UN centres: with the G77 having a total membership of 130 (including South Africa, the latest adherent) and six chapters of the G77 at various UN centres and the G-24 at the Fund/Bank institutions in Washington.

There was also reference to the fact that from its original focus on the trade and development issues at UNCTAD, the group's activities covered many other areas.

And while Indonesia, for the non-aligned, adverted to the difficulties developing countries will face after the outcome of the Uruguay Round, no one even obliquely adverted to the lack of a cohesive developing country group in the GATT/WTO and the disarray of the countries which resulted in their lack of any influence on the final outcome despite the very large and active participation of individual countries.

In opening the meeting, the Chair of the Group of 77, Amb. Adriano Alfredo Teixera Parreira of Angola, pointed out that the cohesion and political unity of the Group was not founded on homogeneity of system or identity of economic interest, but rather as the result of a collective perception that the problems were shared and common, and that there was a need for joint action to redress the inequitable pattern of international economic relations.

The resilience of the Group, Teixera Parreira said, had been tested by the enormous economic and political changes of the last decade, a challenge of change which the Group had met with decisiveness and courage -- as demonstrated in the policy programme adopted in Teheran at its 7th ministerial meeting, and the Cartegena Commitment (at UNCTAD-VIII) which would not have been possible if the Group had not accepted the challenge of change and responded to the need for a new dialogue and a pragmatic partnership for development with their developed partners.

The problems that the founders of the Group had sought to address, the Angola ambassador went on, was regrettably still with them: underdevelopment, poverty, inequitable conditions of trade, inadequate resource flows, debt and debt service burden, transfer of technology, low commodity prices, trade barriers and problems of market access and new forms of protectionism.

"The Group of 77," he added, "is committed to seeking new answers and pragmatic solutions to these complex problems with their development partners. At the same time, the growing interdependence of the global economy shows that efficient economic management, intensive mobilization of resources and efficient allocation of those resources are important for the economic growth of the developing countries...

"What has been achieved, and in some cases the lack of achievement, should not prevent the Group of 77 from pursuing its objectives. There have been many difficulties and much stress lately, but the objectives of the Group are as valid as every. Clearly, there still remains much to be done in the pursuit of a new and just partnership with the developed countries."

The Officer-in-Charge of UNCTAD, Carlos Fortin, noted that the membership of the Group now was even more heterogenous and differentiated levels of development than at its founding. Nevertheless, the essential validity of the Group lay in the fact that despite their differences in levels of development or economic structures, they had a common interest in bringing about a global, economic environment that would be supportive of the development process.

Such a supportive economic environment, Fortin said, for development required an international economic system based on agreed principles and approaches involving free flow of goods, services and opening of markets and a multilaterally open development cooperation system. Also required were international actions to compensate the disadvantaged among the developing countries particularly the LDCs in such fields as resource flows, commodity markets, debt, market access etc.

The developing countries could achieve these objectives only by pooling their strength. Solidarity was hence of crucial importance to the G77. The international community must also show solidarity with the world's poor and this called for international measures to alleviate poverty, hunger and illiteracy and deal with their fundamental causes rather than the symptoms. Both UNCTAD and the Group of 77 were faced with this challenge of change.

Amb. Riaan Eksteen of South Africa, speaking for the African group, said Africa continued to see the G77 as an important and central organ in the initiation, development and support of answers to the unsolved problems in the ongoing international economic debate. "Of critical importance to Africa is the continued ability of the Group to make its voice heard, not only regarding new issues, such as Trade and Environment, but equally important, providing new thinking and answers for those issues that continue to hamper growth and development."

"The desire of the developing world," Eksteen said, "from the more affluent members to those also members of the Least Developed Countries, of which many are in Africa, is clearly to continue the cohesion that has been built up over the years. The more the world changes, the greater the need for such a forum to enable the developing world to discuss issues of mutual concern.

"The Group set out with a clearly defined goal in the post-colonial world: achieving an equitable economic order, allowing all countries and their people to prosper. We all know, however, that this has not yet been achieved...The last 30 years have not always been easy for the Group and its cohesion. It is a sign of the resilience of the members of the Group, a commitment to the aims set, and a realisation of the importance of the issues at stake, that the Group has survived the changing world political and economic order."

Speaking for the Asian Group, Amb. Bernard Goonetilleke said the 30th anniversary was not only an occasion to look at achievements and failures, but a time to take stock and analyze the implications of the radical changes taking place in the international economic system on the Group. Recalling the role of Dr. Raul Prebisch in the creation of the Group in 1964, by bringing the then existing Afro-Asian group and the Latin American group together, Goonetilleke added that the unity and solidarity of the group was as much needed now as in 1964. Goonetilleke also underlined the importance of the resumption of North-South dialogue as soon as possible.

The Coordinator of the Latin America and Caribbean Group, Amb. Trevor C. Spencer, said that G-77 was now very different in size and composition than at inception. With the recent association of China, the Group and China represented more than four-fifths of humanity. The preservation of a united front among its various regional components would provide an invaluable asset to the Group in its future struggle for equity.

Earlier Amb. Spencer said that the political, social and economic environment faced by the G-77 today had undergone considerable change and was continuing to do so. Economically, the increasing trend towards globalization and creation of new and expanded regional economic groupings, as well as new and advanced technological development were taking hold.

This new climate, the Latin American and Caribbean Group believed, presented unprecedented opportunities for international cooperation which could redound to the benefit of the G77 in its future search for a "healthy, secure and equitable new world order". The major challenge for the developing countries still remained the revitalization of economic growth and social development. While a few had enjoyed some measure of economic growth, the vast majority of developing countries continued to grapple with problems related to high external debt, protectionism, diminishing terms of trade, decreased financial flows and technology transfer. These concerns must be addressed by the Group in charting its future course.

Referring in this connection to the decision of the Latin American group ending the Group system of negotiations at UNCTAD, Amb. Spencer said that the preparations for UNCTAD-VIII, the Ministers of the region had felt that in view of the differing developmental requirements of the Group's members, changes would be necessary in the traditional forms of negotiation to embrace a dialogue which would be non-confrontational, cooperative and based on a definition of the global interests of the international community"

Among other speakers on the occasion, Germany speaking for the European Union praised the "new openness and flexibility" shown by the Group of 77 in recent years, and in particular at Cartagena, "in response to the changing international economic, political and developmental environment". The EU welcomed this new spirit of cooperation and partnership that strived to ensure that debates in UNCTAD as in other fora addressed current problems of development and trade realistically and offered pragmatic solutions to the various problems of a common world and a common future.