Despite an increase in the number of its member countries (from 77 to 134), the Group of 77, the largest intergovernmental grouping of developing countries within the UN, has retained its original title “Group 77” since 1964. Pakistan and India are its founding members.
The Group’s objective is “to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and to strengthen their capacity for joint negotiation on all major international economic questions within the United Nations system”. There was a time when the G-77 was very active and expressed itself on its program. Its “capacity for joint negotiation” has raised concerns among some major powers.
The emergence of Third World countries into an active group with demands for sharing economic resources and promoting an equitable economic order was not acceptable to some powers. With the change of leadership among member countries, the G-77 has also changed tone and content. It is, however, the largest intergovernmental group of developing countries, with the objective of a “new international economic order”.
Pakistan was elected chairman of the group for the year 2022. Previously, in 1977, 1992 and 2007, the country was elected chairman of this group. For the election of its president, the group follows the principle of “geographical rotation”. From January 2022, Pakistan will be the leader and spokesperson for this group.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, has already held the chairmanship of the G-77 plus China group in recent years. He is aware of the group’s working mechanism, its diversity, its common objectives and its obstacles. His diplomatic skills are well recognized and appreciated in UN circles, but the harsh realities on the ground at the UN cannot be ignored.
The G-77 and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) were initiated and organized during the Cold War between the communist bloc of Warsaw Pact countries and the capitalist bloc of NATO members.
The activism of the G-77 and NAM countries calmed down with the end of the cold war between the communist and capitalist blocs of the 20th century. India, which initiated the formation of NAM in 1961 and is still a member of this group, is now an ally of the United States and the superpower’s proxy against China.
The objectives of the G-77 plus China, 57 years old and chartered in 1967, were: a new international economic order that would give them real control over their natural resources, more development aid, fairer prices for raw materials and better access to their manufactured products in developed country markets.
The lack of significant progress is evident. The world had gone from two superpowers to a unipolar world. Now China, which supported the goals of the G-77, has become a global economic power with a new Cold War with the United States. The Biden administration’s decision to “partially boycott” the Winter Olympics in China is another sign of the changing realities of the Sino-US Cold War.
Despite all these realities, the G-77 remains an important group of countries from three continents – Asia, Africa and Latin America – and the Caribbean with common challenges and objectives. It produces joint statements on issues of interest and concern to the United Nations General Assembly, its committees and other United Nations bodies. Common concern and consensus on global issues and its expression with one voice makes a difference at the UN with 193 member countries.
Although the North-South dialogue between the developed and developing countries of the G-77 has not produced results, the South-South dialogue among the members of the G-77 has provided a better understanding of common issues and cooperation. Engagement and dialogue among nations is the only way to address problems and find solutions in this global community of nations.
One hundred and thirty-four member countries of the G-77 may have their national and diverging interests, but the common problems of the global economy, the hegemony of the big players at the UN and other challenges that trigger a spirit of cooperation for joint action on the problems keeps them in various blocks. A collective approach works better than the actions of an individual UN member country.
In the United Nations General Assembly, matters such as sponsorship of resolutions, declarations and Security Council enlargement are decided on a “one country, one vote” basis, regardless of size, population or of its location. Thus, these groups of countries are quite effective and useful in setting up various organs of the United Nations through nominations or elections.
The writer is a journalist based in the United States.