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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Monday it had received pledges of more than $9 billion at an international conference seeking support for its recovery from last year’s devastating floods — a billion more than requested.

“The message from the world is clear: the world will stand by those who go through any natural calamities and will not leave them alone,” Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the close of the conference in Geneva.

The International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan was held in Geneva and was co-hosted by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The moot was addressed by different government and state heads including French President Emmanuel Macron and the Turkish president, President of the European Union Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen through video links, representatives of various other countries, besides representatives of the donor agencies and global financial institutions, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice President Shixin Chen, chairman of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, Muhammad Al Jasser, and others.

Sharing details of the total pledges made, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said that in the first plenary of daylong Geneva conference culminated in generous outpouring of international community. She said that the EU pledged $93 million, Germany $88 million, China $100 million, IDB $4.2 billion, World Bank (WB) $2 billion, Japan $77 million, and ADB $1.5 billion. She further said that the USAID has pledged $100 million, France $345 million, and a total of $8.57 billion, in line with the collaborative vision of the coalition.

Pakistan needs billions for flood recovery, UN urges

“In second plenary phase of Geneva moot, development partners are exploring collaborative ways to build back better. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has pledged $1 billion to build back better climate resilient infrastructure and adaptation,” she tweeted.

The minister said that the brotherly country Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has pledged $1 billion to assist Pakistan in the daunting task of resilient recovery and rehabilitation.

In his address, French President Macron announced an additional new contribution of 10 million euros ($10.69) million to this emergency appeal besides $10 million, to be provided to Pakistan for supply of vital health products, and to ensure that disaster victims have access to diagnosis and various treatments.

“In terms of health, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, of which France is the world’s second largest contributor, approved emergency funding, (and) again of 10 million dollars, to provide Pakistani supply of vital health products, and to ensure that disaster victims have access to diagnosis and various treatments,” he said in his address through a video link.

He pointed out that France has mobilised by sending equipment and personnel as close as possible to the affected populations. “The European Union has mobilized a total of 14 million euros. Dozens of other countries and international agencies have mobilized in this direction. Yet to date, only 30 per cent of the UN’s emergency appeal has been covered. However, significant humanitarian needs remain, first in terms of food, and they become all the more pressing with the drop in temperatures during the winter months,” he added.

Referring to the scale of the floods, he said that when a country is exposed to a shock of this magnitude, the international community, and in particular all the financial institutions, are capable of mobilising to support it towards a more resilient reconstruction.

As far as France is concerned, he added that climate adaptation is at the heart of the action of the French Development Agency, and “we thus devote two billion euros to it per year, in accordance with our international commitments, a necessity that the secretary general immediately called back.”

The objective is to draw all the consequences of what has just happened, and to support the Pakistani authorities in carrying out all the reforms, and to support them in this reconstruction by being coherent within the framework of international finance.

“Indeed, what happened perfectly illustrates the issue of loss and damage that we were discussing in Sharm el-Sheikh a few weeks ago. And I want to tell you here about France’s support for the Bridgetown agenda. We have decided with the Prime Minister of Barbados to work in this direction, and I hope that we can, precisely, support Pakistan in the short term in its renegotiations with the multilateral financial agencies, but more broadly, that we can, for Pakistan and all the countries that are immersed in this situation, beyond the fund that was decided in Sharm el-Sheikh on “loss and damage”, to be able to draw the consequences and rebuild a sustainable partnership between North and South,” he added.

He said that the objective of the conference being organised next June in Paris, is intended to support, to lay the foundations for a profound overhaul of the rules, both of the World Bank and of the IMF, but more broadly, of our funding rules to draw all the consequences of these climate effects.

The EU Commission President, Ursula von Der Leyen, in her address, said that the EU – together with its member states – was among the first to react. “Our Team Europe response to this tragedy was immediate and substantial. But the scale of the devastation was enormous. Vast surfaces of cropland and villages remained underwater for months. Nearly 10 million girls and boys remain in need of immediate support, according to UNICEF. So more support is needed,” she said.

“Today, we are endorsing an ambitious reconstruction plan. We are joining forces with our partners to help Pakistan on its path to recovery. Our Team European support to the reconstruction of Pakistan is around 500 million euro – including our humanitarian assistance. And the EU and Pakistan have just agreed an 87-million-euro package, in line with our Global Gateway strategy,” she added.

In parallel, to keep supporting the affected communities, he added that the EU is stepping up its humanitarian assistance, with an additional 10 million euros. “This brings Team Europe’s humanitarian support for Pakistan to 172 million euros,” she further stated. “We will continue to assist, including through the Support Group to be created following this conference,” she added.

In a tweet, the EU president stated: “We support Pakistan in its recovery after the terrible floods of last year that claimed over 1,700 lives. Today we endorsed Pakistan’s reconstruction plan with €500 million from #TeamEurope. We continue our humanitarian aid to modernise its economy.”

In his inaugural address to the moot, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for a sustained international plan to meet the daunting task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of flood-affected areas and build a climate-resilient Pakistan.

He said that a new lifeline is needed for our people to power our economy and re-enter the 21st century with a future that is protected from extreme risks to human security. “Together we have to rebuild the lives and dreams of flood-ravaged people,” he said, adding that the international community’s solidarity and long-term support to Pakistan at this critical juncture will make the difference between staying unprepared or facing the future with renewed hope and aspirations. It is about the solidarity and vision needed to ensure the world’s transition to a sustainable future not on papers but on the ground in schools, in the fields, in business, in industries and in homes, he said.

