COVID-19: a joint call to the G20 for coordination on health and the economy
The Elders have joined global leaders to call on the G20 to undertake immediate and coordinated health and economic measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are writing to call for immediate internationally coordinated action – within the next few days – to address our deepening global health and economic crises from COVID-19.
The communique from the G20 Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit on March 26, 2020 recognised the gravity and urgency of the entwined public health and economic crises, but we now require urgent specific measures that can be agreed on with speed and at scale: emergency support for global health initiatives led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and emergency measures to restore the global economy. Both require world leaders to commit to funding far beyond the current capacity of our existing international institutions.
In 2008-2010, the immediate economic crisis could be surmounted when the economic fault line – under-capitalisation of the global banking system – was tackled. Now, however, the economic emergency will not be resolved until the health emergency is effectively addressed: the health emergency will not end simply by conquering the disease in one country alone, but by ensuring recovery from COVID-19 in all countries.
Global Health Measures
All health systems – even the most sophisticated and best funded – are buckling under the pressures of the virus. Yet if we do nothing as the disease spreads in poorer African, Asian, and Latin American cities and in fragile communities which have little testing equipment, ventilators, and medical supplies; and where social distancing and even washing hands are difficult to achieve, COVID-19 will persist there and re-emerge to hit the rest of the world with further rounds that will prolong the crisis.
World leaders must immediately agree to commit $8 billion – as set out by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board – to fill the most urgent gaps in the COVID-19 response. This includes:
- $1 billion this year urgently needed by WHO: This would enable WHO to carry out its critically important mandate in full. While it has launched a public appeal – 200,000 individuals and organisations have generously donated more than $100 million – it cannot be expected to depend on charitable donations.
- $3 billion for Vaccines: The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is coordinating the global research effort to develop and scale up effective COVID-19 vaccines. In addition Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will have an important role procuring and equitably distributing vaccines to the poorest countries and requires $7.4 billion for its replenishment: this should be fully funded.
- $2.25 billion for Therapeutics: The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator aims to deliver 100 million treatments by the end of 2020 and is seeking these funds to rapidly develop and scale-up access to therapeutics.
Instead of each country, or state or province within it, competing for a share of the existing capacity, with the risk of rapidly increasing prices, we should also be vastly increasing capacity by supporting the WHO in coordinating the global production and procurement of medical supplies, such as testing kits, personal protection equipment, and ITU technology to meet fully the worldwide demand. We will also need to stockpile and distribute essential equipment.
A further $35 billion will be required, as highlighted by WHO, to support countries with weaker health systems and especially vulnerable populations, including the provision of vital medical supplies, surge support to the national health workforce (70% of whom in many countries are underpaid women), and strengthening national resilience and preparedness. According to WHO, almost 30% of countries have no COVID-19 national preparedness response plans and only half have a national infection prevention and control program. Health systems in lower income countries will struggle to cope; even the most optimistic estimates from Imperial College London suggest there will be 900,000 deaths in Asia and 300,000 in Africa.
We propose the convening of a global pledging conference – its task supported by a G20 Executive Task Force – to commit resources to meeting these emergency global health needs.
Global Economic Measures
Much has been done by national governments to counter the downward slide of their economies. But a global economic problem requires a global economic response. Our aim should be to prevent a liquidity crisis turning into a solvency crisis, and a global recession becoming a global depression. To ensure this, better coordinated fiscal, monetary, central bank, and anti-protectionist initiatives are needed. 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.
- A wider group of central banks should be given access to the arrangements for currency swaps and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should enter into swap arrangements with the major central banks. The IMF should use those hard currency resources and establish its own swap line facility to provide emergency financial support to emerging and developing nations. But it is vital that if we are to prevent mass redundancies, the guarantees that are being given in each country are rapidly followed through by banks via on-the-ground support for companies and individuals.
- The emerging economies – and in particular those of the poorest countries – need special help, not the least in ensuring that support reaches all those affected by the drastic decrease in economic activity. The IMF has said it will mobilize all of its available resources. There should be an additional allocation of around $500-$600 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). At the same time, to ensure sufficient funding for individual countries, we encourage IMF members to allow lending quota limits to be exceeded in countries most in need.
