Islamabad- Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi participated in the Asia and Pacific High-Level Video Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation, hosted by China today. Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, chaired the conference in which Foreign Ministers of a large number of BRI partner countries participated. Speaking at the Conference, Foreign Minister Qureshi highlighted the importance of multilateral cooperation in combating COVID-19. He said that fruitful cooperation in combating COVID-19 for timely economic rebound would require sharing experiences and best practices; enhancing the availability, accessibility and affordability of vaccines through joint research and production; and calling for preferential financing from multilateral development institutions for developing countries. The Foreign Minister further said that “the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic are a great opportunity not only to rebuild better, but also greener”. He stressed that “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”. The Foreign Minister underlined that Pakistan followed a ‘smart lockdowns’ policy and adopted the three–pronged strategy focused on ‘Saving Lives, Securing Livelihoods, and Stimulating the Economy’ to successfully fight the pandemic. To target the vulnerable segments of the population, the government disbursed Rs. 203 billion to 15 million families through its ‘Ehsas Emergency Cash Program’. He also underlined that Pakistan has launched a vaccination drive that will cover 70 million people by December 2021. Pakistan has also launched the ‘Green Economic Stimulus Initiative’. This stimulus has already generated 85,000 green jobs and it is planned to increase by another 100,000 by the end of this year. This reflects our commitment to counter environmental degradation and reversing biodiversity loss. The Foreign Minister emphasized Pakistan’s shift of focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. He added that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), complements Pakistan’s 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. The thematic focus of the Conference was on underscoring the imperative of global cooperation in combating the pandemic to support economic resilience; and promoting a Green Silk Road for sustainable development. The Conference was attended by Ministers of 30 countries and representatives of 6 international organizations.
To mitigate the effects of climate-change, Pakistan has launched one of the most ambitious afforestation 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.
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.