|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
110th Meeting (PM)
General Assembly Calls for Strengthened Emergency Relief to Meet Pakistan’s Urgent
Needs after Massive Destruction Caused by Unprecedented, Devastating Floods
Secretary-General Briefs on Visit, Says Disaster Test for Global Solidarity;
World Must Act, So ‘This Natural Disaster Does Not Become a Man-Made Catastrophe’
With the international community only now beginning to comprehend the true scope of the devastation in flood-ravaged Pakistan, the United Nations General Assembly today expressed full solidarity with the Pakistani people, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a massive scaling up of aid and warned that fallout from three weeks of flooding that had affected 15 million to 20 million people was likely to last for years.
Adopting a consensus resolution entitled “Strengthening emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and prevention in the wake of devastating floods in Pakistan”, the 192-Member Assembly urged the international community, particularly donor countries, world financial institutions and relevant organizations, as well as the private sector and civil society, to extend full support and assistance to Pakistan’s Government in its efforts to cope with the impacts of the worst rains and floods to hit the country in decades and to meet medium- and long-term needs.
The resolution requested the Secretary-General and the United Nations system agencies to further intensify their efforts to sensitize the international community to Pakistan’s humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction needs and to mobilize effective, immediate and adequate support to the country, a call echoed by the ministers and senior Government officials attending the meeting. The text also noted, as did several speakers, that the scale of the destruction, triggered by torrential rains in an otherwise arid region, reflected the adverse impact of climate change and the growing vulnerability of countries to that phenomenon.
As he briefed the Assembly on his visit to the region over the weekend, Secretary-General Ban painted a heart-wrenching picture of unprecedented needs in Pakistan, saying the disaster “is like few the world has ever seen, requiring a response to match”. He lamented countless villages that had been washed away, roads and bridges destroyed, crops and livelihoods wiped out. The 160,000 square kilometres of land now under water was an area larger than more than half the countries of the world, he added.
“The eyes see. The ears hear. Yet, somehow, the mind struggles to grasp the full dimension of this catastrophe,” he said, describing the flood-weary men and women he had met as “awash in a sea of suffering”, fearing the next wave of “water […] disease [and] destruction”. Indeed, 15 million to 20 million people needed shelter, food and emergency care, more than the entire populations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), the Kashmir earthquake (2005), Cyclone Nargis (2008) and the Haiti earthquake (2010) combined.
“Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge,” Mr. Ban stressed. “It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times”, and United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organizations and aid groups were supporting the Pakistan Government’s response, he said, with aid being transported by “helicopters, trucks, even mules”. But the needs were great and the disaster far from over, he cautioned, as Pakistan now faced a “slow-motion tsunami” whose destructive power would grow with time.
Calling for massive support, he said some 8 million people were in need of relief aid, while 14 million needed health care, especially children and pregnant women. Amid talk of “fatigue” and suggestions that Governments were reluctant to cope with yet another disaster, he urged delegates to remember that if anyone should be fatigued, it was the ordinary people he had met in Pakistan. With that, he asked the Assembly to stand with the people of Pakistan and act, “so that this natural disaster did not become a man-made catastrophe”.
In an impassioned address ahead of the Assembly’s action, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan was a nation that suffered the ravages of the 2005 earthquake and bravely bore the loss of 80,000 brethren. His country had likewise braced, with fortitude, the loss of thousands of its men, women and children to suicide attacks. Pakistanis were the people to whom the international community looked as a bulwark against terrorism and extremism. “ Pakistan is the nation, which now looks towards the international community to show similar determination and humanity in its hour of need,” he said.
The situation was critical and alarming, he said, and he stood before the Assembly as the voice of 20 million Pakistanis devastated by “a natural calamity of unprecedented proportions”. In the wake of the “worst monsoon floods in living memory”, 1 in 10 Pakistanis has been rendered destitute. Standing crops, worth billions of dollars, had been destroyed. The critical sector of livestock had been equally devastated. More than 3.5 million children were at high risk of deadly water-borne diseases. The Government was funnelling all its national resources to the rescue and relief effort. Hundreds of thousands had been evacuated from riverine areas and providing food, shelter, clean drinking water and preventing water-borne diseases and epidemics remained the top priorities.
Yet, while the entire nation stood united and determined, “the scale of the challenge is colossal, far too big for any developing country to handle alone”, he stressed, adding his hope that the international community would come forward in all earnestness. “We trust that we shall be provided with the much-needed support to augment our national relief and rescue efforts.” Pakistan greatly appreciated the launch of the United Nations $459 million Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan, and had requested the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to assist the Government in carrying out a comprehensive needs assessment. Applauding the solidarity he had witnessed today, he hoped to return to Islamabad with a clear message that the people of Pakistan were not alone “in this hour of trial”.
As more than 20 delegations, representatives of major donors and regional groups took the floor to express solidarity with Pakistan and to highlight their Governments’ efforts to ramp up international support for the relief and reconstruction effort, speakers expressed sympathy for the more than 1,500 Pakistanis that had been killed in the floods and pledged to bolster efforts to alleviate the suffering of survivors, especially the millions of displaced persons. Delegations also warned that the international effort must be well coordinated and focused on ensuring Pakistan’s long-term recovery, otherwise the country would face an even deeper humanitarian tragedy brought on by the spread of infectious disease, devastated farmlands and derailed economic activities.
General Assembly President Ali Abdusallam Treki, who had submitted the resolution to Member States, said today’s meeting demonstrated the United Nations special ability to provide assistance and he was confident that it would send a strong message that the world stood by the Pakistani people in such difficult times. At the same time, he noted natural and environmental catastrophes afflicting other parts of Asia - including in China, where landslides had killed more than 1,200 people; India, where floods had caused significant destruction; and in the Russian Federation, where wildfires had erased whole villages - and he expressed the Assembly’s condolences and sympathies to all those affected.
