How G77 group of developing nations helped advance climate justice cause under Pakistan’s presidency

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, speaks during an interview at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC, September 27, 2022. (Photo courtesy: AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 December 2022
Follow

How G77 group of developing nations helped advance climate justice cause under Pakistan’s presidency

  • Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks to Arab News in New York, having just concluded his country’s G77 presidency
  • Pakistan, as 2022 chair of G77 group, has led the charge in the global fight for climate assistance to the developing world

NEW YORK CITY: Developing countries made history at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh in November when they secured a new “loss and damage” fund to support victims of climate disasters.

This key breakthrough, which encourages wealthy nations to provide financial assistance to developing countries grappling with the climate crisis, was hailed as a historic victory, crowning a decades-long struggle.

“This is a significant achievement,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign minister, told Arab News in an exclusive interview in New York City, having just concluded his country’s G77 presidency and passed the torch to Cuba.

“This is something that climate activists have been struggling for for 30 years and I am proud of the fact that it was under Pakistan’s chairmanship of the G77 that we managed to achieve that aim.”




In this picture taken on September 27, 2022, internally displaced flood-affected people wade through a flooded area in Dadu district of Sindh province. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

Pakistan, as the 2022 char of the G77 group of 134 developing nations, has led the charge in the global fight for climate assistance to the developing world.

Many of these countries contribute relatively little to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet are themselves often the most vulnerable to climate catastrophes, such as rising sea levels, prolonged heat waves, desertification, ocean acidification, extreme weather, bush fires, loss of biodiversity, and crop failures.

Prior to COP27, Islamabad had succeeded in putting the issue of “loss and damage” on the summit agenda. This was no easy feat.

For decades, wealthy, industrialized countries, which produce the most greenhouse gas emissions, resisted the idea of such a fund, citing fears of continuous demands for compensation on the part of the low-income countries.

Their change of heart was likely influenced by Pakistan’s own unprecedented climate disaster.

Between June and October, intense monsoon rains resulted in catastrophic flooding, which many scientists and Pakistani officials believe was the result of man-made climate change.

Flood waters submerged one-third of the country, covering an area equivalent to the size of the UK. More than 1,400 people were killed and thousands more injured. Around 33 million people were directly impacted, including 6 million left destitute.




Internally displaced people gather to receive free food near their makeshift camp in the flood-hit Chachro of Sindh province on September 19, 2022. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

The floods destroyed 1.7 million homes, 12,000 km of road, 375 bridges, and 5 million acres of crops, costing Pakistan an estimated $40 billion in damages, while amply demonstrating why a loss and damage fund was so urgently needed.

Indeed, Pakistan is responsible for less than 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, like many vulnerable nations, predominantly in the global south, appears to be carrying the burden of man-made climate change.

“Success is always the result of compromise,” Bhutto Zardari told Arab News.

“And I feel that we’ve managed to achieve some common ground through the language incorporated in loss and damage.

FASTFACTS

 

• The G77 is a coalition of 134 developing countries at the UN designed to promote its members’ collective economic interests and enhanced joint negotiating capacity.

• The “loss and damage” fund, under which wealthy nations provide financial support to those impacted by climate disasters, was secured at COP27 in Egypt in November.

• Pakistan, which suffered catastrophic flooding this year linked to man-made climate change, has led the charge on loss and damage during its G77 presidency.

“We need to look at this, not just as the developed world needing to give compensation or reparations to the developing world, but as a more practical approach, a more realistic approach, that we have to work together.

“The global south and the global north have to work together. The developing world and the developed world have to work together.

“Climate justice, climate catastrophe, knows no boundaries, does not care whether you’re rich or poor, whether you contributed to climate change much or you didn’t.

“It is devastating lives in Pakistan. It is devastating lives here in the US, where recently you had Hurricane Ian. In China, the heat wave. Drought and forest fires in South Africa. In Europe, floods.

“Wherever we look we see climate catastrophes catching up to us and we have to work together to address this issue.

“Obviously, there are different perspectives. The developing world feels that their carbon footprint is smaller, they haven’t contributed as much as the developed world has to the crisis.

“They haven’t benefited in the same way the developed world has from industrialization. And therefore we have to find the middle ground between the two to address this issue.”

Climate justice, climate catastrophe, knows no boundaries.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari

Pakistan is a founding member of the G77, which was established in 1964 and is the largest intergovernmental grouping of developing countries in the UN system. It provides a platform for developing nations to advocate their common economic interests within the international body.

Islamabad had assumed the presidency of the group — its third tenure since the group was founded — armed with a list of priorities it intended to address.

