Cooperation on Healthcare, Climate Change, and Global Economic Recovery: G20 Summit 2020

The G20 countries met virtually during the 15th G20 Summit held in Riyadh to help economies across the globe to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

December 21, 2020

The 15th G20 Summit was held virtually on 21–22 November 2020 in Riyadh.

Leaders expressed commitment to “do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”

Consensus to ensure affordable and equitable access to vaccines against the COVID-19 virus across the globe.

Global economic recovery, easing trade restrictions, and fighting climate change emerged as important themes.

Like most major events since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, the 2020 G20 Riyadh summit was also held virtually on 21–22 November 2020. This was the fifteenth meeting of the G20 and was particularly significant given the unusual times that the world is going through.  The G20 consists of 19 countries and the European Union. 

Even as the pandemic first gained steam in March 2020, G20 leaders had pledged a sum of US$5 trillion   to support the global fight against it. The G20 had also expressed its commitment to “do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”

Given that the war against COVID-19 is far from over, the G20 summit in November was an important forum to regroup and plan fresh strategies for the same. The three key themes that were covered as part of the summit are very much aligned to the current global situation. These themes were: Empowering People, Safeguarding the Planet, and Shaping New Frontiers. Through these themes, the emphasis was placed on creating the right conditions for people to live, work and thrive; taking collective efforts to project the globe; and taking long-term and bold strategies to share benefits of innovation and technological advancement.

Below were some of the significant developments that emerged from the aforesaid summit:

Global Healthcare

One of the immediate requirements is ensuring affordable and equitable access to vaccines against the COVID-19 virus across the globe in order to curb the spread of the virus. The role of the Pharma Sector across the globe takes centre stage, especially when it comes to developing a vaccine against the virus. All participating countries expressed their solidarity in supporting the Covid-19 vaccine production and distribution across the globe. In addition, joint measures to ensure adequate availability of tests and medicines especially in poorer nations are pivotal.  This includes measures such as ensuring social protection in low-income countries and providing debt-relief as needed.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, also proposed an International pandemic treaty that could help prepare against future health crises and prevent the outbreak of any further pandemic.

The other G20 nations also expressed their commitment to the recently established Global Innovation Hub for Improving Value in Health. Apart from serving as a knowledge sharing platform, the Hub will also help collect evidence-informed expertise, shape national health policies, and guide health interventions across nations. 

Empowering People, Safeguarding the Planet, and Shaping New Frontiers, the G20 nations have vowed to do whatever it takes to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic

Economic Recovery

Given the unprecedented financial and humanitarian costs accrued due to the COVID-19 crisis, the G20 agreed on the need for greater focus on health, economic, and social upheaval faced by developing nations.

Issues such as driving economic recovery, bringing reforms in the WTO, framing tax laws for the digital economy, and identifying was to support  low-income countries were also discussed during the course of the summit. 

The G20 leaders also expressed their commitment to extending the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) till June 2021 to ease economic stress. Under this, as many as 48 countries have already requested debt relief under the, equalling some $5.7 billion in critical debt service deferral for this year alone. The group also discussed the need to arrive at a consensus-based solution by mid-2021 to ensure a modern international tax system that is fair and sustainable. 

Easing Trade Restrictions

One of the important takeaways from the summit was the need for nations to desist from imposing severe trade restrictions, especially for areas related to healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic has also driven home the need for open, safe, and secure routes for global transportation and supply chains, especially in light of restrictive measures necessitated by COVID-19.

Sustainability and Climate Change

While speaking at the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about climate change and the need to take an integrated, comprehensive, and holistic manner to fight it. The declaration issued at the end of the G20 2020 summit also reaffirmed the group’s “joint commitment on medium term rationalisation and phasing-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, while providing targeted support for the poorest.”

2020 proved to be an extremely difficult year for the world at large. The leaders of G20 realise the need for a non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable, and stable trade and investment eco-system to strive together and foster a level playing business environment.

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