As for Pakistan, he said that country was facing one of the region’s worst catastrophes and he called for an international response that would complement national efforts. “We are in a race against time,” he said, adding that assistance thus far provided had not matched required levels, due to a lack of supplies, destroyed infrastructure and continued rains. “We must speed up our efforts to save lives,” he stressed, noting that many States had come forward to help and that the United Nations had provided food and shelter to thousands. However, much more was needed. To date, barely half of the United Nations $450 million flash appeal had been pledged and he called on States to urgently bridge the gap.
Also addressing the Assembly today were the Secretary of State of the United States, as well as the Deputy Prime Ministers of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), and Georgia.
The Foreign Ministers of Denmark and Canada also spoke, as did senior Ministers from Turkey, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Norway, Netherlands and Italy.
Also speaking were the representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Tajikistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Ghana (on behalf of the Africa Group), Cambodia (on behalf of the Asia Group) and Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)).
The General Assembly will reconvene Friday, 20 August, at 10 a.m.
The General Assembly met today to take up strengthening emergency relief assistance in Pakistan, following the devastating floods.
General Assembly President ALI ABDUSALLAM TREKI, of Libya, said that, as the Assembly met today, an unprecedented humanitarian disaster was unfolding in Pakistan, with a staggering 20 million people affected by heavy rains and devastating floods, an increase from 14 million only six days ago. When he had called this meeting, he had not imagined that the situation would deteriorate so rapidly, while thousands awaited assistance in extremely exceptional circumstances.
Indeed, today’s meeting was a demonstration of the United Nations’ special ability to provide assistance, he said, and of the high level of importance attached to the situation. He was confident that it would send a strong message that the world stood by the Pakistani people in such difficult times. Most of all, it demonstrated the international community’s commitment to provide assistance, and, to the Pakistani people, that “we are ready and willing to assist them in every possible way”.
He said natural and environmental catastrophes had afflicted other parts of Asia, noting that landslides in China had killed more than 1,200 people, floods in India had caused significant destruction and wildfires in the Russian Federation had erased whole villages. In that context, he expressed the Assembly’s condolences and sympathies to all affected populations.
Turning to Pakistan, he said the country had seen one of the worst regional catastrophes. “We must provide international assistance to complement national efforts,” he stressed. Indeed, the catastrophe had afflicted more than 10 per cent of the population and an estimated 20 per cent of land. “We are in a race against time,” he added. Assistance provided had not matched required levels, due to a lack of supplies, destroyed infrastructure and continued rains.
“We must speed up our efforts to save lives,” he stressed, noting that many States had come forward to help and that the United Nations had provided food and shelter to thousands. However, much more was needed. The United Nations had launched an initial appeal for $460 million to meet immediate needs. To date, barely half of that amount had been pledged and he called on States to urgently bridge the gap.
Beyond that, a far greater commitment would be required for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction, he said. Displacement of people and wide-scale destruction of homes, roads, bridges, schools and hospitals meant that Pakistan had suffered billions of dollars in losses.
The draft resolution was an important and timely response to the situation at hand, he said. It expressed strong solidarity with Pakistan, called for provision of international assistance to complement national efforts and focused on the immediate emergency phase, as well as the medium- and long-term phases requiring rehabilitation and reconstruction. Its adoption with full support and consensus would be but one measure of hope for affected populations, “letting them know that the world cares and that help is on the way”.
United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, describing his visit to Pakistan on Sunday, said he was honoured to carry with him the sympathy and solidarity of the world. He had met women and men with very little in the best of times, awash in a sea of suffering. “The eyes see. The ears hear. Yet, somehow, the mind struggles to grasp the full dimension of this catastrophe,” he said.
Fifteen million to 20 million people needed shelter, food and emergency care, more than the entire population hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), the Kashmir earthquake (2005), Cyclone Nargis (2008) and the Haiti earthquake (2010) combined. The 160,000 square kilometres of land now under water was an area larger than more than half the countries of the world. “Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge,” Mr. Ban stressed. “It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times.”
United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organizations and aid groups were supporting the Government’s response, he said, with aid being transported by helicopters, trucks, even mules. Nearly 1 million people had received a month’s food ration from the World Food Programme (WFP), while similar numbers now had emergency shelter and clean water, helped by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and many others.
But the needs were great and the disaster far from over, he cautioned, noting that Pakistan now faced a “slow-motion tsunami” whose destructive power would grow with time. Having discussed that reality with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani, they had agreed on what must be done. Massive support was needed. Eight million people were in need of food water and shelter, while 14 million needed health care, with a special emphasis on children and pregnant women.
Noting that a $460 million emergency appeal had been issued for the next 90 days, he said half that amount had been received. All of those resources were urgently needed, with follow-up action that delivered change on the ground. When the waters receded, recovery and reconstruction must begin. Agricultural losses alone would exceed $1 billion, according to the World Bank. As climate change would bring more extreme weather events, he also urged investing more in reducing the risk of future disasters.
For its part, the United Nations was considering a high-level meeting on Pakistan when world leaders gathered in September for the Millennium Development Goal Summit, he said. In October, the Friends of Democratic Pakistan would meet in Brussels. Indeed, the disaster was “like few the world has ever seen” and required a response to match.
Amid talk of “fatigue” and suggestions that Governments were reluctant to cope with yet another disaster, he urged delegates to remember that, if anyone should be fatigued, it was the ordinary people he had met in Pakistan. But, on the contrary, he had seen in them determination, resilience and the hope that they would not be alone under the darkest of skies. With that, he asked delegates to stand with the people of Pakistan. Let us act, so that this natural disaster does not become a man-made catastrophe.”
