The G20 leaders’ summit is the latest political event to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic, and will be held virtually rather than in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia announced early Monday.
The decision by Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the G20 presidency, comes after a week in which pre-recorded video speeches replaced the traditional gathering of world leaders in New York City for the opening week of the United Nations General Assembly.
This year’s G20 summit holds special importance because leaders have aimed to use the club of the world’s largest economies to coordinate the global response to the pandemic, including cooperation on potential vaccine distribution.
Saudi Arabia said the virtual summit would be held November 21 and 22, and would be chaired by King Salman, with an official theme of “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All.”
It is hardly a secret, though, that the real focus will be trying to keep the global economy afloat amid the continuing pandemic.
“The G20 is leading the fight against this global pandemic; taking swift and unprecedented actions to protect lives, livelihoods and the most vulnerable,” Saudi Arabia said in its statement on Sunday. It said G20 members taken together had put $21 billion toward diagnostics, treatments and vaccine development, and had injected $11 trillion to prop up the global economy.
“The upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth, by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down the foundations for a better future,” Saudi Arabia said. “The Summit will also focus on fostering international action to realize opportunities of the 21st century for all, by empowering people and protecting our planet, whilst harnessing the potential of innovation to shape new frontiers.”
The G7 leaders’ summit was originally supposed to be held in the U.S. in March. U.S. President Donald Trump had hoped to reschedule it for June, but was rebuffed by European leaders who said they would not attend because of the health risks. Trump later said he would aim to reschedule for after November’s U.S. presidential election.