1 October 2021, Friday, Geneva, Switzerland – Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. called on the Group of Seventy-Seven (G77) and China to strengthen its cohesion and solidarity to more effectively advance the interest of developing countries. The group met today ahead of the 15th U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) that is scheduled to be held next week.

The pandemic has worsened the vulnerabilities that plague us,” the Foreign Secretary said. “Our recoveries depend on overcoming these and on making sure we are not re-colonized with pharmaceutical weapons against COVID but rather saved by them without humiliating conditions.”

Last month, the UNCTAD Secretariat issued the Trade and Development Report for 2021, which warned that “the world needs more effective multilateral coordination, without which recovery efforts in advanced countries will damage development prospects in the South and amplify existing inequalities.”

The said report, published on 15 September, stressed that many developing countries face “a cycle of deflation and despair, with a lost decade looming” due to lack of “policy independence and vaccines that advanced economies take for granted.”

Both President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of UNCTAD 15 host country Barbados have deplored the persistent inequity in vaccine distribution at the high-level segment of the U.N. General Assembly last month, echoing a concern that had been raised by UNCTAD since the beginning of the year.

Transforming multilateralism

Speaking through a pre-recorded message to the G77 and China Ministerial Meeting, Secretary Locsin stressed the need to “transform multilateralism” to address the persistent inequities that disadvantage developing countries.

The Philippines was designated by the G77 and China as a focal point on “Transforming Multilateralism” for the negations of the Bridgetown Covenant, the outcome document that is expected to be adopted by UNCTAD 15 next week.

On behalf of the G77 and China, the Philippines’ UNCTAD delegate in Geneva has been negotiating on this issue with representatives from the other UNCTAD groups, namely the European Union, the Eurasian Economic Union, and JUSCANZ (composed of Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the Republic of Korea) since last year.

Our call for transforming multilateralism is not about revising the current rules-based international order,” Secretary Locsin said. “This is about correcting inequities and enhancing our participation in global governance. It is also about restoring UNCTAD to its rightful place as the wildest and most inclusive forum for meaningful consensus-building.”

G77 for G77’

During his intervention at the G77 and China Ministerial Meeting, Secretary Locsin recalled the Philippines’ commitment to the cause of developing countries, starting from his predecessor General Carlos P. Romulo’s role in enshrining the right to independence in the United Nations Charter during the negotiations in 1945.

General Romulo at that time insisted on the word “independence” in Articles 2 and 76 of the Charter despite strong opposition from colonial powers.

Secretary Locsin reminded the meeting that the G77 was formed to enhance the voice of developing countries and to reject the strategic designs of world powers. True independence, he said, “means sovereign freedom from the danger of a returning colonialism, be it from the West or the East.”

The Foreign Secretary reminded ministers that the group “was founded as a platform by, of, and for developing countries.”

Our Group exists to improve our people’s lives, and to promote this agenda independent of the strategic or political special agenda of big powers or of our own kind; for some of us do not make good neighbors,” Secretary Locsin said. “The G77 belongs to the members of the G77, and to no one else. It also belongs more meaningfully to the peoples of the G77.”

Support for middle-income countries

Secretary Locsin also called on the G77 to honor the diversity of its membership and take into account the interest of middle-income countries (MICs), a core Philippine advocacy in the development sphere.

MICs, including the Philippines and most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are home to 75% of the world’s population and 62% of the world’s poor.

In the Bridgetown Declaration that was adopted today, G77 and China ministers noted “with concern” that MICs “continue to face significant challenges to achieve sustainable development.”

There is an urgent need to identify ways and means to ensure that the diverse and specific development needs of MICs are appropriately considered and addressed, in a tailored fashion, in their relevant strategies and policies, with a view to promoting a coherent and comprehensive approach towards individual countries,” the ministerial declaration reads.

In this context, the United Nations Development System (UNDS) must improve its support to different country contexts, including how to provide efficient, effective, more coordinated and better and focused support for MICs,” the ministers said. END