- The World Bank and many of the regional development banks have recently been recapitalized, but more will be needed. It is likely that, as in 2009 when the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (IBRD) spending alone went from $16 billion to $46 billion, it – and the regional development banks – will need a much larger expansion of available resources.
- To meet its responsibilities for humanitarian aid, and for refugees and displaced people, whose plight is likely to become desperate, and for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, UN agencies have issued this week an immediate call for $2 billion of additional resources that are urgently needed.
- The international community should waive this year’s poorer countries’ debt repayments, including $44 billion due from Africa, and consider future debt relief to allow poor countries the fiscal space to tackle the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We ask the G20 to task the IMF and the World Bank to further assess the debt sustainability of affected countries.
- We agree with African and developing country leaders that given the existential threat to their economies, the increasing disruption to livelihoods and education and their limited capacity to cushion people and companies, that at least $150 billion of overall support will be needed for health, social safety nets, and other urgent help.
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 two core economic institutions should be given reassurances that additional bilateral funding will be forthcoming and the need for further capital injections agreed.
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.
Bertie Ahern – Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland (1997-2008).
Montek Singh Ahluwalia – Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India (2004-2014).
Masood Ahmed – President of the Center for Global Development.
HE Dr Abdulaziz Altwaijri – Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (1991-2019).
Giuliano Amato – Prime Minister of Italy (1992-1993; 2000-2001).
Mohamed Amersi – Founder & Chairman, The Amersi Foundation.
Louise Arbour – UN Special Representative for International Migration; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004-2008).
Óscar Arias – President of Costa Rica (2006-2010)².
Shaukat Aziz – Prime Minister of Pakistan (2004-2007)³.
Gordon Bajnai – Prime Minister of Hungary (2009-2010).
Jan Peter Balkenende – Prime Minister of the Netherlands (2002-2010)².
HE Joyce Banda – President of Malawi (2012-2014)².
Ehud Barak – Prime Minister of Israel (1999-2001)¹.
Nicolás Ardito Barletta – President of Panama (1984-1985).
José Manuel Barroso – Prime Minister of Portugal (2002-2004); President of the European Commission (2004-2014); Non-Executive Chairman of Goldman Sachs International².
Kaushik Basu – President of the International Economic Association; Chief Economist of the World Bank (2012-2016).
Dr Deus Bazira – Co-Director of the Center for Global Health Practice and Impact & Associate Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University Medical Center.
Marek Belka MEP – Prime Minister of Poland (2004-2005); Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance (2001-2002); Director of European Department, IMF (2008-2010).
Nicolas Berggruen – Chairman of the Berggruen Institute³.
Professor Erik Berglöf – Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, London School of Economics; Chief Economist of the EBRD (2006-2014).
Sali Berisha – President of Albania (1992-1997); Prime Minister (2005-2013)¹.
Sir Tim Besley – President of the International Economic Association (2014-2017); Professor of Economics and Political Science, LSE.
Carl Bildt – Prime Minister of Sweden (1991-1994); Minister for Foreign Affairs (2006-2014)².
Valdis Birkavs – Prime Minister of Latvia (1993-1994)².
Tony Blair – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997-2007).
James Brendan Bolger – Prime Minister of New Zealand (1990-1997).
Kjell Magne Bondevik – Prime Minister of Norway (1997-2000; 2001-2005)².
Lakhdar Brahimi – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria (1991-1993); UN & Arab League Envoy to Syria (2012-2014); Member of The Elders.
Gordon Brown – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (2007-2010).
Gro Harlem Brundtland – Prime Minister of Norway (1990-1996); Director General of the WHO (1998-2003); Member of The Elders².
John Bruton – Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland (1994-1997)².
Felipe Calderón – President of Mexico (2006-2012)².
Rafael Ángel Calderón – President of Costa Rica (1990-1994).
Fernando Henrique Cardoso – President of Brazil (1995-2002)².
Hikmet Çetin – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey (1991-1994)¹.
Laura Chinchilla – President of Costa Rica (2010-2014)².
HE Joaquim Chissano – President of Mozambique (1986-2005)².
Helen Clark – Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008); UNDP Administrator (2009-2017)².
Emil Constantinescu – President of Romania (1996-2000)¹.
