Third South Summit
31 January 2024
Opening remarks by the President of the 78th session of the UNGA
I feel both honoured and privileged to address this august convocation – on behalf of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Let me begin by conveying my sincere appreciation to His Excellency, President Museveni and to the Government of Uganda for hosting this Third South Summit; a momentous event highlighting the unshakable commitment to advancing multilateralism and global cooperation as the centrepiece for achieving the noble goals of the United Nations.
Uganda’s assumption of the Chairmanship coincides with the Group’s 60th anniversary. I have no doubt that such capable leadership will confidently carry the torch of leadership for a prosperous, united and stronger South.
I should also like to recognize and commend the outgoing dynamic Chair, Cuba, for its extraordinary and insightful leadership of the Group – during these trying times of geopolitical tensions and multifaceted challenges.
Our world is confronted by a confluence of crises – from the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to rising inflation, from a worsening crisis of debt distress to the harsh realities of climate change, which for many, especially the most vulnerable, is a real existential threat.
In parallel, escalating geopolitical tensions, wars and conflicts have risen to the fore, shattering the lives of millions, and putting the safety and security of the entire planet at risk.
At the forefront of these, is the harrowing humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.
Generations of families suffering irreparable trauma and loss; children undergoing amputations without anaesthesia; entire neighbourhoods reduced to rubble in one fell swoop.
With half the population facing starvation and tens of thousands dead in just over 100 days, the world is looking to the United Nations for answers.
The General Assembly has not sat idle in the face of this crisis. It has been both active and ambitious, often led by this very Group of Member States.
It has demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, for all parties to comply with their obligations under international law, and for the immediate release of all hostages and humanitarian access.
I assure you that I shall not tire of reiterating these urgent demands, and I will do so for as long as it takes. I count on the collective leadership of this Group to do the same.
In tandem, we are witnessing mounting frustration with, and the complete rejection of, an unjust world order which continually relegates the interests of the Global South to the margins of the international community’s list of priorities.
Now – more than ever – the G77 and all nations must come together and build bridges of dialogue, hope and cooperation to create a more fair, more just and more prosperous world for all.
Your presence here today, as leaders of the Global South, underscores the fact that the Group of 77 and China – as the largest and most diverse group in the United Nations, has a pivotal role to play in shaping a new world order that is more inclusive and leaves no one and no country behind.
While our challenges today are profound and pervasive, the reality is that we have been struggling for quite some time.
Several developing countries had already veered off course in their pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, even prior to the pandemic and the extant conflicts we see today.
Not surprisingly, the most vulnerable of our societies have borne the brunt of the adverse external events, with countless pushed back into hunger and extreme poverty.
And environmental emergencies, including climate change, have only grown in severity and impact, year upon year, without robust and adequate climate action for course correction.
Against this backdrop, our cherished multilateral system, the policy apparatus for problem-solving international cooperation – is facing an acute crisis, with legitimate questions of current relevance and credibility arising and intensifying, time and again.
Purposeful dialogue, solidarity, and cooperation are in retreat – clearing an opportunistic path for divisive forces that breathe paralysis and disaffection.
We are quite literally at a fork in the road. We must therefore seize the opportunity of Summits such as this, to rededicate ourselves to our core values principles that remain as relevant and compelling today as they ever were.
Multilateral organizations, including the United Nations and international financial institutions, must undergo urgent reforms to better recognize and leverage the significance of the Global South.
We need an international financial system rooted in inclusion and equity, inspiring and bolstering full commitment to multilateralism, fostering SDG-aligned investments, and breaking the vicious cycles of debt and interest compounding for developing countries.
We must harness the full power and opportunities South-South and Triangular cooperation, not per se to supplant our relations with the North, but rather, to rebalance them and thereby magnify the global resonance of the stubborn unity and solidarity of the South.
We all know that the G77 and China is no stranger to strife and perseverance – precisely because it was founded on a robust solidarity with the aim of furthering the principles of multilateralism.
A majority of the G77 members have shared histories of colonialism; struggles for liberation, equality and the pursuit of independence.
Along with the lasting legacy of resilience, these are the cornerstones to the unity that historically binds the G77 – and these must continue to be embraced as the Group’s collective strength in the face of the enormous risks and threats ahead.
As President of the General Assembly, I am committed to these very priorities and principles – solidarity, cooperation, inclusion, and not forgetting support for the most vulnerable, so that we remain faithful to our own dictum of leaving no one behind.
This New Year offers an opportunity to shift our collective trajectory and to make common cause in our determination to craft a new narrative that incentivises and supports effective global transformation in bringing those left out, overlooked, and perhaps even forgotten, into the mainstream of sustainable development.
A series of pivotal events on the UN's sustainable development calendar are noteworthy:
First, is the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda, secondly, the Third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries in Rwanda.
And thirdly, the first-ever UN General Assembly Sustainability Week – a flagship initiative of my Presidency being convened from 15 to 19 April 2024, at the UN Headquarters, focusing on sustainability themes in selected sectors, namely tourism, transport, energy and infrastructure – as well as a signature event on debt sustainability, which of course is a major concern to the members of the G77.
Sustainability Week will build on the 2023 SDG Summit and seek to accelerate our path to 2030, in order to achieve the promise of the SDGs, as well as that of the Paris Agreement.
I am confident I can count on the constructive engagement of the G77 and China – at the highest possible level – to ensure that this week amply positions us to take forward what will unarguably be the defining multilateral process of our generation – that of the Summit of the Future.
The Summit aspires, among other things, to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, to rectify key governance gaps, and ensure Member States uphold their commitments to development.
The G77 and China must play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the Summit – in so far as it will recalibrate the relationship the Global North and the South.
In that regard, the application of modern technology to support human welfare will be a key area of focus and so, the G77 will need to be alert to ensure that such technologies contribute to closing as distinct from increasing the development gap.
I also encourage your continued engagement in the intergovernmental negotiations for the Declaration on Future Generations and the Global Digital Compact, the potential economic benefits of which are extraordinary, though with probable social and societal risks.
How we balance the benefits versus the costs is a critical issue for contemplation by the G77 and China.
I call upon you all to actively support impactful transformation ; a transformation that goes beyond statistics and annual reports – one that instead translates into tangible human and developmental progress, that creates a more secure, safe and peaceful world, and a more sustainable planet.
Despite the challenges, I am certain that – together – we can seize this moment, unlock new commitments, and adopt innovative policies that leave no one behind.
Together – as one G77 and China – let us commit at this Summit to work even harder to rebuild trust, to reignite global solidarity, and to harness the power and potential of multilateralism to secure and deliver peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for everyone, everywhere.
I thank you.