The UN has repeatedly stressed that global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of climate change, and a lack of progress on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals are disproportionately falling on the shoulders of the world’s poorest.

The discrepancy in vaccination rates around the world alone was a shocking illustration of the widening gap between low-income and rich nations.

According to Our World in Data figures, as of July 2022, just 15.8 percent of people in low-income countries were fully vaccinated, compared with 55 percent in lower-middle income countries, 73.5 percent in high-income countries, and 78.7 percent in upper-middle income countries.




A flood-affected family eats a meal in a makeshift tent in Dera Allah Yar town of Jaffarabad district in Balochistan province on September 17, 2022. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

Closing these chronic gaps between rich and poor and recalibrating the strategic power dynamic has been the raison d’etre of the G77 since its creation.

“The agenda, or the aspiration of the G77, is exactly that. We represent the aspirations of the developing world,” said Bhutto Zardari. “It is one of the largest forums at the UN.

“To say at the end of our one-year term that we managed to fundamentally alter the dynamics between the developing world, the global south and the global north, would not be correct. There is a lot of work to be done.

“But I do believe we’ve managed to highlight some of these discrepancies, some of these predictions and particularly within the context of COP27, the success of G77 to get loss and damage onto its agenda goes a long way to address this discrepancy.”




This aerial photograph taken on September 5, 2022 shows flooded residential areas after heavy monsoon rains in Dera Allah Yar, Balochistan province. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

Beyond the climate crisis, the pandemic, and regional conflicts, developing nations have also borne the brunt of inflationary pressures resulting from the war in Ukraine, which have caused food and fuel prices to skyrocket over the course of the past year.

Combined, these challenges have hampered the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals — a collection of 17 interlinked objectives formulated in 2015 to serve as a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet to be achieved by 2030.

“I believe as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a whole host of other factors, including the Ukraine war, we have not been able to make the necessary progress on SDGs,” said Bhutto Zardari.

“If we do want to achieve that goal then it requires quite an ambitious reform agenda that would endorse many of the suggestions of Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, who also calls for reforms of international financial institutions in order for us to be able to deliver on SDGs.”

To overcome these concurrent crises, restore economies, achieve the SDGs, and address the “unequal and unjust” international economic system, Bhutto Zardari used his G77 presidency handover speech on Dec. 15 to call for emergency measures and structural changes.

These include mobilizing urgent humanitarian support for more than 50 countries in economic distress, providing emergency food supplies through the UN to the 250 million people who are food insecure, boosting food production and supplies to moderate prices, and facilitating farmers’ access to seeds, fertilizers and finance.

Bhutto Zardari also urged the international community to ensure developing countries had sufficient access to energy, to mobilize $1 trillion per year to invest in sustainable infrastructure, and for “systemic and structural reforms” to address the inequalities of the international financial system.




“We will continue our services but we need more donations and more funds so that we can scale up our services,” said Ayaz Hussain, Health specialist, UNICEF. (Supplied)

Loss and damage was a rare point of policy convergence in South Asia and a demonstration of developing nations wielding collective strength when they have common cause. “I think we were very successful in creating that consensus,” Bhutto Zardari told Arab News.

“Time and time again, the G77 has come together to take unanimous decisions, consensus decisions. Every meeting that we chaired here has had an outcome document.

“I don’t think it would have been possible to insist on loss and damage being part of the agenda or ultimately agreeing to get the loss and damage fund in financial arrangements… without consensus and unity across the board at G77.

“In the past year, we managed to sustain that consensus and it’s incredibly encouraging.”

He added: “The art of diplomacy, of politics, is being able to find mutual ground. I am a strong believer. I think the politics domestically in my country and internationally tend to be politics of division.

“I tend to believe that there’s far more that unites us than divides us. And we should seek common ground, areas in which we can work together, rather than find areas where we disagree.”

 


Saudi ambassador honors Pakistani policewoman for heroic rescue, offers royal invitation to kingdom

Updated 01 March 2024
Follow

Saudi ambassador honors Pakistani policewoman for heroic rescue, offers royal invitation to kingdom

  • ASP Shehrbano Naqvi safely extracted a woman from an enraged blasphemy mob in Lahore last month
  • She received widespread acclaim from the general public and was also praised by Pakistan’s army chief

