DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Leaders of the world’s most powerful nations wrapped up the Group of 20 summit on Sunday, vowing not to work to protect lives and make COVID-19 vaccine accessible to all.
The two-day summit of heads of state took place in practice over the coronavirus pandemic, which killed at least 1.38 million people worldwide, with the world’s highest casualties recorded in seven of the G20 countries. The virus has destroyed hundreds of millions of jobs worldwide and plunged millions into extreme poverty.
The virus “revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and highlighted our common challenges,”
The group vowed “not to spare efforts to protect lives.”
The G-20, which includes the United States, India, China, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and others, also stressed the importance of global access to COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests.
“We will spare our efforts to ensure their accessible and equitable access for all people, in line with members’ commitments to foster innovation,” the statement said.
The G-20 has expressed support for efforts such as COVAX, an international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world. However, the United States refused to join President Donald Trump.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Sunday after a virtual summit that Germany had provided financial support to the COVAX initiative, but more money was needed.
The G20 statement did not directly address a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said additional $ 28 billion in investment was needed to mass produce, supply and deliver new COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, including 4 billion dollars immediately. .
There are also fears that countries such as Britain, the United States, France and Germany have negotiated deals directly with pharmaceutical companies, meaning that most of the world’s vaccine supplies next year are already in place.
“Fortunately, there is now hope for vaccines,” Merkel said, adding that “it is important not only for Europe to provide vaccines, as the European Union is doing now, but … that it is important for the whole world” to have access to vaccines.
She said it was important for COVAX to start negotiations with potential vaccine manufacturers based on the money it already has, but that she was somewhat worried that negotiations had not yet taken place.
Saudi King Salman concluded the summit by saying that the latest G20 statement “has managed to send a message of hope and reassurance to our citizens and all people around the world.”
“This is what the world expected of us. This achievement today is the culmination of our joint efforts throughout this challenging year, “said the Saudi monarch.
Saudi Arabia chaired the G20 this year and hosted the virtual summit, which was originally scheduled to take place in person in Riyadh before the pandemic. During the Saudi king’s speech, small squares were shown by the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Canada, South Korea, China, India and South Africa, who watched the closing remarks. Trump attends the summit with pre-recorded speeches but not present for the conclusion of the virtual summit.
All G20 countries appear to have agreed to the full content of the final statement, with the exception of Turkey, which was due to hold a press conference later Sunday, explaining further.
G20 delegates convened virtually year-round to discuss the coronavirus, agreeing to suspend debt payments to the world’s poorest countries by mid-2021 to allow those countries to target their spending. to health and social support programs. The G20 called on private creditors to join the effort.
Already, 46 countries have asked to take advantage of the $ 5.7 billion debt relief initiative. However, the UN Secretary-General called on the G20 to extend debt repayment until the end of 2021 and to expand the coverage of middle-income countries in need.
The G20 allows low-income countries with unsustainable debts to apply for permanent debt relief on a case-by-case basis.
In a closing speech at the summit, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte outlined his country’s G20 goals next year as it takes over the rotating presidency from Saudi Arabia.
“The existential threat posed by climate change, soil degradation and declining global biodiversity has led us to a crossroads that will determine whether we are able to save our planet and build a sustainable future,” Conte said.
Conte said the pandemic would continue to top the group’s agenda and reiterated his support for universal access to vaccines.
Associated Press writers Kirsten Grishaber of Berlin and Francis D’Emilio of Rome contributed to this report.