Post-pandemic challenges must be tackled through cooperation

For India and Italy, acting together is key to economic recovery, climate change action.

2021 is a crucial year for the international community, as it tackles the COVID-19 challenge with effective vaccination campaigns that will need to mix national health security and international solidarity. Furthermore, all countries will have to lay the foundations for a sustainable, and just social and economic recovery through international cooperation. At this particular juncture, Italy will play a very significant role, as the country will be at the forefront of several processes of global governance.

Since December 1, 2020, Italy has held the G20 presidency, which will reach its climax with the Rome Leaders’ Summit in October 2021. Putting health at the top of its priorities, Italy will also host the paramount Global Health Summit on May 21. In addition, throughout the year, Italy will also be co-chairing the COP26 with the United Kingdom and will host a Youth Summit and the Pre-COP meeting in Milan in the run up to the Glasgow COP26 summit in November.

These global appointments not only represent important moments for Italy’s international standing, but are also challenging in these unprecedented times. When Italy took over the presidency of the G20, the world was in the midst of the worst pandemic in recent history and probably the most severe economic crisis since 1929.

In this difficult context, Italy defined the priorities of its G20 presidency being aware that great challenges open new opportunities. We were aware that all players must act together, as the response to global challenges can only come from a united and comprehensive action.

With this in mind, the Italian Presidency of G20 crafted its priorities on three pillars: “People, planet and prosperity”.

For the first, Italy’s priority is to eradicate poverty and tackle inequality and promote universal access to healthcare. A greater inclusiveness should be pursued by protecting the vulnerable and empowering women. We will work to increase policies that encourage their participation in the labour force and reduce the gender gap in terms of salary and managerial positions. We also want to promote girls’ education and make sure that the progress achieved over the last decade does not vanish as a consequence of the pandemic. We are keen to not only work for the creation of new jobs, but also to enhance social protection and active labour policies to accelerate the re-inclusion of the unemployed in the workforce.

As far as the “planet” is concerned, addressing climate change is a global challenge that cannot be delayed. The Italian presidency of G20 will focus on the reinforcement of national commitments under the Paris Agreement and push for the further implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). We will also stress the importance of policies in the field of land degradation, biodiversity loss and urban environment, which are crucial components of a green transition. This entails reforestation projects and the identification of best practices in the management and renovation of buildings and infrastructure to improve energy efficiency and resilience. We will also work to encourage the promotion of a new model for producing and consuming and to improve access to clean energy.

To address “prosperity”, we aim at ensuring universal internet access, thus bridging the digital divide and making sure that the digital revolution — accelerated by the pandemic — will be a global revolution leaving no one behind. We will study how to exploit the potential of digitalisation to contribute to productivity and growth.

These ambitious projects will be analysed and developed by detailed programmes of 15 working groups that are already meeting on a regular basis.

From this perspective, our aim is to work closely with our Indian partners on an economic recovery fully based on the principles of sustainability and respect for the environment. In this particular field, we have already established a strong partnership on energy transition, which is clearly stated in the Plan of Action adopted by our two prime ministers on November 6, 2020. Furthermore, many Italian companies are contributing to India’s leap toward a greener economy (Enel, among others, has been at the forefront of major investments for the production of clean energy).

We are also keen in developing models that can help prevent — and also tackle — the health challenges that make our communities vulnerable. We learnt over this past year that health is a global public good, maybe the most important and crucial one for the well-being and proper functioning of our societies, and that’s why it needs to be preserved by the entire international community. In this regard, our action with India is developing around the possibility of boosting our scientific research with projects that can help us further understand the evolution of pandemics and, perhaps, prevent future outbreaks.

Finally, our bilateral cooperation has seen extraordinary improvements in the last few months, also thanks to the progressive digitalisation of our interactions. For example, we developed a very efficient permanent digital platform with our partners from Invest India, with whom we interact on a regular basis to tackle the issues and queries that Italian companies operating in India, especially SMEs, may have to encourage the flow of investments from and towards the two countries.

Italy and India will face these challenges together by making the most of the global governance toolbox and our bilateral Plan of Action 2020-2024.

This article first appeared in the print edition on April 2, 2021 under the title ‘A future, together’. The writer is the ambassador of Italy to India.

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