“We recognize the role of extensive immunization as a global public good,” he said.
The dual crisis of the pandemic and an uneven and uncertain global recovery dominated the first day of a two-day summit chaired by Saudi Arabia, which hands the rotating G20 presidency to Italy next month.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has plunged the global economy into a deep recession this year and the efforts needed to support an economic rebound in 2021, were high on the agenda.
“We are optimistic about the progress made in the development of vaccines, therapies and diagnostic tools for COVID-19, but we must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all”, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia said in his opening remarks.
“We have a duty to rise to the challenge together at this summit and to send a strong message of hope and comfort to our people by adopting policies to alleviate this crisis,” he told world leaders.
Chinese President Xi Jinping offered to cooperate on vaccines, saying Beijing “will offer help and support to other developing countries, and work hard to make vaccines a public good that citizens of all countries can use. and afford ”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to provide Russian vaccine against the Sputnik V coronavirus to other countries, while French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken of the need “to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richest can protect themselves against the virus and start a normal life ”.
Funding gap, debt relief
To do this, the European Union has urged G20 leaders to quickly close a $ 4.5 billion funding gap in the global vaccine, testing and therapeutics project – called the COVID Tool Access Accelerator -19 (ACT) – and its COVAX installation for the distribution of vaccines.
“At the G20 summit, I called for investing $ 4.5 billion in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for the purchase and delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines everywhere” , European Commission Director Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter. “We must show global solidarity,” she said.
Germany was contributing more than 500 million euros ($ 592.65 million) to the effort, Chancellor Angela Merkel told the G20, urging other countries to do their part, according to a text of her remarks.
US President Donald Trump, who lost the US presidential election but refused to give in to former Vice President Joe Biden, spoke briefly to G20 leaders before going to golf. He discussed the need to work together to restore economic growth, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a summary released Saturday night.
She did not mention any commitment by the United States to support the global vaccine distribution effort.
G20 countries have contributed more than $ 21 billion to fight the pandemic, which has infected 56 million people worldwide and claimed 1.3 million lives, and injected $ 11 trillion to “save” the economy world ravaged by viruses, organizers said.
But group executives face increasing pressure to help avoid possible credit defaults in developing countries. World Bank President David Malpass has warned that failure to provide more permanent debt relief to some countries could lead to increased poverty and a repeat of the messy defaults of the 1980s.
Poor and heavily indebted countries are particularly vulnerable, which “are on the verge of financial ruin and escalating poverty, hunger and untold suffering,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday.
To address this issue, the G20 will approve a plan to extend the freeze on debt service payments for the poorest countries until mid-2021 and endorse a common approach to address debt problems beyond, according to the draft press release.
The G20 debt relief initiative has helped 46 countries defer $ 5.7 billion in debt service, but that’s a far cry from the 73 eligible countries and promised savings of around $ 12 billion. dollars.
As the groundbreaking event began on Saturday, there had been a few early quirks, with someone overhearing King Salman that “the whole world was watching” before the event began, and Chinese Xi apparently having to ask for help. technical.
Saudi Arabia’s human rights record cast a shadow over the rally, as activists and the families of jailed activists launched vigorous campaigns to highlight the issue.
Among them, the brothers and sisters of imprisoned activist Loujain al-Hathloul, on hunger strike for more than 20 days, demand regular contact with the family.
At a press conference, Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih was asked whether Saudi Arabia should try a different approach to overcome negative headlines, especially on the October murder 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the imprisonment of critics as part of an ongoing crackdown.
“Investors are not journalists, investors are looking for countries where they can trust an effective government with appropriate economic decision-making,” Falih replied.
Some Western officials indicated that human rights would not be discussed at the summit, saying they preferred to use bilateral forums to discuss the issue with Riyadh.
“Instead of signaling its concern over the serious abuses committed by Saudi Arabia, the G20 is supporting the Saudi government’s well-funded publicity efforts to portray the country as a ‘reformer’ despite a significant increase in repression,” Page said Michael Page by Human Rights Watch.