The Independent

Saudi G20 summit pledges fair global vaccine access but stops short of developing world debt relief

The Independent logo The Independent 22/11/2020 18:54:27 Ben Chu
Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud sitting on a table © Provided by The Independent

The leaders of the G20 have pledged "affordable and equitable access for all people" to new coronavirus vaccines, but stopped short of committing new funds to meet that commitment or to deliver debt relief for developing nations whose economies have been badly hit by this year's crisis.

The communiqué issued by the Leaders' Summit of the multilateral forum on Sunday called the pandemic an "unparalleled shock that has revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and underscored our common challenges."

On vaccines it stated: "We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people."

Western pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and Moderna earlier this month announced that their vaccine candidates had proven up to 95 per cent effective in trials. 

The US, the EU, the UK and Canada have pre-ordered tens of millions of doses of these drugs, but there are growing concerns about the access of developing countries to the potentially life-saving medicines.

Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20, but this year's Leaders' Summit was held virtually because of the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.3 million people around the planet this year.

The European Union had urged other members of the forum to put more money into a global project for the distribution of vaccines.  

But there were no specific financial pledges in the communique, which followed two days of online meetings.

The G20 agreed at an extraordinary meeting in March, at the onset of the pandemic, to suspend debt interest payments due from up to 73 developing countries under a Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).

This has so far deferred an estimated $5.7bn of debt service payments. 

But the forum has come under great pressure to write off those debts entirely, as the world economy enters its biggest slump on modern record and many poorer states face huge financial pressures.

Sunday's communiqué agreed to extend the suspensions of debt repayments until mid-2021, but stopped short of agreeing to a write off of the total sums owed.

"Given the scale of the COVID-19 crisis, the significant debt vulnerabilities and deteriorating outlook in many low-income countries, we recognize that debt treatments beyond the DSSI may be required on a case-by-case basis," it said.

Saudi Arabia will hand over the G20 presidency to Italy next month, and it will fall to the government in Rome to resurrect the issue of developing world debt forgiveness in 2021.

Eric LeCompte, a United Nations adviser and executive director of Jubilee USA Network, said the G20 need to implement a debt relief framework that includes some middle-income countries.

"Six of the 12 countries with the highest COVID death rates are middle-income countries, which remain outside the scope of the G20 debt process," he said.

At the summit the president of the European Union's Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, said she had called for the G20 nations to commit to help plug a $4.5bn funding gap in the so-called ACT-Accelerator, a mechanism led by the World Health Organization that aims to ensure access to tests, treatments and vaccines for all.

On climate change and environmental protection, the G20 communique states that its members are "committed to safeguarding our planet and building a more environmentally sustainable and inclusive future for all people."

A landmark declaration by 20 of the world's leading wildlife organisations on the need for urgent action to avert another pandemic was brokered by The Independent as part of the news organisation's Stop The Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign and delivered to G20 leaders this weekend.

22. marraskuuta 2020 20:54:27 Categories: The Independent

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