Post-COVID investments
G20 Issue

Post-COVID investments

Riyadh will mark the 15th G20 summit since the group first met at the leaders’ level in 2008 to coordinate a strong response to the global financial crisis. Thanks to its unparalleled ability to set global agendas and influence international norms, as well as its economic and political clout, the achievements of the G20 since 2008 are remarkable. Now, as we face a crisis of even bigger proportions, the G20 needs to rise to the challenge again.

We are still grappling with the devastating consequences of COVID-19, which go beyond grieving for the hundreds of thousands of lost lives and the estimated $11.5 trillion in economic damage. COVID-19 has changed – and is still changing – our lives. Yet the human and economic costs also need to be set against the options that open up for decision makers. With its disruptive power, this pandemic is accelerating both pre-existing trends and emerging changes. It is now time for us to make three key investments: in effective multilateralism, in the twin digital and energy transitions, and in people.

Multilateral action is key to beat this pandemic and build a future of sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth for all. We need to invest in multilateralism that works for citizens, as a tool to solve our shared challenges: providing global public goods and managing the global commons in a fair and inclusive way. This, in turn, requires our attention across three areas.

First, we need to reinforce global health governance, with a more effective World Health Organization as its central pillar. As a first, urgent step, we should aim at ensuring fair and affordable access for all to safe and effective vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19.

Second, we must defend the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core. Now, more than ever, we need free and fair trade to be an engine of economic growth and prosperity. The Riyadh Summit is an excellent opportunity to show our commitment to resolving ongoing trade tensions, to fight against protectionism and to an ambitious and wide-ranging reform of the WTO.

Third, we must ensure that our response is truly global. The socio-economic impact of the pandemic on least developed nations, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, but also on developing countries, in particular across Latin America, is dramatic. This is why I hosted a high-level conference in June calling for international support to address the impact of the crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean. The G20 must redouble its efforts in supporting those in need, including through innovative financial and economic measures and through bolstering the role and capacities of the International Monetary Fund and other regional development financial institutions.

These efforts should be underpinned by a stronger and more effective United Nations. The UN remains indispensable: its very existence is evidence of our capacity to overcome differences and work collaboratively. This is why, as we celebrate its 75th anniversary, we must work to make it fitter for the challenges of our times.

Yet we should not let COVID-19 delay our ambitions in addressing the major structural challenges of our times: the digital and energy transitions. The recovery from this crisis will be both digital and green. The G20 must urgently invest in harnessing the potential of the fourth industrial revolution for the benefit of all, while saving the planet for future generations.

The window of opportunity to address the climate emergency and protect our environment and biodiversity is closing: we cannot ignore the calls from the scientific community and our citizens. We must step up our ambition in implementing the Paris Agreement, decarbonise our economies and achieve climate neutrality in the coming decades. We need to spur the use of biological resources to replace non-renewable materials and fossil resources used in industrial production and energy generation.

Likewise, we must balance innovation and competition with effective governance to mitigate the risks inherent in the digital economy, such as the deepening of structural imbalances. We need an inclusive, human-centric digital transition, which helps close the gender and access gaps. And we need to rethink how we share the financial risks among individuals, employers and taxpayers: as the world shifts towards an ever more intangible economy, we urgently need to adapt international tax frameworks and domestic tax laws to level the playing field.

Last, but not least, we need to invest in people. Rising inequality, social and political exclusion, and estrangement from political institutions create disaffection and stoke divisions. The pandemic has made this even clearer: we need to increase our efforts to ensure that all people benefit from equal opportunities. It is time for us to design the social contract of the future to counter the rhetoric of nativism, extremism and nationalism. New aims – the preservation of public goods, economic security and inclusiveness – need to take centre stage.

We must invest in gender equality to bridge the career and pay gaps in the labour market and realise the full potential of all women. We must invest in inclusive, equitable and lifelong education as a tool to provide opportunities for all and to reduce inequalities. We must combine high employment with greater personal security, and reinforce our social protection systems. And we must do more to provide collective responses to phenomena such as migration and forced displacement.

We must spare no efforts to achieve those goals. We can no longer afford business as usual.

Spain will continue to proactively work to advance those priorities. We will do so guided by the principles enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which remains the framework of reference to build more inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies and societies.

I am convinced that we will, together, overcome this crisis and become stronger in the process. The G20 is the right forum to make the political investments that we so urgently need: we need to invest now to save ourselves enormous economic and human costs down the road. I therefore look forward to the Riyadh Summit: we must seize this opportunity to show our collective resolve, ambition and vision to shape a better future for all.