FEBRUARY 1, 2019


-- Riyad Mansour, UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

-- Mourad Ahmia

As Palestine took over the presidency of the Group of 77 in January, it will have a rare opportunity to play a distinctive diplomatic role and face a challenge to handle its new unprecedented assignment to advance its quest for statehood. G-77 has the highest number of member states voting at the U.N. General Assembly and one of the oldest groups, created in 1964 and perhaps representing 80% of the world population.

Leading such a large, varied, yet collaborative group will require tactful handling by all sides at a time when the rightful Palestinian cause needs a special effort in a conflicted and challenged world where one permanent member of the Security Council is visibly taking an unhelpful side.

One hopeful aspect is that the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, is an experienced diplomat with proven U.N. record; perhaps one of the most effective Arab representatives. Having served in different capacities at the Mission at different intervals, he knows the system well and through a patient, perceptive approach, made positive contact with potential friends and sometimes gained determined adversaries. However different members of the G-77 have varied scopes of operation which require delicate handling, not only by the U.N. representative, but also by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

There is another angle in the manner of which Ramallah will deal with New York or vice versa. President Mahmoud Abbas was on hand to take over from Egypt at a ceremony in New York. The G-77 has an outstanding Secretariat which worked with preceding presidents, offering solid support. Mourad Ahmia, Executive Secretary of the Group of 77, is a solid pillar in that group's contact with the International Community. The Palestinian leadership certainly has an interest in turning the challenges into opportunities to advance at least step-by-step towards statehood. The current international situation may not seem promising, but Palestine at least could try in the hope of getting some progress, valid information, and coordinating talent.