1 October 2020
Heads of State and Government Discuss Financing for Development Approaches Amid COVID-19
story highlights

Heads of State and Government held a discussion of Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, as part of an initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica.

Speakers supported the debt service suspension initiative and cited a need for USD100 billion for equitable global access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ministers are expected to reconvene in December 2020 to discuss progress.

Heads of State and Government convened to discuss Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, as part of an initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica.

Following an initial high-level dialogue on 28 May 2020, six discussion groups were formulated to propose solutions in: external finance and remittances, jobs and inclusive growth; recovering better for sustainability; global liquidity and financial stability; debt vulnerability; private sector creditors engagement; and illicit financial flows.

The six groups developed a menu of policy options, and on 8 September 2020, finance ministers gathered to distill this array of options before the gathering of Heads of State and Government on 29 September 2020.

As reported by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, speakers began the meeting by addressing the debt service suspension initiative. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, underlined Canada’s commitment to the G20 initiative. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for its extension to all developing and middle income countries that need it. David Malplass, World Bank Group President, asked the UN to vocally support participation by all creditors.

On responding to and recovering from COVID-19, Guterres called for USD100 billion to ensure equitable global access to a vaccine, and for greater support for development financing in Africa. Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica, said women and the poor have been the primary victims amidst the pandemic. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), added that isolation and a lack of access to education will leave girls in “a merciless poverty trap.” She said additional investments in health, education and development would save millions of lives and yield economic benefits worth more than ten times their cost, giving opportunities to girls. Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, urged developed countries to act now, adding that a failure to take action is “an act of self-harm.”

In the high-level segment, Antigua and Barbuda for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), noted that small island developing States (SIDS) are experiencing a contraction 30 times worse compared to the global average, and called for a SIDS compact that would support resilience and development. With Barbados, Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago, he said this requires agreeing to the multidimensional vulnerability index to replace “antiquated income measures.”

Venezuela called for a public procurement fund to ensure access to food and health care products, particularly for countries facing economic embargoes and blockades. The Maldives urged establishing a global trust fund to restart air travel for tourism-dependent countries. Costa Rica called for a Marshall Plan-type global initiative, entitled ‘FACE,’ a fund to alleviate COVID-19 economics; proposals for such the FACE fund and a resilience fund were supported by Jamaica.

As upcoming G20 Chair, Italy said its agenda will be structured around “people, planet and prosperity,” including an emphasis on digital revolution and a summit on global health. Spain proposed hosting a special session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in 2021 to renew countries’ commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

On COVID-19 vaccines and related support, Japan and others called for treating vaccines as a global public good. On the role of climate change in COVID-19 recovery, Fiji urged economic stimulus spending to “look forward” to “blue-green development,” and digital and women’s equality, rather than “look backward” to fossil fuels.

Closing the meeting, Bob Rae, Permanent Representative of Canada, suggested that COVID-19 is more of a “revealer” than a leveler, exposing gaps, inequalities and challenges within developing countries. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed applauded efforts by developed countries to support developing countries, but said “we need to reorient the global financial system to save the common human fabric that connects us all.”

According to Mohammed, the most promising ideas from the high-level event will be included in International Monetary Fund (IMF) processes and G7 and G20 meetings, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development (FfD) provides the groundwork to implement the financing options outlined by the discussion groups.

Ministers are expected to reconvene in December 2020 to discuss progress. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of Heads of State and Government Meeting] [Meeting webpage]  [Website of ‘Initiative on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond’

related events