Nov. 22, 2020

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the G20 Leaders Summit Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

21 November 2020
Your Royal Highness, Excellencies,

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I would like to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on its G20 Presidency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundations of social, economic and political stability.

Today I would like to focus on three key areas in which the G20 has a vital role to play, both in ending the pandemic and building back better.

First, vaccines.

In April, with support from France, Germany, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the European Union, WHO established the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator – to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics fast, and allocate them fairly, as global public goods.

Earlier this week you received a letter signed by President Ramaphosa, President von der Leyen, Prime Minister Solberg and myself, outlining the need for an immediate investment of US$4.5 billion for vaccines.

This is the smart thing to do, both for public health and to restore growth and jobs. Fair allocation of vaccines is central to the pandemic endgame, and a faster global recovery.

Second, preparedness.

To prevent future outbreaks and their impact on lives, livelihoods and economies, all countries must invest in preparedness and universal health coverage.

As you asked us in March, WHO has completed an assessment of gaps in pandemic preparedness. It offers concrete recommendations for G20 countries, which we urge you to implement.

And third, leadership.

Representing two-thirds of the world’s population and 80% of the global economy, the G20 has a unique leadership role to play in fostering the solidarity that is needed to end the pandemic.

You can ensure vaccines are allocated fairly, as global public goods.

You can implement the International Health Regulations, at home and abroad.

And you can address the vulnerabilities and inequalities at the root of this pandemic.

A vaccine will help to control the pandemic. But there's no vaccine for poverty, hunger, climate change or inequality.

My brothers and sisters,

The pandemic is a powerful demonstration that health is not a by-product of growth; it is the essential underpinning of productive, resilient and stable economies.

This is the moment for bold leadership that looks beyond the next election cycle to the world our children and grandchildren will inherit.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Finally, I would like to welcome Prime Minister Suga, and assure him that WHO is working with the International Olympic Committee to make next year’s Tokyo Olympics a success, and a symbol of hope for the world.

Shukran jazeelan. Thank you.