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)
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Updated 28 December 2022

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.



• 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.”


As IMF program nears its end, Pakistan’s finance minister reiterates country won’t default 

Updated 03 June 2023

As IMF program nears its end, Pakistan’s finance minister reiterates country won’t default 

  • Finance Minister Ishaq Dar says despite having external debts, Pakistan has assets worth billions of dollars 
  • People ‘fond’ of predicting the country would default within two, three months should be ashamed, he adds 

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar reiterated on Saturday that Pakistan would not default despite the economic challenges it was facing, adding the government would come up with new ideas in the weeks to come to steer the country out of the economic crisis. 

The South Asian country has for months been struggling with an acute balance-of-payment crisis, with inflation hovering at a record high, currency depreciating fast and foreign exchange reserves at critically low levels. 

Pakistan is making desperate attempts for the revival of a $6.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) program that would release a $1.1 billion bailout tranche. The installment has been pending since November and the program is due to expire on June 30, with the government expected to present the federal budget next week. 

The stalemate has raised concerns that the country may default on its international financial obligations without the IMF funding. But Dar, in a meeting with a business delegation in Islamabad, assured that Pakistan, as a sovereign country, had assets worth billions of dollars. 

“If we have $100 billion in external debts, we also have assets, and one of our assets, the gas infrastructure, alone costs $40 to $50 billion, which is 50 percent of the debt,” he said. 

“No one is saying internationally that Pakistan will default, only some pseudo-intellectuals are saying that. In fact, the MD [managing director] of the IMF issued a statement a few weeks back that Pakistan will not default. Their broad discussions center around how is Pakistan surviving.” 

Dar said his government would try to come up with new ideas to steer the country out of the present crisis. 

“Our main purpose today is just to reassure you, that we will be coming out of [this crisis] and come up with new ideas in the weeks to come,” he said. 

“There will be the budget and after that, we will also do things for Pakistan’s long-term betterment.” 

Referring to statements by ex-finance czar Miftah Ismail about the country moving toward bankruptcy, Dar said “some people were fond of” predicting dates when the country would default. 

“They say the country would default in two to three months. They should be ashamed of themselves,” he added. 

Pakistan PM expresses sorrow over loss of hundreds of lives in India train crash 

Updated 03 June 2023

Pakistan PM expresses sorrow over loss of hundreds of lives in India train crash 

  • A deadly train crash in the Indian state of Odisha has so far killed nearly 300 people, injured 900 others 
  • Rescuers were cutting through destroyed carriages on Saturday to find people who may still be trapped 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday expressed grief over the loss of nearly 300 lives in one of the deadliest train crashes in India, as rescue workers searched through piles of debris and wreckage for bodies and survivors in the Indian state of Odisha. 

Nearly a dozen coaches of one train derailed late Friday and debris from some of them fell onto a nearby track, according to railroad ministry spokesperson Amitabh Sharma. The debris was hit by another passenger train, causing up to three coaches of the second train to derail as well. 

More than 288 dead bodies were recovered overnight and around 900 people were injured in the accident in Balasore district, while rescuers were cutting through the destroyed carriages to find people who may still be trapped under the debris. 

In his reaction to the tragedy, Pakistan PM Sharif extended his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and said he was praying for recover of the wounded. 

“Deeply saddened by the loss of hundreds of lives in a train accident in India,” the Pakistan premier said on Twitter. “I extend my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families who lost their loved ones in this tragedy. Prayers for speedy recovery of the injured.” 

Train accidents have not been uncommon in India and Pakistan, where a majority of railway tracks date back to the pre-partition British colonial era and there has been little improvement in the department since their independence in 1947. 

A speeding train ran over revellers watching fireworks during a Hindu festival in northern India on October 19, 2018, killing at least 60 people. 

In 2016, at least 146 people died when an Indore-Patna Express train with around 2,000 people on board derailed in Uttar Pradesh, sending carriages crashing into each other. 

In June 2021, more than 60 people died when a train hurtling through farmland derailed and collided with another passenger service in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. 

Pakistan regulator approves up to 50 percent hike in gas prices 

Updated 03 June 2023

Pakistan regulator approves up to 50 percent hike in gas prices 

  • The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority estimates revenue requirement of $2.4 this fiscal year 
  • The regulator has proposed eliminating distinction between protected and unprotected slabs 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has okayed up to 50 percent increase in gas prices as it calculated an estimated revenue requirement of Rs697.4 billion ($2.4 billion) to be collected from consumers this fiscal year, Pakistani media reported on Saturday, amid record inflation and economic meltdown in the South Asian country. 