He also shared with the participants that his government has prepared a comprehensive framework for recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction with resilience.

He said that the first part of this plan reflects priorities for recovery and reconstruction, bearing in mind the minimum funding requirement of $16.3 billion, half of which is proposed to be met from domestic resources and the other half from development partners and friends. He said the funding gap for minimum recovery is $8 billion which will be needed over the next three years.

He said that the second part of the framework incorporates flood resilience design and infrastructure projects such as protecting key highways, rail line network, an early warning system and capacity building for rescue and relief in future disasters.

“It is clear that Pakistan’s ability to recover from the colossal flood disaster, to restore critical infrastructure and revive rapid economic growth will hinge substantially on the speed of these actions. The most important link in this chain will be financial resourcing and if that gap continues to obstruct our recovery and minimum resilience needs, the results will be too catastrophic to image,” he added.

In his opening remarks, UNSG Guterres urged the global community for massive investments to help Pakistan. He said that rebuilding Pakistan, in a resilient way, would require $16 billion, “but far more would be required in the long run…No country deserves to endure what happened to Pakistan.”

He said that the people of Pakistan were doubly victimised by climate disasters and morally bankrupt global financial systems. “This system routinely denies middle-income countries of debt relief and concessional relief needed to invest in resilience against natural disasters,” the UN chief said.

“Hence, there is a need for creative ways for developing countries to access debt relief and concessional financing…We need to be honest about the brutal injustice suffered by developing countries due to climate change. If there is any doubt about loss and damage, go to Pakistan. The devastation of climate change is real,” he added.

USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman, as head of the United States delegation to the Conference, announced that the US is pledging an additional $100 million to continue supporting Pakistan’s recovery efforts from the devastating 2022 floods.

“This funding reinforces America’s commitment to the Pakistani people and addressing the climate crisis. When coupled with the $97 million in flood relief, disaster resilience, and food security assistance provided in 2022 and $4.8 million in financial support from the US International Development Finance Corporation, this brings the total US commitment to date to more than $200 million,” she said.

This new $100 million pledge includes both new and redirected funding, she said, adding that the USAID is providing $79.3 million to prioritize urgently needed support for agriculture and food security, health, economic growth, education, protection, and governance. “This funding also includes $20.7 million in State Department resources that will provide humanitarian assistance to help flood-affected Afghan refugees and host communities in Pakistan, and assistance that will restore damaged justice sector infrastructure including courthouses, police stations, and training facilities,” she added.

She said that the US has a long history of standing with Pakistan when disaster strikes, helping Pakistanis recover from severe climate shocks, stave off disease, feed their families, and rebuild their lives.

“The United States recognizes Pakistan’s recovery will be a continuing process in the months and years ahead. We will support Pakistan in its efforts to create a more climate-resilient future for its people, including by retargeting our democracy programs to strengthen governance and promote climate resilience, particularly in the agriculture sector. Today’s pledge is part of our continued partnership,” she added.

The British Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell, in his address, said, last year, Pakistan was on the front line of the impact of climate change when catastrophic flooding swept away homes and livelihoods, leaving 20 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

He said that it is estimated the country will need around $16 billion for the next three to five years to rebuild the devastation.

He said that the UK, one of the first countries to respond to the disaster, is today allocating over £9 million from its Pakistan budget to help tackle the impact of the flooding, bringing the total it has now committed to the humanitarian response to £36 million.

This new allocation will help provide those most in need with essential services, and will also support the government to plan for a climate-resilient future, he said, adding that the support from the UK is providing water, sanitation, and hygiene to help prevent waterborne diseases, as well as nutrition to tackle malnutrition, cash support, and shelter and protection services for women and girls.

This funding is in addition to support the UK has already pledged for climate resilience and adaptation in Pakistan.

“I visited Pakistan following the 2010 floods and saw the devastating impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We stood by Pakistan then, as we do now…Looking to the future, it is crucial to build defences against weather-related disasters, as our changing climate puts us more and more at risk. This is why the UK will help Pakistan to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.

In his remarks, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the support from friendly countries and multilateral donors will not only help carry out flood relief and rehabilitation work but also create fiscal space external debt sustainability for the country and reinforce its efforts to implement the ongoing IMF programme.

“Pakistan remains committed to its international obligations and is on track regarding its fiscal reforms agenda which focuses on increasing revenues, decreasing expenditures and creating thereby more fiscal space for the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase which we have to undertake in Pakistan,” he said.

He said that Pakistan is carrying out the fiscal reforms necessary for long-term recovery and sustainability, “but we urgently need short-term assistance to navigate a number of challenges.”

He hoped that friends and partners will always stand with Pakistan by providing the required assistance during this most critical phase of Pakistan. Options such as debt swaps by friendly countries will also free up resources to be spent for this noble purpose, he added.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in his address, said that Pakistan needs considerable support over the next several years from international partners to ensure rehabilitation and reconstruction in the flood-hit areas.

He said that Pakistan will transform the challenge of recovery, reconstruction into an opportunity to build a more resilient Pakistan and economy, which is dynamic and suitable. “We are determined to do it in an open, transparent and collaborative way,” he said. He said that the conference demonstrates international solidarity with Pakistan as it begins its journey towards building back better.

“We see this conference as a commencement of a long-term partnership with our friends and development partners. We look forward to the generous and sustained commitments from the international community,” he added. Highlighting the devastation caused by recent floods in Pakistan, he said that around 33 million people, including 16 million children and 600,000 pregnant women, are severely affected by the floods.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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