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G20’s role in global fight against Covid-19

The G20's initiatives are significant at a time when faith in multilateral institutions seem to be shaken in several parts of the world.

Written by Pushpesh Pant |
Updated: July 9, 2020 7:29:33 pm
coronavirus pandemic, g20 countries covid-19, g20 countries meeting, g20 nations on covid-19, coronavirus news, indian express opinion, latest news G20 ministers in a video conference hosted by Saudi Arabia to address the coronavirus pandemic (File/Twitter/@g20org)

The global pandemic brought on by the novel coronavirus has wreaked havoc on economies, supply chains and societies. Its sheer scale and impact could not have been envisaged and needs a concentrated global push. The G20 under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, has, in this regard, pleasantly surprised world leaders by several of its decisions.

The group has taken many measures to support economies and supply chains in the region, which have suffered due to the pandemic. The G-20 has also lent its support to international organisations like the WHO and IMF. In March, G20 nations committed to pump more than $5 trillion into the global economy and contribute to the WHO-led COVID-19 solidarity response fund.

In March, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephone conversation and the two leaders agreed to formulate a joint strategy against COVID-19, the implementation of which would be monitored regularly through virtual meetings.

In the last week of March, Saudi Arabia convened the Extraordinary G-20 Leaders’ Summit, with PM Modi taking part in it. India has been a part of most virtual summits since. The G20’s virtual summits are joined by leaders from Spain, Jordan, Singapore, and Switzerland. Representatives of the UN and its specialised agencies such as the WHO, FAO and ILO participate in these meetings along with officials of the World Bank, WTO, IMF and OECD.

At the finance ministers and central bank governors’ second virtual meeting on April 16, member countries agreed to ease the burden of debts by allowing poorest countries to suspend repayment of official bilateral credit. This will free up more than $20 billion for these countries to spend on improving their health systems and fighting the pandemic. This move was welcomed by the managing director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, and President of the World Bank Group (WBG) David Malpass.

On April 22, the G20’s Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG), at its meeting re-emphasised the need to build robust global supply chains and strengthen international investment for economic recovery.

On April 26, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister unveiled the ACT Accelerator Initiative, a global platform to enhance partnership for access to new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. This initiative will help the global community meet the need for diagnostics for the vaccine.

The G20’s meetings are also significant because the forum is bringing countries together at a time when faith in multinational institutions appears shaken, and countries are trying desperately to protect lives and livelihoods. There is need, more than ever, for deliberation and cooperation to arrive at a consensus that helps humanity.

In his opening statement to the G-20 leaders’ extraordinary summit, the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, talked about the need for a “strong signal to restore confidence in the global economy by resuming, as soon as possible, the normal flow of goods and services, especially vital medical supplies.” The group’s presidency has been true to this commitment. In the effort to control the pandemic, most countries have acted individually he said, stressing the need for a more coordinated effort.

The evidence of such a concerted effort was evident last month, when the G20 released a statement announcing that G20 members and invited countries have pledged over $21 billion to support funding in global health. More such coordinated efforts are required if global economies are to stabilise swiftly.

The writer taught and researched International Relations for over four decades at the Jawaharlal Nehru University

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