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UN secretary-general calls for equality for Global South at Cuba G77 summit

UN Secretary-General Guterres holds a press conference ahead of G20 Summit in New Delhi

By Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) -United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday praised efforts to support the Global South in the international arena as he opened a summit of the G77 group of developing nations and China with host Cuba.

The focus is the scientific and technological divide between rich and poor countries and its impact on development.

Guterres said greater international equality was essential to building the consensus needed to tackle climate change and inequality.

"The world is failing developing nations," he said, expressing the hope that the meeting would strengthen participants' clout on a wide range of issues. He echoed climate advocates who have long urged developed nations, including top greenhouse gas polluters such as the United States, to pay to mitigate climate change and lessen the weight of foreign debt.

Battered by extreme weather, the pandemic, international tensions and economic difficulties, developing countries are pressing for fair treatment from developed nations regarding international finance to sharing technology.

This year Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel heads up the G77, the UN’s largest organization. He cited statistics showing 84 million children are at risk of being out of school by 2023 and over 660 million people are without electricity, adding these disparities now include the internet and advances in digital technology.

"Science, technology and innovation have reached the unimaginable," he said, "that in conditions of greater equality and justice could insure more dignified and comfortable lives for the population of almost the entire planet," Diaz-Canel said.

He added that science and technology "play a transcendental role in promoting productivity, efficiency, creating added value, humanizing working conditions, promoting well-being and guaranteeing development," he said.

In a marathon day of speeches, Colombia´s president Gustavo Petro told the forum "we are killing each other" in reference to the war in Ukraine.

"I would ask the G77 that we also address this issue of war, to overcome it, not because we have to take sides between Russia or Ukraine," said Petro, among the few representatives present who mentioned the Ukraine war.

"What is the difference between the war between Russia and Ukraine, and that between Israel and Palestine?" Colombia´s president said.

The G77, which was initially launched in 1964 with 77 nations, now has 134 members.

China maintains that it is not a G77 member, despite being listed as one by the bloc, but Beijing says it has supported the group's legitimate claims and maintained cooperative relations.

While more than 90 delegations are participating in the summit, which ends on Saturday, only a few dozen are led by heads of state.

(Reporting by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Grant McCool)