By Sherwin Bryce-Pease
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 16 — A week ago South Africa assumed the chairmanship of the Group of 77 plus China coalition, a role that will see it lead the largest bloc of countries in multilateral fora, particularly at the United Nations.
In a year which will include the 70th anniversary of the UN which has seen a renewed impetus towards comprehensive reform of the organization, 2015 will also see the finalization of a deal on climate change, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline in September and negotiations on the post-2015 agenda among others.
It was a handshake between former G77 chair, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, and South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Luwellyn Landers, in New York last week that officially placed South Africa at the helm of the Group of 77 plus China — a collective of 134 member states representing countries of the South.
South Africa’s permanent Representative to the UN, Kingsley Mamabolo, will chair the Group on South Africa’s behalf.
“It’s a critical year particularly in so far as it sets the agenda for the developing countries, the G77 therefore represents the south, it represents countries of the south, developing countries in their majority, we are the biggest group at the UN and we would want to see this agenda formulated very well, which can be done by being united, first and foremost we need to make sure we have cohesion, coherence amongst ourselves, we are united and that we push an agenda of the south,” says Mamabolo.
Celebrating seven decades of the UN, the focus will largely be on development with the conclusion of the MDGs in September that will immediately be replaced by the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that will form the backbone of the post-2015 development agenda.
A climate change treaty is expected by the year’s end and inter-governmental negotiations on UN reform, particularly the Security Council, are ongoing.
“We need to bring back everybody to the centre and say the objective for which the Group was formed some 51 years ago was to say there is an overall objective, which is the interests of the South as a whole, and we need to remind everybody about that, that the centre holds,” mamabolo sys.
“You would recall that when the Group was formed there was a lot of talk about a New Economic Order fighting for the South to make sure we fight the imbalance that exists. That has not gone away, we still have those issues fundamentally which will still need to be addressed.
“How we do it is by appealing to everybody, we would not want to have a South Africa that is divisive that pulls the group away.”
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the G77 plus China (G77 1) is literally a collective of developing countries from the South that provides a forum to promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity in a year where much of that will be needed.
“It’s a diverse group, comes from there. If you look at these countries, I don’t want to list them but which hold completely different positions in terms of their socio economic outlook and many other issues but as I say there’s always a thread that unifies us and that is the fact that we’re all countries of the South,” says Mamabolo.
“We all suffer more or less the same things, poverty and so on, very critical and dire situations in our countries and that should help us unite and as I said earlier on we would want to see a South Africa that helps build this momentum, that helps to remind everybody of where we come from, the objectives initially for which this Group was set.”