Biden urges world to help ‘underwater’ Pakistan

Published September 22, 2022
US President Joe Biden speaks during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters on September 21, 2022 in New York City. — AFP
US President Joe Biden speaks during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters on September 21, 2022 in New York City. — AFP

• US president unveils $2.9bn global fund; calls for negotiating debts of vulnerable nations
• PM Shehbaz shares concerns on flood aftermath

UNITED NATIONS: As Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged the international community on Wednesday to stay engaged with Islamabad as it struggles to recover from the devastating effects of this season’s unprecedent floods, US President Joe Biden made a fervent appeal to the world to help Pakistan deal with the devastation of the recent floods in his speech to the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

The US president also called for action to address the climate change crisis and announced a $2.9 billion fund to support life-saving humanitarian and food security assistance across the globe for this year alone. Mr Biden also suggested “transparently negotiating” debts of vulnerable nations to forestall broader economic and political crises around the world.

“Much of Pakistan is still under water, and needs help,” said the US leader while highlighting the impact of the changing climate on the world.

“Families are facing impossible choices, choosing which child to feed and wondering whether they’ll survive,” he said. “This is the human cost of climate change. And it’s growing, not lessening.”

On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had urged world leaders to help Pakistan deal with its debts.

Read: Flood aftermath

Taking a step in the same direction, President Biden called on “major global creditors including the non-Paris Club countries to transparently negotiate debt forgiveness for lower income countries to forestall broader economic and political crises around the world”.

He said that instead of infrastructure projects that “generate huge and large debt without delivering on the promise advantages,” consider other ways to help developing nations.

“Let’s meet the enormous infrastructure needs around the world with transparent investments, high standard projects that protect the rights of workers and the environment, key to the needs of the communities they serve, not to the contributor.”

PM’s engagements

Mr Sharif shared his concerns about the aftermath of the floods with the world leaders he met on the second day of his four-day visit to New York to attend the 77th session of the UN General Assembly. This included managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva. Their talks focused on the Fund’s “continued support” for Pakistan’s efforts to rebuild its economy.

Next was US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry, where PM Shehbaz used the opportunity to convey Pakistan’s “gratitude for immediate US assistance in the wake of the devastating floods in Pakistan,” said an official statement.

Special Envoy Kerry expressed solidarity with the people and government of Pakistan and reaffirmed the US administration’s continued support in coping with the floods. The United States, he said, was ready to engage with Pakistan in rebuilding a resilient infrastructure and would also support Islamabad’s effort to avert such crises in future.

Later, World Bank Group President David Malpass also called on Mr Sharif in New York. They discussed World Bank’s ongoing engagement with Pakistan to strengthen its infrastructure, agriculture, rural and urban development, social service, as well as economic growth.

Mr Malpass stressed that Pakistan must be prioritised for resilient reconstruction through the international community’s collective support. He also expressed the World Bank’s readiness to support Pakistan in its reconstruction and rehabilitation endeavours and also committed to repurposing $850m immediately to help Pakistan with its flood relief efforts.

In pictures: Devastating floods affect millions in Pakistan

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also met the premier, expressed sympathy for flood victims and assured him of US commitment to stand with Pakistan at this difficult time.

In a meeting with Csaba Korosi, the president of the 77th UNGA session, Prime Minister Sharif emphasised the importance of a comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and underscored the need for continuing transparent, consultative and constructive intergovernmental negotiations, which would respond to the positions and expectations of all member states.

He also extended Pakistan’s support, as the current chair of the Group of 77, to advance the development agenda in the General Assembly and other relevant bodies and forums.

Mr Korosi expressed his complete sympathy, solidarity and cooperation with Pakistan, noting that flood-related devastation was not of Pakistan’s making and it deserved the world’s support. There should be a global solution to a global problem, he said.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2022

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