G20 Foreign Ministers to strengthen international cooperation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
The G20 Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary meeting to discuss enhancing international cooperation to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic as well as strengthening preparedness for future pandemics.
The ministers and representatives of international organizations discussed the importance of coordinating precautionary measures on cross-border management to protect lives and livelihoods.
During the meeting, foreign ministers acknowledged the importance of opening borders, uniting families, and promoting measures to allow the economy to thrive in light of the protective measures given by health organizations and national regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministers expressed their deep condolences for the huge loss of human life and tragic impacts caused by COVID-19 and acknowledged the efforts and commitment of frontline workers to public health and safety.
His Highness Prince Faisal bin Farhan Foreign Minister stated that “Reopening borders, in accordance with all the protective measures and national regulations, will help our economies to thrive, people to prosper, and will of course bring hope for humanity to have faith in cooperating to overcome the pandemic.”
Selected statements from the meeting are included below.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
I thank you all for coming together today, and for all of your ongoing efforts during this severe health crisis and the economic and social impacts that have come from it.
Before I begin, allow me to express condolences for the loss of life and the suffering faced by people around the world and to give my deepest gratitude to the frontline health workers.
In 2008, G20 Leaders met to tackle what then was the greatest economic and financial crisis in over 50 years.
We find ourselves in an even more complex and challenging situation today as our governments tackle the intertwined effects of a global health and economic crisis.
As the chair of the G20 Presidency, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia called for An extraordinary summit on March 26th, in which the G20 Leaders committed to supporting the international efforts to counter the pandemic, safeguard the global economy and enhance global cooperation.
The pandemic is a global challenge that requires an effective and coordinated global response.
The subsequent work that came from our leader’s commitments is ongoing and we have already seen great strides as G20 countries’ significant contributions of $21 billion to close the financing gap to support international efforts to fight the pandemic.
The G20 is focused on addressing economic and development issues and as foreign ministers; we typically play a supporting role to the work being done on those important issues.
But as our leaders stated in their extraordinary statement, the virus respects no borders and that has meant that cooperation among states is more important than ever.
COVID-19 has led us all to restrict our borders as we continue to coordinate with the relevant health authorities and assess the health situation on a national and global scale.
We all had to deal with the challenge of bringing home our citizens who were stranded by the global travel restrictions and it was gratifying to see the spirit of cooperation and support with which the global community responded. In that regard, I would like to personally thank the 124 nations who were supportive in bringing back our Saudi citizen.
For that reason, we felt it would be valuable to come together in this forum to share experiences and best practices, as we look forward to an eventual easing of travel restriction and returning to normal lives.
Our meeting today will signal to the world that we care and have a unified focus on dealing with the crisis.
We look forward to the upcoming joint G20 Finance and Health ministers meeting and as foreign ministers, we will take any action required to facilitate the necessary measures agreed upon.
We are one world, and we are one community and we must work together to support each other through this crisis.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres
COVID-19 respects no borders – and that demands that we strengthen cooperation across our own.
The pandemic has forced unprecedented lockdowns, travel suspensions and limited movement across borders.
Concerns are growing that some of the current movement restrictions could outlast the immediate crisis.
Furthermore, the adoption of ad hoc measures could create a patchwork of unworkable travel requirements, creating significant obstacles to a global economic recovery.
As we work together to manage our way out, it is vital to move ahead in a coordinated way.
Your discussions today will be crucial – and let me quickly point to five focus areas that can help guide the way.
First, I urge the G20 to agree on common objective criteria in relation to the removal of travel restrictions, based on scientific evidence.
Second, to increase investments on systems and practices that support safe travel – in close coordination with the private sector.
Third, to boost coordination in preventive measures – in particular more systematic use of testing and tracing and other proven actions to avoid the spread of the virus and allow for effective control of the potential impacts of increased mobility.
Fourth, to ensure full respect for international human rights and refugee law.
Fifth, to agree that the future vaccines will be considered a global public good to be available and affordable everywhere, supporting global health, global mobility and global economic recovery.
All actions must recognize upholding human dignity as the guiding principle for cross-border policies.
Excellencies, in all we do, we need to advance an inclusive health, social and economic response to the crisis.
Let me be blunt. We still have a long way to ago in two crucial dimensions.
First, in our capacity to fight the pandemic together.
