The pandemic forced the G20 to be held virtually and the pandemic was the central theme of the summit chaired by Saudi Arabia and that concluded with the commitment that the vaccine should be universal. After 48 hours of digital diplomacy, the twenty main economies of the world agreed “to continue working together to face the challenge of covid-19 to save lives and livelihoods, and protect the most vulnerable groups,” according to the closing message read by King Salman bin Abdelaziz. The final document is more a declaration of good intentions than a roadmap with concrete measures. The two key issues are the need to make the vaccine universal and to coordinate a strategy so that the recovery from the worst economic recession in decades is “inclusive and sustainable.”
According to the final document, the G20 countries give “absolute support” to the global dissemination of vaccines against the disease and commit to guaranteeing “affordable and equitable access” to all people. The group considers that controlling the spread of the virus, which already exceeds 57 million infected and 1.3 million deaths, is “key to sustaining global economic recovery.” This commitment is reflected in the support for the devices coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as COVAX. This is WHO’s initiative whereby high- and middle-income countries can finance the poorest to receive vaccines. Those responsible for COVAX require 23.6 billion euros, of which 3.5 billion euros should arrive before the end of the year so that they can fulfill their mission.
The group also pledged to “address the remaining global financial needs”, without providing any details. The only concrete aspect within the economic recovery was the announcement that the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) will be implemented, »including its extension until June 2021«, as stated in the final document. 29 of the world’s most favored countries already benefit from this mechanism. From the video conference that was held in March to this weekend, the G20 has injected 17.7 billion euros to mitigate the impact on the global economy of the pandemic.
Climate change and relief
On the second and last day of the summit there was also time to analyze the impact of climate change, “one of the most urgent challenges of our time”, according to the text approved by the twenty. All eyes were on Donald Trump, who yesterday intervened in a testimonial way and abandoned the video conference on the pandemic because he had to play golf. Trump once again criticized the Paris Agreement, from which the United States withdrew in 2015, because “it was not designed to save the environment, it was designed to kill the American economy.” At the opposite pole was his Chinese counterpart and rival, Xi Jinping, who called for “the full and effective implementation” of this same agreement and reiterated that “China will fulfill its commitments” to reduce its peak of CO2 emissions by 2030 and be a carbon neutral country by 2060.
Before the closing of the summit, Riyadh proposed to change the format of the G20 so that from now on it will be held in two different meetings, one virtual in the middle of the year and the other in person, at the end. King Salmán passed the baton on to the President of Italy, Giussepe Conte, who will hold the presidency of the group as of December 1. Conte received the relay with a message in which he underlined the importance of strengthening international cooperation and multilateralism, a direct message to those leaders who admire the model implemented by Donald Trump, who is betting just the opposite. Multilateralism returns to the forefront of international diplomacy with the replacement at the head of the White House.