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Initiative to G20 Members

165 VIPs Urge 20 Economic Powers for Billions for COVID-19

On April 6, 2020, many former global leaders and other VIPs urged the world’s 20 major industrialized nations to provide an emergency funding to speed the search for a vaccine, cure and treatment for COVID-19 and prevent a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter to governments of the Group of 20 nations, the leaders, ministers, top executives and scientists also called for $35 billion to support countries with weaker health systems and especially vulnerable populations, and at least $150 billion for developing countries to fight the medical and economic crisis.

The 165 signatories included former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 92 former presidents and prime ministers, the current prime ministers of Ethiopia and Bangladesh, Sierra Leone’s president, philanthropist George Soros, former Irish president Mary Robinson, who chairs The Elders, and Graca Machel, the group’s deputy chair.

The Letter to G20 Nations


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 extraordinary G20 Leaders meeting on March 19, 2020, recognized 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-capitalization 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 townships 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 for 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 organizations 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 and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi). In addition, Gavi 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-$1,000 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, much of it on concessional terms, 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.

April 6,2020

Bertie Ahern
Taoiserach of the Republic of Ireland (1997-2008)
Rashid Alimov
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan (1992-1994); Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (2016-2019)
Giuliano Amato
Prime Minister of Italy (1992-1993; 2001-2001)
Mohamed Amersi
Founder and Chairman of the Amersi Foundation
Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2004-2008); United Nations Special Representative for International Migration (2017-Present)
Shaukat Aziz*
Prime Minister of Pakistan (2004-2007)
Gordon Bajnai
Prime Minister of Hungary (2009-2010)
Jan Peter Balkenende^
Prime Minister of the Netherlands (2002-2010)
Joyce Banda^
President of Malawi (2012-2014)
José Manuel Barroso^
Prime Minister of Portugal (2002-2004); President of the European Commission (2004-2014); Non-Executive Chairman of Goldman Sachs International
Kaushik Basu
Chief Economist of the World Bank (2012-2016); President of the International Economic Association (2017-Present)
Deus Bazira
Co-Director of the Center for Global Health Practice and Impact at Georgetown University Medical Center
Marek Belka
Prime Minister of Poland (2004-2005); Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance (2001-2002); Director of the European Department at the International Monetary Fund (2008-2010)
Nicolas Berggruen*
Founder and Chairman of the Berggruen Institute (2010-Present)
Erik Bergl f
Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2006-2014); Director of the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics (2015-Present)
Sali Berisha
President of Albania (1992-1997); Prime Minister (2005-2013)
Timothy Besley
President of the International Economic Association (2014-2017)
Carl Bildt^
Prime Minister of Sweden (1991-1994); Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden (2006-2014)
Valdis Birkavs^
Prime Minister of Latvia (1993-1994)
Anthony 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)
Lakhdar Brahimi+
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria (1991-1993); United Nations & Arab League Envoy to Syria (2012-2014)
Gordon Brown*
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (2007-2010)
Gro Harlem Brundtland+
Prime Minister of Norway (1990-1996); Director General of the World Health Organization (1998-2003)
John Bruton^
Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland (1994-1997)
Felipe Calderón^
President of Mexico (2006-2012)
Fernando Henrique Cardoso^
President of Brazil (1995-2002)
Hikmet etin
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey (1991-1994)
Helen Clark^
Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008); United Nations Development Programme Administrator (2009-2017)
Emil Constantinescu
President of Romania (1996-2000)
Mirko Cvetkovi
Prime Minister of Serbia (2008-2012)
Gavyn Davies
Chief Economist and Chairman of the Global Investment Department at Goldman Sachs (1988-2001); Chairman of the BBC News (2001-2004)
Kemal Dervi
Minister of Economic Affairs of Turkey (2001-2002); United Nations Development Programme Administrator (2005-2009);
Ruth Dreifuss
President of the Swiss Confederation (1999)
Frederik Willem de Klerk
State President of South Africa (1989-1994)
Dominique de Villepin
Prime Minister of France (2005-2007)
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 at Georgetown University Medical Center
Victor Dzau
President of the United States National Academy of Medicine (2014-Present)
Jeremy Farrar
Director of the Wellcome Trust (2013-Present)
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 for Justice, Freedom, and Security (2004-2008)
Ahmed Galal
Finance Minister of Egypt (2013-2014)
Felipe González Marquez*
Prime Minister of Spain (1982-1996)
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
President of Mauritius (2015-2018)
Sergei Guriev
Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2016-2019)
Alfred Gusenbauer^Chancellor of Austria (2000-2008)
Tarja Halonen^
President of Finland (2000-2012)
Bengt Holmstr m
Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2016)
Mohammed Ibrahim*
Founder of Celtel; Founder and Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (2006-Present)
Toomas Hendrik Ilves
President of Estonia (2006-2016)
Dalia Itzkik
Interim President of Israel (2007); President of the Knesset (2006-2009)
Mladen Ivani
Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2016-2017); Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014-2018)
Gjorge Ivanov
President of North Macedonia (2009-2019)
Hina Jilani+
Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Human Rights (2000-2008); Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (1992-Present)
Mehdi Jomaa^
Prime Minister of Tunisia (2014-2015)
Ivo Josipovi
President of Croatia (2010-2015)
Caroline Kende-Robb
