The Covid-19 at the center of the virtual G20 chaired for the first time by Riyadh
Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 in virtual form this weekend for the first time due to the pandemic. On the menu of the discussions of this international meeting, the economic consequences for the poor countries but also the vaccine.
It is under the presidency of Saudi Arabia that a virtual summit of the G20 opens on Saturday, November 21 amid international calls for funding for this forum, necessary to curb the pandemic of new coronavirus and its devastating economic consequences. Although virtual, it is the first time that an Arab country has hosted a summit with representatives from the main rich and emerging countries.
This two-day meeting also comes as the G20 is criticized for its response to the global recession and when US President Donald Trump is still contesting his defeat in the presidential election on November 3.
No opening ceremony with great fanfare or opportunity to conclude bilateral commitments, the summit is reduced this year to brief online sessions, described by observers as “digital diplomacy”.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 55 million people and killed more than 1.3 million around the world, will be the main topic discussed at the summit chaired by Saudi King Salman.
Several calls addressed to the G20 to help in particular the World Health Organization (WHO) were launched after the multiplication of promising announcements for the commercialization of the long awaited vaccines.
In a letter, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on G20 countries to help bridge a gap lack of $ 4.5 billion in the WHO fund to distribute vaccines, in particular.
Vaccines “accessible to all”
The head of the UN, Antonio Guterres, he felt that “vaccines should be treated as a public good”, “accessible to all”. “This is the only way to stop the pandemic”.
For the past seven months, $ 10 billion has been invested to develop vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies, added Mr. Guterres. “But 28 billion are lacking, including 4.2 billion before the end of the year. These funds are fundamental for the industrialization, transport and supply of vaccines”, and the “G20 countries have the means” of financing .
G20 countries have spent more than $ 21 billion (€ 17.7 billion) to fight the coronavirus. They also released some 11 trillion dollars to save the world economy, according to the organizers.
Speeches by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping and even his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are notably expected, according to sources close to the organization.
President Trump will “attend” the online summit, a senior US official told AFP on Friday. Its Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will be in Saudi Arabia for the summit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also speak. “If we harness the ingenuity and collective resources of the G20, we can chart a way out of the pandemic and build a better and greener future,” he said in a statement released by his services.
“The G20 summit will seek to strengthen international cooperation to support global economic recovery,” Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said.
The G20, which notably brings together the United States, China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, India, Brazil, South Korea, Russia, Australia, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, make up two-thirds of the earth’s population, 80% of world trade, and over 85% of the wealth produced.
The G20 summit must also tackle the debt of poor countries, faced with a collapse in their external financing. Last week, the group’s finance ministers agreed to a “common framework,” involving China and private creditors for the first time, to ease the debt burden.
Progress deemed insufficient by NGOs and by Mr. Guterres, who called for “bolder measures”, arguing that “further debt relief will be necessary”.
The G20 adopted a moratorium on six-month debt service payments in April, extended in October until June 2021.
Antonio Guterres calls for the debt suspension to be extended until the end of 2021. “In the draft (G20 press release) there is a reference to this possibility, of course we would like it to turn into a commitment closed”.
The shadow of human rights abuses in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia will hang over the summit. Relatives of jailed activists have urged world leaders to pressure Saudi leaders to release political prisoners.