We have seen the results when each country pursues its own strategy, with the advice of the World Health Organization being largely disregarded.
When countries go in different directions, the virus goes in every direction.
Second, we still lack effective international solidarity to respond to the economic and social impacts and the underlying fragilities exposed by the pandemic.
From the beginning, the United Nations has called for massive global support for the most vulnerable people and countries.
Developed countries have done so for their own economies – but we need mechanisms of solidarity to ensure that the developing world will also fully benefit.
This includes boosting the resources available to international financial institutions and doing far more to address the escalating debt crisis, which is devastating public balance sheets and hampering crisis response and recovery.
Solutions to the debt emergency must include an extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to at least the end of 2021, a broadening of its scope to all vulnerable countries, as well as comprehensive debt relief for some countries in need.
We must leverage cross-border capital flows for the crisis response by safeguarding global liquidity, reducing the cost of remittances and combatting illicit financial flows.
Recovering better also requires addressing deep-seated inequalities, including with regards to gender.
More than ever, we need effective international solidarity – and concerted G20 action – to advance these priority areas and build a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world for all.
World Bank Group President David Malpass
Good morning, Foreign Minister Faisal, and to all.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit developing countries particularly hard due to capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets and very limited social safety nets.
Poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling, and growth is deeply negative. Debt burdens were already unsustainable for many countries and are rising to crisis levels. Children everywhere are out of school. Earlier this week, I joined the UN Secretary-General in an event on digital connectivity for education. World Bank programs are working to help leaders restart learning – by providing COVID-19-related equipment to make schools safer, helping reopen schools, and through support for more effective distance learning.
The pandemic threatens to push over 100 million people into extreme poverty and is exacerbating intense inequality throughout the world. The World Bank Group launched its first operations in April and took fast, broad action on COVID-19, quickly creating specific financing programs in over 100 countries. We are committed to financing access and distribution of vaccines for our clients and to working with GAVI, CEPI and the international community.
We’re committed to continue providing a very large net positive flow to developing countries during the next year. To increase fiscal space and create light at the end of the tunnel for the world’s poor, we have called for debt stock relief where appropriate. We welcomed the G20’s endorsement of a suspension of debt payments for the world’s poorest countries; are urging the G20 to extend the moratorium through 2021; and believe the reduction in the stock of debt needs to be high on the international agenda. The current environment of very low interest rates and bond yields, combined with an imbalance in the global system that favors wealthy creditors over the world’s poor, is a recipe for waves of excessive debt burdens for the world’s poorest countries. We need concrete steps to address the inequality and unfairness of the relationships that favor creditors. The lack of participation of commercial creditors in the debt moratorium has been very frustrating, reducing the effectiveness of the G20’s efforts.
Even so, we’ve made substantial progress in 2020 by publishing more information on debt, debt contracts, the collateral that has been restricted, and the non-disclosure clauses that burden sovereign contracts. We need to broaden the creditor information and participation, clarify the distinction between official and commercial creditors, and insist on comparable treatment by commercial creditors when official creditors provide relief. The moratorium itself has provided some fiscal space for participating countries, but much more needs to be done in order to achieve a more equitable outcome for people in developing countries.
I would also like to describe just two examples of our work in the most vulnerable populations, including refugees, where millions are facing a human catastrophe, including but not limited to COVID-19. Your decisions can make a huge difference. Security remains problematic due to deteriorating conditions around the world, and I urge you to address and resolve political problems where you can.
In Lebanon, this week, the World Bank Group released the Rapid Damage & Needs Assessment (RDNA), prepared in consultation with the EU and the UN. This assessment provides a framework for the incoming government to commit to implementing credible reforms that can unlock international financing and private investments. The World Bank has supported over US$3 billion worth of projects in Jordan and Lebanon to help both refugees and host communities. We have supported Lebanon by equipping governmental hospitals and increasing their ability to test and treat suspected cases, with focus on Syrian refugees.
In Sudan, we are combining resources from trust funds and – at the government’s request – we are designing an ambitious Cash Transfer program. We are also providing a maximum of US$400 million in a pre-arrears clearance grant and we are working closely with the government to get arrears clearance to pave the way for fresh financing from IFIs.
Those are two recent examples of our work, but in truth, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact in fragile and conflict-affected (FCV) countries and we are committed to protecting human capital, supporting the most vulnerable, and working toward a resilient recovery.