Saudi Arabia, which holds the presidency of the G20, wants to set an example in the fight against the coronavirus. The country has announced its commitment to provide up to 500 million dollars to regional health organizations and programs to provide them with resources in the battle against COVID-19. In a statement, the Saudi G20 presidency has detailed that $150 million will go to the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), $150 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and $200 million more to "other regional and international health organizations and programs.
The desert kingdom therefore reinforces its commitment to global public health at the height of the coronavirus epidemic, just one day after U.S. President Donald Trump suspended his contribution to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Saudi Arabia has not directly mentioned the WHO, but has stated during the G20 meeting that it " recognises the importance of global solidarity and cooperation to fight this pandemic" and has therefore called on all countries, non-governmental organisations, private individuals and others to raise the necessary funds for the pandemic.
The kingdom's contribution "will support emergency response and preparedness; the development and deployment of new diagnostics, therapies and vaccines; meeting international surveillance and coordination needs; and ensuring adequate supplies of equipment for health workers," the note explained.
In addition, the Desert Kingdom notes that this pledge is part of the commitment made by the leaders of the G20 countries to raise all the funds needed by international agencies to address this health emergency. The G20 also announced on Thursday a "temporary suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries that request containment" in the midst of the pandemic so that they can allocate that money to the fight against COVID-19.
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered a freeze on his government's funds to the WHO, the largest donor with a contribution of between 400 and 500 million dollars a year.
Reactions to this decision came Thursday during a virtual meeting of G7 leaders hosted by Trump himself. French President Emmanuel Macron has defended the WHO's role in the coronavirus crisis. In a statement released Thursday night, the Elysée Palace explained that Macron has shown "its support" to the WHO and stressed the "central role it must play in relation to all states, international institutions and programmes dedicated to vaccines, health and the strengthening of health systems".
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, also joined Macron in defending the role of the WHO in the fight against COVID-19 during the G7 virtual conference. "The Chancellor stressed that the pandemic can only be beaten by a strong and coordinated international response," indicated government spokesperson Steffen Seibert in a press release.
The WHO plays an essential role in this, says the text, which also highlights the work of other international agents, such as the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAV) and the Global Forum (GFATM). The German government spokesperson had already expressed his government's "explicit" support for the WHO yesterday and recalled Germany's commitment to multilateralism, in which the organisation is a "very relevant instrument".
The US president accuses the WHO of covering up the spread of the coronavirus. In his opinion, the organization did not act in time and limited itself to "trusting" the information and proceeding from the Chinese authorities. For his part, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has expressed confidence that other countries can fill the financial gap that has been created. The US has so far been one of the main contributors, along with China, Japan, Germany and the UK.