The top 5 lessons from the Osaka G20 summit

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Updated 01 January 2020

The top 5 lessons from the Osaka G20 summit

  • Global trade, geopolitics and climate change were the weighty issues discussed in the Osaka G20 summit's public sessions
  • Intex Osaka, where the G20 leaders met, was easily secured thanks to its location on a man-made island in Osaka Bay

OSAKA: A G20 summit is a big thing. Big in terms of both organizational demands and the impact it can have on the international perception of the country that stages it. Japan understood that at the Osaka summit which has just ended, and Saudi Arabia will become increasingly aware of it in the months leading up to the Riyadh G20 next year.
The event is the only permanent arena for the leaders of the biggest economic and political powers to exchange face-to-face views, but it has no permanent locus. This is why it takes over the life of the country and the city that hosts it. Osaka was consumed with the event for the past couple of days, quite apart from the various meetings that were held in preparation for it.

Here are the top five lessons I learned from attending the summit in Japan.

1) The G20 is a serious forum for global decision-making. Sure, a lot of the event is about public relations and image — the fine details of the “family photo” were endlessly chewed over in the city itself and in the Twitterverse. But that was not the real meat of the G20. Vital issues such as global trade, geopolitics and climate change were the big topics, and they were the focus at the public sessions and, we can be sure, even more so at the private but more candid bilaterals. There will be genuine impact from the deliberations at Osaka.

2) But the PR is important too. The body language of the leaders, their reaction to their peers, and the little personal characteristics they exhibit tell us a lot about changing global relationships. Perhaps the most striking image to come out of the event was the handshake between Theresa May, Britain’s outgoing prime minister, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Donald Trump’s cosy little chat with Putin will have repercussions back home in the US. As for the politics of the “family photo,” well we all know how difficult families can be.

3) Osaka was a good venue. The International Exhibition Center, or Intex Osaka, where the leaders met and the media deliberated, was easily secured due to its location: on a man-made island in Osaka Bay. While not pleasing to the eye, it could almost have been purpose-built. Public transport in Japan is excellent and cheap, compensating for the lack of taxi access. The police and other security personnel were welcoming and helpful, even when their English was limited. Riyadh is going to have to up its game to better Osaka.

4) The press team that supported the Japanese G20 president were among the most efficient I’ve encountered. For such a big event, it would have been easy to let things slip, to miss timings, to forget individual journalists’ requests. This never happened to me. The quality of attributable briefing about the leaders’ confidential bilateral discussions was as high as you could expect.

5) Japan is well on its way to becoming a truly cashless society. I do not think I have ever visited a country before without folding some of its money in my wallet, even if just for use in emergencies. But I did not use an ATM once in Osaka. Credit and payment cards were accepted everywhere for every conceivable product or service. In fact, I never saw anybody pay with cash during the three days I was there.

Finally, one small moan: the weather at this time of year in Japan. Coming from London, I can take cold and wet; living in the Middle East, I can take hot and dry. But it’s hard to endure hot and wet, as it mostly was in Osaka. I doubt Riyadh will have that problem.

Frank Kane is an award-winning journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Major Saudi research center prepares to take part in advanced COVID-19 vaccine trials

Updated 22 September 2020

Major Saudi research center prepares to take part in advanced COVID-19 vaccine trials

  • Ministry of Health and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center have been working with two Chinese drug companies

JEDDAH: King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC) in Saudi Arabia is preparing to take part in advanced trials of one or two COVID-19 vaccines.

About 40 potential vaccines are being tested on humans, nine of which are at the advanced stage of clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness in protecting people against a virus that has infected more than 31 million people around the world.

The center confirmed its readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and participate in tests of one or two of the nine vaccines that are in the third phase of clinical trials, during which large-scale testing on humans takes place.

Dr. Naif Al-Harbi, the head of KAIMRC’s drug-development unit, told Al-Ekhbariya TV news channel that it is unprecedented to have nine vaccines in stage three of clinical trials so soon, less than a year, after the emergence of a new virus.

“Approval or disapproval of any drug normally follows the third stage of its clinical trials, which is the last stage,” he added. “Since the pandemic, KAIMRC has been in continuous contact with a number of drug companies in four countries (that are developing vaccines).”

KAIMRC has been working with one Chinese pharmaceutical company in particular to help evaluate and accelerate the development of its vaccine, he said.

“Over the past two months, we have been in contact with Sinovac to scientifically evaluate its product, in term of the tests on animals and a study of the results of stages one and two on humans,” Al-Harbi said.