What to expect from Saudi Arabia’s virtual G20 summit

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Saudi Arabia will next week host a virtual G20 leaders summit – the meeting of the leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies – with the COVID-19 pandemic and its human and economic implications likely to lead the agenda for this year’s talks.

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When will it take place and where?

Saudi Arabia will hold the G20 Riyadh Leaders’ Summit online between Saturday November 21 – Sunday, November 22, 2020, with the meeting – taking place in the midst of the worst economic downturn the world is witnessing since the Great Depression of the 1930s – set to focus on protecting lives and restoring growth by addressing vulnerabilities brought about by the pandemic, and building the foundations for a better future.

Who will attend?

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz will chair the G20 Summit, set to be attended by US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, Rusian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz . (Reuters)
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz . (Reuters)

The Leaders’ Summit will bring together Heads of State or Government leaders from 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK and the US) and the European Union. Together, the G20 comprises the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies and accounts for 85 percent of the global GDP and two-thirds of its population. In 2020, Spain, Jordan, Singapore, and Switzerland have also been invited as guest countries.

International organizations that have historically contributed to the work of the G20 have also been invited. These include the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Financial Stability Board, the International Labor Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations, the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization.

Regional organizations were also invited, including the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the African Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

What have we seen from Saudi Arabia since they assumed the G20 Presidency?

Saudi Arabia assumed presidency on December 1, 2019, and since then have been driving efforts to address social and economic inequalities between men and women with the aim of ‘Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All’. The three pillars of the theme include: empowering people, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers.

Throughout the year, in the lead up to the Riyadh Summit, the Presidency has hosted a series of ministerial meetings and Sherpa meetings to help shape the discussions, policy development and the Leader’s Declaration. Ministerial meetings address topics such as agriculture, digital economy, energy, environment, employment, finance, health, tourism, and trade. Additionally, for the first time at the G20, Saudi Arabia hosted a Ministerial Meeting on anti-corruption.

This year, the Saudi G20 Presidency hosted an Extraordinary Virtual Leaders’ Summit on COVID19 on March 26, 2020, and released a Leaders’ Statement. After which, the Presidency held a series of extraordinary ministerial meetings to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and mitigate its impacts. The Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit resulted in swift and unprecedented action – through coordination with the World Health organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) - to protect lives, livelihoods and the most vulnerable, including: $11 trillion injected into the global economy since March 26, $21 billion at the outset of the crisis to support health systems and the hunt for a vaccine, and $14 billion in debt relief for the world’s most vulnerable nations, ensuring they could focus their resources on fighting the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia has also co-led the Global Response Pledging on May 4, 2020 aimed to raise funds for the immediate need of $8 billion, which the Global Preparedness and Monitoring Board stated is urgently required to develop and deliver a Covid-19 vaccine, along with diagnostics and therapeutic resources.

Coupled with key ministerial meetings and leaders’ summits, the G20 this year has attached great attention to the work of the eight engagement groups, as they constituted the core of the efforts of the G20 for this year, with the aim of building a more resilient and better world. However, the presidency had to redirect its focus towards addressing the immediate and the future fallouts of the pandemic and engage all the leaders on a regular basis to form coordinated responses to the pandemic.

The summit of the grouping was due to be held in the Kingdom for the first time in Riyadh. However, as the pandemic hit – leading to most major events around the world either shifting online, being postponed or canceled – it was decided to hold the summit on a virtual platform.

What is likely to lead next week’s agenda?

There have been expectations that the G20 meeting next week will unveil an economic stimulus program as well as a framework for debt reductions for poor countries at the summit as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to leave a lasting devastating blow to the global economy. The virtual summit on November 21-22 is expected largely focus on addressing the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, future health care plans and steps for reviving the global economy amid mounting expectations of fiscal support, debt reductions and several other monetary measures by the grouping to help the global economy recover from the coronavirus-driven collapse.

More broadly, the Riyadh Summit will set the foundations for a more inclusive, more resilient, and more sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. This will result in a stronger and better world, where we can realize the opportunities of the 21st century for all by empowering people, safeguarding the planet, and shaping new frontiers.

Where with G20 next be held?

In 2021, Italy will host the G20 Summit and in 2022 India will host the summit, when the country celebrates its 75th year of Independence.

Read more:

G20 Saudi presidency to extend debt relief for poor countries by 6 months

Saudi Arabia to hold G20 summit virtually amid coronavirus pandemic

Hosted by Saudi Arabia, G20 Ministers discuss economic recovery amid coronavirus

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