South Asia

Guterres urges global finance shake-up to help Pakistan after floods

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at an event in Portugal on Jan. 5, 2023. Screenshot from Reuters video.

UN-led efforts to encourage the international community to stand with Pakistan after deadly floods last summer, continued on Monday in Geneva, where Secretary-General António Guterres urged radical reform of the global financial system, in favor of developing countries, including Pakistan.

“If there is any doubt about loss and damage, go to Pakistan,” he told delegates at the International Conference on climate resilient Pakistan. “There is loss. There is damage. The devastation of climate change is real. From floods and droughts to cyclones and torrential rains. And as always, those countries least responsible, are the first to suffer.”

More than 33 million people were affected by the flooding in Sindh and Balochistan, which is widely regarded to have been Pakistan’s greatest climate disaster.

Today, months after the initial emergency, the floodwaters have only partly receded and the disaster is far from over for some eight million who were forced to flee the rising waters, which also killed more than 1,700 people, the UN reported.

Catastrophic damage

More than 2.2 million homes were destroyed along with 13 percent of all health facilities, 4.4 million acres of crops, and more than 8,000 kilometers of roads and other vital infrastructure – including around 440 bridges.

The cost of helping communities hit in every conceivable way by the unprecedented monsoon rains in Pakistan that began last June, “will run in excess of $16 billion, and far more will be needed in the longer term”, Guterres said.

Speaking at a press conference with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he said it was a question of justice, not just a gesture of solidarity, for Pakistan to receive sufficient support and stated he was “deeply frustrated that global leaders are not giving this life-or-death emergency the action and investment it requires.”

Reiterating the need to help developing countries such as Pakistan become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, the UN chief insisted that the international banking system needed reform “to right a fundamental wrong”.

He added: “Pakistan is doubly victimized by climate chaos and a morally bankrupt global financial system. That system routinely denies middle-income countries the debt relief and concessional funding needed to invest in resilience against natural disasters. And so, we need creative ways for developing countries to access debt relief and concessional financing when they need it the most.”

In his comments to journalists on the sidelines of the conference, Mr. Guterres insisted that the UN had actively pursued the issue of ethical global financial reform.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif meanwhile explained why his country needed international solidarity now, more than ever.

“We need to get 33 million people who are deeply affected by the floods their future back,” he said. “Their families must stand on their feet and they must come back in life and earn their livelihood.”

As the conference drew to a close, delegates announced pledges totalling more than $9 billion to help key post-disaster needs and the ongoing humanitarian response, as part of Pakistan’s plan for a resilient recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Immediate priorities include restoring the livelihoods of affected people, including the most vulnerable, along with basic services in a resilient and sustainable way.