UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to host fellow G7 leaders for a virtual meeting on February 19 ahead of its presidency of a summit in June of the Group of Seven countries including the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, Downing Street said on Sunday. The virtual meeting, the first hosted by Johnson as part of the UK’s G7 Presidency this year and the first gathering of G7 leaders since April 2020, will bring together the world leaders to discuss how leading democracies can work together to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the world and prevent future pandemics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall in June after India was invited as a guest country by the UK, alongside South Korea and Australia.
The solutions to the challenges we face from the colossal mission to get vaccines to every single country, to the fight to reverse the damage done to our ecosystems and lead a sustainable recovery from coronavirus lie in the discussions we have with our friends and partners around the world, said Johnson. Quantum leaps in science have given us the vaccines we need to end this pandemic for good. Now world governments have a responsibility to work together to put those vaccines to the best possible use. I hope 2021 will be remembered as the year humanity worked together like never before to defeat a common foe, he said.
The G7 leaders’ meeting on February 19 will be attended by the leaders of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, and the Presidents of the European Council and the EU Commission. Downing Street said Johnson plans to use the virtual meeting, which will also be US President Joe Biden’s first major multilateral engagement, to call for leaders to work together on a joined-up global approach to pandemics that brings an end to the nationalist and divisive politics that marred the initial response to coronavirus
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He will argue that putting citizens first should not come at the expense of working on a unified response, and that the last 12 months of the pandemic have showed that no country can be safe until every country is safe from the pandemic. The rollout of vaccines offers a fresh opportunity to demonstrate the value of international cooperation, he is expected to highlight. International pandemic preparedness will be a major priority for the UK’s G7 Presidency and the Prime Minister will work with fellow G7 leaders to implement his five-point plan to prevent future pandemics announced at the UN General Assembly last year, Downing Street said.
The five-point plan includes a worldwide network of zoonotic research hubs, developing global manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines, the design of a global pandemic early warning system, the agreement of global protocols for a future health emergency and the reduction of trade barriers. There have already been positive steps to ensure equitable access to a coronavirus vaccine.
Last month, the US announced it would join the COVAX initiative, becoming the final G7 country to do so. COVAX will provide developing countries with 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine this year and the UK is providing 548 million pounds to the scheme. Plans for the virtual meeting next week come as UK Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey held the first meeting of G7 Finance Ministers on Friday.
During February, the UK also holds the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which rotates between members every month. The UK has said it will use its Presidency to galvanise international action on coronavirus, climate change and conflict.
On February 23, the UK Prime Minister will chair a virtual meeting of the UNSC on the link between climate change and conflict, marking the first time a UK Prime Minister has chaired a Security Council session since 1992. The session will also involve permanent UNSC members China, France, Russia and the US; non-permanent members Estonia, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam; and the UN Secretary General. Downing Street has said that discussions at the meeting will inform crucial action ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 Summit scheduled for Glasgow in November.