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Prime Minister Spencer completes successful tenure as Chair of UN developing country group

NEW YORK – Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister the Honourable Winston Baldwin Spencer has completed his one-year tenure as chairman of the most influential group of developing countries within the United Nations, the 130 member Group of 77 (G77) and China, and handed over the post to his successor during the Group’s annual hand over ceremony here today.

In his farewell speech to the Group, delivered in his absence by Ambassador Dr. John W. Ashe, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Prime Minister Spencer recalled that:

“A year ago, Antigua and Barbuda had the honour and the privilege of taking over the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 for 2008. We accepted this enormous responsibility with pride and conviction, aware of the challenges and obstacles that developing countries face in their struggle to advance social and economic progress and justice for their populations in a manner consistent with sustainable development. We were buoyed and embolden by your many pledges of support, cooperation and solidarity.”

Hon. Balwin Spencer

The Prime Minister applauded the members of the group for their solidarity in the face of adversity and noted that the Group of 77 and China developed and maintained coordinated positions which advanced substantially the interests of developing countries in all the various processes.

Speaker and after speaker praised the leadership of the Prime Minister and his UN delegation and lauded their accomplishments during what is widely regarded as one of most successful tenure in the forty-five year history of the group.

Among the accomplishments cited were (a) the launching of the first ever “Development Platform for the South”; (b) further enhancement of the Group’s flagship “Programme of South-South Cooperation,” which was first agreed in Havana, Cuba in 2000; (c) finalization of the Agreement on the Establishment of the South Fund for Development and Humanitarian Assistance; (d) strengthening of the relationships among various institutions supporting the countries of the South including the coordination between the Non-aligned Movement and the Group of 77 and China through the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) for the formulation and promotion of common strategies on relevant issues in particular the reform of the UN system; and (e) forging of a strong partnership involving in particular the Group of 77 and China, the Group of 24 and the South Centre especially in respect of international financial and economic issues; and also with the other Chapters of the G77, with research institutions of the South and with Southern NGOs. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the chairmanship of Antigua and Barbuda and noted that “…Antigua and Barbuda [had]… steadfastly guided the Group through a challenging year of multiple crises – from food security to energy to global finance.” He thanked Ambassador Ashe, whom he said “has earned profound respect for his exemplary service to the Group. It has been a pleasure to work with him.” President of the UN General Assembly Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua said that “under Antigua and Barbuda’s Chairmanship, the Group of 77 has worked hard, with calm and wisdom during critical junctures, to develop unified positions on a number of complex global challenges and aspects of United Nations reform.”

UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis praised the ‘vigorous chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China for 2008″ demonstrated by Antigua and Barbuda. But it was perhaps the representative of Grenada, speaking on behalf of the CARICOM UN Caucus, who summed it up best when he observed that:

“We are immensely proud of the effective and proficient leadership that [Antigua and Barbuda] demonstrated throughout the many difficult circumstances of the past year. The unprecedented decline in the world financial sector, dire food shortages, the ongoing challenge of climate change and countless natural disasters, were among the plethora of turbulent issues and concerns which arose that Antigua and Barbuda were able to address, and articulate with a lucid and ardent voice on behalf of the member states of the Groups of 77 and China.” The Group of 77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing states in the United Nations and provides 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 United Nations system, and promote South-South cooperation for development. It was established in 1964 by seventy-seven developing countries that were signatories of the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries” issued at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.

Although the members of the G-77 have increased to 130 countries, the original name was retained because of its historic significance. The chairmanship of the Group of 77 is rotated on an annual basis between the three (3) developing country regions, namely Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, that make up the Group. In 2009, the delegation of the Republic of Sudan from the African region will serve as chair of the group. Antigua and Barbuda will continue to participate in the overall management structure throughout 2009 due to the fact that it will serve in the Group’s ‘troika” as the outgoing chair.

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