Ignazio Cassis advocates climate change mitigation for Pakistan at UN conference

Press releases, 09.01.2023

In Geneva today, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis attended the UN conference on flood-stricken Pakistan. In response to the emergency, the Swiss Confederation donated CHF 4 million for humanitarian aid in the summer of 2022 and is helping Pakistan to cope with the refugee situation with a further CHF 6 million. On the margins of the conference, Mr Cassis held various bilateral talks, including with UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif invited the international community to the ministerial meeting in Geneva. The aim of the conference was to raise awareness of the climate-related emergency in Pakistan and to determine further measures to support the country. According to UN figures, a third of the country was flooded, about 15,000 people died or were injured, and 33 million were internally displaced. More than one million residential buildings, 13,000 kilometres of motorway, 410 bridges and 2.2 million hectares of cultivated land were destroyed or damaged. The floods are a manifestation of the increasing threats facing the region.

Ignazio Cassis calls for cross-border cooperation

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the FDFA, welcomed the international community as representative of the host state and called for cross-border cooperation: "We must act together to ensure that the states and populations that are most vulnerable can be protected in the best possible way."

Swiss specialists on the ground

A team of Swiss Humanitarian Aid specialists was quickly deployed to Pakistan in the summer of 2022 and spent three months rebuilding schools, water systems and bridges for 30,000 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in north-western Pakistan. In total, Switzerland's contribution to humanitarian aid in Pakistan amounted to over CHF 10 million, CHF 4 million of which came from the Confederation. Helvetas and the International Organization for Migration supported Switzerland in implementing relief efforts. In addition, Switzerland is contributing CHF 6 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help Pakistan cope with the refugee crisis from neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan is home to about 1.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan.

During the conference, Mr Cassis met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The talks with Mr Guterres focused on the initial phases of Switzerland's Security Council membership. The two discussed Switzerland's four priorities as a member: promoting sustainable peace, protecting the civilian population, enhancing the Council's effectiveness, and climate security. Mr Guterres and Mr Cassis also discussed the Geneva Conventions in the context of Switzerland's efforts to protect civilians. In talks with Mr Sharif, Mr Cassis addressed Switzerland's emergency humanitarian aid and the urgency of a regional response to the climate and refugee crisis in South Asia. He also underscored how important it is for a memorandum of understanding regarding disaster risk management to be signed quickly. Prime Minister Sharif confirmed such a memorandum will be signed soon – a move that will formalise Switzerland and Pakistan's cooperation in their joint response to disasters.

South Asia particularly affected by climate change

South Asia is particularly affected by climate change. Rising sea levels and flooding threaten the coastal states of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The landlocked countries of Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal are facing rising temperatures, drought and glacial melt. The region is also home to the lowest lying country in the world: the densely populated island nation of the Maldives, which is seriously threatened by rising sea levels. Historically, the four months of monsoon in South Asia have provided 80% of the annual rainfall. Climate change has accelerated this water cycle, leading to extreme rainfall in short periods and droughts at other times.

Further information:

Press release of 15.09.2022: Switzerland responds to the needs of the flood-affected population in Pakistan
News article: Floods in Pakistan
Welcome Address by the Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

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