Twin crises of COVID-19 pandemic and an uneven global recovery dominate the first day of the G20 summit.
Leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies will pledge on Sunday to ensure a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world, according to a draft communique and do what is needed to support poorer countries struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivise innovation,” the G20 leaders said in the draft document seen by the Reuters news agency.
“We recognise the role of extensive immunisation as a global public good,” it said.
The twin crises of the pandemic and an uneven, uncertain global recovery dominated the first day of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which hands off the rotating presidency of the G20 to Italy next month.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has thrown the global economy into a deep recession this year and efforts needed to underpin an economic rebound in 2021, were at the top of the agenda.
“We are optimistic about the progress made in developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics tools for COVID-19, but we must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all people,” Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said in his opening remarks.
“We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance to our people by adopting policies to mitigate 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 can afford”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to provide Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries, while French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of the 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”.
Funding gaps, debt relief
To do that, the European Union urged G20 leaders to quickly plug a $4.5-bn funding shortfall in the global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics – called Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator – and its COVAX facility to distribute vaccines.
“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,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter. “We need to show global solidarity,” she said.
Germany was contributing more than 500 million euros ($592.65m) 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 has refused to concede to former Vice President Joe Biden, addressed G20 leaders briefly before going to play golf. He discussed the need to work together to restore economic growth, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a summary released late on Saturday.
She made no mention of any US pledge to support the global vaccine distribution effort.