MAKHDOOM SHAH MAHMOOD QURESHI, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, said that what was being confronted in Pakistan today was “a natural calamity of unprecedented proportions”. He added, “These are the worst monsoon floods in living memory”. According to United Nations reports, the present humanitarian crisis was larger than the combined effects of the 2005 tsunami and the 2005 earthquake.
Pakistanis, he said, were a resilient people. They were no strangers to challenges and difficulties. Theirs was a nation that suffered the ravages of the 2005 earthquake and bravely bore the loss of 80,000 brethren. Pakistan was the nation that braced, with fortitude, the loss of thousands of its men, women and children to suicide attacks. Pakistanis were the people to whom the international community looked as a bulwark against terrorism and extremism.
“ Pakistan is the nation, which now looks towards the international community to show a similar determination and humanity in its hour of need,” he said. The situation was critical and alarming, and he said he stood before the Assembly as the voice of 20 million Pakistanis devastated by the floods — who had lost their homes and hearths, their kith and kin, their lands and their crops, their lives and their livelihoods. One in ten Pakistanis has been rendered destitute. Twenty per cent of the country’s land was submerged in water.
The country was primarily an agrarian economy, with 70 per cent of its population employed in the agriculture sector, he said, adding that that was where it had been hit the most. More than 17 million acres of agricultural land had been submerged. Standing crops, worth billions of dollars, had been destroyed. The critical sector of livestock had been equally devastated. More than 3.5 million children were at high risk of deadly water-borne diseases. Schools would not be opening soon after summer vacations, as they were providing shelter to flood survivors.
In Punjab, he continued, almost 1 million acres of cotton-growing area was affected, and crops worth $1 billion had been destroyed. In the South, standing crops in the Sindh province worth $1.2 billion, over an area of 100,000 acres, faced complete destruction. In the North, more than 325,000 acres of land were submerged, and crops worth $500 million had been destroyed in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province. In Balochistan, villages and towns were being inundated as he spoke. More than 70 per cent of the roads and bridges in the flood-stricken areas had been destroyed, with none remaining intact in the Swat valley. Additionally, more than 1 million tons of wheat stores in warehouses had been swept away.
Unfortunately, he said, those were only initial estimates, as the situation was still evolving. In fact, it was expected to worsen as the second and third wave of floods inundated more lands and uprooted more people. The numbers would surely go up as the waters receded and the affected areas became accessible. The aftermath of the floods in the medium to long term would pose more daunting challenges. Reconstruction and rehabilitation costs would be huge. But the immediate challenge was to meet the food, health and clean drinking water needs of the millions of displaced and to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure.
The difficulties did not end there, he said, pointing to the severe stress to be felt by the urban infrastructure as millions of people migrated to bigger cities in search of shelter and jobs. Another serious problem, with long-term socio-economic implications, was the loss of land and potential decline in the arability of flood-affected lands. The food security of the sixth most populous country in the world was at risk. The possible threats of food riots and related violence could not be ruled out.
He said his Government had mobilized all its national resources to provide rescue and relief. Hundreds of thousands had been rescued and evacuated from riverine areas. Provision of food, shelter, clean drinking water and prevention of water-borne diseases and epidemics remained the top priorities. The entire nation stood united and determined to overcome that challenge. The people of Pakistan had opened up their hearts and hearths to their brothers and sisters. The country was also determined to turn around the economy destroyed in the floods, and had decided to set up an independent national entity to mobilize maximum domestic resources and to ensure their effective and transparent use. That entity would comprise persons of integrity, who would supervise the collection, management and distribution of relief funds among the flood-affected people.
The commitment and resolve notwithstanding, “the scale of the challenge is colossal, far too big for any developing country to handle alone”, he stressed, adding his hope that the international community would come forward in all earnestness. “We trust that we shall be provided with the much-needed support to augment our national relief and rescue efforts.” The people of Pakistan greatly appreciated the launch of the $459 million Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan by the United Nations, and Pakistan had requested the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to assist the Government in carrying out a comprehensive damage needs assessment.
The disaster had hit hard at a time, and in areas, where Pakistan was in the midst of fighting a war against extremists and terrorists, he said. The people of Pakistan had stood by their brave security forces in that fight, but those successes had come at a heavy price. More than 10,000 innocent civilians had fallen victim to terrorism, and more than 2,500 Pakistani soldiers had given their lives. The material losses exceeded $43 billion.
He said that the gains made against the terrorists were substantial, yet Pakistan remained “exposed”. The peace and relative calm achieved as a result of the democratic Government’s relentless efforts were still fragile and needed to be consolidated. The massive upheaval caused by the floods and the economic losses suffered by the millions of Pakistanis must be addressed urgently. “If we fail, it could undermine the hard-won gains made by the Government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism,” he warned, adding, “We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for the terrorists.”
In closing, he said that climate change had become a reality for 170 million Pakistanis. The present situation reconfirmed the nation’s extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change, which also complicated the reconstruction and rehabilitation scenario in Pakistan. Nature had made a graphic endorsement to strengthen the case for a fair and equitable outcome from the ongoing United Nations Framework Convention negotiations. The solidarity he witnessed here today was very reassuring. He wished to return to Islamabad with a clear message that the people of Pakistan were not alone in this hour of trial and that the international community stood ready to support and assist them.
