Pakistan seeks $16 billion flood reconstruction aid at UN conference

Pakistan and the United Nations are holding a major conference in Geneva on Monday aimed at rallying support to rebuild the country after devastating floods in what is expected to be a major test case for who pays for climate disasters.

Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers last September displaced around 8 million people and killed at least 1,700 in a climate change-induced disaster.

Most of the water has now receded, but reconstruction efforts, estimated at around $16.3 billion, to rebuild millions of homes and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways are just beginning, and millions more people could slide into poverty.

Islamabad, whose delegation is led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, will present a “framework” for recovery at the conference where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron will also speak.

Guterres, who visited Pakistan in September, has previously described the destruction in the country as a “climate bloodbath”.

“This is a pivotal moment for the global community to stand with Pakistan and commit to a robust and inclusive recovery from these devastating floods,” said Knut Ostby, UNDP Pakistan Representative.

Additional funding is crucial for Pakistan amid growing concerns about the country’s ability to pay for imports such as energy and food and to meet sovereign debt obligations abroad.

However, it is far from clear where the reconstruction money will come from, especially given difficulties in raising funds for the humanitarian emergency phase of the effort, which is about half funded, according to UN data.

At the COP27 meeting in Egypt in November, Pakistan spearheaded efforts that led to the creation of a “loss and damage” fund to cover climate-related devastation for countries that have contributed less to global warming than rich ones.

However, it is not yet known whether Pakistan, with a $350 billion economy, will be eligible to tap into the future funding.

Organizers say around 250 people are expected at the event, including senior government officials, private donors and international financial institutions.

Pakistan’s UN ambassador in Geneva, Khalil Hashmi, said Islamabad was willing to foot about half the bill, but was hoping for donor support for the rest. “We will mobilize international support in different ways,” he said. “We look forward to working with our partners.”

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation will meet Pakistan’s finance minister on the sidelines of the conference, a spokesman for the lender said on Sunday, as Pakistan struggles to restart its bailout program.

The IMF has yet to approve the release of $1.1 billion originally due last November, and Pakistan only has enough foreign exchange reserves to cover one month’s worth of imports.

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