G20: a virtual summit far from the showcase hoped by Saudi Arabia

This year, no traditional family photo, but portraits of the leaders projected onto the ancient monuments of the historic city of Diriyah, near Riyadh.

Without question, the G20 version 2020 is not the glitzy showcase expected by Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman. Its so-called societal reforms, its economic program, supposed to reduce dependence on oil manna, its postcard landscapes… This is what the country wanted to highlight. Ultimately, it is the pandemic and almost only it that has dominated virtual exchanges, particularly with the issue of access to vaccines throughout the world.

The vaccine race at the heart of the discussions

Even before the G20 began, the head of the UN, Antonio Guterres, recalled that “28 billion are missing, including 4.2 before the end of the year” to finance the ACT-Accelerator, a device of the World Health Organization to ensure that rich countries do not monopolize treatments, tests or vaccines.

Saudi G20 Presidency Media / Handou

“Will we be ready to guarantee access (to vaccines) on a planetary scale, and to avoid at all costs the scenario of a two-speed world, where only the richest could protect themselves from the virus?” “Asked French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

The repressive turn of MBS pointed out

The shadow of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, an ultra-conservative kingdom, also hangs over this reunion of 85% of the wealth produced on Earth.

As a reminder, the rise of Mohammed ben Salman has been accompanied by an increased repression against dissenting voices which embarrasses Riyadh’s international partners, from the assassination of critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi to the detention of feminist activists like Loujain al- Hathloul.

The sister of the latter, Lina Al-Hathloul, had thus declared before the summit: “The new Saudi Arabia of MBS, we no longer really believe in it. The real reformers of this country are now behind bars and can no longer speak. The leaders of the world must be our voice, ”she had hoped. “Investors are not journalists, they are looking for countries where they can trust an effective government,” Khaled al-Faleh, Saudi Minister of Investment, replied on Saturday at a press briefing.

Donald Trump not decided to say goodbye

Last event to report during this first day, the remarkable presence of Donald Trump. A brief appearance before heading off to play golf near Washington.

The American leader, who still refuses his defeat against Joe Biden, thus insisted on telling his counterparts “that he had done an absolutely incredible job during his mandate, economically and in the face of the pandemic”, confided a delegate with access to closed discussions with the press. According to a second participant, Donald Trump would also have “looked forward to working with (them) in the future and for a long time”.

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