This time, the G20 meeting is taking place in a virtual form, as Covid is not only at the top of the leaders’ agenda – but has also changed the way it meets. However, Saudi Arabia tried to solve the traditional family photo – when all the leaders of the countries are photographed together – virtually – namely, the image of all the leaders is projected on the wall of the historic Salwa Palace, which is also a UNESCO heritage site.
At the opening of the G20 virtual meeting, King Salman of Saudi Arabia spoke about the need for international cooperation to overcome the economic shock caused by the pandemic and the need to ensure access to vaccines for all. The G20 has already provided financial support to the less developed economies during the pandemic: by June next year, the G20 has suspended debt service payments from more than 70 of the world’s poorest countries.
Many speakers emphasized that the G20 as a whole had invested more than USD 11 trillion in stimulating the economy. $ 21 billion has been mobilized for medical needs, including vaccine development. However, UN Secretary-General Guteres believes that this is not enough and that additional money is needed this year. He also called on the G20 members to do so. Representatives of the European Union also spoke about promoting cooperation during the pandemic, noting that the issue of health security needs to be looked at more broadly, as Covid is unlikely to be the last pandemic. Here is what Urzula von der Leien said.
Urzula. In fact, all countries need to work better together to improve global health security. This is a new topic. And to promote this, the European Union, together with Italy, which will chair the G20 next year, will hold an international health summit to talk about it. Although the United States has so far opposed joining this issue, I now hope that the newly elected President will change that.
Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 for the first time. There was a lot of talk in the international media before the summit about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia – women’s rights activists are in custody, if we remember Jamal Kashoji, a journalist killed two years ago at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. And also the attacks by the Saudi army on Yemen. Saudi Arabia itself points out that it has changed as a result of the G20 summit – the death penalty for minors has been abolished this year and public beating has been banned.
The European Parliament had called on the EU to reduce its participation in the G20 summit organized by Saudi Arabia today and tomorrow in connection with these human rights violations. However, the European Commission and the Council defended their decision to participate, citing the need for coordination in the context of a pandemic.