DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The leaders of the world’s most powerful nations ended the Group 20 summit on Sunday, promising to do nothing to protect lives and ensure affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all people.
The two-day summit of heads of state was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 1.38 million people globally, with the world’s highest death toll in seven of the G-20 countries. The virus has wiped out hundreds of millions of jobs globally, throwing millions into extreme poverty.
The virus “revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and underscored our common challenges,”
The group promised “to avoid any effort to protect lives.”
The G-20, which includes the United States, India, China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and others, also stressed the importance of global access to COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests.
“We spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people in accordance with members’ commitments to encourage innovation,” the statement said.
The G-20 expressed support for efforts such as COVAX, an international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. However, the United States has refused to participate under President Donald Trump.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on Sunday in Berlin after the virtual summit that Germany had provided financial support for the COVAX initiative, but that more money was needed.
The G-20 declaration did not directly address an urgent appeal by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said a further $ 28 billion was needed. $ Investment in mass production, procurement and delivery of new COVID-19 vaccines around the world, including $ 4 billion. Immediately.
There is also concern that countries such as the UK, the US, France and Germany have negotiated directly with pharmaceutical companies, which means that the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply next year is already reserved.
“Fortunately, there is now hope for vaccines,” Merkel said, adding that “it is important that not only Europe secures vaccines, as the European Union does now, but … that it is important for the whole world” to have access for vaccines.
She said it was important that COVAX start negotiating with the manufacturers of potential vaccines based on the money it already has, but that she was somewhat concerned that these negotiations had not yet taken place.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman rounded off the summit, saying the G-20’s final declaration “succeeded in sending a message of hope and reassurance to our citizens and to all the people around the world.”
“This is what the world has expected of us. This achievement today is a culmination of our joint efforts throughout this challenging year, ”said the Saudi monarch.
Saudi Arabia presided over the G-20 this year and hosted the virtual summit, which was originally scheduled to be held in person in Riyadh before the pandemic. During the Saudi king’s speech, small video footnotes showed the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Canada, South Korea, China, India and South Africa watching the latest remarks. Trump attended the summit with recorded speeches, but was not present for the conclusion of the virtual top food.
It appeared that all G-20 countries agreed on the full content of the final declaration, with the exception of Turkey, which was due to give a press conference later on Sunday, which explained further.
Delegates from the G-20 gathered almost all year to discuss coronavirus and agreed to suspend debt payments to the world’s poorest nations until mid-2021 to allow those countries to focus their spending on health care and social support programs. The G-20 encouraged private lenders to join the effort.
46 countries have already applied to benefit from the $ 5.7 billion in debt reference initiative. However, the UN Secretary-General has called on the G-20 to extend debt repayment by the end of 2021 and extend the scope to middle-income countries in need.
G-20 countries allow low-income countries with unsustainable debt to apply for permanent debt relief in each case.
In the last remarks at the summit, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte set his country’s goal for the G-20 next year as it assumes the rotating presidency of Saudi Arabia.
“The existential threat, represented by climate change, soil degradation and the decline of global biodiversity, has brought us to a crossroads that will determine whether we are capable of saving our planet and constructing a sustainable future,” Conte said.
Conte said the pandemic will continue to be at the top of the group’s agenda and reiterated its support for universal access to vaccines.
Associated Press authors Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.