The Politics behind G20 “Family” Photo and Statement on Ebola

Brisbane, Australia, Nov. 15, 2014, –There was plenty of distance between Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin when world leaders lined up for the traditional G20 “family” photo.

THE bellicose Russian leader was positioned in the front far right-hand corner, with South African President Jacob Zuma on his left.

There was no repeat of the awkward arrangement at the APEC meeting in Beijing earlier this week when the prime minister was lined up one row above and behind Mr Putin, leaving Mr Abbott staring morosely at his leader colleague.

Mr Abbott hadn’t yet delivered on his promise to “shirt-front” Mr Putin over Russia’s suspected involvement in MH17 disaster, which killed 298 including 38 Australians, so the placement was especially tense.

This time Mr Abbott had the diplomatic upper hand – so to speak – because Australia holds the current G20 presidency.

He was front row and centre for the official G20 snap, flanked by top-two trading partners – China and Japan.

The leaders of Canada, Indonesia, UK and India – with whom Mr Abbott has good relationships – stood shoulder to shoulder behind him.

The G20 leaders later had a working dinner at the Queensland Art Gallery on Saturday, before kicking off the nitty-gritty of the economic summit on Sunday.

G20 Leaders’ Brisbane Statement on Ebola

We are deeply concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and saddened by the suffering and loss of life it is inflicting. We are mindful of the serious humanitarian, social and economic impacts on those countries, and of the potential for these impacts to spread.

The governments and people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are making tremendous efforts to fight the outbreak, with the support of the African Union and other African countries. We commend the brave
service of health care and relief workers. We also applaud the contributions of countries worldwide, the United Nations (UN) and its bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), international and regional organisations and financial institutions, non-governmental and religious organisations, and the private sector. We fully support the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response’s ongoing work to harness capacity to stop the outbreak, treat the infected, ensure essential services, preserve stability and prevent further outbreaks and urge that it act swiftly to achieve these objectives.

G20 members are committed to do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak and address its medium-term economic and humanitarian costs. We will work through bilateral, regional and multilateral channels, and in partnership with non-governmental stakeholders. We will share our experiences of successfully fighting Ebola with our partners, including to promote safe conditions and training for health care and relief workers. We will work to expedite the effective and targeted disbursement of funds and other assistance, balancing between emergency and longer-term needs.

We invite those governments that have yet to do so to join in providing financial contributions, appropriately qualified and trained medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments. While commending ongoing work, we urge greater efforts by researchers, regulators and pharmaceutical companies to develop safe, effective and affordable diagnostic tools, vaccines and treatments. We call upon international and regional institutions, civil society and the private sector to work with governments to mitigate the impacts of the crisis and ensure the longer-term economic recovery.

In this regard, we urge the World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to continue their strong support for the affected countries and welcome the IMF’s initiative to make available a further $300 million to stem the Ebola outbreak and ease pressures on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, through a combination of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants. We ask the IMF and WBG to explore new, flexible mechanisms to address the economic effects of future comparable crises.

This outbreak illustrates the urgency of addressing longer-term systemic issues and gaps in capability, preparedness and response capacity that expose the global economy to the impacts of infectious disease.

G20 members recommit to full implementation of the WHO’s international Health Regulations (IHR). To this end, and in the context of our broader efforts to strengthen health systems globally, we commit to support others to implement the IHR and to build capacity to prevent, detect, report early and rapidly respond to infectious diseases like Ebola. We also commit to fight anti-microbial resistance. Interested G20 members are supporting this goal through initiatives to accelerate action across the Economic Community of West African States and other vulnerable regions and will report progress and announce a time frame by May 2015 at the World Health Assembly.

We invite all countries to join us in mobilising resources to strengthen national, regional and global preparedness against the threat posed by infectious diseases to global health and strong, sustainable and balanced growth for all. We will remain vigilant and responsive.