Ambassador Peter Thomson’s Closing Remarks for the G77 and China Ambassadorial Meeting of 19 December 2013
This is my last opportunity to address you from the Chair of the Group of 77 and China at an ambassadorial meeting. At the handover meeting on 8th January, I’m happy to say that Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, will be present to pass the torch on to Bolivia. I know that the 8th of January will be a momentous day for us all, a day which we are greatly looking forward to.
2013 is fast-drawing to a close and with it the role of my country, Fiji, as Chair of the Group of 77 and China. Having said that, I’m informed that we still have work to do on ECOSOC, HLPF and the Open Working Group on the SDGs, in addition to three more G77 statements to prepare and deliver next year, before the handover of the chairmanship on 8th January! And I’m also very conscious of the urgent need before for us to conclude negotiations in the 5th Committee for the UN Budget for the biennium 2014-15. So the Chair still has some heavy responsibilities before it.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you, dear colleagues, for your unwavering support throughout the year. As I’ve always said, the Chair is the servant of the Group, and whenever your humble servant has asked for instructions, you the membership have always given us the very best of guidance. I also want to thank the Executive Secretary, Mr Ahmia, and the G77 Secretariat for their work in facilitating the work of the Chair, especially the provision of secretariat support in the various committee coordination meetings, and in assisting the progress of the Group throughout the year.
Together we have achieved much in 2013. I believe it has been a good year for the Group and am deeply thankful for that. Now we see the great tasks of 2014 and 2015 lying before us - the acceleration on the achievement of the MDGs, the creation of the SDGs and the elaboration of the Post-2015 Development Agenda are at the head of the list. Those tasks will demand much of us as a Group, for a hurting planet demands wiser stewardship, and as long as poverty and inequality exist in the world, our struggle for righteousness is not done.
During Fiji’s Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, I have learnt that we are a mighty force at the United Nations. That might comes from our strength in numbers - 133 countries representing some two thirds of the world’s population - with that strength operating at its best when our Group is united in purpose and voice. I have learnt that as long as we respect each others’ differences: as long as we show respect for our various ideologies, systems of government, stages of economic development, and the broad geographic regions we represent, then we are a Group that is indeed united, strong and progressive.
And I have also learnt that there are many who would divert our attention from the main reason for our presence here in New York. Thus we have always to remind ourselves that we know our constituency well, and that it is not here in the silos of New York, or for that matter in Geneva - it is out there in the developing world that our responsibilities lie, out there where poverty, malnourishment, poor health services, lack of sanitation and lack of clean water persist for over a billion people. All of our Group efforts here at the United Nations should be shepherded towards ending poverty and hunger, and delivering the essential services that are our constituency’s basic human right. Let us ensure the delivery of those essential services, and together with our partners, eradicate the scourge of unacceptable poverty from the developing world.
I have also learnt this year, that progress at the United Nations does not emanate from adversarial corners, but from cooperation by those who meet in the middle. As Madiba counseled us, leadership requires integrity and honesty yes, but it requires humility as well. I have learnt that, in the words beloved by our experts, we have to be “flexible”. And I believe that within our necessary vigilance on behalf of our constituency, when we negotiate for progress and what we see as right, we must always remember we inhabit one planet; and that courtesy of Rio, we have concluded that the future we all want is a universal and sustainable one.
I’d like to repeat some other words of the late President Mandela, which I quoted in the General Assembly this morning. This great son of Africa, this man of the South, who in his time became a universal moral leader for all humanity, humbled us with his thoughts on leadership, "A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly,” he explained, “Knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger.” “If you want to make peace with your enemy,’ he said, “You have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
The 21st Century’s greatest challenges loom before us: climate change, human migration and poverty eradication. These are universal challenges for humanity and we must manage our response to these phenomena to the very best of our ability if further human misery is to be avoided. As a Group we will have to work with our partners in a universal mind-frame if we, as an organization of United Nations, are going to do the best we can for humanity.
I would like to end my remarks as Chair by paying tribute to the team of dedicated diplomats at the Fiji Mission that I have had the privilege of leading in 2013. They cannot be with us this afternoon because they are hard at work on behalf of the Group in the Committees and at a symposium in China. In their absence, I want to name them: Luke Daunivalu, Sainivalati Navoti, Yolinda Chan, Eliesa Tuiloma, Namita Khatri, Peni Suveinakama and Lavenia Rokovucago. They have given their all for Fiji and the Group of 77 and China this year, and I want to them all to know how greatly their service has been appreciated.
So to them and to you all, dear colleagues, I wish you well for the brave new year of 2014, and thank you from the heart for all that you have given in our communal quest for the upliftment of conditions for the people of the developing world.
As we say in Fiji, “Vinaka sara vaka levu vei kemuni kece."