The South Asian nation has been witnessing an increase in the inflation rate since late last year when the government took prior actions to comply with the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revive a stalled $7 billion bailout program, stalled since November. 

Pakistan reported 38 percent inflation in May on the back of rising food and energy prices and a massive currency devaluation. The Pakistani rupee has devalued by around 30 percent since last June and played a major role in piling up the inflationary pressure. 

Gas consumers in the country are likely to witness a potential 50 percent increase in prices starting from July as OGRA concluded its determinations for two struggling state-run gas distributors and submitted them to the government, The News English-language daily reported. 

“The Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL), responsible for gas supply to consumers in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), will collect Rs358.4 billion,” the report read. 

“The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), which supplies gas to consumers in Sindh and Balochistan, will collect Rs339 billion.” 

OGRA determined Rs1,238.68 per 1 million British Thermal Unit (mmBtu) to be the average prescribed price for SNGPL, reflecting a 50 percent increase or Rs415.11 as compared to the existing price, according to the report. 

Similarly, the average prescribed price for SSGC was set at Rs1,350.68/mmBtu, representing a 45 percent increase of Rs417.23. 

The regulator has proposed eliminating the distinction between protected and unprotected slabs for gas consumers and setting the price at 1238.68/mmBtu. 

“This change will result in a significant increase in gas prices for protected low-slab consumers,” the report read further. 

“However, two highly gas-consuming slabs will benefit from the new pricing as they were previously paying up to Rs3,100/mmBtu.” 

Interestingly, while gas will become more expensive for zero-rated consumers, gas-filling stations, cement and fertilizer plants, power stations, and independent power producers (IPPs) will experience a reduction in gas prices, according to the report. However, the feedstock gas prices for the fertilizer sector will more than double. 

The regulator has now suggested a uniform prescribed price of Rs1,238.68/mmBtu for all these categories. 

The increase in gas prices is expected to further burden the masses reeling from record inflation in the country, with many saying they have been forced to cut their kitchen spending and focus only on most essential items. 

As Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar prepares to present budget for the next fiscal year, financial experts have urged the government to take steps to mitigate the suffering of low-income groups. 

‘Embracing life’: Inspiring journey of Pakistani child battling cancer one YouTube video at a time

Updated 03 June 2023

‘Embracing life’: Inspiring journey of Pakistani child battling cancer one YouTube video at a time

  • Owais Shehzad, only nine years old, believes in celebrating life’s little wonders amid adversity
  • He finds solace in dancing and creating videos, portraying himself as any other fun-loving child

KARACHI: A young Pakistani child started sharing life’s fleeting moments on YouTube from the confines of a small room in his multistory residence in Karachi’s Baldia Town neighborhood after discovering that he was suffering from a debilitating disease.

Owais Shehzad, only nine years old, has been battling cancer for the last five years. Despite enduring intensely painful medical treatments, he found solace in dancing and creating videos, portraying himself as any other fun-loving child.

“I could neither eat nor drink, and I lost my hair and eyebrows due to chemotherapy,” he recalled, as he started reflecting on the days of enduring severe cancer treatment that caused mouth inflammation and painful blisters. “I lost my nails. It seemed like I was an alien who had come from another planet.”

“I was half-dead, yet I managed to handle the disease,” he added with a degree of pride. “My eyes sunk deep, and I could neither eat nor drink due to the blisters.”

The still image taken from a video recorded on June 1, 2023 shows Owais Shehzad, a child youtuber from Karachi, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

Owais’s battle with cancer hasn’t stopped since he has been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer in which the harmful pathogens never truly go away. However, the painful treatments he endured over the last five years have kept him alive.

His passion for dance also brought him happiness even in the darkest moments, and he served as an inspiration to fellow cancer patients at the hospital.

“My bone marrow test was done and fluid was drained through an IV injection in my back,” he said. “Even in that situation, I was dancing on the bed... I was motivating children, and they were happy to see me.”

The still image taken from a video recorded on June 1, 2023 shows Owais Shehzad, a child youtuber from Karachi, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“Not only did it cheer me up, but it also brought happiness to the entire Indus Hospital, the children in the cancer ward, and my parents as well,” he reminisced.

Owais admitted to shedding tears, however, when he closed the door of his room, not wanting his parents to be hurt by his struggles.

He said that the road ahead remained uncertain, though he had always wanted to adopt a joyful and enthusiastic approach to life.

Nadeem Shehzad, Owais’s father and a local journalist, acknowledged that his son’s resilience uplifted the spirits of other parents when they were feeling weak.

“As a father, it was extremely difficult to witness my son in pain,” he told Arab News. “Whenever our strength and spirits wavered, we received a boost by witnessing the spirit and strength of this child.”

