ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called for a sustained global plan to tackle the huge challenge of rehabilitation and reconstruction of Pakistan’s flood-ravaged areas as the country was in a position to go back to business as usual on its own.
Addressing the inaugural session of International Conference on Climate Resilient Infrastructure in Geneva on Monday, Shehbaz Sharif said a new lifeline is imperative for Pakistani people to power their economy and re-enter the 21st century with a future that is protected from extreme risks to human security.
The prime minister 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.
The international conference began with the words of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. It was followed with a speech by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other world leaders on Pakistan and its devastating floods.
Shehbaz Sharif began his speech by thanking the UN chief for showing concern for the flood affectees and standing by Pakistan in its hour of need. “Your deep feelings for the people of Pakistan, the way you promoted this cause, spoke about the people’s miseries and problems and became a powerful voice to articulate what they went through this summer, will forever be remembered by the people of Pakistan,” he added.
The prime minister also expressed gratitude towards the world leaders who had joined the conference. “We are at a turning point in history. Events are moving faster than we can imagine. It is not only a quest of how to survive but to maintain our body, dignity and honour by moving forward with a sense of achievement,” Shehbaz said.
The premier said the most devastating floods affected at least 33 million people of Pakistan, killed 1,700 people, including children and dislocated eight million people. He said one can go on with the records broken by this disaster but that we are racing against time.
Shehbaz said Pakistan is very grateful for the generous support extended by the UN, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank and others along with many friendly countries. However, he mentioned that the relief work is not over yet in parts of Sindh and Balochistan.
He said in Sindh floodwater still needs to be drained to reclaim agricultural lands, regrow crops, build homes and rehabilitate services and institutes. Today’s moot is an attempt to give the people of Pakistan another chance at getting back on their feet, he added.
He said last October Pakistan had prepared with its development partners a post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) that calculated the total destruction and economic losses from the floods to be exceeding $30 billion which is 8% of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP), which pushed nine million people to abject poverty.
Shehbaz said Pakistan has responded courageously to this catastrophe. “Despite our acute financial constraints, we mobilised around $575 million for the emergency, including the UN’s flash appeal,” he said.
The prime minister said “the one thing we have learned is that nothing can go back to business as usual”, while reminding the world that “the most important link” in Pakistan’s uplift was financial support.
Shehbaz said together they have to rebuild the lives and dreams of flood-ravaged people. He said 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.
The Prime Minister said his government has prepared a comprehensive framework for recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction with resilience.
Shehbaz said the first part of this plan reflects priorities for recovery and reconstruction, bearing in mind the minimum funding requirement of 16.3 billion dollars, 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 eight billion dollars which will be needed over the next three years.
Shehbaz said 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.
The PM said it is clear that Pakistan’s ability to recover from the colossal flood disaster, 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 imagine.
Bilawal terms floods “a climate disaster of monumental scale
While addressing the conference, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that many areas in Pakistan were still under the water. He said that 33 million were affected by the floods. He said efforts to rehabilitate the flood-affectees were still underway. One in every seven person has been affected by the flood in Pakistan, he added.
Bilawal called the floods “a climate disaster of monumental scale”.
Eight million people were displaced, millions of acres of agricultural land were ruined and around two million homes destroyed, while nine million more people were pushed to the brink of poverty.
The foreign minister thanked all those countries who helped Pakistan in its hour of trial. He said that the scale of flood destruction was immense.
A special documentary was also shown during the conference.
UN urges ‘massive investments’ for Pakistan flood recovery
In his address, the UN chief called for “massive investments” to help Pakistan recover from last year’s devastating floods, saying it was “doubly victimised” by climate change and a “morally bankrupt global financial system”.
“No country deserves to endure what happened to Pakistan,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an international conference in Geneva, which is seeking billions of dollars to support recovery from the disaster.
Guterres opened the one-day event appealing to the world to help Pakistan bounce back from floods which submerged a third of the country, killing more than 1,700 people and affecting more than 33 million others.
The UNSG said that Pakistan hosted Afghan refugees despite its limited resources. He said that floods affected 33 million in Pakistan and destroyed crops standing on thousands of acres of land. He underlined that Pakistan urgently needed global help. Millions have become homeless, the secretary-general said adding that Pakistan was also facing economic challenges.
UNGS Guterres said that he got first-hand knowledge of the flood ravages during his visit to the country. He said he was astounded to see the passion of Pakistanis. He said his heart broke when he observed the large-scale destruction.
He reiterated that Pakistan’s carbon footprints were even less than 1% but it suffered greatly by the impact of climate change.
The secretary-general noted that reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts would take so long in the flood-hit Pakistan.