Ertharin Cousin – Executive Director of the World Food Programme (2012-2017).
Herman De Croo – President of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium (1999-2007)¹.
Mirko Cvetković – Prime Minister of Serbia (2008-2012)¹.
Gavyn Davies – Co-Founder & Chairman, Fulcrum Asset Management; Chief Economist & Chairman of Global Investment Dept, Goldman Sachs (1988-2001); Chairman, BBC (2001-2004).
Kemal Derviş – Minister of Economic Affairs of Turkey (2001-2002); Administrator of UNDP (2005-2009); Senior Fellow Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institute.
Ruth Dreifuss – President of the Swiss Confederation (1999); Member of the Swiss Federal Council (1993-2002).
Dr Mark Dybul – Executive Director of the The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2012-2017); Co-Director of the Center for Global Health Practice and Impact & Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University Medical Center.
Dr Victor J. Dzau – President of the National Academy of Medicine.
Mikuláš Dzurinda – Prime Minister of Slovakia (1998-2006); Minister of Foreign Affairs (2010-2012).
Gareth Evans – Foreign Minister of Australia (1988-1996); President and CEO of International Crisis Group (2000-2009).
Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar – Director of the Wellcome Trust.
Joschka Fischer – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Chancellor of Germany (1998-2005).
Franco Frattini – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy (2002-2004; 2008-2011); European Commissioner (2004-2008)¹.
Chiril Gaburici – Prime Minister of Moldova (2015); Minister of Economy and Infrastructure (2018-2019)¹.
Ahmed Galal – Finance Minister of Egypt (2013-2014).
Nathalie de Gaulle – Chairwoman & Co-founder of NB-INOV; Founder of Under 40¹.
César Gaviria – President of Colombia (1990-1994); Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (1994-2004)².
Felipe Gonzalez – Prime Minister of Spain (1982-1996)³.
Dr Hamish Graham – Consultant Paediatrician & Research Fellow at the Royal Children’s Hospital and Centre for International Child Health, University of Melbourne.
Bryan Grenfell OBE FRS – Kathryn Briger and Sarah Fenton Professor of Ecology and Public Affairs, Princeton University.
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim – President of Mauritius (2015-2018)¹.
Sergei Guriev – Chief Economist of the EBRD (2016-2019); Professor of Economics, Sciences Po.
Alfred Gusenbauer – Chancellor of Austria (2000-2008)².
Lucio Gutiérrez – President of Ecuador (2003-2005).
Tarja Halonen – President of Finland (2000-2012)².
Ricardo Hausmann – Minister of Planning of Venezuela (1992-1993); Professor at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves – President of Estonia (2006-2016).
Edward C. Holmes – ARC Australian Laureate Fellow; Professor, University of Sydney.
Bengt Holmström – Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2016); Professor of Economics, MIT.
Mo Ibrahim – Founder of Celtel; Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation³.
Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu – Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (2004-2014)¹.
Dalia Itzik – Interim President of Israel (2007); President of the Knesset (2006-2009)¹.
Mladen Ivanić – Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014-2018)¹.
Gjorge Ivanov – President of North Macedonia (2009-2019)¹.
Hina Jilani – Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; Member of The Elders.
Mehdi Jomaa – Prime Minister of Tunisia (2014-2015)².
Ivo Josipović – President of Croatia (2010-2015)¹.
Mats Karlsson – Vice President, External Affairs at the World Bank (1999-2011)¹.
Caroline Kende-Robb – Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel (2011-2017); Secretary General of CARE International (2018-2020).
John Key – Prime Minister of New Zealand (2008-2016).
HE Jakaya Kikwete – President of Tanzania (2005-2015).
Ban Ki-Moon – UN Secretary General (2007-2016); Deputy Chair of The Elders².
Frederik Willem de Klerk – State President of South Africa (1989-1994).
Horst Köhler – President of Germany (2004-2010)².
Jadranka Kosor – Prime Minister of Croatia (2009-2011)¹.
HE John Kufuor – President of Ghana (2001-2009).
Chandrika Kumaratunga – President of Sri Lanka (1994-2005)².
Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera – President of Uruguay (1990-1995)².
Ricardo Lagos – President of Chile (2000-2006); Member of the Elders²³.