Action on Draft Resolution
Next, the General Assembly adopted the draft resolution contained in document A/64/L.66.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Secretary of State of the United States, said that, as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister had pointed out, the flooding had affected more than 20 million Pakistanis – more than the population of New York State — and the United States had taken and would continue to take swift action to help. On behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people, she expressed her country’s resolve to help Pakistan meet the immediacy of the crisis and then to recover form it. She wanted the people of Pakistan to know that the United States would stand with them during the crisis – with them as the rivers rose and fell, with them as they replanted their fields and repaired their roads, with them as they met the long-term challenges to build a stronger nation and a better future.
Under the direction of the Government of Pakistan and its national disaster management authority, the United States had been working since the earliest days of the flooding to provide assistance to those who needed it the most, she said. The initial response by the Pakistani Government and people, the United States and the international community had helped to alleviate the suffering and save lives, but the combined effort so far paled against the magnitude of the challenge. It was difficult to overstate the scope of the catastrophe and, unfortunately, it was likely to get worse before it got better.
She said Pakistan faced a “humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions”, which was also creating economic and security problems. Here at the United Nations, discussion often centred on the desire to forge a more humane fellowship, stressing that today that aspiration must be matched with action. Many countries, including her own, faced tough economic conditions and tight budgets, enduring an unrelenting stream of disasters this year, “but we must answer the Pakistani request for help”. Pledges made for the United Nations response plan “put us halfway” towards the plan’s goal. That was a solid start, but the gap must be closed. The United States pledged anew $60 million, thereby contributing more than $150 million towards emergency flood relief for Pakistan, with approximately $92 million of that in direct support of the United Nations relief plan. The United States was also providing technical assistance and mobilizing civilian and other resources. She called on the American public and civilian corporations to also support the relief efforts by contributing to the Department of State Pakistan relief fund. Or, $10 contributions could be made via mobile phones, for which she provided a number.
The United States, she assured the meeting, was committed to the long-term goal of working with Pakistan to improve conditions in the country. A recent package of non-military assistance totalling $7.5 billion had been authorized by Congress and agreed to by President Obama. The United States would now take some of those funds to support Pakistan in its reconstruction efforts. Her country was seeking to strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions. Its approach to relief and rebuilding was based on a foundation of partnership important to the United States and Pakistan. It was up to Pakistan’s leaders to help with those efforts and they, in turn, would be accountable to the citizens of Pakistan. She reaffirmed her country’s commitment to Pakistan, stressing her belief that Pakistan would come through this crisis because of the strength, resiliency, and courage of its people.
STEVEN VANACKERE, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Institutional Reform of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the resolution’s adoption. The Union would contribute to its full implementation, was participating in the immediate global response and strongly supported efforts of both the United Nations and Pakistani authorities as they provided assistance to those in need. Stressing support for as long as was needed, he said the Union and Pakistan shared a lasting friendship. Before the disaster, the Union had allocated more than €400 million in assistance to the country for the 2007-2010 period. Over €110 million had been committed since the start of the crisis. Today, he was pleased to announce that that amount would be increased by €30 million, for a total of more than €140 million. Such assistance was provided on the basis of humanity and neutrality.
“There is no room for complacency,” he said, stressing that people would continue to be in dire need of assistance. To provide the most comprehensive response, the European Union High Representative, together with European Commission colleagues, was coordinating the Union’s assessment of short- and long-term implications of the crisis. Access was a major challenge and his delegation was examining how all the necessary assets could be deployed as a matter of priority. In a region still afflicted by conflict, it was crucial that humanitarian aid was perceived as neutral, in line with international humanitarian law, and on the basis of the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
Coordination was paramount for international actors and Pakistani authorities were clearly leading the response. At the same time, he encouraged all organizations to work with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. On Pakistan’s security and stability, he strongly encouraged the international community to support the country “in a lasting manner”. The country would be high on the agenda of the next informal meeting of European Union foreign affairs ministers in September.
TEMUR YAKOBASHVILI, Vice Prime Minister of Georgia, applauded the Secretary-General’s prompt response in the wake of the devastating floods in Pakistan and commended all the nations that had demonstrated international solidarity with that country. Georgia was keenly aware of the hardships caused by forced displacement. Indeed, with some 10 per cent of its populations uprooted by the floods, Pakistan, like any Government, faced a difficult challenge and would require broad and coordinated international assistance. “The hardships faced by those displaced should be alleviated as much as possible in the early days, in order to prevent further humanitarian crisis,” he added.
In addition, all displaced persons should be allowed to return to their homes and communities in safety and dignity, in line with international law and with the support of the international community. As part of the wider international response to the floods, he said Georgia had decided to allocate $100,000 to the United Nations flash appeal. Georgia also fully supported the lead role the United Nations was playing in providing emergency aid in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and would encourage the world body to search for ways and means to address the longer-term needs of the affected communities. “It is our experience that displacement often lasts longer than anticipated, and this eventuality must be planned for,” he said.
LENE ESPERSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, aligning with the European Union, said the scale of disaster in Pakistan was so large that it called for nothing less than full support to the Pakistani people. Urging immediate action, she said States must pledge and deliver without delay a response with humanitarian assistance that matched the magnitude of the situation. “We must move quickly and be ready when the water recedes,” she said, noting also the need for continued support for long-term efforts to build a democratic, stable and prosperous Pakistan. Without such help, “we quite simply fail our humanitarian obligation”, she said.
To meet the challenges, a swift and coordinated international response was needed, she said. Denmark had immediately responded to the call for assistance and urged all States to do the same. Pakistan was also toiling with an armed conflict and horrifying terror attacks against innocent people. Denmark would continue to support the Government in stopping militants and strengthening democracy and looked to the Pakistani Government to provide the necessary leadership in that regard.
