The G20 Leaders participated in a virtual summit to discuss cooperative efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, safeguard the global economy, address international trade disruptions, and enhance global cooperation.
Leaders stressed that the pandemic is a reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities.
Several days before the virtual summit, the leaders of China and the UK discussed the biodiversity and climate conferences they are set to host later in 2020, noting that they represent "opportunities for the two sides to promote international cooperation in health and epidemic prevention".
An extraordinary virtual G20 Leader’s Summit addressed ways in which global leaders will cooperate to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, safeguard the global economy, address international trade disruptions, and enhance global cooperation.
The Saudi G20 Presidency hosted the virtual Summit on 26 March 2020. King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia chaired the meeting, which was organized with a view to advancing a coordinated global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement released following the summit, the G20 leaders highlight that the “unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities.” The statement also indicates that the pandemic “calls for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity.”
To fight the pandemic, the leaders committed to “seek to ensure adequate financing to contain the pandemic and protect people, especially the most vulnerable.” Actions such as the exchange of epidemiological and clinical data, sharing of materials for research and development, and strengthening health systems globally will be pursued. The leaders also pledged to strengthen the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic, including “the protection of front-line health workers, delivery of medical supplies, especially diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines, and vaccines.”
The G20 leaders asked the ILO and OECD to monitor the pandemic’s impact on employment.
To safeguard the global economy, the leaders discussed measures that they are taking to support their economies, protect workers and businesses, and shield the vulnerable through adequate social protection. They also discussed the need to address risks of debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries due to the pandemic, and they asked the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to monitor the pandemic’s impact on employment.
In regard to international trade disruptions, the leaders “reiterate our goal to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open.” They pledge that trade measures aimed at protecting health will be “targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary,” and they ask their Trade Ministers to assess the impact of the pandemic on trade.
On enhancing global cooperation, the G20 leaders express concern with the risks posed to all countries, particularly developing countries and the least developed countries (LDCs). They also note the particular risk faced by refugees and displaced persons. In addition, the leaders noted the value of efforts to postpone major public events, in particular the decision to reschedule the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
In a statement during the virtual summit, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, urged the leaders to “Fight, unite, ignite.” He said they should: fight the pandemic without excuses; build on the solidarity already sparked by the crisis; and ignite a global movement to ensure this never happens again.
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, stressed the need for measures such as extending social protection, supporting employment retention, and financial and tax relief. In addition, he called for the use of “social dialogue” to engage workers and employers and their representatives, as a “vital way for building public trust and support for the type of measures that work to overcome a crisis.”
During the extraordinary virtual G20 Leader’s Summit, the G20 members were joined by leaders from Jordan, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland. In addition to the heads of the ILO and WHO, leaders from the UN, the World Bank Group, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and OECD participated. Regional organizations were represented by: Vietnam, as Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); South Africa, as Chair of the African Union (AU); United Arab Emirates, as Chair of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); and Rwanda, as Chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
In related news, several days before the virtual Leader’s Summit, China’s President Xi Jinping spoke with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during which the Prime Minister highlighted China’s plans to host the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15) and the UK’s plans to host the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 26). Johnson said the two Conferences represent “opportunities for the two sides to promote international cooperation in health and epidemic prevention.”
Subsequent to this bilateral call, the CBD Secretariat announced that the dates for CBD COP 15 will be adjusted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for the scheduling of preparatory meetings. The Bureau for UNFCCC COP 26 is expected to meet on 1 April 2020.