The G20 is a group of major developed and emerging economies which account for around 85 percent of global gross domestic product, 80 percent of international trade, and two-thirds of the global population who occupy about half of the world’s total land area. Accordingly, the impact of decisions made by the leaders of the G20 is tremendous.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and its unprecedented effect on people and their livelihoods has shocked the world, and demonstrated clearly how unprepared we were in facing common challenges. Needless to say, this year’s most imperative task is addressing the pandemic — there is a pressing call for coordinated action, solidarity, and international cooperation to overcome the current situation more than ever before.
In this context, this year’s presidency is called upon to focus on four areas: Distribution of vaccines and treatments in accordance with transparency and fairness; facilitating human mobility; the transition to a green economy for climate change response and sustainable development, in the process of recovering from COVID-19; and maintaining open markets and free trade. Of course, these need to be addressed in such a way as to “realize opportunities of the 21st century for all” as reflected in the theme for this year.
Furthermore, I believe that the G20 will resolve to render support to the most vulnerable in the least-developed countries, which are facing complex challenges in the health, economic and social fields as a result of the pandemic.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s hosting of this year’s G20 Summit holds profound meaning in a number of ways. First of all, Saudi Arabia has firmly established itself as the only Arab country among G20 members, with the resultant considerable hopes and aspirations among other Arab countries. This offers an opportunity to reflect their voice in the process of dealing with a host of tasks, be they financial, economic or social issues.
Secondly, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a country that plays a prominent role in shaping new frameworks in the international order. It is indeed meaningful that the Kingdom has reaffirmed its position as a leader in the international cooperation system in the process of overcoming the global economic crisis.
Thirdly, the Saudi government, people and its society as a whole are indeed fully able and prepared to hold such a momentous large-scale international event and to extend a warm welcome to visitors, accommodating them superbly. In particular, there have been remarkable advances in terms of the development of infrastructure for the promotion of culture and tourism in the Kingdom in recent years.
In this sense, it is rather unfortunate that various G20 related events, including the summit, have had to be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I am confident that there will be boundless opportunities for Saudi Arabia to demonstrate its capabilities in such spheres on the path ahead as the Kingdom has shown the world its excellent performance even in the midst of this unprecedented situation.
Korea served as host of the 5th G20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010, marking the event’s debut in Asia. And the Republic of Korea has every confidence that, a decade after Korea’s presidency, Saudi Arabia will nobly fulfill its role as the chair of the G20 2020.
As an active participant in the G20 discussions and a true friend of Saudi Arabia, Korea has been cooperating with the Kingdom with the deep wish to play a valuable part in contributing to the Kingdom’s successful presidency at all levels. In particular, bilateral consultations between our two G20 Sherpas have proved extremely fruitful for the sharing of our respective experience and wisdom with each other.
These joint efforts will serve to further consolidate the bilateral relations broadening the horizons of the cooperation in a spectrum of fields.
I would also like to offer some reflections on the Saudi Vision 2030, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
This envisions reforms and changes in various fields in the Kingdom such as women rights, digitalization, health care, education, labor and the environment.
And such reforms have been implemented in the past few years, generating dynamism and allowing for untapped potential to be realized. It is truly inspiring to see the economic and social change unfolding in Saudi Arabia as moves toward the full realization of sustainable development and the empowerment of the people are taken.
The areas that the Vision 2030 touch on are closely linked with those that the G20 has been discussing and sharing views on both at the domestic and international levels for many years. I believe that Saudi Arabia’s experience in the pursuit of the realization of Vision 2030, successfully showcasing its capabilities and even greater promise for the future, may serve as a real source of inspiration for other G20 countries.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to pay homage to the admirable way in which Saudi Arabia is serving in the G20 Presidency.
When there was a sense of panic and confusion in the face of a then-unknown virus spreading at an alarming speed early this year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not waste any time — taking swift steps to hold all the G20-related events in virtual form.
And King Salman convened the Extraordinary G20 Virtual Leaders’ Summit as early as March 26, in which he urged G20 member states to provide $8 billion for an immediate response to the global health crisis, setting an example by contributing $500 million. Since then, Saudi Arabia has successfully virtually held around 100 G20 ministerial and working-level meetings, as well as eight engagement groups’ meetings.
It has indeed demonstrated not only its ability to lead all members toward reaching consensus by fostering a spirit of cooperation among them, but also its capacity to leverage advanced IT systems — this has made possible the smooth, meticulous and flawless holding of virtual meetings in a manner not previously experienced.
Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency will long be remembered. Not simply because it happened during the extraordinary year of the outbreak of COVID-19 crisis, but it has done a wonderful job in both logistics and substance. We all pay sincere tribute to Saudi Arabia’s tremendous heartfelt endeavors for the successful hosting of the G20 and its shining contribution to the G20 process.
• Jo Byung Wook is South Korea’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.