At the outset of the floods, Denmark had approved $11 million in immediate humanitarian aid and the dispatch of technical experts, she said. Her Government was constantly reviewing the need for further Danish support. In addition to its humanitarian response, the Danish Parliament last week approved a further $22.5 million for medium- and long-term development assistance, a major part of which would be directed to early recovery and reconstruction activities.
LAWRENCE CANNON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, said the floods in Pakistan served as a powerful reminder that every day, millions of people worldwide required urgent humanitarian assistance. His Government had heeded the Secretary-General’s call to provide immediate support and assistance to Pakistan and, in that regard, Canada fully supported the draft resolution before the Assembly and had also acted immediately after the first wave of flooding to contribute $2 million to meet the urgent needs of the Pakistani people. Further, Canada had announced that it would also provide $33 million to the United Nations Pakistan Initial Flood Emergency Response Plan, most of which would be targeted for priority needs that included food, water sanitation, shelter and emergency medical care.
Continuing, he said that Canada would also provide up to another $8 million in urgently needed equipment, such as bridges, to help the Pakistani Government restore links to communities that had been cut off by the flooding and to provide security to those affected by the disaster. As Canada had a long-standing and valued friendship with Pakistan and had developed a strong development cooperation partnership over the years, the Canadian people had been shaken by the images of the devastation. At the same time, they had been inspired by the resolve and determination of Pakistani’s to overcome the tragedy. Canada would continue to work with Pakistan’s Government, United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations on the ground to ensure that the international community’s collective assistance reached the affected populations as soon as possible.
EGEMEN BAGIS, Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator, Turkey, read out a message from the Prime Minister extending Turkey’s deepest sorrow for the floods, which had shattered the lives of millions of Pakistanis. The emergency required an appropriate and immediate global response. Acting against that and other disasters was not only a necessity, but a humanitarian responsibility, the message said. Today was the day to extend a swift, strong and determined helping hand to Pakistan, and Turkey would do its best to heal the wounds of the Pakistani people.
Mr. Bagis said the disaster was “one of the gravest” seen by the international community, and it coincided meaningfully with World Humanitarian Day. Indeed, the tragedy in Pakistan outlined a new challenge for all. In the face of that unprecedented natural disaster, it was vital to win the hearts and minds of the affected Pakistanis, as the disaster could generate social upheaval and transform into security problems. There was a common responsibility to heal the suffering as quickly as possible, and he encouraged the international community to take the threat very seriously. Today’s high-level session was testament that Pakistanis were not alone; they should hear and feel that their well-being was taken seriously by the international community, which stood by them in this dire moment.
At the same time, he said, the relief operations should respect Pakistan’s sovereignty; the pride of the Pakistanis must also be preserved. Turkey’s relationship with Pakistan was time-tested and unique, and his country had at all levels expressed its readiness to assist. For example, it had sent four shipments of humanitarian assistance to Pakistan, carrying food rations and shelter equipment, and it had transferred $10 million to the authorities. The Armed Forces would send two C-130 cargo planes carrying medical supplies. Turkish Red Crescent, volunteer and relief groups had been among the first international associations to have reached Pakistan, and they had already distributed supplies in coordination with the local authorities. Turkey, together with health-care personnel, was in the midst of constructing two field hospitals. The hospitals would be operational on Saturday.
The international community, including the United Nations system, the major development partners and European Union, were facing yet another test against an enormous catastrophe, he said. Today’s plenary, ongoing global efforts and the responses so far had been very encouraging, but the effort must be long-term and well coordinated. There should be an effective outcome from today’s meeting along with the resolution. The biggest challenge would be after the flood waters had subsided and until normalcy had returned to the lives of the displaced millions. The attention span should not be limited to the evening news. Turkey would be at the forefront of that great humanitarian effort.
GUNILLA CARLSSON, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, supporting the European Union’s statement, said floods in Pakistan had caused unprecedented damage, with more than 15.4 million people affected. Sweden was deeply concerned by the severe situation and extended its assurance of strong support. The Swedish contribution to the flood response thus far amounted to $11 million. She was pleased to announce that Sweden, tomorrow, would decide to commit another $8.2 million and would ensure support, not least to the most vulnerable. Moreover, the Government on a regular and annual basis, provided core funding to humanitarian organizations, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Indeed, the situation in Pakistan, as after the earthquake in Haiti, proved the importance of a well-coordinated international humanitarian system, she explained, noting Sweden’s strong commitment to the work of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Relief Coordinator in that regard. She also urged States to enhance their contribution to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Complex challenges such as protracted armed conflict, population growth, urbanization and natural catastrophes required the development of a proactive approach, alongside a reactive humanitarian response system.
In that context, she urged focusing on preparedness and prevention. The international humanitarian community must be as efficient in providing mechanisms in that field as in developing the humanitarian response system. Efficient solutions to ensure enhanced resilience at the country level must be found, in collaboration with disaster-prone countries. Indeed, close cooperation between national Governments, which had the primary responsibility, and international efforts was a condition for the construction of solid structures of disaster risk reduction at the country level. Sweden supported the work being carried out by the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). “Disaster risk reduction measures must be an integral part of our work,” she stressed.
ANDREW MITCHELL, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom, noting that he had come today straight from Pakistan, said he had visited the village and camp at Pir Sabak, where he had witnessed scenes of total destruction. His Government strongly supported the leadership of Pakistan and the United Nations in responding to the immense humanitarian crisis. Welcoming today’s special session at a time of great need, he said the United Kingdom offered the most forthright support to the Secretary-General. The international response had been “woefully inadequate” and the only acceptable outcome from today would be for the United Nations emergency appeal to be fully, if not over, funded by day’s end. Otherwise, the international community would have failed in its duty.
