Saturday 21 November 2020
The meeting of the leading economic nations is overshadowed by the pandemic. So far, they have mainly acted nationally against the global crisis. At the summit there are calls for joint efforts.
At the start of the G20 summit, several participants called for the states to fight the global corona pandemic together. Such a global challenge could “only be overcome with a global effort,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel at the virtual top meeting in a pre-recorded video message. As the host, the Saudi Arabian King Salman warned: “We have a duty to face the challenge at this summit together and to send a strong message of hope.”
The summit is also likely to be the last major international appearance by US President Donald Trump. However, he left the meeting early. In the first hour of the summit, Trump spoke up with Twitter messages about alleged electoral fraud in the US and with news about the health of his son Donald Trump Junior, who, according to media reports, has been infected with the corona virus.
In the fight against Corona, Merkel campaigned for support for the international vaccine initiative Covax and for the World Health Organization to be strengthened. “If we stand together worldwide, we can master and overcome the virus and its consequences,” she said. “It’s worth making more effort for that.” Merkel’s remarks could also be understood as a point against Trump, who advocates a protectionist policy of “America first” and is hostile to international organizations.
Eleven billion dollars needed for Covax
The Chancellor expressly called on the G20 partners to provide financial support for the Covax initiative. In order to contain the corona pandemic, access to vaccination must be possible and affordable for every country. “The funds promised so far are not yet sufficient for this,” said Merkel. The aim of the initiative is to distribute two billion vaccine doses by the end of next year. There are warnings that poorer countries may not get enough vaccines.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for it to be avoided “that only the rich have access”. The purchasing power of the countries should not decide on the distribution. According to Merkel, so far five billion US dollars (around 4.2 billion euros) have been raised for Covax. Germany is contributing over half a billion euros. A total of $ 11 billion will be needed for the initiative by the end of 2021. 150 countries participate in it, including China, but not the USA.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the international community wide access to the “Sputnik V” vaccine developed in Russia. His country supported the decision of the G20 summit to make vaccines available to the entire population of the planet, said the 68-year-old.
China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping wants to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the research, development, production and distribution of vaccines in the fight against the pandemic. China wants to support developing countries by making vaccines accessible and affordable as a “public good”.
Criticism of the host country
Finally, the G20 also want to discuss the fight against climate change on Sunday. They had had a particularly difficult time with this topic recently, not least because Trump withdrew from the Paris UN climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.
The summit was supposed to be a major event with thousands of guests in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh. It would have been the first top G20 meeting in the Arab world. Due to Corona, the heads of state and government are conferring via video.
On the sidelines of the summit, the organization Reporters Without Borders criticized the host Saudi Arabia as one of the “most successful jailers for journalists” worldwide. The kingdom restricts the freedom of the press like hardly any other country. 34 journalists are currently in prison for their work there. The French organization also referred to the brutal murder of anti-government journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
Saudi Arabia has come under constant criticism for human rights violations. Members of the Bundestag from several parliamentary groups had asked Merkel before the summit to discuss the human rights situation in the Gulf state at the video conference.
Together, the members of the G20 represent more than 85 percent of global economic output and two-thirds of the world’s population. In addition to the EU, the G20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the USA.