G20 leaders at the Osaka Summit in 2019. (Image courtesy: The Kremlin)
In an open letter to G20 leaders, 92 former presidents and prime ministers have urged coordinated global leadership in the fight against coronavirus.
“We are writing to call for immediate internationally coordinated action – within the next few days – to address our deepening global health and economic crises caused by COVID-19,” the letter, published on 6 April, says.
The former leaders note that the G20 Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit on 26 March “recognised the gravity and urgency of the combined public health and economic crisis”, and argue that specific measures must now be agreed upon “with speed and at scale”. It calls for emergency support for global health initiatives led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and emergency measures to restore the global economy.
The letter says world leaders “must immediately agree” to commit US$8bn (€7.4bn) to fill the most urgent gaps in the COVID-19 response to the public health crisis, including US$1bn (€920m) for the WHO, US$3bn (€2.8bn) to be spent on vaccine development, and US$2.25bn (€2bn) on therapeutics.
The letter also says that there should be an additional allocation of around US$500bn-US$600bn (€460bn-€552bn) in ‘Special Drawing Rights’ maintained by the IMF to supplement its member countries’ official reserves. And that a further US$35bn (€32bn) will be required to support countries with weaker health systems.
It proposes the convening of a global pledging conference, supported by a G20 Executive Task Force, to commit resources to meeting emergency global health needs.
Preventing a global recession becoming a global depression
On global economic measures, the letter says the aim “should be to prevent a liquidity crisis turning into a solvency crisis, and a global recession becoming a global depression”. To ensure this, it calls for better coordinated fiscal, monetary, central bank, and anti-protectionist initiatives. “The ambitious fiscal stimuli of some countries will be all the more effective if more strongly complemented by all countries in a position to do so,” it reads.
It says the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and regional development banks will need “a much larger expansion” of available resources, and that the UN urgently needs US$2bn (€1.8bn) for humanitarian aid and refugees. At least US$150bn (€138bn) will be needed by African and developing countries, it argues, to support their fight against the virus. And it calls for the international community to waive poorer countries’ 2020 debt repayments, including US$44bn (€40bn) due from Africa.
“These allocations should be agreed to immediately, coordinated by a G20 Executive Task Force as part of the G20 Action Plan, and be confirmed in full at the upcoming IMF and World Bank meetings,” the letter reads. “The two core economic institutions should be given reassurances that additional bilateral funding will be forthcoming and the need for further capital injections agreed.”
It ends: “The longer-term solution is a radical rethink of global public health and a refashioning – together with proper resourcing – of the global health and financial architecture. The United Nations, the governments of the G20 nations, and interested partners should work together to coordinate further action.”
The letter has been signed by more than 200 people, nearly half of them former presidents and prime ministers. These include the UK’s Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major; Canada’s Paul Martin; Australia’s Kevin Rudd; Germany’s Horst Köhler; Brazil’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso; Italy’s Giuliano Amato, Enrico Letta, Mario Monti and Romano Prodi; and South Korea’s Hong-Koo Lee. Other signees include former ministers, heads of central banks, prominent scientists and university professors, global health organisation and charity bosses, and current and former UN, IMF and World Bank officials.
The letter was coordinated by former UK prime minister Gordon Brown – who was at the centre of international efforts to lessen the impact of the 2008 financial crash, and who last month urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the coronavirus crisis; professor Erik Berglof, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Institute of Global Affairs; and Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of London-based health research charity the Wellcome Trust.