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G20 summit in Riyadh: Global leaders focus on coronavirus pandemic



“No one expected 1.6 billion students to be out of school,” said Hamad al-Sheikh. “No education system in the world expected to face a long period of time when students were locked up at home.”

Leaders attending the summit are countries that are at the top of the world in terms of infection rates, including the United States, India, Brazil and France.

On Saturday, the first day of the summit, most world leaders stressed the need for greater global cooperation to ensure that vaccines against the virus are available and widespread, including in developing countries.

A notable exception was President Trump, whose disregard for multilateralism was a hallmark of his term. In unusual remarks to the group, which he followed with a round of golf, Trump did not promise to expand the availability of US vaccines and cited his administration̵

7;s record in fighting the virus, saying he had “sorted out every resource.”

On Sunday, Trump, who weakened regulations designed to reduce pollution generated by the United States, addressed an environmental summit called “Protecting the Planet.” He called his administration’s environmental records “historic” and attacked the Paris Climate Agreement, from which the United States formally withdrew this month – becoming the first and only country to do so.

“The Paris Agreement is not intended to save the environment. It is designed to kill the American economy, “he said.

Even before his comments, expectations were low for the summit, an annual gathering of leaders of the world’s largest economies. The meeting was expected to finalize a framework to provide debt relief to poor nations and promote international cooperation on vaccines such as Covax, an effort by the World Health Organization that seeks to expand the spread of vaccines in the developing world.

The rally also sparked protests by Saudi and international human rights groups, as well as some US and European lawmakers, who called on world leaders to boycott or lower their representation on abuses in the kingdom, including the imprisonment of women activists and the killing of a Washington Post staffer. Jamal Hashoghi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018

No world leader is boycotting, but the remote gathering has not given Saudi Arabia the kind of platform it seeks to demonstrate. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s daily ruler and a barrage of criticism of human rights, is expected to address the assembly later Sunday.

The World Bank said the pandemic could put 150 million people in extreme poverty by reversing two decades of steady progress in alleviating the suffering of the world’s poorest people. UNICEF has warned that unequal access to technology among students in poorer countries threatens to “deepen the global learning crisis.”

Saudi Arabia, with almost incomparable financial resources, has managed to separate satellite channels for distance learning and partner with Microsoft to increase the server space for online learning, said Sheikh, the education minister. Education that “mixes” personal and distance learning will become the norm, even after the worst of the pandemic has passed.

But “some countries do not have the ability to launch satellite stations,” he said.


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