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ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday appealed to the developed countries to step up efforts in providing Pakistan and other developing countries with financial and technical resources. He emphasised that Islamabad needs massive financial support for relief of the flood-affected people and their recovery, as “it is not a matter of solidarity or generosity; it’s a matter of justice.”

Speaking at a joint news conference along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari after their meeting upon arrival on a two-day visit to the country, the UN chief expressed his deep solidarity with the Pakistani people over the devastating loss of life, human suffering, and physical damage caused by this year’s floods.

He said that some parts of the country have just experienced record rainfalls even eight times higher than usual. “Climate change is there,” he added.

He said that he would be leaving for the flood-hit areas today (Saturday) to see the impacts of the floods. “But we have all seen the images of the extraordinary destructions and I can only imagine the power and ferocity of the water…it was clearly terrifying,” he added.

Expressing his condolences for the loss of life and solidarity with those who lost their businesses and livelihoods, he mentioned that he visited Pakistan many times when he was high commissioner for refugees, adding that the county generously supported the refugees’ operation and hosted millions of Afghan refugees. “So, this is not my first visit to Pakistan. I have a love affair with Pakistani people now for 17 years,” the visiting UN chief remarked.

UN Chief António Guterres arrives as Pakistan reels from flood disaster

“It is very emotional for me to see the level of suffering that so many Pakistanis are having at this moment. Because it’s heartbreaking to see such generous people going through this crisis. No country deserves this fate, but particularly no country like Pakistan that has contributed almost nothing to global warming,” he added.

“From Pakistan, I am issuing a global appeal. Stop the madness, end the war with nature, and invest in renewable energy now,” he appealed to the world community.

He said that the developed countries must step up and provide Pakistan and other developing countries with financial and technical resources they need to survive the extreme weather events like deadly floods. He said that the developed countries must produce a credible roadmap to back their commitment to double their financial support, adding that loss and damage from the climate crisis is not future events as it is happening now all around us.

He said that the UN is on the ground to support Pakistan’s flood-hit people with the teams providing food and other emergency supplies. He said that cash assistance and food items have been distributed among the flood victims of Sindh and Balochistan with the support of funds released from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.

“What we have done is a drop in the ocean of the needs of the Pakistani people…Pakistan needs massive international support for relief and rehabilitation,” he added.

The UN chief said that millions of flood-hit are living in camps and direly need help from the global community. “Pakistan needs massive financial support for relief and the recovery…it’s not a matter of solidarity or generosity it is a matter of justice,” he remarked.

To a question, if he would be willing to appeal to the world for debt write-off instead of rescheduling, he said that we have been saying all the time, especially with the beginning of the Covid that there is an absolute need for an effective mechanism of debt relief for the developing countries on the verge of financial collapse. He said that he has been advocating at the forums of the G-7 and G-20, the IMF, and the World Bank.

“I would not stop this campaign because I think it is absolutely essential, as the risk for the group of countries having default would be extremely high,” he said, adding that they have discussed several ideas to be put on the table and one of those ideas is that the countries instead of repaying the debt, invest the money in the green economy to minimise the impacts of climate change.

To another query, he said that we need more than the flash appeal of $160 million, adding that the flash appeal is not the objective to solve the problem. “We need more than that of the flash appeal, especially the government of Pakistan must be supported directly by the international community,” he asserted, adding that they have also discussed the option of organising an international conference for the global support of Pakistan.

Asked whether any such donor conference would bear fruit in current scenarios of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Afghanistan situation, the UN chief stated that there are concerns, but this is not a usual event, this is an unprecedented event, as climate change has been losing ground in international agenda due to political developments. “So, we need to support Pakistan to be prepared for the future not just for the current situation,” he added.

To another question about the situation in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the UN secretary-general said that he always offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir issue which is not accepted by India calling it a bilateral issue.

In his remarks, theforeign minister said that one-third of Pakistan’s landmass is underwater, and one in seven people, 33 to 35 million people have been devastated by what the UN has called “a monsoon on steroids”. “Our people have lost their lives, their livelihood is facing the very real threat of hunger, disease, and further devastation,” he warned.

As the UNGS mentioned, he added that this is not simply about solidarity, it is a question of justice, he said, adding that the Pakistani citizens of Larkana, Naseerabad, DG Khan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Nowshera who had all of their possessions taken away from them did not contribute to the catastrophe that they are facing today.

“This climate catastrophe is the price tag that we pay for the industrialisation of richer countries. As a foreign minister of the government of Pakistan I am conveying to you and the world that at this point in time, I am unable to get the resources required to these people who are in desperate situation,” the foreign minister told the visiting UNSG.

Bilawal said that his party – the PPP’s slogan is “food, clothing, and shelter”. “I cannot shelter the 33 million families. I cannot provide food and clothing to 35 million families. We don’t have the infrastructure in place and this is just the rescue and relief phase. 1,300 people have died so far and a third of which are a child,” he said, adding that the water-borne diseases are spreading further endangering their lives. “Our healthcare workers, ladies healthcare workers, and medical professionals are working round the clock. They cannot cover 35 million people…We have to rebuild our lives, rebuild their lives, we have to rebuild their houses, schools, hospitals and infrastructure. We know, we cannot do this alone. We will do this together,” he added. He thanked the United Nations for support at this difficult time.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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