G-20 gathering of world leaders to be virtual

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – Saudi Arabia, which is presiding over the Group of 20 countries (G-20) this year, said yesterday that the upcoming November gathering of world leaders will be held virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi Arabia said the virtual summit on November 21-22 will be chaired by King Salman.

The meeting will focus on “protecting lives and restoring growth by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down the foundations for a better future,” a Saudi statement said.

The statement added that G-20 countries, which represent the world’s biggest and most powerful economies, have contributed over USD21 billion to support the production of vaccines and access to therapeutics, as well as injected USD11 trillion “to safeguard the global economy”.

G-20 nations, however, have been criticised for not taking cohesive action against the virus and its economic impact. The United States (US), China and Russia have opted out of a collaborative effort to develop and distribute a vaccine.

The G-20 agreed this year to suspend the debt of developing countries and defer billions of dollars in payments as governments focus spending on emergency stimulus programmes to protect vulnerable people and boost national health care systems. Pakistan’s prime minister, however, has called for outright debt relief for poorer nations from the richest countries.

The leaders of the G-20 last met virtually in March in a session hosted by King Salman. The virtual video call was unusual at the time, as governments around the world were beginning to stress the importance of social distancing to curb the virus’ spread amid closures, curfews and lockdowns globally.

It was unclear whether leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have attended an in-person summit, but there were others, such as Putin, who said they were ready to take part.

The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard told The Associated Press earlier this month that another country should volunteer to host the G-20 leaders summit if it was going to be held in-person.