For its part, the United Kingdom had contributed $50 million, in part to support the nutritional needs of women and children. It also had accelerated a programme to replace bridges washed away by floods and was offering bridging expertise to restore transport networks. Yesterday, he had announced additional support to the provision of food and shelter. Today, he announced the United Kingdom would double its contribution to just under $100 million. His Government was now identifying specific interventions and working with the Pakistani Government. Indeed, it was imperative that all wealthy countries step up and support Pakistan.
Also recognizing the contributions of the British people who had raised $25 million for relief efforts, he also reported that the United Nations cluster system appeared to be working well and urged donors to support the efforts of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the ground. Delegates must not lose sight of the immense long-term efforts needed to rebuild lives and livelihoods. The Assembly’s resolution drew attention to the challenge of climate change. Indeed, the first week of flooding in Pakistan had seen more rain fall than in the previous 10 years. Now was the time for all to respond with commitment and determination to the plight of desperate Pakistanis.
PETER POWER, Minister of State for Overseas Development of Ireland, associating himself with the statement made by Belgium on behalf of the European Union, said that a disaster of this magnitude demanded a global response with the United Nations at its centre. The scale of the crisis was of epic proportions and the international response had to scale up to meet the enormity of the challenge. He also wanted to emphasize the vital role the United Nations must play in coordinating the global response. The vital importance of coordination in the humanitarian response had been shown by experience in previous disasters, including the response to the earthquake in Haiti. He appealed to all those responding, in addition, to observe international humanitarian principles to ensure that those in need receive timely and appropriate assistance.
He said that his Government’s policy of pre-positioning of funding with Irish non-governmental organization and annual contributions to the CERF, as well as emergency non-food items with WFP, had proven invaluable in providing speedy assistance. This week, tents from Irish Aid’s stores arrived in Islamabad for distribution through the IOM. Personnel from Ireland’s Rapid Response Corps had been made available, as had targeting funding for key non-governmental organizations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs itself. He announced the doubling of humanitarian assistance to €2 million for the initial relief phase. Further funding, he pledged, would be provided following the comprehensive needs assessment. He appealed to all partner Governments to keep up the momentum of the humanitarian response, noting its particular significance on World Humanitarian Day.
WERNER HOYER, Minister of State of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, aligning his country with the statement made by the President of the Council of the European Union, relayed sympathy to the victims of the flooding in Pakistan and noted his Government’s immediate response to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ emergency plan. He announced an increase of humanitarian aid to $32 million, on top of roughly $18 million contributed through European Union funds and the German contribution to the CERF. The total contribution now stood well beyond $50 million, to be devoted to the provision of food, drinking water, medical care and shelter to those in need.
Noting that coordination of aid efforts was of paramount importance, he thanked the Secretary-General, his Special Envoy, and the staff of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for their work. Marking World Humanitarian Day, he expressed gratitude to Pakistani and international aid workers who were toiling for the affected population. He urged the international community not to forget Pakistan after the floodwaters had receded and the country faced the enormous task of rebuilding. He pledged his country’s sustained support through its long-term development cooperation. Pointing to a strong partnership in the framework of the “Friends of a Democratic Pakistan”, he assured the country that Germany would continue to stand by Pakistan in this challenging time and offer its full assistance.
OSAMU FUJIMURA, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that with the serious damage, significant loss of life and property, and overall grave impact of the floods on the entire Pakistani economy and society, there were substantial humanitarian needs for emergency assistance to address the deteriorating hygiene situation and the shortage of food and water, among other problems. There was also an urgent need to rebuild basic infrastructure, as well as to meet basic human needs. The Government of Pakistan and the international community should make a concerted effort to focus on emergency assistance, as well as to tackle the challenges of rehabilitation and reconstruction, with a view to stemming the vicious cycle of disaster and poverty.
He said that Japan, upon the requests of the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations via the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan announced on 11 August, had swiftly implemented its pledge for humanitarian assistance, totalling approximately $14.4 million. Japan’s assistance consisted of $13 million in emergency grant aid, $200,000 for emergency relief goods, and $1.2 million for emergency relief by Japanese non-governmental organizations through the Japan Platform. Japan would continue to actively implement emergency humanitarian assistance based on local needs in Pakistan, to promptly provide support for those affected. In consideration of the high need for transportation of afflicted people and relief goods by helicopter, his Government today began the necessary preparations for dispatching helicopters to Pakistan.
Moreover, he said, in order to alleviate the vulnerabilities of the poor, Japan stood ready to seamlessly support, to the greatest extent possible, Pakistan’s efforts throughout the phases of emergency relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as well as to consider utilizing the expertise and technology it had derived from its own past experience with disaster. Japan would participate in the damage needs assessment to be conducted by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The present flood disaster was among the gravest natural disasters experienced in Pakistan since the country’s establishment. It was a time of testing for Pakistan. Japan continued to exert all efforts in cooperation with the international community to support the Pakistani Government, and it looked forward to the early rehabilitation and reconstruction of Pakistan, under the robust ownership of its Government and people.
REEM IBRAHIM REDHA AL HASHIMI, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, reaffirmed her country’s desire to continue its support to save victims in Pakistan and enable them to live in normal conditions as soon as possible. Her Government had long-standing links to Pakistan, notably through development assistance dating back to 1975. Indeed, the United Arab Emirates had stood with Pakistan each time that country had to cope with natural disasters, including the 2005 earthquake.
Since the beginning of the current disaster, the United Arab Emirates had chartered airplanes that provided medicine and supplies to flood-affected regions, she said. Her Government’s contributions included medical supplies, tents and three chartered helicopters to transport victims. Beyond such assistance, the United Arab Emirates would allocate $5 million to assist victims, she said, calling for international assistance that met the scale of needs to ensure the situation was remediated. Thanking the Secretary-General for his efforts, she said the floods in Pakistan had sounded the alarm bell to pay attention to climate change. Tangible measures at international and local levels must be taken to limit its impact.