Zlatko Lagumdzija – Foreign Affairs Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2012-2015)².
Pascal Lamy – Director-General of the World Trade Organization (2005-2013)³.
Hong-Koo Lee – Prime Minister of South Korea (1994-1995)².
Yves Leterme – Prime Minister of Belgium (2009-2011)².
Enrico Letta – Prime Minister of Italy (2013-2014).
Professor Justin Yifu Lin – Chief Economist & Senior Vice-President of the World Bank (2008-2012); Dean of Institute of New Structural Economics, Peking University.
Tzipi Livni – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel (2006-2009); Minister of Justice (2013-2014)¹.
Petru Lucinschi – President of Moldova (1997-2001)¹.
Nora Lustig – President Emeritus of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association; Professor of Latin American Economics, Tulane University.
Graça Machel – Education & Culture Minister of Mozambique (1975-1986); Deputy Chair of The Elders.
Mauricio Macri – President of Argentina (2015-2019).
Giorgi Margvelashvili – President of Georgia (2013-2018)¹.
Sir John Major – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1990-1997).
Moussa Mara – Prime Minister of Mali (2014-2015)¹.
Paul Martin – Prime Minister of Canada (2003-2006)³.
Péter Medgyessy – Prime Minister of Hungary (2002-2004)¹.
Rexhep Meidani – President of Albania (1997-2002)¹².
Stjepan Mesić – President of Croatia (2000-2010)¹².
HE Benjamin Mkapa – President of Tanzania (1995-2005)².
Mario Monti – Prime Minister of Italy (2011-2013)³.
Amre Moussa – Secretary General of the Arab League (2001-2011); Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt (1991-2001)¹.
Joseph Muscat – Prime Minister of Malta (2013-2020)¹.
Dawn Nakagawa – Executive Vice President, Berggruen Institute.
Andrew Natsios – Executive Professor, Bush School of Government & Public Service; Administrator of USAID (2001-2006).
Bujar Nishani – President of Albania (2012-2017)¹.
Gustavo Noboa – President of Ecuador (2000-2003).
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo – President of Nigeria (1999-2007).
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – Board Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation; Finance Minister of Nigeria (2011-2015).
Lord Jim O’Neill – Chair of Chatham House.
Djoomart Otorbayev – Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan (2014-2015)¹.
Roza Otunbayeva – President of Kyrgyzstan (2010-2011)².
Ana Palacio – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain (2002-2004)¹.
Sir Geoffrey Palmer – Prime Minister of New Zealand (1989-90); Chair of the New Zealand Law Commission (2005-2010).
George Papandreou – Prime Minister of Greece (2009-2011)¹.
Andrés Pastrana – President of Colombia (1998-2002)².
P. J. Patterson – Prime Minister of Jamaica (1992-2005)².
Sir Christopher Pissarides – Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2010); Professor of Economics & Political Science, LSE.
Romano Prodi – Prime Minister of Italy (2006-2008); President of the European Commission (1999-2004).
Jan Pronk – Minister for Development Cooperation, The Netherlands (1989-1998); Professor Emeritus at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague.
Jorge Quiroga – President of Bolivia (2001-2002)².
Zeid Raad al Hussein – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2014-2018); Member of the Elders.
Iveta Radičová – Prime Minister of Slovakia (2010-2012)².
Jose Ramos Horta – President of East Timor (2007-2012)².
Òscar Ribas Reig – Prime Minister of Andorra (1990-1994)².
Mary Robinson – President of Ireland (19990-1997); UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Chair of the Elders².
Miguel Ángel Rodríguez – President of Costa Rica (1998-2002).
Dani Rodrik – President-Elect of the International Economic Association; Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard University.
Petre Roman – Prime Minister of Romania (1989-1991)².
Kevin Rudd – Prime Minister of Australia (2007-2010; 2013)³.
Jorge Sampaio – President of Portugal (1996-2006)².
Julio Maria Sanguinetti – President of Uruguay (1985-1990; 1995-2000)².
Juan Manuel Santos – President of Colombia (2010-2018); Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2016); Member of The Elders.
Kailash Satyarthi – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2014); Founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Global March Against Child Labour & Global Campaign for Education.
