Leaders from the world’s biggest 20 economies have pledged to ensure a fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines, drugs and tests around the world and to support poorer nations to recover after COVID-19.
The vows made during the two-day G20 Summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, tackled the twin issues of the pandemic and the uneven economic recovery across the globe.
Talks were focused on the COVID-19 and its lasting devastating impact on global economy, which has been thrown into a deep recession and the efforts needed to underpin an economic rebound in 2021.
“We must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples,” Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said in his opening remarks.
This year was the first time the summit was held virtually amid COVID-19. The kingdom also became the first Arab country to host the meeting. It will hand off the rotating presidency of the G20 to Italy next month.
The G20 nations represent around 85% of the world’s economic output and three-quarters of international trade.
COVID-19 has affected poorer nations who were already struggling pre-pandemic the hardest, with G20 leaders worried that the coronavirus will further deepen the global division between the rich and poor.
UK prime minister urged G20 leaders to work together to defeat the pandemic and protect the planet.
“We need to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and restart normal lives,” French president Emmanuel Macron told the summit.
To achieve that, the EU called on G20 leaders to invest more money into a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics — the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator as well as its COVAX facility to distribute vaccines.
“We need to show global solidarity,” European Commission head, Ursula von der Leyen said on twitter.
Von der Leyen said that the pandemic “taught us that we need to step up global preparedness.”
“At the G20 Summit I called for $4.5bn to be invested in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for procurement & delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines everywhere,” she said added.
Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, called on fellow G20 leaders to do their part. The country was contributing more than €500m ($593m, £446m) to the effort.
Russian president Vladimir Putin offered to provide Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine to other nations, saying that Moscow was also preparing a second and third vaccine.
Meanwhile, China — where the virus originated — offered to coordinate on vaccines.
President Xi Jinping told the summit, that the country is “willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the research and development, production, and distribution of vaccines.”
“We 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 can afford,” he said.
America, the world’s biggest economy has not made any pledges. US president Donald Trump who has lost the election but refuses to concede to Democratic president-elect Joe Biden, made a brief appearance before heading off to golf.
To prepare for future outbreaks, the EU is proposing a treaty on pandemics. “An international treaty would help us respond more quickly and in a more coordinated manner,” European Council president Charles Michel said.
G20 leaders also endorsed a plan to extend a freeze in debt service payments by the poorest nations to mid-2021, they also support a collective approach to dealing with debt issues beyond that time. In 2020, the G20 debt relief initiative has helped 46 countries defer $5.7bn debt service payments.
The world’s wealthiest countries face mounting pressure to help stave off possible credit defaults across developing nations. While the global economy is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, momentum is slowing in nations with rising infections.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned in a report for the G20 summit that the recovery is uneven and the pandemic is likely to leave deep scars.
On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that poor people and highly indebted countries in the developing world are especially vulnerable, as they are “on the precipice of financial ruin and escalating poverty, hunger and untold suffering.”
Watch: G20 goes digital to keep COVID safe