The 15th G-20 Annual Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia over the weekend, reaffirmed that “coordinated global action, solidarity, and multilateral cooperation are more necessary today than ever to overcome the current challenges and realize opportunities of the 21st century for all by empowering people, safeguarding the planet, and shaping new frontiers.” Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Summit was held in a virtual format.
G-20 leaders welcomed actions taken by members since the G-20 Extraordinary Summit in March this year in mobilizing “resources to address the immediate financing needs in global health to support the research, development, manufacturing, and distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.”
The interest of developing country G-20 members like India in affordable and equitable access to vaccines for all people received the conditional approval of the Summit, which kept open the possibility of voluntary licensing of intellectual property of vaccines within the framework of collaborative efforts like the COVAX facility. However, the Summit acknowledged that such access to vaccines would have to be consistent with G-20 members’ commitments to “incentivize innovation” by upholding intellectual property rights.
The Summit noted the impact of national measures of G-20 members valued at over $11 trillion so far to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic. This includes India’s outlay of 10% of her GDP worth $265 billion under the Atmanirbhar Bharat programme. It assessed that global economic activity was “uneven, highly uncertain and subject to elevated downside risks, including those arising from renewed virus outbreaks in some economies, with some countries reintroducing restrictive health measures.”
In a series of recommendations that impinge on India’s recent calls for “reformed multilateralism”, the Summit supported a resilient and sustainable global recovery response through the UN by strengthening the overall effectiveness of the WHO. The G-20, which accounts for 85% of international trade, committed itself to keeping its markets open, and to reforming the WTO. It set the date of 15 December 2023 to review the process of IMF governance reform, including a new quota formula as a guide, to sustain a stronger global financial safety net. Participating in the Summit, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi compared the current international situation following the disruptions caused by the pandemic as “the biggest challenge the world is facing since World War II”. The Prime Minister proposed a New Global Index for a Post-Corona World resting on four pillars. These included the creation of a vast Talent pool; ensuring that Technology reaches all segments of society; Transparency in systems of governance; and dealing with Mother Earth with a spirit of Trusteeship. The PM proposed that such an Index should be benchmarked by a Per Capita Carbon Footprint. This, he said, could become the “foundation a new world”.
Prime Minister emphasized the importance of Climate issues on the second day of the Summit, highlighting that India had exceeded her Paris Agreement target on greenhouse-gas emissions. India’s initiatives like the International Solar Alliance, which already had 88 member-states, and the Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure in which 9 G-20 countries were participating among the 18 members so far, were proactive measures to address environmental concerns. Calling for greater technology and financial flows to the developing world, Mr. Modi emphasized that the focus must be on ensuring the human dignity of every worker to safeguard the planet.
The Summit highlighted the key role of connectivity, digital technologies, and policies in strengthening the response to the pandemic and facilitating the continuation of economic activity. India offered her IT skills to create a virtual G20 Secretariat to create a repository of documentation and monitor the follow up of decisions.
Italy would chair the G-20 in 2021 followed by Indonesia. India will chair the G-20 in 2023.This would provide an opportunity for India to play a global leadership role at a crucial moment in international relations.
Script: Amb. Asoke Kumar Mukerji,Former Permanent Representative Of India To The United Nations