United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday stressed the need for the engagement and leadership of the bloc of developing countries known as the Group of 77 and China in achieving the priorities of the United Nations in the coming year, including on sustainable development and building a safer world.
"By working together in common cause, you can turn challenge into opportunity and move closer to a world of peace and prosperity for all," Ban said at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York in which Algeria handed over the chairmanship of the 'G-77' to Fiji.
The Group, established in 1964 by 77 States, now includes more than 130 countries, some two thirds of the UN membership, and over 60 per cent of the world's population.
Ambassador Mourad Benmehidi of Algeria handed over the chairmanship to Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, at the ceremony, which also drew the participation of the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic.
Ban paid tribute to Benmehidi for his skillful stewardship in promoting many difficult but very successful resolutions on a range of issues over the past year, which he noted was one in which a turbulent global economy presented considerable challenges for policy-makers in the G-77 and China.
"In developed countries, concern over sovereign debt and public sector deficits continued to stifle growth, and official development assistance declined. The knock-on effects in the developing world meant fewer jobs were created; fewer people were lifted from poverty and slower progress was seen in education enrollment and completion," said Ban.
"Social instability persisted in many countries," he added. "Yet throughout, the G-77 and China maintained its commitment to multilateralism, working with each other and with the broader international community to address our common challenges."
As Fiji assumed the Group's chairmanship in 2013, the Secretary-General encouraged Bainimarama to build on the efforts of his predecessors in fostering cooperation - both within the G-77 and China and with other partners.
In particular, Ban said he will count on the Group's engagement and leadership on issues pertaining to his five-year action agenda, which he identified last year - sustainable development; preventing conflicts and disasters, human rights abuses and development setbacks; building a safer, more secure world; supporting nations in transition; and empowering women and young people.
"In seeking progress in these areas I identified two key enablers: partnerships and a strengthened United Nations," he noted. "Your support remains essential."
He also highlighted a number of important meetings and processes coming up this year, including the Assembly's special event on the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), its work on the details of a universal, high-level political forum for sustainable development, expected to be open for business by September, as well as preparations for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States slated for 2014.
Ban met separately with Bainimarama in his capacity as the Chair of the G-77, discussing issues such as sustainable development, the MDGs and the 2014 Small Island Developing States Conference.
They also discussed Fiji's constitution-making process and forthcoming 2014 elections, according to information provided by Ban's spokesperson.
The Secretary-General emphasized the need for Fiji to restore legitimate government and constitutional order as soon as possible and reiterated his expectation that the process leading to the adoption of a new constitution in the country will be transparent, participatory and democratic, in line with internationally-recognized principles.