He informed that Owais had been diagnosed with B-all type blood cancer, with a recovery ratio ranging from two to five percent, which necessitates constant care to keep him alive.

“While treatment and care can prolong his life, the germs still remain in his body, and without complete care, they can become active at any time,” Nadeem explained, adding that it was also the reason why his son could not continue attending school.

Despite being unable to pursue education in a formal setting due to health issues, Owais’s passion for compels him to wear a school uniform and keep a bag at home.

“I wish to go to school,” he said. “However, my disease is such that I can neither sit nor stand due to the injections.”

Last year, the nine-year-old had one of his longstanding desires fulfilled when he embarked on a journey to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah pilgrimage.

“I had always wished to perform Umrah, to visit the house of Allah and witness His divine abode. Allah granted me an invitation... The experience of Umrah was truly amazing, and now I also aspire to perform Hajj,” he shared with gratitude.
Owais believes that those who remain happy even in sickness bring joy to God as well.

“May Allah grant me a long life, but whatever life I have, I’m living it to the fullest,” he said. “Currently, I am embracing life with utmost spirit and enthusiasm.”

He added that he harbors deep love for both journalism and the army, making his professional destination uncertain in life.

“Let’s see which of these two paths life takes me on,” he smiled.

Dubai-based multinational invests $6 million in Pakistan to acquire home care product manufacturer 

Updated 03 June 2023

Dubai-based multinational invests $6 million in Pakistan to acquire home care product manufacturer 

  • UAE’s New Future Consumer International General Trading completes acquisition of Zulfiqar Industries that makes famous Capri Soap in Pakistan 
  • The foreign investor says Pakistan is prioritized as part of its global business development strategy in the FMCG category with strategic partners 

KARACHI: New Future Consumer International General Trading (NFCIGT), a Dubai-based multinational company, has acquired a Pakistani home and personal care product manufacturer, Zulfiqar Industries Limited (ZIL), by injecting around $6 million foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan, officials and a corporate finance adviser familiar with the deal said on Friday. 

The NFCIGT is an emerging global fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) player with business development initiatives in the Gulf countries, Russia, and now in Pakistan with local partners. The company has acquired over 5 million, or 84.84 percent, shares of the ZIL, according to a stock filing on Thursday. 

The ZIL, incorporated as a private limited company in 1960, manufactures and sells home and personal care products, including the famous Capri Soap, in Pakistan. 

Dr. Cobus Van Rooijen, the founder and managing director of the NFCIGT, said he believed in the long-term growth potential of Pakistan despite challenges. 

“Despite the challenging times, we firmly believe in the long-term growth potential of the country,” Rooijen said in a statement on Friday. “We look forward to leveraging our global experience and resources to drive innovation, create employment opportunities, and contribute to Pakistan’s economic growth.” 

The NFCIGT chief said his company has prioritized Pakistan as part of its global business development strategy in the FMCG category. 

“ZIL Limited has Capri as a fantastic heritage brand, which provides opportunities to expand into other personal care premium categories,” Rooijen said. “We have identified Pakistan as major investment opportunity based on demographics and anticipated consumption per capita growth in key consumer categories.” 

Pakistan’s economic landscape has faced numerous challenges, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, and associated economic repercussions, followed by global commodity super-cycle given the Russia-Ukraine war, and the internal political and economic challenges. 

However, the new investor remains optimistic about the long-term potential of the Pakistani market and the investment demonstrates their commitment to contributing to Pakistan’s economic development, creating job opportunities, and fostering innovation in the FMCG sector, according to the statement. 

The share price of ZIL has increased by 86.6 percent from Rs181.67 per share to Rs339 since January 2023, according to the data available at Pakistan Stock Exchange website. 

Alpha Beta Core, a Karachi-based financial advisory and investment banking firm, facilitated the acquisition that marks a significant milestone in the global expansion strategy of investors. 

“The acquisition of a Pakistani company by a multinational FMCG player signifies an important milestone at a time when the country is facing economic crisis and needs much needed foreign exchange inflows,” Khurram Schehzad, CEO of Alpha Beta Core, told Arab News. 

Schehzad said the acquisition highlights his team’s commitment to delivering exceptional financial advisory services and ability to navigate complex cross-border transactions. 

“We are confident that our clients’ investment in the Pakistani market will yield substantial returns and create mutually beneficial partnerships,” he added. 

Schehzad said the NFCIGT aims to contribute to the growth and development of the region and countries in which it operates, including Pakistan, . 

The NFCIGT chief said he would continue to look for complementary investment opportunities with local partners. 

“Our ambitions are to extend to multiple categories in the current countries followed by market entries in other targeted geographies, including Africa and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States),” he said.