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How The Riyadh Summit Was Different This Year!

How The Riyadh Summit Was Different This Year!

Thursday, 26 November, 2020 - 13:00
Suleiman Jawda
Egyptian Writer & Journalist

Since the G20 Group consists of the world's largest economies, the discussions it holds every year mainly focus on economy. And since economy is the language of politics in this particular epoch, discussions at every annual summit would begin and end with politics, even when meetings attempt to avoid political discussions and try hard to focus on business instead!


And because energy is the most important sector of economy in our time, with oil at the forefront, discussions would roam about it at every new summit, noting that with the Riyadh Summit this year, the forum marked its 15th meeting.


However, things were different during this year’s summit!


Last year, when Saudi Arabia agreed to host the new summit, it had no idea that this year would be exceptional and that it would be known as the year of the pandemic. It did not know that this year would be remembered as the year that drained and yet continues to drain the world; the year that strained all economies and continues to strain them; the year that would not allow any of the world’s capitals evade the grim fears left behind by the outbreak.


Then, the Kingdom welcomed the twenty economies' leaders to meet on its territory and in its capital without having any idea about these events. Of course, it did not know and neither did anyone on earth, not even those who had been rushing to read this year’s fortune. All of them anticipated every event that had been written on this year’s page before it occurred, except for the emergence of the pandemic, which dexterously concealed itself from every fortune teller’s eyes.


Riyadh had no choice but to rise to the responsibilities that had been imposed upon it by the implications of hosting the summit, no option but to fulfill the tasks that had been placed on its shoulders. Its responsibility was not limited to overseeing the summit’s work and adjournment. Indeed the primary responsibility was to ensure that the summit’s efforts are successful and that it achieves its final goal, all while moving ahead during a year that has been exceptional by every metric.


The first challenge this pandemic posed was that it unseated almost everything from the forefront of the media’s attention and replaced it. With all the lights pointed in its direction, it induced anxiety everywhere, as second waves would rush to replace first waves almost immediately after they had faded away.


When the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz took the summit’s chair seat last weekend, he laid out a map of priorities for the twenty leaders to preoccupy themselves with, marking the coronavirus as the top priority. He did so out of humanitarian considerations, intending to send a message that though the summit has many faces that change every year, however, this year the humanitarian responsibility took over.


At the event that included the leaders of Argentina, Germany, France, Italy, South Korea and the chair of the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), King Salman delivered a brief statement saying that in light of the progress made in developing coronavirus vaccines, the top priority is to ensure their affordable and equitable access for everyone


It is as though the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques had predicted that Moderna would make its vaccine announcement on the same day he delivered his speech!


On Sunday morning, Stephane Bancel, the company’s CEO, said that his company’s vaccine would be available at a price ranging from $25 to $37 per dose, a price close to that of the flu vaccine, the cost of which starts at ten dollars and goes up to fifty dollars per dose.


Since the beginning, the problem has never been whether or not we could find a vaccine, because the science that had tackled past epidemics could surely attain a coronavirus vaccine, no matter how long it might take. Instead, the issue was and remained the vaccine’s price once it sees the light. The problem was and remains the degree to which the world can make it available to every human being and if it will reach all countries equally.


Among all the summit's actions and events, nothing expressed this sense of duty to the same extent as another phrase articulated by King Salman. It was a sincere slogan that could be a slogan not just for the summit, but for this whole year which the epidemic wrapped in darkness from day one.


The phrase seemed to carry a “message” to those who would be tasked with producing and distributing the vaccine as he said, " we would not be safe until everyone is safe."


It is a phrase of only a few words, but it sums up the philosophy needed for our salvation from the epidemic. It draws everyone’s attention to the fact that the epidemic has struck every country, without exceptions. It asserts that treating the world’s body for this disease would not be efficacious if done selectively, with only parts of this body addressed while another part or several others are not. Indeed the treatment must reach all parts of the exhausted world’s body.


Refusing to be in the second place, the company made a new statement a few days later saying that the effectiveness of its vaccine had reached 95 percent!


Who knows?! Other companies might join the race during these critical days in the fight against the pandemic, making every human emerge victorious at the end.


Nonetheless, the producers and disturbers of the vaccines should keep in mind the King's message, because it is not just a slogan, but an approach, for which there is no alternative.


Remarkably, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's suggestion during the closing session on making the G20 Summit biannual would allow the leaders to move from one level of performance efficiency to another!


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