ISLAMABAD: The Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Malki, praised a female Pakistani police officer for her timely intervention that saved a woman surrounded by an enraged blasphemy mob in the eastern city of Lahore, extending a royal invitation to her for a visit to the kingdom.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Shehrbano Naqvi received widespread acclaim from politicians, officials and the general public after a social media video showed her rescuing a woman wearing a dress with Arabic inscriptions, which some people mistook for verses from the Holy Qur’an.
Naqvi, who safely extracted the woman from the crowd, later clarified that the dress bore no sacred inscriptions, featuring only the Arabic word “halwa.”
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency, during a meeting at the embassy, the Saudi envoy commended Naqvi’s selfless devotion that defused the volatile situation.
He also extended an invitation to her to visit the kingdom.
“The Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan praised the bravery of the police officer and assured her that the Saudi government would cover the expenses of her and her family’s trip to Saudi Arabia as honored guests,” reported the APP.
Independent Urdu, quoting an embassy spokesperson, revealed that Naqvi, along with her family, would be visiting Riyadh as royal guests before performing Hajj.
Prior to her meeting with the Saudi diplomat, Pakistan’s army chief General Asim Munir also invited Naqvi to his office to commend her dedication.
In the past, blasphemy charges have triggered mob lynchings in the country, with politicians assassinated, lawyers murdered and students killed over unverified accusations.


Pakistan’s former interior minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, elected unopposed as Balochistan’s chief minister

Updated 01 March 2024
Follow

Pakistan’s former interior minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, elected unopposed as Balochistan’s chief minister

  • Bugti took oath as a caretaker federal minister last August before resigning in December to contest the recent elections
  • He asks Baloch insurgents to cease fighting and engage in dialogue, warning that the state would not condone violence

QUETTA: Pakistan’s former caretaker interior minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti was elected as the 25th chief minister of the southwestern Balochistan province on Friday, after no other lawmaker submitted nomination papers to contest the post.
Bugti previously served as the home and tribal affairs minister of the province and remained a senator from 2015 to 2021. Last year in August, he took the oath as the country’s interim minister for interior before resigning in December to contest the recent elections.
He participated in the provincial polls after joining Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
“I am thankful to President @AAliZardari, Chairman @BBhuttoZardari, my party @PPP_Org, and the people of #DeraBugti who allowed me to serve the people of #Balochistan,” he said in a social media post. “May Allah guide me and help me to do justice with this heavy responsibility.”
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by area, holds a strategic position of immense importance due to its rich mineral resources, including natural gas, coal and minerals, along with its access to the Arabian Sea through the deep-sea port of Gwadar.
The port is also a cornerstone of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, making the province a pivotal player in regional connectivity and trade routes between Asia, the Middle East and beyond.
Balochistan has also experienced a low-level insurgency for decades by Baloch separatist groups who express grievances over political disenfranchisement, economic marginalization and the exploitation of the province’s rich natural resources without adequate benefit to the local population.
However, Pakistani authorities have always denied these claims.
Bugti, scheduled to take the oath at the Governor House tomorrow, asked Baloch insurgents to cease fighting the state and engage in dialogue while speaking to the media.
“The Pakistan Peoples Party believes in dialogue to resolve all political issues,” the newly elected chief minister said. “We wish all militants to skip violence and become part of the mainstream political paradigm. However, the state will not condone any kind of violence.”


Pakistan condemns Israel’s ‘policy of mass starvation’ after killing of over 100 Palestinians in Gaza

Updated 01 March 2024
Follow

Pakistan condemns Israel’s ‘policy of mass starvation’ after killing of over 100 Palestinians in Gaza

  • Eyewitnesses say Israeli troops opened fire on a group of Palestinians waiting for life-saving aid and food delivery
  • Pakistan’s foreign office says Israel must face justice for committing crimes against Palestinians with impunity

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday condemned the killing of over 100 Palestinians who were trying to get food from an aid convoy in Gaza City a day earlier, saying the incident had highlighted Israel’s “deliberate and inhumane policy of mass starvation.”
According to eyewitnesses, Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for aid and food amid the rubble of their city destroyed by relentless airstrikes ordered by the Netanyahu administration last year in October.
Israel besieged the Gaza Strip after a surprise attack was initiated by Hamas in response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation. The ensuing war has led to the killing of over 30,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, as much of the world has accused the Israeli authorities of carrying out a genocide in Gaza.
International aid groups have also complained of increasing difficulties while delivering food supplies to starving Palestinians due to the Israeli military.
“Pakistan strongly condemns yesterday’s massacre by Israel’s occupation forces of unarmed Palestinians, who were awaiting life-saving aid and food delivery in Gaza,” foreign office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said during her weekly media briefing. “This massacre demonstrates a blatant disregard for civility and international humanitarian law and Israel’s deliberate and inhumane policy of mass starvation.”
Baloch reiterated her country’s stance for an immediate and urgent ceasefire while calling for unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
“Israel must also face justice for its crimes against humanity being perpetrated with impunity against the Palestinian people,” she added.
The incident in Gaza has come at a time when various stakeholders in and around the region are trying to negotiate a ceasefire to end the conflict which has lasted for nearly five months.