INGRID FISKAA, State Secretary for International Development, Norway, said that the second wave of suffering, bringing water-borne diseases, could be even more deadly than the first. Thus, the world must act now to provide immediate emergency relief to minimize the deadly impact while it could. The collective message to the flood victims must be: “we will help to save your lives; we will assist you through your suffering now; and we will continue to support you through the recovery phase”. With that, she appealed to all donors to ensure that their assistance and funding was made available immediately. The international community and humanitarian actors should align their support with the priorities of the Pakistani Government and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan was an important platform, and she expected it to result in a better response.
Particularly, she stressed, good humanitarian coordination meant ensuring that help was directed where it was needed most, and provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality. The One UN in Pakistan was a close partner of the Pakistani Government, and she welcomed the Government’s constructive decision to allow the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service to deploy assets in the country. She encouraged the inclusion of the education cluster in the forthcoming update of the response plan. Women, elderly and children were hit hardest, and she urged the Government and all humanitarian actors on the ground to pay special attention to their needs.
Norway had already given 115 million Norwegian kroner, or roughly $19 million, in humanitarian assistance to the flood victims. The bulk of its funds had been channelled through the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan to organizations close to the victims and with much experience operating in Pakistan. Norway’s assistance had now been made available to the recipient organizations. To support national ownership, and leadership, Norway had also earmarked part of its contribution for the National Disaster Management Authority in Pakistan. In closing, she said that what was unfolding in Pakistan was a reminder that the world might be facing disasters exacerbated by climate change, which would drive millions of people from their homes, threaten lives and destroy ecosystems. Behind every loss of life was a grieving family. “Let our efforts be intensified by the plea of the parents who have lost their livelihood and now risk losing what is dearest to them – their children,” she urged.
YOKA BRANDT, Director General for International Cooperation of the Netherlands, aligning with the European Union, said “there is no room for complacency”. The continued threat of flooding in many areas required an urgent response and strong engagement from all. The Netherlands strongly sympathized with the Pakistani people. The impact of the disaster was almost beyond imagination and her Government stood ready to help a friend in need. The Netherlands and Pakistan maintained a long-standing relationship.
In response to the disaster, the Netherlands had contributed €3 million for emergency aid, she said, noting that €1 million had been channelled through the International Federation of the Red Cross, and €2 million to the United Nations’ Emergency Response Plan, through the WFP. She was pleased to announce that the Netherlands would contribute another €3.6 million to the Response Plan, of which €2 million would be channelled through the WFP, and €1.6 million UNICEF. That brought the total Dutch contribution to the appeal to €5.6 million, and the country’s total contribution to the flood response to €6.6 million.
A consortium of Dutch non-governmental organizations was raising funds among the public, she said. A disaster of such magnitude required coordination and cooperation among all organizations and institutions involved. The Netherlands called on all stakeholders to work with Pakistan to ensure maximum effectiveness of emergency operations. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in particular was crucial for an effective response.
ATTILIO MASSIMO IANNUCCI, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, said Italy promptly provided immediate relief to the flood victims. An emergency flight arrived in Islamabad on 7 August carrying 30 tons of medicine, generators, water purification units and other basic goods worth €330,000. The supplies were distributed immediately with the aid of the National Disaster Management Authority. Italy donated €400,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and €600,000 to the WFP to support distribution of basic goods, foods and medical care. It was allocating €600,000 to UNICEF and €400,000 to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support health and sanitation activities, as called for in the Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan.
Italy was also preparing a €1.5 million initiative, for which local authorities in Pakistan would be consulted to assure it fully met the affected population’s needs, he said. Italy was assessing, with Islamabad authorities, its cooperation programme in Pakistan to ensure its compatibility with new socio-economic rehabilitation priorities. The programme focused on developing flood-devastated areas that had already been affected by the fight against terrorist elements in the country. He stressed the need for massive physical and social reconstruction in areas affected by conflict and internal displacement in order to foster economic development and break the vicious cycle of poverty that fuelled extremism and armed militancy.
At last year’s donors’ conference in Tokyo for Pakistan, Italy announced €62 million in agriculture, rural, microcredit and training development projects, particularly in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Italy also finalized an €80 million debt-to-project swap for development projects and reconstruction. The Joint Committee on Management had just approved a series of projects designed by Pakistani provinces and Italian partners to address needs and priorities in the wake of the floods. In the post-emergency phase, Italy would allocate €4 million to the World Bank’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund for reconstruction and development in north-west border areas in Pakistan. Italy would reiterate at the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, in October, the urgent need for increased aid.
ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed his delegation’s deepest condolences to the Government and people of Pakistan, as well as assurances of continued support. The alarming frequency and ferocity of natural disasters was a major concern, with implications in developing countries particularly immense. Acknowledging efforts being undertaken by the Pakistani Government for the rescue and relief of affected populations, he emphasized that needs were urgent and should receive substantial immediate, medium- and long-term international assistance.
Stressing the need for continued help, he reiterated the Group’s commitment and full support for the guiding principles contained in the annex to General Assembly resolution 46/182 (1991) as the framework for the provision of United Nations humanitarian assistance. Indeed, neutrality, humanity and impartiality should remain the basis of all responses to humanitarian emergencies. He thanked the Assembly for convening today’s meeting on World Humanitarian Day, which aimed to increase public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and the importance of international cooperation in that regard. He expressed hope that Pakistanis, with international help, would be able to cope with the massive disaster.
