ISLAMABAD: Eight top United Nations human rights experts have called on the countries of the world to step up their assistance to monsoon flood victims in Pakistan and ensure that international recovery efforts are guided by human rights law and standards.
“We add our voices to those calling for international solidarity with the victims of the floods in Pakistan,” the experts said. “The global climate crisis has contributed to these terrible floods and caused unprecedented human suffering in Pakistan. All countries that have contributed to the global climate crisis have an international obligation to assist Pakistan with its recovery,” they said.
The eight United Nations human rights experts are Balakrishnan Rajagopal, special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; Attiya Waris, an independent expert on the effects of foreign debt; Obiora C. Okafor, an independent expert on human rights and international solidarity; Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, special rapporteur on human rights of internally displaced persons; Tlaleng Mofokeng, special rapporteur on the right to health; Olivier De Schutter, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Ian Fry, special rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; and Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food.
These experts said that compared to many industrialised countries, Pakistan and its people had only modestly contributed to global warming which was resulting in extreme weather events and climate change.
Say global climate crisis has caused unprecedented human suffering
Their remarks come in the wake of the United Nations secretary general’s call for massive global support to Pakistan and a separate call for the creation of an international fund to help recovery of climate change-affected countries.
The experts also emphasised the relevance of proposals to increase international support for the establishment of social protection floors, such as through the global fund for social protection called for by the International Labour Conference, to strengthen the resilience of countries against such shocks.
“It is important that international relief efforts are guided by human rights, prioritising humanitarian assistance and relief to the most vulnerable. In re-housing those who have been left homeless by climate change-induced monsoon floods, Pakistan needs to renew attention to land rights and security of tenure,” the experts said.
They said the poor and vulnerable were often forced to live in informal settlements located in areas particularly at risk during natural disasters.
“Local policies and practices such as forced evictions or uncontrolled deforestation can make things worse when climate change impacts hit. Many people who have been affected by the floods have no titles to land and homes, so they have chosen to remain closer to their residences, putting themselves and their families at risk,” the experts said.
Last year, a group of the United Nations experts called on Pakistan to halt mass evictions along Karachi’s watercourses, which eventually left thousands of people homeless and forced others to remain in the rubble of partially demolished homes.
“Regularising informal housing would add to the bulwark of building a society equipped to withstand the impact of climate-induced events,” the experts said in a joint statement issued in Geneva on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner Dr Christian Turner visited flood-affected communities in Mirpur Khas district and saw first-hand the delivery of lifesaving assistance by Concern Worldwide, a non-government organisation being funded by the UK government.
Accompanied by the Concern Worldwide Acting Country Director Sherzada Khan, Dr Christian Turner met relief workers and community leaders to better understand the scale of the situation in Sindh and ascertain how further the UK assistance could be utilised.
He also visited a cash assistance programme and primary health care centre, which was being funded, in part, by an initial tranche of 1.55 million pounds committed by the UK government at the start of the flood crisis. This initial UK aid was being spent to provide critical life-saving assistance in Sindh and Balochistan.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022