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Annan encourages G-77 to focus on emerging challenges of development, globalization

Annan encourages G-77 to focus on emerging challenges of development, globalization

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today encouraged the so-called "Group of 77" developing countries and China to pay greater attention to emerging issues that will profoundly affect efforts to meet the challenges of development and globalization, as the chairmanship of the 133-nation coalition was formally handed over from Venezuela to Morocco.

"Morocco assumes this responsibility at a challenging time," the Secretary-General said in his remarks to the handover ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York. One such challenge was migration, which now involves hundreds of millions of people, "and which requires the political leaders from both the developing and developed countries to strengthen cooperation."

"The challenge is threefold," he continued, "to better protect the human rights of migrants; to fairly share the burdens and responsibilities of providing assistance for refugees, and to fully realize the positive potential of international migration - for migrants and for transit and receiving countries alike."

The Secretary-General also underscored the challenges the G-77 will face, including the need to deal with trade-related intellectual property rights while allowing developing countries to have access to life-saving medicines, an issue which has led to difficulties in multilateral trade negotiations following the 2001 Doha agreement.

"But this should not lead to pessimism," Mr. Annan stressed. "With so much at stake, we have no option except to persist." The international community now has a commitment to reduce trade barriers and subsidies, and to set trade rules in ways that will bring benefits to developing countries. "Poor countries should do their utmost to defend their interests," he said, and "rich countries must recognize that it is in their interest to open up trade."

The Secretary-General commended Venezuela's work leading negotiations for the Group of 77 during the past year under the chairmanship of Ambassador Milos Alcalay. Looking ahead, he congratulated Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Mohamed Benaissa and Ambassador Mohamed Bennouna on the assumption of Morocco's duties for the coming year. "Morocco's voice has contributed greatly to the development debate," he told the Group. "I am confident the Moroccan delegation will lead you with expertise and determination in the coming months."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he was convinced that the Moroccan delegation would be an effective voice, upholding the historic principles of the Group of 77, as well as the struggles and aspirations of the developing world in the coming year. Looking back, he said that with the support of the international community, Venezuela had "spoken the voice of the G-77 with conviction and with firmness." He was proud to have been the spokesman for the developing world for the past year, having led calls for, among other things the significant reduction of resources spent on weapons of mass destruction, and the creation of an international humanitarian fund to effectively address poverty.

Highlighting Morocco's goals for the coming year, Mr. Benaissa said the Group would continue to promote and pursue North-South as well as South-South dialogue, and improve efforts to ensure broad consultation on important international issues. The Group will remain committed to working with the membership of the eight most industrialized nations to help find corrective solutions for economic, cultural and social problems. No efforts will be spared to strengthen the Group's capacity and cohesion so that it can continue to forge fair and strong and democratic international relations.