Saudi G20 Summit of November 2020 Great expectations despite boycott calls

Saudi G20 Summit of November 2020 Great expectations despite boycott calls

Ahead of the G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia, the European Parliament Research Services produced a briefing for Members of the European Parliament.

On 21-22 November, under Saudi Arabia’s presidency, the G20 will hold its first regular summit in a virtual format. Unavoidably the focus will be on the current crisis, more specifically on protecting lives and livelihoods and restoring growth. Given the crucial role it played in tackling the 2008-2009 financial crisis, hopes are high regarding the G20’s potential role in proposing a financial and economic solution to deal with the ongoing downturn.

Several major G20 members have invested massive amounts of money to keep their economies afloat, in line with the decision of the extraordinary G20 summit held in the spring, but the depth of the current crisis requires additional action. Some critics have argued that the G20 is not up to its perceived role. The lack of US leadership in particular has been seen as an obstacle preventing the group from living up to its full potential.

One of the crucial measures adopted by the G20 has been to freeze the official debt payments of developing countries, with the measure recently being extended. Many voices consider that this will not be enough to avoid state defaults however.

Saudi Arabia, the first Arab country to hold the presidency, has been eager to use the opportunity provided by its G20 presidency to showcase its ambitious internal reform programme and its economic potential. The Saudis’ leadership of the G20 in these times of turmoil has not escaped criticism, first of all because of the perceived inconsistency between stated objectives at G20 level and internal reality in the country, but also because of the role the country played in the oil price crash of 2020. Given the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and in its fighting in Yemen, calls for a boycott of the summit have been multiplying. The European Parliament has suggested that the EU should downgrade its presence at the summit.

In a resolution of 8 October 2020, Parliament urged the Presidents of the European Council and Commission, and the Member States, in no uncertain terms, ‘to downgrade EU institutional and diplomatic representation at the upcoming G20 leaders’ summit, in order to avoid legitimising impunity for human rights violations and ongoing illegal and arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabia’. Parliament also condemned the ill-treatment of Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia, particularly those held in detention centres, and called for the unconditional release of all imprisoned human rights defenders, such as women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, and 2015 Sakharov Prize laureate Raif Badawi.

The EU regards the G20 as an important partner for deploying measures to combat the coronavirus. In her speech on the State of the Union 2020, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that together with the upcoming Italian G20 presidency in 2021, she will convene a global health summit. She also underlined that the Union will make efforts to reach an agreement on digital taxation in the framework of the G20.

The EU is strongly committed to multilateralism and willing to support efforts to make multilateral cooperation more effective. The July 2019 Council Conclusions on ‘EU action to strengthen rules- based multilateralism’ issued a call on the EU to step up cooperation with various international organisations and forums, including the G20.

The full EPRS Briefing is available :

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