ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a seminar have stressed the need for globally coordinated efforts to deal with natural calamities, saying no country alone can deal with catastrophic floods like 2022.
Speaking at the annual report launch ceremony of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF) here on Wednesday, they said that Pakistan in 2022 faced the worst kind of flooding, wherein, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and local NGOs played a critical role in rescue, relief, and rehabilitation of the flood victims from providing medical facilities to food assistance.
The seminar was informed that PHF’s partner organizations including INGOs and NGOs implemented 400 projects throughout Pakistan including Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) with a dedicated 296 projects providing humanitarian assistance, particularly in response to the 2022 floods, and 104 focused on development interventions.
These initiatives, worth over $330 million, benefited more than 21.2 million people across the country emphasizing the importance of long-term recovery and efforts.
Chief Executive PHF Adil Sheeraz, speaking on the occasion, said that 2022 was a very challenging year for Pakistan owing to the devastating floods which affected almost 33 percent of the country’s population.
He said that the INGOs are working in every sector of the country from water sanitation to nutrition, while after the 2022 floods which affected 153 districts of Pakistan and millions of people, the PHF partner organisations make all possible efforts to reach out to every flood-affected person.
He said that PHF serves as an independent and registered organisation, acting as a voice for INGOs in their engagements and coordination with the Government of Pakistan, UN agencies, humanitarian actors, and civil society organizations.
Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said, “Resilience is not a slogan; it is the ability to go beyond survival. It is the capacity to rebuild, to face crisis and to bring opportunities back to lives that have been shattered due to accelerated impacts of climate change. Development alone won’t be enough, and there is a need to move towards a framework that sees development as part of sustainability and climate resilience paradigm.”
She acknowledged the invaluable contributions of civil society and philanthropic organisations, noting that Pakistan is renowned as one of the most philanthropic countries globally. The minister emphasized the significance of PHF as a lifeline capable of channeling philanthropic support and concretize it into actions to enhance resilience among vulnerable communities.
She said that a holistic paradigm shift is necessary to rethink resource allocation, preparedness, and planning. Otherwise, the efforts of development partners and the humanitarian sector will remain fragmented and unable to create meaningful change for vulnerable populations.
Rehman said that in order to prepare for the unpredictable and accelerated climate-related risks of the 21st century, collective action is necessary. “The world is no longer the same, and the ‘business-as-usual’ approach is no longer sustainable.
We said at COP27 that “What goes in Pakistan, won’t stay in Pakistan” because climate change knows no borders. The extreme impacts of climate stress can be seen in Western countries where temperatures are breaking all kinds of records. There is an immediate need for collective solutions, both through multilateralism and within the country,” said the minister.
The minister said that it is essential for everyone to elevate their understanding of climate risks and its implications on their lives as individuals and as part of a wider community. Unfortunately, media coverage often prioritizes provocative political statements, and discussions on saving lives and building resilience still do not make primetime. Until public discourse aligns with the necessary changes in both personal and governmental thinking, substantial progress will remain limited, the minister concluded.
Speaking on the occasion, USAID Country Director Rachel Grant appreciated the efforts made by the PHF and said that the coordinating efforts in flood response were very critical. “We are proud of US’s long-standing partnership with international organizations.
US-Pakistan Green Alliance is an effort to jointly learn from experiences for energy shift, environmental conservation and other issues.”She said the US understands the depth of underdeveloped countries facing a climate crisis and USAID was supporting climate-smart technologies in agriculture and water.
Jo Moir, Development Director British High Commission mentioned that the British High Commission during its field visits to flood-affected areas witnessed the commitment of INGOs reaching out to far-flung areas. “Floods last year are indicative of how climate change is taking place. We are working with partners on climate resilience, water governance and community development,” she added.
Julian Harnes, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator speaking on the occasion said that over the last decade Pakistan faced two major changes one was a response to the humanitarian crisis that had been led by the government and Pakistani society. As it required different relationships with government, INGOs and national NGOs. However, the second major change was that earlier there was a major mistrust between NGOs that make the UN agencies’ work difficult.
“Ever-increasing trust between INGOs, national NGOs and the government has been witnessed. It is the area where we need to work in the future,” he added. The 2022 floods, he said were an eye-opener for the UN and partner organisations as they unveiled challenges and difficulties faced by the local masses before the floods.
Julian Harnes said the humanitarian response globally is becoming difficult to justify the crisis faced and the assistance provided to address the situation. “It is difficult for Pakistan to tap international funding and it needs to build upon national capacity on accessing financing opportunities. The government of Pakistan needs to develop its own capacity and ability.” He underlined the need to work on developing strong, effective and transparent mechanisms for channelling private funding and response from also Pakistani diaspora.
He commended that the donor funding to the flood response was very timely, whereas, the UNOCHA and UN Resident Coordinator office did great coordination and support in the flood response process. “Over 11,000 or more local people were hired by INGOs and over 90,000 supplies were procured from local sources. It helped in injecting funding to the local market.”
The chief guest, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani said the 33 million flood-impacted population was supported by PHF, whereas, the good thing was that the local administration was on the ground and was assisted by the INGOs who were the first responders to respond.
The INGOs are working with a great humanistic passion and spirit. However, the Senate is to appoint two of its members at the PHF to take up the problems faced by the forum and its partners at the provincial and local levels on a fast-track basis.
It will help to form a one-window operation system for better coordination. PHF should consider itself as member of the caucus of the Senate, he said. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should engage PHF to get prime time for climate awareness and education, he suggested. “There is a need for mass mobilization and education to protect Mother Nature for the coming generations. Senate will become the voice of PHF and humanitarian partners,” he said. He urged the forum and its partners to hold a donor conference for Balochistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023