G20 leaders pledge equitable access to coronavirus vaccines

Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies have said they will ensure affordable and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world so that the poorest countries are not left out, according to a final summit release which, however, yielded little. details.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on – having so far infected 58 million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million – the club of the world’s richest nations has taken a unified stance on the challenges ahead during the virtual rally organized by Saudi Arabia.

In Sunday’s statement, the G20 countries said they were supporting a global vaccine, testing and therapeutics project – called the COVID-19 Tool Access Accelerator (ACT) – and its COVAX facility to distribute vaccines.

“We have mobilized resources to meet immediate global health funding needs to support the research, development, manufacture and distribution of safe and effective Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,” the statement read. .

“We will spare no effort to ensure affordable and equitable access for all.”

But after a weekend of “digital diplomacy,” their closing statement lacked details on many of the issues that dominated the meeting.

“Some of these commitments were made earlier in the year, they are not new,” said James Bays, diplomatic editor of Al Jazeera.

“There were very specific requests from the aid sector, charities, international aid groups and the UN itself,” he added.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres had said an additional $ 28 billion (£ 21 billion) was needed to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapies, including $ 4.2 billion before the end of this year , but the final communiqué made no mention of these amounts.

As richer countries plan their immunization programs – with the United States planning to launch it in mid-December – experts warn that developing countries face obstacles that could starve billions of dollars away from health. first proven protection against the virus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday expressed concern that no major vaccine deal had yet been reached for the poorest countries.

“We will now speak with (the global vaccine alliance group) GAVI as to when these negotiations will begin because I am somewhat worried that nothing has been done about it yet,” Merkel told reporters. in Berlin after the virtual meeting of the G20.

The final communiqué of the G20 summit was unanimously approved by all countries, but Turkey wanted its “voice to be heard”, according to Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan. A separate statement from Ankara detailing his views on the press release is expected to be released later.

Debt relief

Saudi Arabia’s human rights record cast a shadow over the rally, as activists and the families of jailed activists launched vigorous campaigns to highlight the issue.

But human rights barely surfaced this weekend, with Western officials indicating they prefer to use bilateral forums to discuss the issue with Riyadh.

Separately, summit organizers said G20 countries have contributed more than $ 21 billion to fight the pandemic and injected $ 11 trillion to support the struggling global economy. But the group faces growing pressure to help avert possible credit defaults among poorer countries, as their debt soars amid the economic disaster caused by the virus.

He extended a Debt Service Suspension (DSSI) initiative for developing countries until June of next year, but Guterres called for a commitment to extend it until the end of 2021. .

The press release did not offer a firm guarantee, a result that is sure to disappoint activists.

Instead, G20 finance ministers will consider the recommendation when the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank meet next spring “if the economic and financial situation demands” a further six-month extension, they said.

With the world in disarray after months of border closures and lockdowns, the group also adopted a unified tone on trade, saying supporting a multilateral system “is now more important than ever.”

“We strive to achieve the goal of a free, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable business and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the statement said.

Additionally, the G20 group said tackling climate change is a pressing challenge and is committed to a more environmentally sustainable future.

In a brief speech Sunday, outgoing US President Donald Trump defended his controversial decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, calling it “unjust and one-sided” and designed to kill “the US economy”.

The differences within the G20 were highly publicized at last year’s summit in the Japanese city of Osaka, when the United States demanded the insertion of a separate paragraph on issues such as the protection of the ‘environment.

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