By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 31 2017 (IPS/G77)
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa accepted the role of Chair of the Group of 77 for the year 2017 at a special handover ceremony on Friday 13 January.
Ecuador will chair the group in its 52nd year collectively representing the interests of developing countries at the United Nations, taking the reins from outgoing chair Thailand.
Addressing the meeting of ministers and permanent representatives from the group’s 133 members, Correa thanked Thailand for its service before outlining Ecuador’s priorities for the group over the coming year.
“We will continue the positive efforts of our predecessors in promoting economic and social equality around the world. This can only be achieved if we eradicate the scourge of poverty, inequality and exclusion,” said Correa.
“Ecuador defends the principles that have guided the G77 since 1964: unity, complementarity, cooperation and solidarity of the global south as well as the determination to seek economic and social development – both individual and collective.”
“Our agenda is vast and it has to be at least minimally a common agenda amongst all our members,” he added.
During his speech Correa addressed the connection between development, equality and peace.
“We need to understand that peace is not only the absence of war” but also the presence of “justice” and “prosperity,” said Correa, quoting Gandhi who said that “poverty is the worst form of violence,” and Pope Paul the XI who said that “development is the new name of peace.”
He described how inequality has reached unprecedented levels, before going on to describe specific ways that the group, and its members, could address the economic disparities between the Global North and the Global South.
The economic issues Correa addressed included: “the privatisation of knowledge”, “the growing and unjust division of work in the world”, the world’s failure to value to natural resources, and the Global North’s domination of international financial institutions.
Addressing the imbalance which sees rich countries profit from the privatisation of knowledge while poorer countries are expected to give away their natural resources for little or no economic return, Correa noted that poor countries “don’t need charity, rather they need science and technology.”
He then described the importance of valuing nature’s contribution to the global economy.
“It is important to even go beyond that and implement the universal declaration of the rights of nature,” he added, noting that Ecuador has become the first country in the world to incorporate the rights of nature into its constitution.
Correa also called for a new approach to global institutions including the Bretton Woods Institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – and the World Trade Organization.
“We must build our own capacities our own financial and regional financial architectures so that our savings can stay in our regions and not finance richer countries,” Correa told the assembled group of developing countries.
The G77 has made great progress in the area of financing for development, he added, even though “many developed countries have systematically opposed these themes being addressed in multilateral fora.”
One particularly important area of interest for Ecuador’s year as chair of the group will be global tax cooperation.
“In Latin America alone 32 million people could have emerged from poverty if the resources hidden in tax havens were used to pay the tax that they owe in these jurisdictions,” said Correa.
Other issues, which Correa addressed in his speech included migration and reforming the UN so that each of its 193 member states are more equally represented:
“The solution to put a stop to migration is not to build walls or establish borders it is more solidarity more humanity and to establish conditions of wellbeing and peace for all inhabitants of the planet,” said Correa.
He noted the importance of reform of the UN system “so that the general assembly takes the most political decisions of human kind rather than a small group of countries in the security council with the veto power.”