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G-20 leaders pledge to 'spare no effort' to ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines worldwide

Key Points
  • Saudi Arabia’s historic G20 summit concluded on Sunday, with leaders outlining initiatives to collectively address the global recession and economic recovery.
  • Leaders pledged to “spare no effort” to ensure affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as the global virus death toll continues to mount.
Saudi and foreign media representatives listen to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remotely addressing a press conference, at the G20 summit's Media Center in the capital Riyadh, on November 22, 2020.
FAYEZ NURELDINE | AFP | Getty Images

Leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies have pledged to address the global recession caused by the coronavirus and outlined plans to accelerate an equitable and sustainable recovery at the conclusion of the historic G-20 summit in Saudi Arabia.

"We are committed to leading the world in shaping a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive post-COVID-19 era," G-20 leaders declared in a twelve page document released on Sunday evening.

Saudi Arabia's historic G-20 presidency, the first ever for an Arab country, has been dominated by the need to address the economic and social impact of the ongoing pandemic, which has now killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact in terms of lives lost, livelihoods and economies affected, is an unparalleled shock that has revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and underscored our common challenges," the final communique said.

The group pledged to "spare no effort to protect lives, provide support with a special focus on the most vulnerable, and put our economies back on a path to restoring growth, and protecting and creating jobs for all."

The G-20 also pledged to mobilize more resources to address the immediate financing needs to support the research, development, manufacturing, and distribution of safe and effective Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

"We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people," the declaration added, without providing specific details on how countries will prioritize global vaccine rollouts or a dollar amount on how much more needs to be spent.

"If one country suffers, we will all suffer," Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan told the summits final press briefing. "Every single leader was supportive of the G-20 initiatives to ensure that we provide enough resources to ensure that the vaccine and therapeutics are available to everyone."

G-20 leaders pledged to address the disproportionate social and economic impact of the virus, having already deployed an unprecedented $11 trillion to accelerate the global recovery and $21 billion at the outset of the crisis to support health systems and the hunt for a vaccine.

"That has put a floor under the world economy," Al Jadaan said. Leaders warned the recovery is far from guaranteed, despite economic activity beginning to pick up in some countries.

"The recovery is uneven, highly uncertain and subject to elevated downside risks," the leaders acknowledged, warning that renewed virus outbreaks in some economies pose significant challenges.

The G-20 group also made progress on debt suspension, with leaders committing to implementing the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and even extending it through June 2021. The program allows eligible countries to suspend official bilateral debt service payments.

"This is a major breakthrough," Al Jadaan said. So far, the G-20 has allowed $14 billion in debt relief for developing nations, allowing them to allocate more money to their virus response.

Leaders also said support for multilateral institutions and the global trading system was "as important as ever," in an apparent acknowledgement of various trade disputes initiated under the current U.S. administration. 

"We strive to realize the goal of a free, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable, and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open," leaders said. "We will continue to work to ensure a level playing field to foster an enabling business environment."

The G-20 also acknowledged the urgent need to accelerate efforts to end poverty and tackle inequalities among the most vulnerable segments of society, including women and youth.

The declaration also said all G-20 members continue to support efforts and utilize all available approaches aimed at "advancing environmental stewardship for future generations."

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