NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres shake hands ahead of their meeting at the UN headquarters on the sidelines of the General Assembly session.—Prime Minister Office
NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres shake hands ahead of their meeting at the UN headquarters on the sidelines of the General Assembly session.—Prime Minister Office

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has told Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that he plans to hold a donors’ conference either in New York or somewhere in Europe to raise funds for Pakistan’s flood victims.

The prime minister disclosed this while talking to media at a Pakistan-sponsored exhibition of pictures from the flood-affected areas at the UN headquarters in New York.

The prime minister said that while the date of the proposed donors’ conference had not yet been finalised, “it will be held soon”.

On Aug 30, the United Nations and Pakistan appealed for $160 million in emergency funding for the flood victims but earlier this month, UN officials disclosed that so far they received only one-fourth of that amount.

Hina says Shehbaz had brief ‘interaction’ with Biden at a reception

The donors’ conference would augment efforts to collect funds for the victims.

The prime minister said he would convey the voice of the flood victims to the rest of the world when he addresses the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Sept 23.

Mr Sharif makes his debut on the global stage on Friday with his address to a gathering of world leaders at the UN headquarters in New York. He is expected to highlight the massive devastation triggered by deadly climate-induced floods, and will appeal for international support to deal with the catastrophe.

On Thursday, the prime minister inaugurated an exhibition of pictures from the flood-affected areas at the UN Secretariat Lobby, which also included videos showing the flood devastation from various angles.

Talking to the media after inaugurating the exhibition, Mr Sharif said he would urge the international community to “come forward” and help Pakistan “deal with this disaster”.

“The devastation is so huge: more than a million houses destroyed, four million acres of crops lost, about 900,000 livestocks washed away and thousands of kilometres of road destroyed,” he added.

The prime minister said that according to one estimate, the floods had caused a loss of at least 30 billion dollars to the national economy. He said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “has become our voice. I met him today and thanked him for raising the voice of the suffering of Pakistan’s flood-hit people on the international stage”, he said.

The prime minister thanked President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkiye and President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran for highlighting the suffering of the flood victims of Pakistan.

Biden-Shehbaz interaction

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar told journalists that the prime minister had a brief “interaction” with US President Joe Biden at a reception on Wednesday evening.

She described the interaction as “constructive and forward-looking”.

“I am at liberty to say that it is de-hyphenated and we want it further de-hyphenated, with all the regional and political things that have been going on,” said Ms Khar when asked how such interactions would impact the US-Pakistan relationship.

“It is starting at a solid footing and we don’t want to rush it,” she added.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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