Floods devastation and the Geneva Conference | By Tariq Aqil

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Floods devastation and the Geneva Conference

SECRETARY General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres addressed the conference and said about the unprecedented devastating flood damages “My heart broke when I saw the devastation of the floods in Pakistan last year, but the Pakistani people showed heroic humanity.

The international community must match their resilience with investment to strengthen their communities for the future” The Secretary General of the UN was the guiding light and the moving spirit of the Geneva Conference hosted by Pakistan on 9th January 2023.

Guterres has a rare and unique relationship with the people of Pakistan because during the period between 2005 to 2015 he had the opportunity to work as the head of the UNHCR and his work brought him to Pakistan many times during that time.

The SG of the UN has always been deeply committed to the cause of climate change and its impact on the developing countries.

The super floods in Pakistan afforded him an opportunity to highlight the severe damage and human suffering that climate change is capable of inflicting on innocent people.

The conference in Geneva was a conclave of different governments, public leaders, important personalities from the private sector and civil society to support and help the government and people of Pakistan suffering the horrific effects of the super floods induced by climate change.

The European Union and many financial agencies expressed full solidarity and support for the Pakistani people who had suffered the devastating impact of the floods.

The catastrophic consequences of this natural calamity affected millions and destroyed houses, farms, crops, livestock and livelihood of the people.

The country’s infrastructure was severely damaged and the economic outlook also came under a lot of pressure.

A sign of solidarity and engagement, the conference focused on discussing and endorsing a comprehensive recovery strategy named 4RFs: Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework, building on the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment undertaken.

The 4RFs define timeframe, priorities, institutional arrangements, policy articulation, financial management and implementation modalities for recovery and reconstruction through a consultative process with federal and provincial governments.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission said, “Today, we are endorsing an ambitious reconstruction plan.

We are joining forces with our partners to help put Pakistan on its path to recovery. Our Team Europe 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.

” Given the scale of the disaster, the EU and its member States reacted quickly activating the EU civil protection mechanism and deployed immediate humanitarian aid by adapting ongoing development cooperation programmes.

These were to ensure early recovery support for life-saving and life-sustaining assistance, health services, food and water supplies, shelter, focused on Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, Head of EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva said, “Pakistan can count on the EU to be by its side in the recovery process, which is formally starting today but will require joint efforts and further detailed work in the months and years to come.

” The Pakistan delegation to the conference was led by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and included the Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari Bhutto and the Federal Minister for Climate Sherry Rahman.

Hats off to Team Pakistan that managed the monumental task of raising more than $ 9 Billion which happens to be a billion more than what Pakistan had asked for.

Pakistan is extremely vulnerable to climate change and will continue to suffer the consequences in the future too.

The danger is not going to go away by holding conferences and asking for international aid and donations.

The country has to be prepared for facing future shocks and challenges. As far as the international community is concerned it is now time that they engage with Pakistan on matters that are of vital importance to the people of Pakistan and not only on Afghanistan, terrorism, insurgency and religious extremism.

The Geneva Conference ultimately resulted in $ 10.7 billion in pledges from many international donors and now the cash strapped country can really mobilize its efforts to help and rehabilitate the devastated 33 million people and repair the damage to its vital infrastructure in all the provinces of the country.

The country, with a $350 billion economy, secured commitments worth $8.57 billion by the end of plenary session-I while it managed to secure over $2 billion in the session-II.

Pakistan faces financial distress after the deadly floods wreaked havoc on the country which killed at least 1,700 and caused damages worth over $16 billion — half of which Islamabad is financing through its resources.

The World Bank and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) pledged over $6 billion to Pakistan to aid its climate rebuilding effort in response to the country’s $8 billion flood appeal.

The IDB has pledged $4.2 billion over the next three years to Pakistan and the World Bank $2 billion while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Saudi Arabia, China, the United States and other nations have also announced support.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.