UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly adopted Friday a resolution that expressed full solidarity with the flood-hit Pakistani people and urged the world community to scale up its humanitarian assistance to Pakistan, and to support rehabilitation and reconstruction in the areas devastated by climate-induced monsoon rains.
The 193-member Assembly, meeting in its iconic hall, adopted the Pakistan-sponsored resolution by consensus. The text was co-sponsored by a large number of countries – 159 – from all regions of the world.
“Countries, like Pakistan, which confront such climate-induced disasters should not be left to fend for themselves, dependent on the generosity and charity of friends,” Ambassador Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, said while introducing the resolution, as he drew attention to the havoc wrought by the raging flood waters, and called for international support to help Pakistan cope with the calamity.
“We must construct mechanisms that can enable climate-struck countries to access resources to mitigate the impacts of the ever more frequent and more intense climate disasters and to recover quickly from such disasters,” the Pakistani envoy said, while paying tributes to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his timely visit to Pakistan to personally convey his solidarity, meet the victims, consult the country’s leadership and call for massive assistance to Pakistan, saying he had explored the hearts of the Pakistani people.
“If a referendum was held in Pakistan, the Secretary-General would receive, not 99 per cent, but 100 per cent support!”
In a passionate speech, the UN chief said, “The people of Pakistan are the victims of a grim calculus of climate injustice.”
Pakistan, Guterres said, was responsible for less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet it was paying a supersized price for man-made climate change.
Pakistan, he warned, was on the verge of a public health disaster, saying the risk of a cholera outbreak, malaria and dengue fever threatened to claim far more lives than the floods.
“Nearly 1,500 health facilities have been devastated, greatly hindering the ability to detect and respond to outbreaks. More than 2 million homes were damaged or destroyed,” the UN chief added.
In his remarks, Ambassador Akram said the toll taken had been tremendous. “Over 1,700 people lost their lives and 13,000 were injured. Thirty-three million, including 16 million children are estimated to be affected by heavy rainfall. Over a million homes, 13,000 kilometers of national highways, 410 bridges and 5.4 million acre crops were damaged.”
He said the floods had displaced at least 7.9 million people, of whom some 600,000 were living in relief camps. Nearly 800,000 refugees were estimated to be hosted in more than 40 calamity-notified districts, including over 175,600 women, 194,000 girls and 206,000 boys.
“The total estimated damage caused by this calamity is $32 billion, 10 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP,” the Pakistani envoy said. “The World Bank estimates that as a direct consequence of the floods, the national poverty rate may increase by 4.5 to 7.0 percentage points, pushing between 9.9 to 15.4 million people into poverty and intensifying the depth and severity of poverty for already poor households.”
Under the terms of the resolution, the Assembly stressed the need for continued cooperation between the Pakistani government and the relevant organizations throughout the ongoing relief operations, and rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, in a manner that enhances resilience and reduces vulnerability to future natural hazards;
Emphasizing adaptive capacity, the resolution urges strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change and extreme weather events.
It calls for full support and assistance to the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to mitigate the adverse impacts of the floods and to meet the medium- and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction needs.
The resolution also calls on the international community to “scale up its humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation of Pakistan, in order to repair and strengthen the country’s prospects for achieving sustainable development and encourages member states, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to continue to work together to address the different needs of affected populations, particularly the most vulnerable”.
The text “emphasizes the need for the international community to maintain its focus beyond the present emergency relief, in order to sustain the political will to support the medium- and long-term rehabilitation, reconstruction and risk reduction efforts as well as adaptation plan led by the Government of Pakistan at all levels.”
It welcomes the proposed convening of a Pledging Conference to generate assistance for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction phases in the disaster-stricken areas.
The resolution requests the Secretary-General and the UN system entities to continue to support Pakistan in the preparation of a climate-resilient reconstruction plan responding to national priorities and development needs, and to further intensify their efforts to sensitize the international community to the humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction needs of Pakistan.
In his speech, the UN chief vividly described what he saw in the flood-devastated Pakistan: “A level of climate carnage beyond imagination: flood waters covering a landmass three times the total area of my own country, Portugal.
“Many have lost everything – their homes, their livestock, their crops, their futures. Lives were washed away. The most vulnerable of the vulnerable – children – accounted for fully one-third of all deaths and injuries.
“While the rains may have ceased and water is beginning to recede, many areas in the south of Pakistan remain inundated. And as winter approaches in Pakistan, even darker clouds loom. The situation is going from bad to worse.”
Guterres added, “When I visited Pakistan, I saw the best of humanity. I saw the immense generosity and solidarity of neighbours and strangers helping one another. I saw people who put themselves at risk and lost all their worldly possessions to rescue others. I saw people providing what little that they had to share with a person in need.
“But I also saw the future we might face. Today, it is Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country and your communities. Climate chaos is knocking on everyone’s door, right now. We must step up and answer the call for the people of Pakistan.
“This global crisis demands global solidarity and a global response.”
In his opening statement, the President of the Assembly’s 77th session, Csaba Korosi, said he stood with Pakistan in the critical hour of need, and urged the international community to help the flood-devastated country.
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