G20: Multilateralism must deliver with strong-willed action

Acting Heads of State and Government met on 21-22 November for a G20 summit to coordinate global action in addressing the world’s most urgent problems – COVID19 standing on top of the list.

In a year when the pandemic has highlighted the relevance of multilateral initiatives in dealing with global issues, Club de Madrid and the former Heads of State and Government that make up its Membership welcome this multilateral and coordinated approach by G20 Member countries for a more effective economic cooperation.

As a result of its 2020 Annual Policy Dialogue held under the title ‘Multilateralism that Delivers’ at the end of October, Club de Madrid launched a Call to Action that urged ‘collective leadership and strong-willed action’ in the face of the world’s most pressing problems. We can only hope that states follow-up the substantial commitments made in the resulting G20 Leaders’ Declaration to protect lives, livelihoods and minimize economic disruptions. To achieve these goals, multilateral cooperation is not an option; it is imperative.

“Multilateral cooperation is not an option; it is essential to the preservation of our societal values and the resolution of transnational challenges related to peace and security” states Club de Madrid’s Call to Action ‘Multilateralism Must Deliver’. Therefore, Club de Madrid welcomes that G20 member states express their intention to “strengthen overall effectiveness” of multilateral institutions (the United Nations, the WHO, other UN agencies and other) in the final declaration.


As soon as COVID-19 was looming worldwide threat and especially since the WHO declared it a global pandemic, Club de Madrid has been advocating for democratic, inclusive and coordinated policies to tackle the virus and its consequences. In a letter by Club de Madrid Member Gordon Brown – signed by several of our Members -, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom asks countries and institutions to pledge 8 billion dollars for developing testing solutions, treatments to protect people from COVID19, as proposed by the WHO’s Global Preparedness Monitoring Board.

Club de Madrid urges G20 leaders to follow up on their commitment to “spare no effort to ensure” a distribution of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines that is “affordable and equitable” to all. For this, states, international organizations, development banks, the private sector and other actors need to effectively close financing gaps in addressing the health consequences of COVID-19. Its recovery plans should address the need for long-term investment in social and healthcare systems, and the government’s ability to raise resources to pay for these systems.

Now that the prospect of having an effective vaccine against COVID-19 is increasingly likely, we need a plan to ensure its worldwide distribution and accessibility. The G20 throws its support to “collaborative efforts” and asks for the “voluntary licensing of intellectual property”. Clearly, the G20 should play a central role in defining the post-pandemic multilateralism.

Club de Madrid supports the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global collation of organizations asking for a vaccine based on shared knowledge that is freely available to everyone everywhere. The Alliance has been calling for pharmaceutical companies to openly share intellectual property and know-how for a fast production and distribution of the vaccine.


There is little doubt that digitalization has been a critical asset in mitigating the economic consequences of COVID-19. Yet as the world turned its attention to the digital, it saw not only the benefits but also its shortcomings. Not all citizens have access to the connectivity that allows for remote working and education. It is also becoming increasingly clear that legal frameworks lag behind technology’s rapid development.

The G20 acknowledges that “secure and affordable connectivity is a fundamental enabler for the digital economy as well as inclusive growth innovation and sustainable development”. Members and experts convened by Club de Madrid have discussed the digital divide in its activities on Digital Governance and Artificial Intelligence and called for a social contract that addresses inequalities in the access to technology.

G20 states acknowledge in the Leaders’ Declaration “the importance of data free flow with trust and cross-border data flows” and “fostering an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment” in digital governance. Digital interdependence across national borders requires multilateral digital governance. To achieve these goals, Club de Madrid has been urging greater global collaboration to set norms and measures that enable improved global connectivity and data flows, inclusive digital platforms and better internet management – a “Bretton Woods for Digitalization”.

Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion

The recovery plans of many countries agree on the importance of building back better and investing in resilience, through education, innovation and green growth. Both Club de Madrid and the G20 express their concern for how the pandemic has made efforts to end poverty, tackle inequalities and leave no-one behind more urgent than ever. The best cure for COVID-19’s social consequences is redoubling our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In its Call to Action, Club de Madrid has called for a New World Summit for Sustainable Development to reaffirm social, economic and environmental commitments in light of the consequences of COVID 19. In advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26 in Glasgow and the UNCBD COP15 in Kunming, Club de Madrid reiterates its support for tackling pressing environmental challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, and the promotion of economic growth, energy security and access for all, and environmental protection.

We must also ensure that in this crucial crossroads all states are able to leverage their financial resources effectively to ensure proper health coverage and avoid that COVID-19 further widens inequalities. We welcome the G20’s extension of debt suspension for developing countries and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s efforts to improve debt management.

In light of the gravity of the pandemics social consequences, Club de Madrid calls for “prudent fiscal stimulus to sustain economic activity, tax reform for greater tax fairness, accommodative monetary policies, and debt relief, restructuring and concessional financing” to make resources available for social development investments.

One of the weaknesses of our current multilateral system is that the voice of developing countries often remains unheard. While the immediate need is guaranteeing an inclusive recovery that reaches all humankind, in the long term we need a renewed multilateral system that is more inclusive. It is the only way to guarantee that all voices are heard when addressing complex problems like COVID-19. Read more about Club de Madrid’s Call to Action with policy recommendations for a renewed multilateral system and more global cooperation. For more ideas, you can also watch all sessions of our 2020 Policy Dialogue ‘Multilateralism that Delivers’.