As chair of this year’s G20, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is focused on decisive action to tackle the current crisis and lay the foundations for a better, more resilient future
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the G20 has quickly shifted into crisis management mode. On 26 March, the Saudi G20 presidency convened an extraordinary virtual leaders’ summit to advance a coordinated response to the pandemic and its profound health and economic implications.
Tackling the pandemic along with the intertwined health, social and economic implications has become the G20’s top priority. Unprecedented measures are taken to protect lives, jobs and national economies. Only through a collective and unified global response can we emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient.
A different crisis
This is not the first time the G20 has had to steer its course through a global crisis. This time, the economic crisis will not be resolved until the health crisis is effectively addressed. And this health crisis will not be truly addressed until we ensure the containment of the virus globally.
Unlike 2008, this crisis was not triggered by financial vulnerabilities, but rather by the heavy toll of the pandemic across multiple fronts. This, above all, is a human tragedy, which requires a response like none before. Although the liquidity of the financial system has been relatively guaranteed by central banks, we need to focus on people and jobs – families, workers and businesses, including in the informal sector.
Nonetheless, the response to this crisis can borrow from the playbook of the global financial crisis: taking swift and immediate policy actions, while addressing the long-term vulnerabilities to strengthen
The world saw G20 leaders come together in 2008. Urgent new regulations and central bank tools were deployed to save the financial system. A few months later, at the 2009 London Summit, a framework for a coordinated multilateral response to the crisis was created.
This year has witnessed, so far, an implementation of exceptional measures, including unprecedented fiscal, monetary and financial stability actions, while ensuring that the international financial institutions can provide critical support to countries in need.
The spirit of coordination and collaboration, which is an essential part of the G20, is today more important than ever, given the magnitude and depth of this crisis.
Protecting vulnerable countries and their populations is our immediate objective. The G20 is leading a coordinated multi-sectoral response to fight this virus and mitigate the effects globally.
First and foremost, our top priority remains to ensure that the health systems and front-line health workers – who courageously put their safety at stake – are adequately equipped and enabled to tackle this crisis, in order to mitigate the spread of the virus, and to treat those affected.
As we move to the economic response, policies should protect jobs and businesses to ensure that years of growth are not undone, until the spread of the virus is contained and economic activities resume at a large scale.
We must not forget, however, that not every country is equally equipped to face this crisis. We must ensure that vulnerable countries have the ability and capacity to respond to this pandemic. Open trade corridors are critical, especially for vital medical and food supplies. Anything short of this will lead to unimaginable health and social impacts, which will jeopardise the global recovery and set development back significantly.
Developing new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics rapidly and at scale, so they are available to those who need them, is an immediate priority as well. The G20 leaders’ commitment to closing the immediate health financing gap in the global response has resulted in G20 members and invited countries galvanising funding, totalling over $21 billion to bridge the immediate COVID-19 financing gap. As a seed contribution, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has pledged $500 million to support international efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
The G20 response and efforts have also resulted in unprecedented actions, with G20 members injecting more than $8 trillion into the global economy to protect jobs, businesses and stabilise global markets, and agreeing on a G20 action plan that puts in place the principles needed to facilitate the recovery from the crisis and restore strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth. Members also agreed to a more than $14 billion debt relief initiative to ensure that low-income countries can focus their efforts on fighting this virus.
Beyond tackling the immediate crisis, the international community must also address the gaps and vulnerabilities uncovered by the pandemic. The global order needs to emerge stronger in the aftermath of COVID-19 and enhancing coordination will be key to ensuring the effectiveness of our efforts.
What is required is to garner the political will for a globally coordinated effort to build long-term resilience. Our primary focus is to strengthen public health systems while accelerating research and product development in diagnostics, medicines, therapeutics, vaccines and digital health initiatives to tackle future pandemics. Countries around the world should build strategic reserves of medical supplies, tools and therapeutics. Health systems should ensure the availability of a medically trained workforce with individuals who can be rapidly trained and enabled to implement some health measures that support and facilitate the care for patients. Health protocols and safety measures in airports, transit and public spaces should be improved.
The G20 will continue to act decisively on two fronts: tackling the crisis and laying the systemic foundations for a better future. More than ever, we need to look beyond our borders and unite in joint global efforts. The wheels of global cooperation should not stop. We look forward to hosting G20 leaders in November 2020 to continue leading the global response to the pandemic and continue our efforts towards a strong and resilient recovery.