12 January - The bloc of developing nations known as the “Group of 77 and China” must make its voice heard in achieving a full spectrum of United Nations goals, from global anti-poverty targets to tackling climate change to empowering women, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“Changing times require changing institutions,” he said at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York marking the handover from Yemen to Argentina of the chairmanship of the G77. Set up in 1964 by 77 states – but now representing more than 130 countries, usually including China – the group provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the UN system.

“Gone are the days when a few could claim to speak for the many. Reforming and strengthening international economic and financial governance will continue to be difficult. But it is essential,” Mr. Ban said.

“The United Nations has a central role to play in seeing that it is done, and that it leads the way to prosperity and social justice for all. The voice of the G77 and China must also be heard as we advance this agenda,” he added, stressing “our shared efforts” to combat poverty and ensure prosperity for all.

Mr. Ban said efforts to combat climate change must also continue as a top priority for 2011, with the G77 and China helping to build on gains already achieved in setting up a $100-billion-a-year green climate fund for mitigation aid to developing countries as well as in efforts to prevent deforestation and in the fields of adaptation and technology cooperation.

“I will also look to you to sustain our momentum on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said referring to the eight ambitious targets set at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, which aim to slash hunger and poverty, maternal and infant mortality, a host of diseases and lack of access to education and health care, all by 2015.

“In particular, I count on the Group of 77 to strongly support the Fourth Conference on Least Developed Countries to be held in May in Istanbul. Indeed, the most vulnerable have a special claim on our attention – not just because they face the greatest need, but because by investing in them, by ensuring jobs and food security and opportunity, we can make the greatest inroads against extreme poverty.”

He stressed that women's empowerment must be at the core of such an approach. He noted that the past year saw political milestones with the election of Brazil's first female president and the first female prime ministers of Australia and Trinidad and Tobago.

“As we look to the year ahead, I want to emphasize the need for strengthened multilateralism,” he concluded. “Multilateral cooperation is the linchpin to meeting the challenges of our era, especially as resources become tighter and demands on the UN grow. We must forge broader alliances and pioneer new forms of cooperation if we are to conquer poverty, disease, and climate change.”