More than $16b needed for Pakistan’s resilient recovery plan
The UN chief hailed how Pakistan and its people had responded to “this epic tragedy with heroic humanity”.
“We must match the heroic response of the people of Pakistan with our own efforts and massive investments to strengthen their communities for the future,” he told the conference.
Pakistan Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework which it will officially present during today’s conference, it will need $16.3 billion.
Pakistan’s government has said the country should be able to cover half the cost, but is asking the international community to fund the rest.
“This is the greatest climate disaster in our country’s history,” Zardari told the conference, decrying a “colossal calamity.”
“Pakistan will need considerable support over the next several years from our international partners to implement this comprehensive plan,” he said.
The UN chief said the international community had a particular responsibility to help Pakistan, which has been “doubly victimised by climate chaos and a morally bankrupt global financial system.”
He slammed a system that “routinely denies middle-income countries the debt relief and concessional financing needed to invest in resilience against natural disasters.”
Around 450 participants from some 40 countries had registered for Monday’s event.
French President Emmanuel Macron, his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen were also due to address the conference via video-link.
France pledges $10 million
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced financial support for Pakistan during the Geneva Conference on Resilient Pakistan.
In a video message, the French President pledged $10 million in additional aid support.
Addressing the Geneva conference virtually, Macron said that Paris would continue to provide expertise and was ready to support Pakistan in its talks with financial institutions, as the country faces huge losses from recent floods.
Turkish President expresses readiness to help in reconstruction by meeting urgent needs of disaster victims in Pakistan
In his virtual address, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed Ankara’s readiness to help in reconstruction by meeting urgent needs of disaster victims in Pakistan vowing that Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority and non-governmental organizations will also show all necessary sensitivity in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
He said Türkiye was doing its part in the global fight against climate change.
“It’s clear that the destructive effects of the climate crisis demand more collective efforts. Climate change and the problems it causes are common problems of humanity,” Erdogan said in a video message to the special International Climate Conference hosted by the UN and Pakistan in Geneva.
Referring to devastating floods that swept through a third of Pakistan last year, leaving 1,700 dead, Erdogan said this disaster “once again revealed the devastating effects of climate change.”
“The fight against this disaster and others like it must be conducted in solidarity within the framework of a strategy,” Erdogan said.
Climate-resilient reconstruction in disaster-prone areas and flood-affected areas in Pakistan will avert new suffering, he added.
Expressing Ankara’s readiness to help in reconstruction by meeting urgent needs of disaster victims in Pakistan, the Turkish president said: “The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and our non-governmental organizations also show all necessary sensitivity in the delivery of humanitarian aid.”
Türkiye has supported Pakistan in the past, as well as in these difficult times, and will continue to do so, he underlined. “We have dispatched 7500 tons of humanitarian aid materials on 15 flights and 13 trains.”
He also noted that Türkiye has sent two ships carrying more than 1,630 tons of humanitarian aid, expressing hopes that “once those ships reach the ports, the suffering of our Pakistani brothers and sisters will be mitigated to a certain degree.”
Erdogan once again conveyed his best wishes to the Pakistanis, condolences to families of victims, and a speedy recovery to those injured in the floods.
UNDP head describes floods as ‘cataclysmic event’
Ahead of the conference, Achim Steiner, head of the UN development agency, described the floods as a “cataclysmic event”, and said Pakistan would face “an extraordinary amount of misery” if the world did not step up and help.
“The waters may have receded, but the impacts are still there,” he told AFP. “There is a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation effort that needs to be undertaken.”
Millions of people remain displaced, and those who have been able to go back home are often returning to damaged or destroyed homes and mud-covered fields that cannot be planted.
Food prices have soared, and the number of people facing food insecurity has doubled to 14.6 million, according to UN figures.
The World Bank has estimated that up to nine million more people could be dragged into poverty as a result of the flooding.
Pakistan and the UN stress that Monday’s event is broader than a traditional pledging conference, as it seeks to set up a long-term international partnership focused not only on recovery, but also on boosting Pakistan’s climate resilience.
Pakistan, with the world’s fifth-largest population, is responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions but is one of the most vulnerable nations to extreme weather caused by global warming.
The country “is essentially a victim of a world that is not acting fast enough on the challenge of climate change”, Steiner said.
In the conference, Pakistan is outlining a framework vision for rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood-affected areas and people, and emphasizes upon the need for global support and long-term partnership to implement it.
The Prime Minister and the UN Secretary-General will also hold a joint press stakeout.
Leaders and high-level representatives from several countries and international financial institutions, foundations and funds are expected to attend the conference, both in person and in virtual format.