Wolfgang Schüssel – Chancellor of Austria (2000-2007).
Ismail Serageldin – Vice President of the World Bank (1992-2000); Co-Chair of NGIC.
Professor John Sexton – President Emeritus, New York University; President (2002-2015); Dean, NYU School of Law (1988-2002).
Dame Jenny Shipley – Prime Minister of New Zealand (1997-1999)².
HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – President of Liberia (2006-2018); Member of The Elders.
Javier Solana – Secretary General of the Council of the EU (1999-2009); Secretary General of NATO (1995-1999)².
George Soros – Founder & Chair of the Open Society Foundations.
Michael Spence – Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2001); William R. Berkley Professor in Economics & Business, NYU³.
Devi Sridhar – Professor of Global Public Health, University of Edinburgh.
Lord Nicholas Stern – Chief Economist & Senior Vice-President of the World Bank (2000-2003); Chief Economist of the EBRD (1994-1999) & Professor of Economics and Government, LSE.
Joseph Stiglitz – Chief Economist of the World Bank (1997-2000); Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2001); Professor, Columbia University³.
Petar Stoyanov – President of Bulgaria (1997-2002)¹.
Laimdota Straujuma – Prime Minister of Latvia (2014-2016)¹.
Federico Sturzenegger – President of the Central Bank of Argentina (2015-2018); Professor, Universidad de San Andrés.
Hanna Suchocka – Prime Minister of Poland (1992-1993)².
Lawrence Summers – United States Secretary of the Treasury (1999-2001); Deputy Secretary of the Treasury (1995-1999); Chief Economist of the World Bank (1991-1993); Director of the National Economic Council (2009-2010)³.
Boris Tadić – President of Serbia (2004-2012)¹.
Jigme Y. Thinley – Prime Minister of Bhutan (2008-2013)².
Helle Thorning-Schmidt – Prime Minister of Denmark (2011-2015)³.
Eka Tkeshelashvili – Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia (2010-2012)¹.
Jean-Claude Trichet – President of the European Central Bank (2003-2011); Governor of the Bank of France (1993-2003).
Danilo Türk – President of Slovenia (2007-2012); President of WLA Club de Madrid.
Cassam Uteem – President of Mauritius (1992-2002)².
Andrés Velasco – Finance Minister of Chile (2006-2010); Dean of the School of Public Policy, LSE.
Guy Verhofstadt – Prime Minister of Belgium (1999–2008).
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga – President of Latvia (1999-2007)¹.
Leonard Wantchekon – Founder & President of the African School of Economics; Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University.
Shang-Jin Wei – Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank (2014-2016); Professor of Chinese Business and Economy & Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School.
Dr Rowan Williams – Archbishop of Canterbury (2002-2012); Chair of Christian Aid.
James Wolfensohn – President of the World Bank (1995-2005).
George Yeo – Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore (2004-2011)³.
Malala Yousafzai – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2014).
Kateryna Yushchenko – First Lady of Ukraine (2005-2010)¹.
Viktor Yushchenko – President of Ukraine (2005-2010)¹.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero – Prime Minister of Spain (2004-2011).
Ernesto Zedillo – President of Mexico (1994-2000); Member of The Elders²³.
Min Zhu – Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (2011-2016)³.
ActionAid UK – Girish Menon, CEO.
African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) – Dr K.Y. Amoako, President and Founder.
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – Dr Agnes Kalibata, President.
CARE International UK – Laurie Lee, CEO.
Catholic Agency for Oversees Development (CAFOD) – Christine Allen, Director.
Christian Aid – Amanda Mukwashi, CEO.
Oxfam – Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO.
Save the Children International – Inger Ashing, CEO.
Save the Children UK – Kevin Watkins, CEO.
Theirworld – Justin van Fleet, President.
WaterAid UK – Tim Wainwright, CEO.
We are also grateful for the support from:
Dr Abiy Ahmed – Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
HE Julius Maada Bio – President of Sierra Leone.
Sheikh Hasina – Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Ken Ofori-Atta – Finance Minister of Ghana and Chair of the World Bank Development Committee.
¹ Member of Nizami Ganjavi International Center (NGIC).
² Member of WLA Club de Madrid.
³ Member of the Berggruen Institute 21st Century Council.