Right Honourable Mr. Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,
Right Honourable Ms. Patricia Scotland, Secretary General Commonwealth,
Honourable Foreign Ministers,
I am happy to join my Commonwealth colleagues at the Virtual Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
The Commonwealth is a forum steeped in shared history, bound by shared values, and driven to surmount common threats. The agenda of this meeting is pertinent to today’s challenges.
2020 has been a particularly turbulent year.
Individually and collectively, the Covid-19 Pandemic has been a test of our resilience and resolve.
We have all struggled – some with greater success than others, to cope with its impact.
Global trade has been disrupted. International tensions are spiking.
Vulnerabilities and inadequacies stand exposed.
The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is upon us.
The virus may not have discriminated between the rich and poor. It has certainly affected the vulnerable, the most.
To top it all, winter brings with it, fears of a resurgence.
Pakistan has been fortunate enough to escape the worst ravages.
Our pandemic recovery rate has earned appreciation from major international organizations, including the WHO.
It has been the Government of Pakistan’s endeavour, from the outset, to save people from dying from the virus, and dying from hunger.
Through enhanced social spending, coordinated and targeted response mechanisms, and introduction of tech-driven ‘Smart Lockdowns’, we have been able to mitigate the worst fall-outs.
An 8 billion dollar stimulus has helped keep the economy, businesses and households afloat.
Pakistan has also been at the forefront of efforts to create fiscal space. We appreciate the positive response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” for developing countries and Small Island Developing States.
The G-20 and International Financial Institutions have provided welcome relief in the shape of debt suspension.
At lot has been achieved. Clearly, more is needed.
The Commonwealth can contribute, by:
A) Learning from success stories such as Pakistan’s and helping mainstream best practices.
B) Utilizing commonalities in legal and administrative systems to overcome protectionism and maintain free trade.
C) Launching dialogue for deeper and more sustained debt relief to allow for stronger and more sustained economic recovery.
D) Lending weight to calls by Prime Minister Imran Khan and other world leaders for a “people’s vaccine”, a regime in which all treatments and diagnoses are made, patent-free, mass-produced, and available to all countries and peoples free of cost.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a matter of concern that the world over, the Pandemic has been accompanied by a spike in intolerance, violence and racial discrimination.
This is manifested in various forms of hate speech, xenophobia and Islamophobia.
And in the ascendancy of populist and supremacist ideologies.
The core principles on which the edifice of this Commonwealth, and the modern world is built; of rule of law; of fundamental freedoms; and of multilateralism, are endangered.
While the world is pre-occupied with the Pandemic, a State in South Asia is targeting specific religious and ethnic groups in order to foment division and hatred among communities.
It has usurped the rights and freedoms of million, fanned hyper-nationalism, engineered illegal demographic change in disputed territories, and stoked regional tensions.
We ignore its transgressions only at our own peril.
Pakistan welcomes the Commonwealth Statement on Racism, and feels it rightly focuses world attention on a growing menace in our midst.
In the same vein, Pakistan commends the Commonwealth’s ‘No More Campaign’ against gender and sexual violence.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
No country is immune from the impact of Climate Change. Yet developing countries are disproportionally affected.
Despite Pakistan’s limited contribution to global Green House gas emissions, it is among the most climate-vulnerable countries.
We owe it to posterity to take urgent climate action, build resilience and adapt.
No action will be sustainable unless based on the principles of Equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities as set out by the Paris Agreement.
An urgent and ambitious climate agenda can only be pursued if adequate, predictable as well as “new and additional” climate finance is made available.
It is time the pledge by developed countries to mobilize 100 billion dollars annually for climate action is fulfilled.
For Pakistan alone, the total abatement cost for the intended 20 percent Green House Gas emissions reduction till 2030 is around 40 billion dollars.
Pakistan highly appreciates the Commonwealth’s climate change related initiatives including its “Climate Finance Action Hub”.
We have already expressed our willingness to benefit from the services offered by the Hub.
Pakistan has also joined the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on “Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods”.
On its part, Pakistan is fully committed to play its role in addressing the issue of climate change and making a shift towards a “clean and green” Pakistan.
We have launched an “Eco-System Restoration Initiative” at national level. The Initiative, among other activities, aims at planting 10 Billion Trees throughout Pakistan in the coming three years.
Our first Electric Vehicle (EV) policy aims at replacing 30 percent of the road vehicles with electric vehicles by 2030.
This Commonwealth, our Commonwealth, has the potential to make a difference.
Let us never lose sight of our common values and core principles, which are a proud and shared heritage.
Let us instead harness our great resources and resilience to create a better and more hopeful tomorrow.
I Thank You!
October 14, 2020