Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 summit on Saturday in a first for an Arab nation. The scaled-down virtual forum is dominated by efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and a crippling economic crisis.
The two-day meeting of the world‘s richest nations comes as President Donald Trump refuses to allow a bitter election and activists criticize what they call the G20’s inadequate response to the worst global recession in decades.
World leaders will virtually cluster together as international efforts to widespread coronavirus vaccine adoption increase after a breakthrough in studies and calls from G20 countries to address funding bottlenecks increase.
In the midst of a raging pandemic, the summit, which is usually an opportunity for one-on-one talks between world leaders, is reduced to brief online sessions, what some observers refer to as “digital diplomacy”.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will chair the summit. Sources close to the organizers say climate change is one of the top issues on the agenda.
World leaders, from Chancellor Angela Merkel to Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russian President Vladimir Putin, are expected to give speeches at the summit.
Trump will also attend, said a US official.
The G20 has contributed more than $ 21 billion to fight the pandemic that infected 56 million people and killed 1.3 million people worldwide, and injected $ 11 trillion to “protect the virus-ridden global economy.” “.
The Paris-based organization for economic cooperation and development projects will shrink by 4.5 percent this year.
The summit “will try to strengthen international cooperation in order to support the recovery of the world economy,” said Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan.
“The G20 pledged in March to do everything possible to overcome the pandemic and protect lives and livelihoods,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
“When we meet this weekend, we must hold ourselves accountable for that promise.”
However, the G20 heads of state and government are under increasing pressure to avoid possible loan defaults in developing countries.
Last week, G20 finance ministers declared a “common framework” for an expanded debt rescheduling plan for virus-hit countries, but campaign groups have described the measure as inadequate.
The member states have extended a debt suspension initiative for developing countries until the end of June next year.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the G20 heads of state and government to make a “firm commitment” to extend the initiative until the end of 2021.
International Monetary Fund executive director Kristalina Georgieva has warned that the global economy is facing a difficult path from the Covid-19 downturn, although vaccines are now in sight.
The G20 countries must help close a funding gap of 4.5 billion US dollars in what is known as the ACT Accelerator – a program that promotes the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines – in order to contain the pandemic, it says in a joint statement by the Norwegian Prime Minister. South Africa’s President, the heads of the European Union and the World Health Organization.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a staunch defender of Trump, will be present during the Saudi Arabia summit.
Trump, who continues to oppose losing his election, attended an Asia-Pacific summit on Friday.
Many of his G20 colleagues have already congratulated President-elect Joe Biden.
Before the summit, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, hoped that the US under Biden would adopt a more multilateralist stance.
“Of course, we also expect fresh impetus from the new US administration” on climate change, which reverses Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, she added.
Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has overshadowed the event.
Activists and families of detained activists have taken vigorous action to raise awareness of the kingdom’s human rights abuses.
The key among them are the siblings of the imprisoned activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been on hunger strike for more than 20 days and calls for regular family contact.
However, some Western officials said human rights would not be brought up at the summit and said they would rather use bilateral forums to discuss the issue with the Saudi government.
“The G20 presidency has given the EU an undeserved symbol of international prestige [Saudi] Government, “said Michael Page, assistant director for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch.
“Rather than expressing concern about the grave abuses in Saudi Arabia, the G20 is stepping up the Saudi government’s well-funded publicity efforts to portray the country as ‘reforming’ despite a sharp rise in repression.”
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)