Brothers accused of sparking blasphemy riot against Christians in Pakistan last year released

Updated 01 March 2024
Follow

Brothers accused of sparking blasphemy riot against Christians in Pakistan last year released

  • The brothers were detained on suspicion of defacing the Holy Qur’an in Jaranwala where a mob vandalized Churches
  • Christians make up around two percent of Pakistan’s population and occupy one of the lowest rungs in society

LAHORE: Two brothers accused of blasphemous acts that sparked a mob in Pakistan to ransack homes and churches in a Christian enclave last year have been freed from jail, their lawyer said Friday.
More than 80 Christian homes and 19 churches were vandalized by crowds in the eastern city of Jaranwala last August, after accusations spread that a Holy Qur’an had been desecrated.
Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in deeply conservative, Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam have provoked deadly vigilantism.
While police rounded up more than 125 suspected rioters, they also detained two Christian brothers on suspicion of having defaced a Holy Qur’an – a violation of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws which can carry the death penalty.
But the brothers’ lawyer Tahir Bashir told AFP they had been freed after an anti-terror court declined to bring their case to trial on Thursday.
“Without a trial, no suspect can be detained indefinitely in jail,” Bashir said, declining to publicly name his clients out of fear for their safety.
“They are free, they are with their family. They were very happy to be released,” he added.
Hundreds of Christians fled Jaranwala’s Christian quarter last summer when rioters surged in, setting churches ablaze and raiding homes.
At its peak the crowd numbered around 5,000 and was spurred by mosque loudspeakers announcing a Holy Qur’an had been torn, scrawled with offensive words and stuck to the walls of a local mosque.
Christians, who make up around two percent of Pakistan’s population, occupy one of the lowest rungs in society and are frequently targeted with spurious blasphemy allegations.
Politicians have also been assassinated, lawyers murdered and students lynched over such accusations.
Last week, police were forced to intervene in the eastern city of Lahore when a woman wearing a shirt adorned with Arabic calligraphy was surrounded by a mob accusing her of blasphemy.
The crowd of men said the clothing depicted the Holy Qur’an but it was in fact emblazoned with the Arabic word for “beautiful.”
The woman issued an apology for causing offense, but none of the men were arrested.
Pakistan’s top Supreme Court judge has also been targeted by veiled death threats recently after ordering the release of a man accused of disseminating a blasphemous text.


Inflation in Pakistan hits 23.1%, reaching its lowest point since June 2022

Updated 01 March 2024
Follow

Inflation in Pakistan hits 23.1%, reaching its lowest point since June 2022

  • Pakistan faces historically high inflation, though the situation has improved from 38 percent recorded last year in May
  • Given the February inflation rate, experts predict the central bank to begin monetary policy easing from this month

KARACHI: Pakistan’s inflation rate was recorded at 23.1 percent in February, marking its lowest level since June 2022, on an annual basis despite surging food and energy costs, according to official data released on Friday.
Pakistan continues to face historically high inflation, though the situation has improved from the all-time high level of 38 percent recorded last year in May.
Last month, the prices of tomatoes and cigarettes saw substantial increases of 114.6 percent and 71.2 percent, respectively, on an annual basis. Condiments and spices rose by 55.3 percent, sugar by 53.4 percent, fresh vegetables by 46.2 percent and wheat flour by 45 percent.
In the non-food category, gas charges skyrocketed by 318.7 percent, electricity charges by 74.9 percent, transport services by 35.1 percent, textbooks by 34.7 percent, newspapers by 34.2 percent and accommodation services by 29.5 percent.
February’s inflation, the lowest in 20 months, suggests a potential easing in the country’s monetary policy stance.
“The low inflation rate was expected and interestingly despite incorporating recent gas and petroleum price increase in February the number is low. We will see this trend continue in the future and inflation trajectory will be downward,” Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib Limited, told Arab News.
Given the February inflation rate, experts predict the central bank will begin monetary policy easing from March onwards, with the market anticipating an indicative interest rate cut of around 1 percent this month.
Since June last year, the State Bank of Pakistan has maintained the interest rate at an all-time high of 22 percent.
The central bank recently adjusted its average inflation forecast for the current fiscal year to 23-25 percent, up from 20-22 percent, due to hikes in energy prices.