Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies on Sunday vowed not to spare any effort to deliver COVID-19 drugs, tests and vaccines in a reasonable and fair way to “all people”, reflecting concerns that the pandemic could deepen global disparities between rich and poor.
The pandemic and the prospect of an uneven and uncertain economic recovery were at the heart of a two-day summit under the presidency of Saudi Arabia, which will hand over the G20 presidency to Italy next month.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and its unparalleled impact on lost lives, livelihoods and economies, is an unparalleled shock that has revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and underscored our common challenges,” the final communication said.
The G20 countries will work to “protect lives, provide support with a special focus on the most vulnerable and put our economies back on a path to restoring growth and protecting and creating jobs for all.”
Regarding vaccines, tests and treatments, the leaders said: “We will not spare any effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people.”
The world economy has experienced a sharp decline this year as measures to limit the spread of the virus have limited transport, trade and demand worldwide.
The meeting was held via video link, like many such gatherings this year. Saudi King Salman of Saudi Arabia said in his concluding remarks that the group had “adopted important policies that will achieve recovery all the way to an economy that is resilient, sustainable, inclusive and balanced”.
G20 leaders said that although global economic activity has increased in part due to the gradual reopening of certain economies, the recovery is uneven, very uncertain and exposed to downside risks.
They reaffirmed their commitment to use “all available policy tools for as long as required” to protect people’s lives, jobs and incomes.
The G20 has approved a plan to extend a freeze on debt service payments from the poorest countries until mid-2021 and a common strategy to deal with debt problems beyond that, according to communications.
The Debt Relief Initiative has helped 46 countries defer $ 5.7 billion in 2020 debt service payments, less than the 73 eligible countries, and promised savings of about $ 12 billion.
On Sunday, the head of the International Monetary Fund called for the rapid and effective implementation of the G20 framework for debt management in addition to the initiative, saying that other countries also needed help.
“In the future, we must also help the countries not covered by the framework to address debt vulnerabilities so that their economies can become more resilient,” IMF President Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement after addressing G20 leaders.
In their joint statement, the leaders also said that they strongly encouraged private creditors to participate in the initiative on comparable terms at the request of eligible countries.
Debt relief for Africa will be an important theme for the Italian Presidency of the G20 2021.
The communiqué also emphasized the importance of multilateral institutions. It called on the IMF to continue exploring additional tools that can help members’ needs as the crisis unfolds.