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António Guterres to G20 Finance Ministers: We Must Pass Three Tests of Solidarity

Photo by U.N./E. Schneider

According to the UN, the countries of the G20, the world's most developed economies, will face three crucial tests of solidarity: vaccines, economic aid to developing countries and climate change. The UN chief said so in a column published in Tunisie Numérique on the occasion of today's meeting of G20 finance ministers in Venice.

"Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have been hearing a lot about global solidarity," the UN chief wrote. "Unfortunately, words alone are not enough to end a pandemic or reduce the impact of the climate crisis. The time has come to show solidarity in action."

He believes that during the meeting in Venice, the G20 finance ministers will have to show solidarity on three issues, first of all, on vaccines against coronavirus infection.

"There is a race between vaccines and stamps: If the latter win, the pandemic could cost several million more lives and the global recovery will take years," Guterres warned.

He praised the willingness of several countries to provide financial support for the vaccination campaign. "But let's face it," the secretary general continued, "to vaccinate 70 percent of the world's population and end this pandemic, we need not one billion, but at least eleven billion doses of vaccine".

The second test of solidarity, according to the UN chief, is providing vital economic aid to countries on the brink of default. He writes that rich countries have spent the equivalent of 28 percent of their GDP to fight the COVID-19 crisis. In middle-income countries the figure is much lower, at 6.5 percent, and in the least developed countries it is less than 2 percent.

"Because of the pandemic, the number of people living in extreme poverty in various regions of the world is expected to increase by about 120 million. More than three-quarters of those who will join the ranks of the poor live in middle-income countries," the article said. The U.N. head called for help for these countries to avoid a "financial catastrophe".

The third test of solidarity, as António Guterres notes, concerns climate change. In an effort to prevent, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, a temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees, most of the major economies have pledged to reduce their emissions to zero by mid-century. "For the Glasgow climate conference to really be a turning point, we need to hear the same promise from all the G20 countries and from developing countries," the UN chief stressed.

At the same time, he said, developing countries need assurances that financial and technical support will be provided to implement their ambitious goals, including $100 billion a year in climate finance, as was promised to them by developed countries more than a decade ago.

"That makes perfect sense. Developing countries from the Caribbean to the Pacific are forced to spend enormous sums on infrastructure because of greenhouse gas emissions that they had nothing to do with," the U.N. secretary-general recalled.

The next six months, Guterres writes, will show whether global solidarity will limit itself to words or translate into real action.