RIYADH: The second day of the G20 summit focused on educating and defending planetary issues critical to humanity, which could easily have been forgotten amid a health and economic crisis.
However, the Saudi presidency ensured that the G20 looked beyond the immediate economic and health challenges, real on the topic of Realizing 21st Century Opportunities for All.
Day 1 was focused on the G20 providing access to coronavirus vaccines (COVID-19) for all and access to finance for the poorest nations. This included support for the ACT and GAVI accelerators, as well as a quest to strengthen multilateral efforts, and the WHO went first.
The debt service suspension initiative had 73 countries qualifying for it, and 46 of them have so far benefited from it. These are some of the most pressing issues facing the world, as COVID-19 has plunged the global economy into a recession not seen since World War II. Fiscal and monetary stimulus packages totaling up to $ 11 trillion so far would not have been possible without the coordination efforts of the G20, which had to focus on the economic needs of the time.
However, it was important for the G20 to address other issues that determined the future of humanity. To this end, the Saudi Minister of Education Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh gave an briefing on the future of educational continuity in times of crisis, during which he stressed the importance of education during pandemics and blockages.
Al-Sheikh explained the Saudi model, in which the curriculum went online using a learning management system. He acknowledged that credible online education, although a great opportunity for the future of education, may not be so easily accessible to poor countries and poor segments of the population. However, he praised the educational groups within the G20 for focusing on the future of education for the whole world. Education proves once again that cooperation in the G20 is vital during and after the pandemic.
If there has ever been an issue that requires global cooperation and that is taking us into the 22nd century, it is the environment and climate change. It was the big global topic before the pandemic hit and it was somewhat backward after that.
The side event, the Preservation of the Planet The Circular Approach to the Carbon Economy, was significant in that context: King Salman was joined on the virtual stage by leaders from the world’s most populous countries, as well as from Japan, Australia, the US and Italy. which holds the G20 presidency for years to come.
The King stressed that it was important to protect the planet and that we must create favorable conditions for a strong, inclusive, balanced and sustainable economy. He explained the concept of circular carbon economy, which aims to reduce, reuse, recycle and remove carbon from industrial processes and energy production.
Leaders may have their own views on how to protect the planet, however they had to work together to do so. In the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping they needed to work together for a clean and beautiful world. The final communiqué supported the circular carbon economy.
What it means to the world
The G20 reiterated the importance of multilateralism and joint work. There is no way that multilateral lending agencies could have achieved the debt service suspension initiative without the support of the G20 global heavyweights.
The $ 11 trillion fiscal and monetary stimulus packages also called for close cooperation at the G20 level.
Collaboration on the ACT accelerator and GAVI would also not be possible on that scale without the G20. This is especially true in terms of future WHO support and funding.
To the credit of the Saudi presidency that did not allow its theme of Realizing the Opportunities of the 21st Century for All to be shrouded in a pandemic, which could have happened very easily. Instead, the G20 addressed other key issues such as the future of education and climate change.
What it means for GCC
It was important for the Arab world for one of them, Saudi Arabia, the only Arab member of the G20 and one of the three Muslim-majority countries in the club of the world’s most powerful nations, to host the summit. In the words of King Salman: Because of its unique region regionally and internationally, and its unique location that connects three continents and lies at the crossroads of emerging and developed markets, the Kingdom will continue to play a key role within the G20 to achieve global cooperation and find solutions to the most pressing challenges in the world.
Focusing on education is important for the GCC, the entire Arab world, and many developing countries because they have large and growing populations. If education cannot be provided on a sustainable basis, due to the limitations of COVID-19, the world risks losing a generation.
Climate change and the environment are defining global issues. They are especially important for a major energy producer such as Saudi Arabia, which must address the enigma of uninterrupted energy supplies to the world to ensure economic stability while preserving the planet. To this end, it was important for the Kingdom to present its approach to the circular carbon economy.
It was a testament to Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency that the leaders’ statement was unanimously accepted, which has never been given at these rallies.
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