HATEM TAG-ELDIN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed the Movement’s sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the Government and people of Pakistan, which was witnessing one of the gravest natural disasters in its recent history. Unfortunately, the disastrous situation could worsen, as it was feared that further heavy monsoon rains would continue, thus increasing the risk of floods in many areas and making the danger of the outbreak of water-borne communicable diseases even more imminent. The Movement was ready to join hands with the international community in preparing for that disaster of still-unforeseen consequences, by taking concerted and expeditious actions to avert the expected aggravation of the current situation.
He said the Movement acknowledged the tremendous efforts by the Pakistani Government to mobilize all available resources to address the situation. At the same time, it must be recognized that the calamity had inflicted the loss of billions of dollars on the Pakistani economy through the destruction of infrastructure and millions of acres of farmland, with more than 3.2 million hectares of standing crops, representing 16 per cent of the total cultivable area, so far damaged. Furthermore, it was crucial to be aware, not only of the current consequences of the disaster, but of its repercussions on the livelihood of the Pakistani population in the months to come, in particular in the agricultural sector where the loss of stored planting seeds and destruction of standing crops and irrigation systems was likely to lead to severe food shortages in the near future.
As the situation worsened, the resolve of the Movement’s member countries grew stronger, he said. Many of its members in recent weeks had committed themselves to contribute to the international assistance efforts and to support the Pakistani Government’s attempts to alleviate the suffering and deal with the enormity of the challenge. In that regard, two Egyptian planes had already arrived in Islamabad, carrying hundreds of tons of medicines, medical supplies and equipment, tents and food aid. Today, the movement reaffirmed the readiness of its members to intensify their efforts and increase their assistance through bilateral, regional and multilateral emergency relief and development frameworks. The international community should augment its efforts, not only to address the short-term relief measures, but also long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction. Now was the time to deliver on commitments to provide predictable emergency relief assistance for the short and long term.
SIRODJIDIN ASLOV (Tajikistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that, as the Assembly met today, heavy monsoon rains were lashing Pakistan, while reports of fresh flooding in many areas had emerged. Millions of people were being evacuated from cities, towns and rural areas. In that context, the Conference extended its deepest condolences to the people of Pakistan and urged States to make generous contributions to the speedy relief and rehabilitation of those who awaited help in the holy month of Ramadan, which itself taught people to share the pain of others.
The Secretary-General of the Conference had urged Conference member States, and the international community at large, to contribute to the humanitarian assistance of flood victims, he said. Disasters of such scale took years to recover from and needed substantial long-term international support. Acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts for the rescue and relief of affected populations under extremely difficult circumstances, he urged the global community to redouble its efforts to help victims. The Conference stood with the people and Government of Pakistan and was ready to extend help in all possible ways.
LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN (Ghana), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said he had been shocked by the loss of life, the immense damage to infrastructure and property and to crops and livestock, and the consequent humanitarian crisis. What had occurred in Pakistan was a disaster of stupendous proportions, and the Group expressed its sympathy and condolences to the Government and people.
He said that the international response was at a critical juncture. As the scope of the disaster unfolded, with the threat of more rain and the potential spread of diseases and illness, there was the urgent need for more intensified efforts to alleviate the sad plight of the millions of affected persons, some of whom were desperate and in dire need of aid. Resources were needed, and fast. The African Group pledged its support to the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan and commended the Secretary-General and United Nations for the great efforts made to marshal funds to Pakistan. It also appreciated the Member States that had already provided emergency relief and assistance. Finally, the Group supported today’s resolution and urged all, in the spirit of cooperation, to assist Pakistan as it endeavoured to relieve its people and rebuild its nation.
KOSAL SEA (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Asian States, said monsoon rains, which had begun in July, had ravaged Pakistan with massive flooding. A natural disaster of such magnitude had crippled nearly one fourth of the country, washing away thousands of towns and villages. An estimated 20 million people had been affected, with more than 3 million children at risk of contracting deadly diseases. The United Nations had been on the frontlines with countries in the region that had been actively engaged in the process. The professionalism with which the Organization, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in particular, had acted deserved praise.
Calling the Secretary-General’s visit to Pakistan a “reassuring gesture” to the Pakistani people, he extended his delegation’s deep appreciation to the Secretary-General and his team, headed by John Holmes. His delegation had taken into account that the Office had launched an initial appeal of $459 million urgently required to mitigate the impact of the floods. It was very important to note that such support must be maintained during Pakistan’s long rehabilitation and reconstruction process.
HENRY MAC-DONALD (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that, as a group of States constantly embattled by natural disasters, Caribbean countries were acutely aware of the enormous suffering caused by a disaster of such magnitude, having witnessed earlier this year one of the worst natural disasters in history in Haiti. Given the size of the Caribbean nations, it felt as if the entire Caribbean region had been hit by that massive earthquake. As the numbers of those affected by the floods in Pakistan were already alarming and expected to rise, the international community should commit to continued assistance, urgently, while actions were taken to assess the total destruction. He was encouraged by the generosity of donors and rapid involvement of the Red Crescent Societies – testimony to the ideal that, in time of enormous suffering, the world would come to aid those in their darkest hour of need.
He thanked the Secretary-General for his leadership, swift action and for his earlier statement: “‘These unprecedented floods demand unprecedented assistance, and the flood waves must be matched with waves of global support.’” That remark should guide the actions of the international community in its support to the Pakistani people. He also thanked Pakistan’s Foreign Minister for his briefing, and asked him to convey to the Government and people of Pakistan the solidarity of the Governments and peoples of the Caribbean region. CARICOM, as a society of small nations with limited means, nevertheless stood ready to help in all ways possible and called on the international community to stand in unity with the Pakistani people, especially after the floods had ceased to be in the headlines.
* *** *For information media • not an official record