September 14, 2021. Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan at the press conference
‘The south is being left behind’. UNCTAD summit raises concerns over the current international order
Concern has been raised at a global summit over how the South is “being left behind” by an “unjust” international order that largely impacts the poor.
Speaking at the G77 Summit, Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), branded it a “cascading crisis.”
Adding how the order has resulted in “only 15% of all sustainable development goals are on track, and 3.3 billion people now live in countries that spend more on debt servicing than on either health or education.”
The intergovernmental organisation promotes the interests of developing countries in economic development “in the unjust world economic order.”
As pointed out by Grynspan, although the global South has grown significantly in terms of economic output, and overall development, it is nevertheless “being left behind” despite the goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda.
The root cause of this, as highlighted by Grynspan, is an “unjust international order.”
Firstly, how countries who contributed the least to climate change are the ones suffering the most from it. Second, how vaccines are not shared during a pandemic. And third, how technological advancements further create divisions between the Global North and South.
Lastly, it is only the countries lacking reserve currencies which are denied affordable finance “crucial for development” and are hit the most by “piles of debt” due to imposed rising interest rates by the reserve currencies countries’ central banks.
A number of significant changes occurred in the field of international relations during the 1960s, including the split of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the rise of newly independent African states freed from colonial rule, and the increasing tensions of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The G77 establishment, amidst this, was a significant turning point in the South’s pursuit of economic development and power in the international arena.
The group, which is committed to “leaving no one behind” aims to ensure support is in place for countries experiencing challenges and an equal universal trading system that does not discriminate against developing countries, through ‘national and collective efforts to achieve sustainable development’.
And to mark its 60th anniversary, the group met in January for its global summit to discuss how the countries involved can develop socially and economically.
It comes at a time of heightened concerns about climate justice and political instability, with the Israel-Hamas war raised as an issue by the G77.
The Group of 77 at Fifty
‘When it was established on 15 June 1964, the signing nations of the well-known “Joint Declaration of Seventy-Seven Countries” formed the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations to articulate and promote their collective interests and common development agenda’.
By: Mourad Ahmia | Executive Secretary of the Group of 77 | United Nations
The Group of 77 (G77) is the largest intergovernmental organisation for developing countries in the United Nations. It aims to help countries in the global South, which is considered to include the poorer countries of the world, to communicate and collaborate on economic interests.
It was established on June 15, 1964, by 77 developing countries, and now includes 134 member countries, but because of its historical significance, the original name was kept.
Coordinating the group’s activities in each chapter is a chairman who serves as its spokesperson. The chairman is picked from a different member state each year.
The top political position within the Group of 77’s organisational structure, the chairmanship, is held for one year in each chapter and alternates among Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The G-77 Chairmanship is currently held in New York by the Republic of Uganda through 2024.
The Third South Summit
The South Summit is the supreme decision-making body of the Group of 77. Previous summits were held in Doha, Qatar in 2005, and Havana, Cuba in 2000.
The Third South Summit was held in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, under the theme of “Leaving No One Behind” on January 21-22. It sought to drive new developments to the cooperation of its member states by boosting South-South cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, sustainable development, climate change, and poverty eradication.
Speaking at the summit in January, President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, pointed out that some of the things Uganda’s Chairmanship aims to address will include “scaling up action to address climate change and biodiversity loss, strengthening international tax cooperation, and financing for development.”
At the heart of the resolutions of the Summit was the “imperative to continue to act in solidarity and unity for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world” that responds to the full commitment to the spirit and principles of the Group of 77 and China, and its collective interests in “international cooperation for development.”
The importance of respecting human rights and peace was key in development talks. As G77 pointed out: “We reaffirm that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.”
With this in mind, the leaders stated their view of the Israel-Gaza war as one of a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
This war like any other threatens “the fulfilment, promotion and protection of all human rights, including the right to development.” Especially, if civilian infrastructure essential in ensuring living conditions, like clean water, sanitation, healthcare, energy and telecommunications are destroyed.
With heightened political tensions around the world and the still growing gap between developed and developing countries, the importance of working towards accomplishing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainability should not be overlooked.
“Under these circumstances, we urgently call for joint, and coordinated action-oriented efforts to strengthen multilateralism, better harness and utilise the growing potential of South-South Cooperation, putting development at front and centre of our Group.”
Why are the G77’s resolutions important?
The G77 is the largest grouping of the global South, representing 80% of the world’s population.
As the Secretary-General of the United Nations (U.N.), Antonio Guterres noted, the G77 “lifted millions of people out of poverty; and provided a powerful voice for developing countries on the global stage.”
Yet, as Secretary General Guterres points out in his remarks at the Third Summit, many members are struggling from the aftermath of COVID-19, debts, a cost-of-living crisis and high borrowing costs.
Hundreds of millions of people’s rights are still violated on a daily basis, especially women and girls. Young people are faced with a crisis-level lack of jobs. The climate crisis is impacting economies and further disabling development by putting communities in danger.
The Secretary-General along with others called for solutions to be found and for them to be acted on, adding: “We rely on the G77 plus China to make the Summit of the Future a success.”