United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Pakistan needed “massive” financial support for relief, recovery, and rehabilitation in the wake of the catastrophic floods that displaced more than 33 million people and are estimated to have caused $30 billion of damage.
He made the remarks after attending a briefing at the National Flood Response Coordination Centre (NFRCC) alongside Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The UN chief is currently in Pakistan on a two-day trip to seek the world’s support for the catastrophic floods which have devastated the country and to highlight the urgency to deal with the climate change crisis.
Guterres began by saying that there was “no memory of anything similar to what has happened with the impact of climate change in Pakistan”.
“The numbers are appalling. But beyond the numbers, I see the families that have lost their loved ones, houses, crops, jobs and are living in desperate conditions,” he expressed.
The secretary general pointed out that Pakistan had not contributed to climate change in a meaningful way. “But Pakistan is one of the most dramatically impacted countries.”
He highlighted that the emissions by the country were relatively low, yet Pakistan was on the frontline of climate change.
Guterres called on the international community to help the flood victims, saying: “Pakistan needs massive financial support to respond to this crisis as according to initial estimates the losses are around $30 billion.”
He stressed the need for debt support. It is not a matter of solidarity, but a matter of justice, he said.
“It is absolutely essential that this is recognised by the international community, especially by those countries that have contributed more to climate change.
“And effective solidarity and justice is shown by mobilising massive support,” the UN chief said.
And at the same time, the UN chief warned that the world was heading towards a disaster. “We have waged war on nature and nature is striking back in a devastating way. Today, it is Pakistan. Tomorrow, it can be your country. We need to stop increase in emissions and start reducing them now.”
The secretary general added that this matter would be discussed at the next Conference of States Parties.
‘Pakistan’s contribution to climate change minimal but country among most affected’
Earlier, the UN chief was briefed about the damage caused by floods in the country by the NFRCC Major General Zafar Iqbal.
After overviewing the situation, Guterres appreciatied all those working tirelessly to support the victims of this “unprecedented natural disaster”.
“Humanity has declared war on nature and nature is tracking back. But nature is blind. It is not striking back on those who have contributed more to the war on nature,” he said.
Pakistan has contributed very little to climate change but is one of the countries most affected by its consequences, he highlighted.
“It is like nature has attacked the wrong targets. It should be those that are more responsible for climate change that should have to face these kind of challenges.”
It is the international community’s obligation to drastically reduce emissions and support countries that need to invest in resilience and recovery, he said.
“My voice is entirely at the service of Pakistan and its people. We know our contribution is limited […] but we are totally committed.”
He went on to say: “I have always seen an enormous sense of solidarity in Pakistan. My admiration for this country and its people is limitless […] I will do my best to raise awareness in the international community.”
Speaking at the briefing, the premier thanked the UN chief for undertaking the visit, saying that his empathy and support was “great encouragement”.
“The government of Pakistan, along with the provincial governments and all stakeholders […] are working together to provide relief and rescue to millions,” he said.
PM Shehbaz said that efforts were underway and flood affectees were being moved to safer areas while also being provided food and shelter. “The challenge is absolutely beyond human capacities, yet humans have to handle it and we are.”
He once again thanked the UN secretary general for visiting Pakistan, stating that authorities would provide him with first-hand information about what was happening in the country.
“Pakistan is doing its best with its meagre resources. We thank the international community for contributing […] but unless we get sufficient support in terms of relief, in terms of repairing the damage, we will be in trouble.”
Guterres, Shehbaz discuss flood situation
Earlier in the day, the prime minister had welcomed the UN secretary general as he arrived at the PM House along with his delegation.
The premier and the UN chief held a meeting to discuss the situation arising out of the catastrophic floods in the country.
The two sides focused on joint efforts to carry out relief, rescue and rehabilitation at international level to mitigate the sufferings of the flood-affected people.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and senior officials were also present in the meeting.
UN chief arrives in Islamabad
Guterres arrived in the capital during the early hours of Friday. The secretary general had announced his plan for a solidarity trip to Pakistan soon after the launch of the $160 million UN Flash Appeal for helping the people most affected by the floods caused by what he had called “monsoon on steroids”.
He will be back in New York on Sept 11 where the 77th session of the UN General Assembly is starting on Sept 13.
Islamabad has been urging rich countries to help Pakistan and other poor countries suffering from climate change because of their massive greenhouse gas emissions that caused global warming. The rich countries have generally been reluctant to pay for the climate loss.
In a statement on Friday, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Guterres’ visit will also prove to be helpful in sensitising the world about the deadly consequences of climate change.
The information minister said the international community will have to come forward to help poor countries affected by natural disasters, including floods, a report by Radio Pakistan said.
She also appreciated the UN secretary general for launching the flash flood appeal to help the country’s people.