Remarks by Achim Steiner at the Group of 77 and China 50th Anniversary Event Fri, Jun 13, 2014

Excellencies, esteemed guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a proud moment for the world that we are here today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Group of 77 and China, and in the only UN headquarters located in the developing world.

And there is indeed much to celebrate.

It is the G-77 and China's tenacity that has put the concerns and the aspirations of developing countries on to the global agenda as never before.

Thanks to the work of the G-77 and China, there is recognition that unbridled consumption is a major threat to environmental sustainability, on a planet where a minority of the world's population consumes 80% of the world's resources, leaving nearly six billion people to live on the remaining 20%. This majority constitutes the membership of the G-77 and for them poverty eradication and environmental sustainability are key concerns.

And it is thanks to the Group that this global majority now has an active role and voice in international negotiations.

Perhaps one of its greatest achievements of the G-77 and China has been to highlight the fact that while the world's rich and poor nations face a common environmental threat, they do not have common and equitable resources to meet this challenge.

Sustainable development ultimately requires the transfer of sustainable solutions to the developing world. These countries will and must grow economically but must protect the environment and avoid the unsustainable patterns of consumption that have brought us to this point of crisis and have threatened the very planet that is our only means of survival.

Since its founding in 1964, the G-77 has become a key catalyst in the field of development and the results have been dramatic. Developing countries are today taking charge of their own development, speaking with one voice and identifying problems and finding solutions.

Some have become global economic powerhouses in their own right, with significant influence in their respective regions and beyond.

All this reflects not only good work of the G-77 and China but also the dynamism and increasing influence of the developing world in the areas of industrial growth, trade, investment, and technology. To date, over US$5 trillion in reserves are now held by these economies, which also account for 47% of global trade. This trade could be one of the main engines of growth in the years to come.

We can look across all the continents and again and again what we discover is that governments are taking a new approach in designing policies that allow a country to make a faster transition towards sustainable development, and ultimately to turn what are environmental challenges and crises into opportunities for innovation, for job creation and for addressing the livelihoods of the poor who depend on biodiversity and ecosystems for their livelihoods and survival.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, we can also celebrate that increasingly it is in the developing world, or the global South, that we see the frontier of responses emerging to protect the planet; whether it is the issue of transitioning towards a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, or the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, as we have seen in countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From a catalyst for development, the G-77 and China, whose membership has now risen to 133, has today also become the developing world's strongest negotiating and greatest lobbying group.

And the world is listening.

At Rio+20, the G-77 and China negotiated and lobbied hard and successfully to integrate environmental concerns with the imperatives of economic growth and development.

We saw at Rio+20 the commitment of Brazil and China to look for solutions through South-South Cooperation programmes as a way to address the challenges that are often global, but in terms of solutions, regional, national and local in nature.

Over the years, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has made tremendous efforts to support sustainable development and environmental conservation through South-South Cooperation. Last year, high-level delegates from 150 countries across the UN system gathered at UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi to tackle development challenges by harnessing and exchanging innovative solutions developed in the South for the South. Among the many agreements made at the Global South-South Development Expo were projects ranging from building organic fertilizer factories and clean energy projects in Kenya to solar power plants in Uganda.

UNEP continues to work with and through partners in creating and supporting new avenues for South-South Cooperation in line with the Group of 77 and China's guiding principles.

UNEP has developed and amplified its outreach and engagement with relevant intergovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, research and academic institutions, civil society and other major groups and partners. In addition to regional, liaison and country offices, UNEP has also established a number of technical branches, units and specific projects in various locations in the developing world. This presence has been pivotal in mainstreaming the environmental agenda into development work in the South.

With the recognition that South-South Cooperation embraces a multi-stakeholder approach, UNEP has been working with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), through the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Programme, to support countries to move towards low-carbon societies by building partnerships and engaging the private sector to improve energy efficiency and accessibility.

Moreover, UNEP recognizes that there can be a no 'one-size fits all approach' when transitioning to a Green Economy and acknowledges the different visions and tools needed to achieve sustainable development in accordance with each country's needs.

And at country level, UNEP has partnered with the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), to launch a Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE). PAGE provides a comprehensive suite of green economy services that will enable countries to transform their national economic structures to meet the growing demands and challenges of the 21st Century.

It is clear that the participation of the Group of 77 and China in the upcoming UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) is critical. UNEA will review the impact of national and international environmental policies on developing countries, and ensure that environmental projects are compatible with the development plans and priorities of those countries. G77 and China, particularly the Nairobi Chapter, have been very supportive of UNEP's programme of work over the years and the Group's successive chairs have played a positive role during the Governing Council meetings in the past and it is hoped this will continue at UNEA this year and beyond.

UNEA will also benefit from the experience of the G-77 and China. With its emphasis on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), including Sustainable Consumption and Production, UNEA will address issues that the Group has focused on for more than a decade, including emerging ones like illegal trade in wildlife and timber, which is one of the biggest threats to the survival of some of the world's most threatened species and threatens to overturn decades of conservation gains.

The support of the G-77 and China to UNEA will be an asset in ensuring that the SDGs are met and that the next 50 years will bring more positive change for countries of the developing world.

Sustainable development is simply not possible unless the world acts now to fully integrate environmental concerns with the imperative of economic growth and development.

We in UNEP applaud the work and principles of the Group of 77 and China and will continue to promote the aspirations of the developing world by finding solutions to the environmental challenges we must all address if we are to protect our planet for future generations.

In conclusion, I am looking forward to welcoming you all next week to the very first United Nations Environment Assembly at UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi. The Assembly promises to be a very dynamic, interactive platform for the international community to come together and address these environmental sustainability challenges.

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