UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the "historic leadership" of Palestine which assumed the chairmanship of G77, the global body's largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries including India. Egypt was the previous Chair of the Group of 77 (G77), a coalition of 134 members, along with China which aligns itself with the bloc. India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin Tuesday wished Palestine success, saying "India is privileged to stand up for the global South's quest for greater equity and justice".
In his remarks at the annual ceremony for handover of the rotating chairmanship of G77, UN chief Guterres said: "Palestine and its citizens have first-hand experience of some of the most challenging and dramatic global issues we face". The decision to elect Palestine as the 2019 Chair of the G77 was taken in September, 2018 by the foreign ministers of the Groups' member states. A month later, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution that enabled Palestine – a non-member Observer State at the world body – additional privileges and rights, such as participating in international conferences held under its auspices, for the duration of its role as G77 Chair. "You are well-placed to take up the chairmanship of this important group of countries," Guterres said.
As multilateralism continues to come under "intense pressure from many sides", the UN chief underscored the importance of the G77 and China's continued support. "The Group of 77 and China have demonstrated strong leadership throughout 2018 and proved once again to be a central force in demonstrating that multilateralism is the only way to address our shared challenges," Guterres said. Akbaruddin said in a tweet: "Wishing Ambassador Riad Mansoor of Palestine success following his taking over as the chair of the Group of 77 at the UN in the presence of President Mahmoud Abbas". Abbas said Palestine would use its chairmanship to preserve the multilateral international order and strengthen ties with its UN partners.
"People are the real treasure for nations and real and sustainable development can only be achieved when opportunities are enhanced to ensure for all people, full and free participation in all relevant matters in life," he said. Abbas stated that under the guiding principle of "unity in diversity", the G77 focuses on the least developed countries, small island developing states, middle income countries and peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, "so as to ensure no one is left behind". Guterres credited the group and the prior Egyptian presidency as having been "at the heart" of the progress made in challenges that ranged from climate change to rising inequality and fast changing and new technologies.
The UN chief singled out Egypt's "highly effective" leadership and advocacy on finance for developing countries to meet their climate action commitments. He called the group "instrumental" in achieving both a comprehensive agreement that deals with migration in all its dimensions, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; and a Development System to eradicate poverty, implement programmes on a national level and to position development "at the centre of UN activities". "You help to keep the United Nations focused on the issues that count for the most vulnerable, and we owe you a debt of gratitude for your extremely constructive role," Guterres said.
He urged the G77 to bring "solutions and commitments" to, among others, the climate summit in September and enumerated other upcoming events in need of the bloc's support. On Monday, the UN chief met with President Abbas and offered his congratulations, wished the group a successful year and reiterated that the two-state solution is the only viable option to sustainable peace. G-77, established in 1964 by 77 developing countries in Geneva, claims to provide the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the UN system and promote South-South cooperation for development.
(With inputs from agencies.)