Executive Director of the African Progress Panel (2011-2017); Secretary General of CARE International (2018-2020)
John Key
Prime Minister of New Zealand (2008-2016)
Jakaya Kikwete
President of Tanzania (2005-2015)
Ban Ki-moon+^
United Nations Secretary-General (2007-2016)
Jadranka Kosor
Prime Minister of Croatia (2009-2011)
John Kufuor
President of Ghana (2001-2009)
Luis Alberto Lacalle de Herrera^
President of Uruguay (1990-1995)
Ricardo Lagos*+
President of Chile (2000-2006)
Zlatko Lagumdzija^
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2012-2015)
Pascal Lamy*
Director-General of the World Trade Organization (2005-2013)
Hong-Koo Lee^
Prime Minister of South Korea (1994-1995)
Yves Leterme^
Prime Minister of Belgium (2009-2011)
Enrico Letta
Prime Minister of Italy (2013-2014)
Justin Yifu Lin
Chief Economist of the World Bank (2008-2012); Dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University
Nora Lustig
President Emeritus of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association
Gra a Machel+
Education and Culture Minister of Mozambique (1975-1986)
John Major
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1990-1997)
Paul Martin*
Prime Minister of Canada (2003-2006)
Rexhep Meidani ^
President of Albania (1997-2002)
Stjepan Mesi ^
President of Croatia (2000-2010)
Mario Monti*
Prme Minister of Italy (2011-2013)
Amre Moussa
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt (1991-2001)
Dawn Nakagawa
Executive Vice President of the Berggruen Institute (2010-Present)
Andrew Natsios
United States Agency for International Development Administrator (2001-2006)
Bujar Nishani
President of Albania (2012-2017)
Christopher Olusegun Obasanjo
President of Nigeria (1999-2007)
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Board Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (2016-Present); Finance Minister of Nigeria (2011-2015)
James O’Neill
Chair of Chatham House
Djoomart Otorbayev
Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan (2014-2015)
Roza Otunbayeva^
President of Kyrgyzstan (2010-2011)
Geoffrey Palmer
Prime Minister of New Zealand (1989-1990); Chair of the New Zealand Law Commission (2005-2010)
Christopher Pissarides
Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2010)
Jan Pronk
Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands (1989-1998)
Zeid Raad al Hussein+
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2014-2018)
Iveta Radi ová
Prime Minister of Slovakia (2010-2012)
Jose Ramos Horta^
President of East Timor (2007-2012)
òscar Ribas Reig^
Prime Minister of Andorra (1982-1984; 1990-1994)
Mary Robinson+^
President of Ireland (19990-1997); United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002); Chair of the Elders (2018-Present)
Dani Rodrik
President-Elect of the International Economic Association (2017-Present)
Petre Roman^
Prime Minister of Romania (1989-1991)
Kevin Rudd*
Prime Minister of Australia (2007-2010; 2013)
Julio Maria Sanguinetti^
President of Uruguay (1985-1990; 1995-2000)
Juan Manuel Santos+
President of Colombia (2010-2018); Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2016)
Kailash Satyarthi
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2014)
Wolfgang Schüssel
Chancellor of Austria (2000-2007)
Ismail Serageldin
Vice President of the World Bank (1992-2000)
John Sexton
President Emeritus of New York University; President of New York University (2002-2015)
Jennifer Shipley^
Prime Minister of New Zealand (1997-1999)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf+
President of Liberia (2006-2018)
Michael Spence*
Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2001)
Devi Sridhar
Professor of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh (2014-Present); Member of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Health Industry
Nicholas Stern
Chief Economist of the World Bank (2000-2003); Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (1994-1999)
Joseph Stiglitz*
Chief Economist of the World Bank (1997-2000); Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences (2001)
Petar Stoyanov
President of Bulgaria (1997-2002)
Laimodota Straujuma
Prime Minister of Latvia (2014-2016)
Lawrence Summers*
Unites States Secretary of the Treasury (1999-2001); Director of the United States National Economic Council (2009-2010); Chief Economist of the World Bank (1991-1993)
Boris Tadi
President of Serbia (2004-2012)
Helle Thorning-Schmidt*
Prime Minister of Denmark (2011-2015)
Eka Tkeshelashvili
Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia (2010-2012)
Danilo Türk
President of Slovenia (2007-2012)
Cassam Uteem
President of Mauritius (1992-2002)
Andrés Velasco
Finance Minister of Chile (2006-2010); Dean of the School of Public Policy at the London School of Economics (2018-Present)
Guy Verhofstadt
Prime Minister of Belgium (1999–2008)
Vaira Vī e-Freiberga
President of Latvia (1999-2007)
Leonard Wantchekon
Founder and President of the African School of Economics (2004-Present)
Shang-Jin Wei
Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank (2014-2016)
Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury (2002-2012); Chair of Christian Aid (2013-Present)
James Wolfensohn
President of the World Bank (1995-2005)
George Yeo*
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore (2004-2011); Minister of Trade and Industry for Singapore (1999-2004)
Malala Yousafzai
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2014)
Kateryna Yushchenko
First Lady of Ukraine (2005-2010)
Viktor Yushchenko
President of Ukraine (2005-2010)
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Prime Minister of Spain (2004-2011)
Ernesto Zedillo*+
President of Mexico (1994-2000)
Min Zhu*
Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (2011-2016)
Action Aid
Girish Menon, CEO
CARE International UK
Laurie Lee, CEO
Catholic International Development Charity
Christine Allen, Director
Christian Aid
Amanda Mukwashi, CEO
Save the Children International
Inger Ashing, CEO
Save the Children UK
Kevin Watkins, CEO
WaterAid UK
Tim Wainwright, CEO
We are also grateful for the assistance of Dr Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia;H.E. Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone; Sheikh Hasina Wazed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; and Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister of Ghana and Chair of the World Bank Development Committee.
* Member of the Berggruen Institute 21st Century Council
+ Member of The Elders
Member of Nizami Ganjavi International Center
^ Member of World Leadership Alliance Club de Madrid