Pandemic and multilateralism, the challenges of the G-20 in Saudi Arabia

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The leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) start this Saturday in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, a summit marked by the pandemic from coronavirus that has hit the world this year and with the challenge of rebuilding a multilateralism in low hours mainly due to the attacks carried out by the outgoing US president, Donald Trump. The impact of the pandemic is more than evident in this meeting, as the leaders have not traveled to Riyadh and will participate electronically.

On the agenda of the first day of the summit is the approach to the economic crisis caused by the irruption of covid-19. The member countries are in favor of highlighting the need to insist that the response must be expansive in order to protect the productive fabric of the economies, as well as provide the most vulnerable countries with facilities to pay the debt caused by the pandemic. The G-20 finance ministers have already agreed to extend the Suspension of Debt Service (DSSI) until June next year.


The position of the United States on the role of World Health Organization (WHO) and its role in the phase of vaccinations It is expected to start next year after the progress announced by the different laboratories that are investigating. During the pandemic, Trump has harshly attacked the WHO, which he accused of “covering up the spread of the coronavirus”, froze the economic contributions and finally ended up removing his country from the body.

“WHO must play a leading role. And yes, it has to learn from the lessons of this crisis and improve its effectiveness. […] In fact, all countries have to improve their common efforts“, said this Friday the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in a press conference prior to the summit in which she announced that the EU will host in 2021 a global health forum during the Italian presidency of the G-20.

The European leader also emphasized to the leaders who will meet this Saturday in Riyadh the need to make a greater economic effort to ensure that poor countries also have access to vaccines and treatments against the covid. “The funding seems very large, but it is small compared to the cost of the pandemic,” he stressed.

Change of actitud

At press time, the White House had not confirmed the participation of the US president in the conclave. In any case, the negotiators preparing the summit have appreciated a change in attitude in the US delegation, inclined to reach agreements on climate, trade, gender inequality or multilateralism. Last year, at the summit of Osaka, Washington broke the consensus and dropped the final statement for its rejection of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Von der Leyen He showed his confidence this Saturday that the G-20 meeting in Riyadh represents “a new beginning for multilateralism.” According to Von der Leyen, the change that has already begun to be noticed in the US in practical matters responds to the victory of the Democrat Joe Biden in the elections of November 3. It remains to be seen whether Trump – or his representative in the G-20 – follows the path opened by his negotiators or maintains his commitment to nationalism and economic protectionism at his last summit at the head of the White House.



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