Increasing clout of G 77

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WITH THE end of the cold war, the Group of 77 (G-77) is increasing both in size and clout. Once a loosely-knit association, G-77 now consists of 129 developing countries and its influence, especially in the field of environment, is on the rise.

Frequent references to G-77 resolutions in the various Earth Summit-related non-governmental organisation (NGO) publications reflect the group's growing influence in global environmental negotiations. G-77 blamed the "unsustainable lifestyles" of rich nations for global environmental problems and stressed they should pay to clean up the environment.

NGOs from developing countries who initially ignored G-77 now recognise its influence and enthusiastically seek its support. At the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) meeting, the first major environmental conference after Rio, NGOs from developing countries met daily for the first time as an "NGO-77" group and prepared joint positions.

The establishment of the Global Environment Facility was primarily the result of the persistent G-77 demand, based on an Indian proposal, to create a global green fund. The group, after having failed to get "Consumption patterns of the rich" on Rio's agenda, managed to get it on the CSD agenda. G-77 also ensures the UN raises travel funds to enable poor countries to participate in the increasing number of global negotiations.

"Several NGOs from the North view G-77 with awe as it gradually becomes more organised, submitting draft resolutions on crucial issues and occasionally taking the leadership away from industrialised country groupings," remarked an NGO representative from a developing country who participated in all Earth Summit preparatory committee meetings. "Simultaneously, the G-77 is very suspicious of the prospect of many northern NGOs trying to run the show," said Sarah Burns of the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

For some NGOs, G-77 evokes mixed feelings because it opposes opening up the UN to broader NGO participation. But it has regularly pressurised industrialised countries for financial and technological concessions to clean the environment.

G-77 is criticised as a group that is reactive but not proactive. Although G-77 unites when defending positions, it is unable to present alternative programmes. The diversity of the group has acted as a bottleneck in this regard. There is concern that G-77 members are becoming more dependent on the North-controlled financial system and are under increasing pressure to avoid challenging industrialised countries.

"It all boils down to the almighty dollar. Developing countries are more scared as the economic pressure is getting worse. G-77 is more than ever cautious of antagonising the Group of 7," said a G-77 delegate who asked not to be named. G-77 was also criticised at CSD for being "apologetic" on issues important for its survival.