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Pakistan-UN summit to set precedent for who pays for climate disasters

Pakistan and the United Nations are set to hold a major conference in Geneva aimed at marshalling support to rebuild the country after devastating floods in what is expected to be a major test case for who pays for climate disasters.

The conference, set to take place on Monday, January 9, aims to bring together governments, leaders from the public and private sectors, and civil society to support the people and the government of Pakistan after the devastating floods of 2022.

Four months after the devastating monsoon rains, thousands of victims are still struggling to deal with the natural disaster as certain areas of Sindh province are still under water. Winter has further compounded their miseries. 

A post-disaster assessment conducted by the government and development partners, including the UN and the Asian Development Bank, estimated the total damage and losses in Pakistan at more than $30 billion, with $16.3 billion more required for recovery and reconstruction. However, it is far from clear where the reconstruction money will come from. 

Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Khalil Hashmi, told Reuters news agency as saying that Islamabad was willing to pay for about half of the bill but hoped for support from donors for the rest.

“We will be mobilising international support through various means,” he said. “We look forward to working with our partners.”

READ MORE: Pakistan flood deaths cross 1,000 in ‘climate catastrophe’

Rehabilitation and reconstruction

At the COP27 meeting in Egypt in November 2022, Pakistan was at the forefront of efforts that led to the establishment of a “loss and damage” fund to cover climate-related destruction for countries that have contributed less to global warming than wealthy ones.

Pakistan is expected to present the Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework (4RF) and seek international support and long-term partnerships for building climate resilience and adaptation.

“The conference will serve as a platform to marshal international support for the people and government of Pakistan to build back better in a resilient manner after the recent devastating floods as the country transitions from the rescue-and-relief phase towards the monumental task of recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The 4RF document also outlines the priority areas as well as the funding process, while also ensuring transparency.

The conference programme will feature a high-level opening segment to be co-chaired by the Pakistani prime minister and UN Secretary-General followed by the official launch of the 4RF document and partner support announcements.

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‘Climate carnage’

One in seven people in Pakistan has been affected by the unprecedented floods, which have left a third of the country under water, aside from killing nearly 1,700 people since mid-June last year. 

The country’s climate minister called the deadly monsoon season “a serious climate catastrophe.” 

Over 33 million people, mainly in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, were affected – with hundreds of thousands of homes, buildings, bridges, schools, and roads washed away.

Reconstruction work to rebuild millions of homes and thousands of kilometres of roads and railways is just beginning, and it is feared that millions more people may slide into poverty as a result of the catastrophe.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Pakistan in September 2022, described the destruction in the country as “climate carnage” and called for increased global financial support. 

UN chief: Never seen climate carnage like Pakistan floods

Why the conference is important for Pakistan?

The conference may give chance to Pakistan, with a $350 billion economy, to raise the necessary fund as heads of states, senior officials from international financial institutions and foundations are expected to participate.

On the sidelines of the conference, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation is expected to meet Pakistan’s finance minister to discuss issues related to the country’s economic situation.

Pakistan has been critical of the IMF lately, saying that the lender was acting “abnormally” in its dealings with Pakistan, which entered the $7 billion bailout programme in 2019. 

World Bank approves $1.69B for flood relief projects in Pakistan

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