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World leaders arrive in Rome for G20 summit

October 29, 2021

The first in-person summit since the coronavirus pandemic began will address the global economic recovery, rising energy costs and supply chain problems. The weekend talks are set to be accompanied by large protests.

An armed police officer stands outside Rome's Palazzo dei Congressi, which will host the G20 summit
The G20 bloc accounts for about 60% of the world's population and over 80% of global economic outputImage: Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/dpa/picture alliance

Finance and health ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) leading and developing economies on Friday called for 70% of the world's population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 over the next eight months.

Ahead of an in-person meeting of finance ministers in Rome — with health ministers joining via video link — the delegates announced the creation of a task force to better fight the pandemic and kickstart the economic recovery.

"To help advance toward the global goals of vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70% by mid-2022 ... we will take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints," the G20 ministers said in a communique.

German Finance Minister and possible next chancellor Olaf Scholz said the pandemic was a "global crisis that also requires global answers,” while his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire warned that the increasing vaccine divergence between developing and developed countries was "a major strategic risk for the rest of the world."

Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund, warned that efforts to speed vaccinations to 70% of the world's population were short of $20 billion (€17.3 billion).

G20 summit: DW's Alexandra von Nahmen in Rome

Main G20 summit starts Saturday

Friday's gathering of finance and health ministers comes a day ahead of the leaders' summit set for October 30-31.

The G20 bloc, including countries like the United States, China, India and Germany, accounts for about 60% of the world's population and over 80% of global economic output.

The summit is the leaders' first face-to-face meeting in two years. But to the disappointment of the host Italy, the leaders of China, Japan, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia have declined to attend the meeting.

Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to follow the discussions via a video link.

What else is on the G20 agenda?

As well as the pandemic and its consequences, the ministers are expected to discuss efforts to speed up the global economic recovery, address soaring energy prices and supply chain snarls, which have affected a number of key industries worldwide.

G20 leaders will also sign off on a minimum global tax rate of 15% for big companies, a deal that was finalized earlier this month.

Furthermore, the climate is going to be a major topic of discussion at the summit, which is being held just days before the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Scotland, set to begin on Sunday.

The bloc, which accounts for an estimated 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, has been slammed by climate activists for not taking adequate action to curb the emissions.

Mistrust hurting chances of climate success

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who is in Rome for the talks, challenged G20 leaders to overcome "dangerous levels of mistrust" between developed and developing nations to try to avoid "climate catastrophe."

Michael Mwenda, Executive Director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, told DW on Friday it was "vital" for wealthy nations to "allocate sufficient resources ... to enable communities [in Africa] to build resilience to climate change and then adapt to its impacts."

"It's not that there is no money to address the climate crisis," Mwenda said. "Look at what happened with COVID-19. Because it was affecting industrialized countries, within a record time, they were able to to provide massive resources for vaccine development and even reconstruction."

Call for ensuring safety of Afghan women

The situation in Afghanistan after the chaotic US withdrawal from the war-ravaged country could also come up for discussion, particularly when US President Joe Biden meets European leaders on the sidelines of the G20 gathering.

Ahead of the summit, Women Political Leaders, a global network of female political leaders, released a statement calling on the G20 leaders to ensure the safety and security of Afghan women leaders.

"Afghan women politicians are not only being sidelined from participation, they are also suffering threats and violence," it said.

The body stressed that the G20 should set up a mechanism to monitor the situation of women's rights in the conflict-stricken nation and hold the Taliban responsible and accountable.

Protests planned in Rome

Protesters have planned multiple rallies in Rome for the time of the G20 meetings. A demonstration is taking place on Friday of mainly young students. 

DW reporter Marina Strauss, who is in Rome, said that the students she spoke to want the G20 leaders to finally step up climate action and have more ambitious goals.

She added that Friday's march is just a kick-off for the much bigger protests planned for Saturday.

A protest by the Rifondazione Comunista communist party is scheduled for early Saturday afternoon and shortly afterward, a march including climate initiative Fridays for Future and trade unions is to take place. About 10,000 participants are expected. Authorities have stepped up security in the city.

G20 in Rome: DW's Marina Strauss from pre-summit protests

The arrangements include a large police presence with additional reinforcements from the military. The Interior Ministry has said between 5,000 and 6,000 police along with some 500 soldiers will be deployed to ensure security.

Large parts of the district surrounding the congress center that will host the summit are being cordoned off from Friday and no one will be allowed to enter without special permission.

Airspace will be closed over Rome and border controls will be enhanced to try to keep away potential troublemakers.

DW reporter Strauss said that Italy wants to avoid the protests from getting out of hand.    

In 2001, as the G8 summit in Genoa was taking place, anti-globalization protester 23-year-old Italian student Carlo Giuliani was shot dead by a police officer during a street fight.

That incident is still vivid in Italy, explaining the massive security precautions put in place this time around, said Strauss.

mm, sri/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa)