25 November 2020
G20 Leaders Declaration Focuses on Debt, Recovery, Inequalities, and Sustainability
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G20 Declaration calls for measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, including fiscal, monetary, and financial stability actions.

The G20 Debt Services Suspension Initiative will provide the poorest and most vulnerable countries with “urgent and immediate liquidity relief from official bilateral creditors” as part of efforts to tackle the pandemic and its economic and social impacts.

Leaders launched the Global Coral Reef Research and Development Accelerator Platform to conserve coral reefs and the Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats.

Heads of State and Government of the Group of 20 (G20) have committed to safeguarding the world against the COVID-19 pandemic and restoring growth. The 2020 Leaders’ Summit focused on the theme, ‘Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All by Empowering People, Safeguarding the Planet, and Shaping New Frontiers.’

The ‘G20 Riyadh Summit’ convened virtually from 21-22 November. The Saudi G20 Presidency focused on issues including structural inequalities and debt repayments at a time when resources are needed to address the pandemic and ensure sustainable development.

In the Leaders’ Declaration, the G20 Leaders commit to leading the world in shaping a “strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive post-COVID-19 era,” and emphasize the importance of “coordinated global action, solidarity and multilateral cooperation” to overcome current challenges and realize opportunities for all by “empowering people, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers.” The Declaration focuses on four areas:  

  • rising to the challenge together to address the pandemic, including through implementing the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and endorsing the Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI;
  • building a resilient and long-lasting recovery, including points on health, trade and investment, and other financial topics;
  • ensuring an inclusive recovery that tackles inequalities, including points related to sustainable development, access to opportunities, employment, women’s empowerment, education, tourism, and migration and forced displacement; and
  • ensuring a sustainable future, through work on environment, energy and climate, agriculture, and water.

A G20 press release notes that the G20 DSSI will provide the poorest and most vulnerable countries with “urgent and immediate liquidity relief from official bilateral creditors.” The Initiative provides USD 14 billion in 2020 to tackle the pandemic and its economic and social impacts. In addition, multilateral development banks (MDBs) are working to provide US 75 billion to DSSI-eligible countries between April and December 2020, as part of a broader USD 230 billion package for low-income and emerging countries. According to the release, G20 countries have also provided USD 21 billion to enhance pandemic preparedness and response, and over USD 1 trillion to support the global economy.

On building a resilient and long-lasting recovery, leaders addressed, inter alia:

  • the importance of tackling health and global pandemic preparedness, prevention, detection and response and achieving universal health coverage (UHC), and tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and zoonotic diseases based on a One Health approach;
  • trade and investment, including endorsing the G20 Actions to Support World Trade and Investment on the Future of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and recognizing the contribution of the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO in allowing an additional opportunity to discuss and reaffirm the objectives and principles of the multilateral trading system (MTS) and to demonstrate ongoing political support for WTO reform. Leaders further recognize the need to increase the sustainability and resilience of supply chains to foster the integration of developing and least developed countries (LDCs) into the trading system and to promote inclusive economic growth, including through increased participation of micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in international trade and investment;
  • transportation and travel, including ensuring that global transportation routes and supply chains remain open, safe and secure;
  • international finance architecture, including a commitment to continue the process of International Monetary Fund (IMF) governance reform and an invitation to the IMF to prepare an analysis of external financing needs in low-income developing countries in future years, outlining sustainable options;
  • financial sector issues, such as a commitment to the Financial Stability Board’s principles underpinning national and international responses to COVID-19 and a work plan to improve the resilience of the non-bank financial sector;
  • digital economy, recognizing that universal, affordable, and secure connectivity is a key enabler for the digital economy and a catalyst for inclusive growth, sustainable development, and innovation;
  • international taxation; and
  • anti-corruption, including welcoming the first G20 Anti-Corruption Ministerial Meeting and endorsing the G20 Call to Action on Corruption and COVID-19.

On ensuring a sustainable future, leaders committed to safeguarding the planet and building a more environmentally sustainable and inclusive future for all, including through conserving the marine and terrestrial environment in advance of the upcoming 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Leaders launched the Global Coral Reef Research and Development Accelerator Platform to conserve coral reefs and the Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats to prevent, halt, and reverse land degradation. They reaffirmed commitment to reduce marine plastic litter and to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Leaders further recognized the importance of expediting universal access to affordable and reliable energy for all, and endorsed the Circular Carib Economy Platform.

Signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change reaffirmed their commitment to its full implementation, reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and respective capabilities.

Addressing the Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined three key areas where G20 leadership is key to building an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future: 

  • halting the further spread of the pandemic;
  • mobilizing the resources to build forward better; and
  • aligning recovery efforts with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. 

He said we have a “moral obligation” to ensure that the trillions of dollars “we are borrowing from future generations” for COVID‑19 recovery “does not leave them burdened by a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”

In an address, WTO Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff identified three challenges facing WTO members: using trade to boost the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; facilitating trade in essential medical products needed to treat the pandemic; and reforming institutions that govern global trade, including restoring the WTO’s deliberative and negotiating functions and providing binding dispute settlement. He said a trade finance initiative should be seen as an essential part of economic recovery, and urged the G20 to support WTO action on economic recovery, pandemic response, and WTO reform.

The G20 brings together some of the largest economies, amounting to around 85% of global gross domestic product (GDP), to discuss the most challenging socioeconomic global issues. The G20 consists of 19 countries and the EU. The countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the US. In 2020, Spain, Jordan, Singapore, and Switzerland were invited as guest countries. [G20 Summit Leaders Declaration] [G20 Summit Website] [Summit Press Room] [G20 Press Release on COVID-19 Measures]

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