Saturday, 28 November, 2020

G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virus

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds  AFP  Getty Images Andrew Caballero-Reynolds AFP Getty Images
Deanna Wagner | 22 November, 2020, 02:23

In a bid to liven up the event, which takes place in a gloomy global atmosphere, Saudi Arabia's King Salman hosted an evening musical gala on the eve of the event and projected a group photo of the world leaders onto the ruins of the historical town of Diriyah, close to the capital Riyadh.

"We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance", King Salman said in his opening remarks.

Xi said the G20, playing an irreplaceable role in the global fight against COVID-19, should uphold multilateralism, openness, inclusiveness, mutually beneficial cooperation, and keep pace with the times.

Keen to be better prepared for any potential next pandemic that might come, G20 leaders also said they would commit "to advancing global pandemic preparedness, prevention, detection, and response" and "to the continued sharing of timely, transparent, and standardized data and information".

"Our fates are in each other's hands", he said. The global community is wondering what the Group of 20 (G20) can do to make the system better, Chinese President Xi Jinping said when addressing the G20 Riyadh Summit via video link. It's the first time an Arab nation has hosted the meeting, and campaigners see it at an opportunity to draw attention to the plight of jailed human rights defenders in the country.

While quick research and sharing of scientific information for the development of COVID-19 tests and vaccines has happened, individual G-20 countries have mostly focused on securing their own vaccine supplies.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin offered to provide Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries and said Moscow was also preparing a second and third vaccine.

"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.

A day before the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while US$10 billion has been invested in efforts to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, another US$28 billion is needed for mass manufacturing, procurement and delivery of new COVID-19 vaccines around the world. "It's the duty of the global community to call on the release of Loujain".

The gathering also comes at a time of deep political tension within the United States, with a doubt over whether or not Trump will address the attendees.

G-20 nations have since agreed to suspend debt payments for the world's poorest countries until mid-2021 to allow those nations to focus their spending on health care and stimulus programs.

The leaders also recognized the specific challenges faced by countries in Africa and small island developing states, reflecting growing recognition that even some middle-income countries may need debt relief as a result of the pandemic.