UN chief turns to G20 for leadership in fight against COVID-19

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Group of 20 (G20), the largest economies of the world, to assume leadership in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic

Mar 25, 2020

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Group of 20 (G20), the largest economies of the world, to assume leadership in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to G20 leaders dated March 23, Guterres asked them to coordinate action to suppress the virus that causes COVID-19, to mitigate the social and economic impact of the pandemic, and to make sure that the global economy will recover in a more inclusive and sustainable way, Xinhua reported.

Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday that a virtual G20 summit will be held on Thursday morning New York time. Guterres himself will speak at the virtual summit.

The G20 leaders have an extraordinary opportunity to step forward with a strong response package to address the various threats of COVID-19, Guterres wrote in the letter, which was released on Tuesday. "This would demonstrate solidarity with the world's people, especially the most vulnerable."

COVID-19 will require a response like none before -- a "wartime" plan in times of human crisis, he said.

The first priority is to tackle the pandemic everywhere, to let people feel safe anywhere. It must be clear that the strategy is a coordinated suppression of the virus, said Guterres.

"I call on G20 leaders to establish an articulated response mechanism guided by the World Health Organization to achieve suppression together."

Such a mechanism would strengthen the global response and provide countries with stronger capabilities to stop transmission. It would also help enhance scientific collaboration in the search for a vaccine and therapeutic treatment, he said.

Guterres also asked G20 leaders to help minimize the social and economic impact of COVID-19 for everyone and stimulate a faster recovery everywhere.

By the end of this year, the cost of this pandemic is likely to be measured in the trillions of US dollars. The response of G20 leaders must be decisive and commensurate. It must inject massive resources into economies, reaching double-digit percentage points in the world's gross domestic product, said Guterres.

He warned them that "business-as-usual" economic rules and policy tools will no longer apply as the virus has created unprecedented challenges.

Guterres asked G20 leaders to reaffirm their common responsibility to recover better, with more inclusive and sustainable models of development.

The world has agreed on a framework for action -- the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change -- and they continue to offer a guiding light for people and the planet, he said. "We must ensure that the recovery strategy out of this crisis keeps us on track toward these longer-term objectives, building a sustainable and inclusive economy."

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