G20 Leaders’ Summit: The Group Remains Central in Fight against COVID-19

Gitanjali Sinha Roy
May 10, 2020


As the world battles the Coronavirus pandemic, a teleconference was hosted by Saudi Arabia, the G20 Presidency for this year, on 26 March 2020 for all the G20 countries and international organizations like the World Health Organisation, International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, and the United Nations. They pledged to work collectively to protect lives, safeguard jobs and incomes by preserving a stable financial scenario to revive and recover the economy and strengthen the confidence by disruptions free flow in trade and supply chains, which would help countries and strengthen the flow of medical supplies.

The Summit focussed on combatting the pandemic by communicating and coordinating with transparency and spreading global awareness at a large scale by using science in the spirit of solidarity. A strong commitment is needed to tackle the pandemic as well as its social and economic impacts; and finally, unite against this common threat to humankind to reduce the suffering of the people. A strong chain of timely exchanges in transparent information, epidemiological and clinical data, sharing necessary research and development, expansion of manufacturing capacity by meeting the needs of the medical supplies at an affordable price would ultimately help the health systems across the world. There was expressed a need to set up a task force with the help of the various Health Ministers to share the best national practices and develop a set of ‘G20 urgent actions’ to combat the pandemic. The group also extended full support to the ‘WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan’ and helped coordinate the international fights and protect the front-line health workers, delivery of medical supplies like diagnostic tools, treatments, medicine, and vaccines.

The WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation and Gavi, the Vaccine alliance all needed immediate resources, and to safeguard the future, there was a need to individually, regionally and globally come together to prepare for increased spending in epidemic preparedness. They also decided to come together to establish a global initiative on pandemic preparedness, and response in a joint meeting with the Finance and the Health Ministers, and this would serve its purpose of universal and sustained funding.

The countries also spoke about safeguarding and restoring the global economy, which was possible if the markets were stably managed. They also spoke about immediate measures to support the economies, protect workers and businesses, especially the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and sectors that were deeply affected and needed to be adequately protected. So, they decided to inject 5 trillion dollars into the global economy to deal with the fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee to counteract the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. There was a need expressed to develop a G20 action plan and work with close coordination with international organizations to deliver the appropriate international financial assistance and that this task force would consist of all the Finance Ministers and the Central Bank Governors. The Summit also thanked and supported the extraordinary measures taken by the central banks to support the flow of credit within households and businesses to promote financial stability, an extension of swap lines, and enhance the liquidity in the global fiscal markets.

While addressing the international trade disruptions, there was a need for the essential flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders. They aimed to facilitate international trade and coordinate responses to avoid any interference in international trade and traffic. Thereby, the goal was to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable, and stable environment for trade and investment and keep markets open and accessible to all.

The G20 Summit also decided about enhancing global cooperation, especially by working with front-line international organizations like WHO, IMF, WBG, and multilateral and regional development banks to deploy a coherent and rapid financial package. They also expressed a need to strengthen the global financial safety nets, which would help the countries in their health, economic and social shocks of COVID-19, especially in Africa and small island states where health facilities are very poor and are also facing refugee issues which makes things worse. Therefore, there was a strongly felt need to strengthen capacity building and technical assistance and work to mobilize development and humanitarian financing.

The Summit concluded by mentioning the need for global action, solidarity, and international cooperation, paving a solid foundation for strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth. The G20 is one of the most powerful inter-governmental organizations in the world today, and together they have pledged dedication and cooperation to combat the deadly coronavirus. The importance of G20 is of the highest level in this fight because all Quad members are working together under one roof along with China and other countries.

The G20 can be one united forum for all Indo-Pacific players, their allies, and their partners if China stops being an aggressive maritime power. This will help the ‘Free and Open’ functioning of all the sea routes and trade routes as well as give access to markets world over through this excellent interconnected forum and steer the Indo-Pacific region without any conflict.

*** The author is a Ph.D. scholar in the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi, and currently she is a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo ***