Zahid-Hafeez-Chaudhri. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad.
Asia and Pacific High Level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation (Wednesday, 23 June 2021)
Statement by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honor and privilege to participate in this august forum. Asia and Pacific High-Level Video Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation is indeed a timely initiative, underscoring the imperative of global cooperation;
On combating the pandemic to support economic resilience; and
Promoting a Green Silk Road for sustainable development.
I must congratulate China’s leadership on hosting this conference and creating awareness about the dangers posed by this pandemic. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, post pandemic economic recovery and green sustainable development have remained the priorities of Belt and Road partner countries.
My special thanks are due to my dear friend, Mr. Wang Yi, for leading this extraordinary initiative.
I am also privileged to be wrapping-up today’s thought provoking deliberations. Innovative and beneficial ideas have been shared during the course of the Conference.
We are meeting today at a time when the world is undergoing unprecedented transformation. Countries of Asia and Pacific are moving ever closer to the center-stage of global affairs, while we continue to face common and mounting challenges such as climate change, COVID-19 induced inequalities, and non-traditional threats, to name just a few.
Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world. Apart from the medical catastrophe that it inflicted, it is having a far-reaching political, social, and economic impact on the globe. The pandemic has led to economic slowdown, bankruptcies, financial fissures, job losses and disruption in global supply chains. It has indeed tested the resilience of the existing global economic system and restructured the ways in which the economic and social problems must be conceived and addressed.
As aptly underscored in today’s conference, we need unity, solidarity and multilateral cooperation for post-pandemic economic recovery. Our fruitful cooperation in combating COVID-19 for timely economic rebound would require: sharing experiences and best practices for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19; enhancing the availability, accessibility and affordability of vaccines through joint research and production; improving developing countries’ access to vaccines; and calling for preferential financing from multilateral development institutions for developing countries. This can only be done through robust multilateral policy measures and broad-based cooperation.
Additionally, there is a need to mobilize the finance needed by developing countries to recover from the Covid-19 induced recession and to restore them on the path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Developing countries should also be able to borrow from the markets at the prevailing low interest rates available to developed countries.
To fight the pandemic effectively, the government of Pakistan followed a ‘smart lockdowns’ policy and adopted the three–pronged strategy focused on ‘Saving Lives, Securing Livelihoods, and Stimulating the Economy’. To target the vulnerable segments of the population, the government disbursed Rs. 203 billion to 15 million families through its ‘Ehsas Emergency Cash Program’.
We have launched a vaccination drive that will cover 70 million people by December 2021. In this regard, 12 million vaccine doses have been administered to over 9.5 million citizens. Earlier this month, Pakistan began local production of Chinese made vaccine, underscoring the resilience of our industrial supply chains and China’s growing role in fostering international cooperation in healthcare.
Our efforts to contain and reverse the worst effects of COVID-19 have been enormously helped by China. The Government and people of Pakistan remain profoundly grateful to the Chinese leadership and people for their unstinting solidarity and support in our endeavours to fight the pandemic.
Two centuries after the industrial revolution, the world has finally come to realize that humanity can and must seek harmonious co-existence with nature. The challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic are a great opportunity not only to rebuild better, but also greener. We must seize this opportunity to transform our economies into ones that are development-oriented and environmentally sustainable. The developed countries must fulfill their commitments under the Paris Agreement to support developing countries in their climate action and to mobilize 100 billion US Dollars annually in climate finance as they have promised.
To recover from the adverse economic impact of the pandemic, Pakistan has launched the ‘Green Economic Stimulus Initiative’ as a part of its efforts. This stimulus has already generated 85,000 green jobs-a number we plan to increase by another 100,000 by the end of this year.
To mitigate the effects of climate-change, Pakistan has launched one of the most ambitious aforestation and reforestation drives in the world. We have already planted one billion trees and mangroves out of a target of 10 billion. Our mangrove cover has expanded three-folds in the last ten years. We exceeded our target in the first phase of Bonn Challenge 2020 of restoring more than 865,000 acres of degraded landscapes in our Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. We have now voluntarily pledged to restore nearly 2.5 million acres by 2023, including in urban areas.
Pakistan was also proud global host of this year’s World Environment Day, which carried special significance as it also formally launched the “United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030”. This reflects our commitment to counter environmental degradation and reversing biodiversity loss. We are ready to contribute more than our share to protect this invaluable planet and help it heal from centuries of neglect.
In the wake of emerging global and regional environment, Pakistan has recalibrated its priorities from geo-politics to geo-economics. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), complements Pakistan’s renewed efforts of geo-economic shift with emphasis on economic integration and regional connectivity. Moreover, in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘Green Vision’, which aligns perfectly with President Xi Jinping’s vision for Green China, turning CPEC into Green CPEC is a priority for Pakistan.
We have to think in the long-term, keeping in mind the best interest of our future generations. We are ready to join hands for win-win outcomes. Our success lies in cooperative multilateralism and partnership. Let Asia Pacific and BRI partners take the lead. Pakistan is willing to work with all members to advance our shared objectives.
We highly appreciate the strong and unwavering support, from His Excellency President Xi Jinping and BRI partners, in this journey towards shared prosperity.
We also welcome partner countries in the Asia and Pacific region, together with our many friends elsewhere, to contribute to and benefit from our cooperation on the Belt and Road. As avowed by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Second Belt and Road Forum, Pakistan as the host of the BRI’s flagship project, will also do its part as we join hands to realize our countries’ shared vision of a clean and green Belt and Road development.
Therefore, echoing the sentiments of the speakers today, let me on behalf of this distinguished forum, endorse President Xi Jinping’s declaration of making COVID-19 vaccine a global public good, dispel notions of stigmatization, and reject vaccine nationalism. We should make collective endeavors to ensure equitable and affordable supply of vaccine to developing countries. Therefore, we fully endorse the initiatives for ‘Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation’ and ‘Belt and Road Partnership on Green International Development’ being launched today.
We must seize the opportunity that has arisen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to rectify the structural inequalities that cause economic crises in the Global South. Let us shun the dangerous zero-sum geopolitical games and envisage our developmental goals keeping in view our consideration for environmental protection and preservation.
I am confident that our deliberations today will help us draw the right lessons. It is only through collective efforts that we can abide by our respective commitments to our nations, as well as our shared responsibility to future generations of humanity.
On behalf of the participants, and on my own behalf, I extend my gratitude to the State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi for successfully convening this conference.