• Suggests ‘debt swap’ arrangement, calls on global lenders to enable investment in sustainable infrastructure
• Visits flood-hit areas in Sindh, Balochistan; describes the devastation he witnessed as ‘climate carnage’
KARACHI: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday urged global financial institutions to create a new mechanism for countries like Pakistan to enable investment in climate resilience and sustainable infrastructure, instead of getting mired in debt repayment.
Mr Guterres, who visited flood-hit areas in Sindh and Balochistan on Saturday, called the devastation he witnessed “climate carnage” as he appealed for a “massive and global response” to deal with climate change.
Addressing the media at Jinnah Terminal as he concluded his visit, Mr Guterres said he had been very clear in his demand for “debt relief for developing and middle income countries like Pakistan that are on the verge of an extremely difficult financial situation.”
“In some cases, we are already seeing that defaults are coming… I am strongly advocating for what we can call debt swaps,” he said, adding that it will allow the countries to invest in climate resilience and sustainable infrastructure, instead of paying the debt.
Earlier, Mr Guterres visited Sukkur, Larkana and Moenjo Daro in Sindh and Tehsil Usta Mohammad of district Jafferabad in Balochistan.
Moved by the extent of misery, and devastation, he said the UN supports Pakistan and requests other nations to extend support to the country so that it can prepare for the future challenges of climatic change.
“It was not a matter of generosity, but of justice,” he said while stressing that the international community must realise the serious impacts of greenhouse emissions as “nature was striking back” in the form of natural calamities.
He blamed the developed countries for “affecting the global environment” resulting in warmer climate, melting glaciers and floods.
“Pakistan has no resources to compensate for the loss of lives, crops and livestock. Those who have created this situation must massively support the country.”
In Larkana, the UN chief visited a relief camp in Quaid-i-Awam University of Engineering, Science and Technology. He interacted with the internally displaced persons, lady health workers and other staff.
In a display of empathy with those affected by floods, Mr Guterres said he can understand the sufferings and pains over loss of houses, crops and cattle as he himself belonged to a farmer family in Portugal
Later, he visited the Unesco World Heritage archeological site of Moenjo Daro, where he was also given a detailed briefing.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the UN secretary-general also interacted with displaced persons at a tent city in Usta Mohammed tehsil.
In his briefing there, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo said the provincial government has utilised all of its limited resources for rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.
Mr Bizenjo added that damages to bridges, roads and rail infrastructure are hampering relief activities as the authorities were facing difficulty to reach people in the remote areas.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr Guterres said Pakistan was paying the price for “intransigence” of the developed world who continue to burn fossil fuel.
Mr Guterres, who arrived in the country late Thursday night, tweeted: “Pakistan and other developing countries are paying a horrific price for the intransigence of big emitters that continue to bet on fossil fuels.”
“From Islamabad, I am issuing a global appeal: Stop the madness. Invest in renewable energy now. End the war with nature,” he added.
Saleem Shahid in Quetta, Waseem Shamsi in Sukkur, M.B. Kalhoro in Larkana, Ali Jan Mangi in Nasirabad and Imran Ayub also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2022