G20 Riyadh pledged to ensure fair access of COVID-19 vaccine globally

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The global summit of the world’s biggest 20 economies winded up with a final statement to ensure fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and to support poorer nations.

The two-day G20 summit under the presidency of Saudi Arabia concluded with the joint declaration of its leaders to aid in the development and distribution of tests, therapies and vaccines. “We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivize innovation,” the leaders stated.

The G20 leadership assembled in an online meeting on Saturday and Sunday instead of leaders arriving in the venue in Riyadh due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation and the  discussions focused bringing a solution for the worsening condition of the pandemic and the uneven global economic recovery in its wake.

The G20 leaders’ final statement was followed by a call by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Saturday that the organization “must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to vaccines for all peoples.”

The G20 countries, which accounts for about 85 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, promised in June to contribute over $21 billion for diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics as part of its joint effort to fight the pandemic.

Currently, some of the frontrunners in the vaccine development like Pfizer and Moderna have claimed 90 percent efficacy in their early trials which give the governments and regulators hope to commence a global inoculation program in the near future. And the G20 leaders have assured their support for a joint effort to curb the pandemic, particularly in the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) initiative which is a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics. “We commit to addressing the remaining global financing needs,” the group added.

A day before the summit the UN chief Antonio Guterres has asked the G20 leaders to initiate a program to offer funds to poorer countries to access COVID-19 vaccines and help raise $28 billion for the UN anti-COVID-19 efforts. 

Even after a year of the pandemic outbreak in China, the infection is still spreading across the world and a second wave of the virus has gripped parts of Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, pushing some of the biggest economies into restrictions.

Despite some of the developed economies posting better growth in the third quarter than expected, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates a global output to fall by 4.4 percent this year and grow 5.2 percent in 2021.

Since March, governments across the world have rolled out about $12 trillion in fiscal stimulus, supported by nearly $7.5 trillion in monetary action by central banks. 

Supporting poor countries

The G20 members in April have agreed on Debt Suspension Service Initiative (DSSI) to free up to $14 billion for 44 poorer nations in an effort to help them to fight the pandemic instead of servicing debt. Earlier this month, the finance ministers and central bank governors of the group promised to develop a joint framework to restructure government debt owed by these nations.

“We are committed to implementing the DSSI and its extension up to June 2021, allowing DSSI-eligible countries to suspend official bilateral debt service payments,” the declaration said.

The members will further reassess if there is a need to extend the initiative benefits when they convene at the IMF and the World Bank Spring meeting in April.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said that “Going forward, we must also help those countries not covered by the framework to address debt vulnerabilities so that their economies can become more resilient.”

The president of the World Bank, David Malpass, in his statement at the G20 summit requested the world leaders to consider offering permanent debt relief for the poorer countries, as without help poverty levels will increase.

The G20 summit also highlighted the need for leveraging a multilateral trading system and aims to bring a free, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment.