Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

Saudi G20 presidency looked beyond Covid-19 before weekend summit

The pandemic may have derailed many plans, but Riyadh insists that it's work as lead of the G20 forged ahead despite the coronavirus even as it tried to lead global efforts to find a cure

US President Donald Trump talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a group photo at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. AP, File
US President Donald Trump talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a group photo at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. AP, File

Shortly after Saudi Arabia assumed the G20 Presidency in December, it – like much of the world – was hit by Covid-19, the greatest global challenge since World War 2.

The pandemic has already claimed almost 1.3 million lives, caused the greatest global downturn since the great depression while exposing the frailties of global health and economic systems.

However, the Saudi leadership remained committed to forging a global effort to save lives and restore economic growth with the help of G20 members, the action plan and relief initiatives.

The virtual 2020 G20 Leaders' Summit will be chaired by King Salman on Saturday and Sunday following months of forums, discussions, working groups and ministerial meetings to address the most pressing global issues all revolving around one theme – realising opportunities of the 21st century for all.

The three key areas for the 2020 G20 Presidency were empowering people – especially youth and women – safeguarding the planet to halt climate change and fostering efforts on food and water security, and shape new frontiers with bold strategies to share the benefits of innovation and technological advancement.

FILE - In this March 26, 2020, file photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi King Salman, chairs a video call of world leaders from the Group of 20 and other international bodies and organizations, from his office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Nov. 21-22, 2020, Group of 20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, will be held online this year because of the coronavirus. The pandemic has offered the G-20 an opportunity to prove how such bodies can facilitate international cooperation in crises — but has also underscored their shortcomings. (Saudi Press Agency via AP, File)
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman chairs a video call of world leaders from the Group of 20 and other international bodies and organizations from his office in Riyadh. Saudi Press Agency via AP, File

The kingdom has invited a number of non-G20 member states, including the UAE, Jordan, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland, and the chairs of regional organisations as well as international organisations, to take part.

"Saudi Arabia didn't allow Covid-19 to hold us back, we had a very busy year, we held over a hundred meetings of deputies and ministers throughout the year," Saudi Minister of State and the kingdom's G20 Sherpa Fahad Al Mubarak said on Monday.

The Saudi G20 Presidency has aimed to lead the fight against the global pandemic, taking swift and unprecedented actions to protect lives, livelihoods and the most vulnerable with G20 members and international organisations.

So far, G20 states have injected $11 trillion to safeguard the global economy and contributed over $21 billion to support the production, distribution and access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

The leaders' summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth.

G20 nations last Friday declared a framework for restructuring debt of many developing countries to recognise that some may need additional relief given the pandemic.

A Saudi man is pictured checks his phone as preparations take place ahead of a meeting of Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 18, 2020. Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 summit Saturday in a first for an Arab nation, but the scaled-down virtual format could limit debate on a resurgent coronavirus pandemic and crippling economic crisis. / AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE
A Saudi man is pictured checks his phone as preparations take place ahead of a meeting of Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 18. AFP

"The countries of the G20 will do everything necessary to reduce the economic and social harm of the pandemic, restore global growth, maintain market stability and enhance the ability to cope with changes according to the directives issued by the leaders of the G20 countries," Mr Al Qassabi said.

Saudi Arabia is the youngest and first Arab country to host the G20, which will also be the presidency.

Before the weekend summit, Riyadh hosted a number of side events.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Energy Minister said that sustainable energy has been at the heart of the Saudi G20 Presidency. He discussed the kingdom's Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) imitative and its commitment to the so-called four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Remove. He said Saudi Arabia is working a new solar energy plan and remains committed to working on a sustainable future with the urgent need to lower greenhouse gas emissions. He said the Saudi Presidency has played a leading role in tackling climate change and will continue to work on solutions with G20 members during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hala Al Tuwaijri, who leads the G20 women's empowerment efforts, spoke at a round-table on Wednesday of the Kingdom's efforts to ensure an inclusive role of women in the workplace and leadership roles.

She said the Saudi government regards women as a core priority and said women's role as caregivers and educators during the pandemic when schools switched to virtual learning was acknowledged by the government who want to ensure "women get equal access to opportunities to realise their potential."

Abdulrahman Ali Al Amri, chairman of the G20's education working group, stated that education is the key to a sustainable environment as well as economic and social development as he thanked the kingdom for prioritising it during their leadership of the G20.

Meanwhile, Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority, said that world leaders will be hosted at Al Turaif historical district for a cultural night on November 20. While he said that Covid-19 had hit the tourist industry, he remains hopeful. "We [the DGDA] will contribute SR 27 billion ($7billion) to the GDP of Saudi Arabia. We will also be providing employment opportunities," he said.

Updated: November 21, 2020 03:20 PM

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