World leaders to address most pressing global challenges at upcoming G20 summit

The two-day event is taking place online under Saudi Arabia's presidency on November 21 and 22

TOPSHOT - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Top-R) is seen on a screen attending a videoconference with G20 leaders to discuss the COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Parliament House in Canberra on March 26, 2020.  Leaders of the G20 major economies are holding an online summit on March 26, in a bid to fend off a coronavirus-triggered recession, after criticism the group has been slow to address the crisis.  / AFP / POOL / Gary Ramage
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Leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies are preparing to discuss the most pressing global socio-economic issues this week at the G20 Summit, as the Covid-19 health crisis and the its economic reverberations continue.

The two-day summit under the theme of 'Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All', hosted by Saudi Arabia is taking place on November 21 and 22 and focuses on empowering people, safeguarding the planet, and shaping new frontiers. Global leaders will be convene virtually instead of arriving in Riyadh due to the pandemic.

The health crisis has already forced major global events to be postponed until next year or move to an online. Both the spring and fall meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were held virtually this year, the World Economic Forum postponed its Davos January gathering to next summer, while both the Tokyo Olympics and Dubai's Expo 2020 were moved to 2021.

The G20 summit is happening as Covid-19 continues to spread almost a year after it was first detected in China. The second wave of the pandemic has hit parts of Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, sending some of Europe's biggest economies back into lockdowns.

The summit offers a chance for global leaders to reflect on what has been achieved since they agreed to “spare no efforts” to overcome the pandemic in a March 26 meeting and ways of reviving the global economy.

Since March, governments have rolled out nearly $12 trillion in fiscal stimulus, supported by about $7.5tn in monetary actions by central banks. The measures have helped shore up the world's banking system, safeguard financial markets and put a floor under the global economy.

The G20 consists of 19 countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US – and the European Union.

The group accounts for 85 per cent of the world's gross domestic product. In June, it pledged more than $21bn towards diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics to fight the pandemic.

Governments and regulators have worked closely with pharmaceutical companies and there is now hope of a Covid-19 vaccine becoming widely available soon.

US biotechnology company Moderna on Monday said its Covid-19 vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective against the virus in its preliminary late-stage clinical trial. Pfizer and BioNTech, and Russia's Sputnik V vaccine maker both said last week that early trial results of their vaccines recorded efficacy rates of more than 90 per cent.

Covid-19 has infected about 56 million people and killed over 1.34 million. The virus has tipped the global economy into its worst recession since the 1930s. The International Monetary Fund expects global output to shrink 4.4 per cent this year and recover only modestly in 2021.

The Riyadh Summit will “set the foundations for a more inclusive, more resilient, and more sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 crisis,” the G20 said in a statement on Monday. “This will result in a stronger and better world, where we can realise the opportunities of the 21st century for all.”

In April, G20 members agreed a Debt Suspension Service Initiative (DSSI) aimed at helping the world's poorest countries. G20 nations agreed to a time-bound suspension of debt repayments from 44 countries, making $14bn in funds available to fighting the pandemic instead of servicing debt.

Earlier this month, G20 finance ministers and central bank governors agreed on a new joint framework to restructure government debt owed by these nations.

In the lead up to the Riyadh summit, the G20 Presidency has hosted ministerial and other meetings on topics including agriculture, the digital economy, energy, environment, employment, finance, health, tourism and trade. These meetings will help to shape discussions, policy development and the final G20 leaders’ declaration.

Topics being discussed during the summit range from securing a future for the world’s coral reefs to dual challenges of energy and the climate, the empowerment of women, opportunities for the youth, pandemic preparedness and the circular carbon economy.

Officials from international organisations including the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the UN, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the World Trade Organisation are also attending the summit.

The G20 has also invited representatives of regional bodies including the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the African Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council to attend the summit.