Tackling the “climate catastrophe of the century”: the UN Resident Coordinator System’s Support to Pakistan
17 April 2023
A Member State Case Study Event highlights the role of the Resident Coordinator System in leading a comprehensive response to the 2022 floods in Pakistan.
New York, 13 April 2023- Member State representatives and UN Development Coordination Office (DCO) partners gathered at the United Nations (UN) headquarters to learn about the role of the reformed Resident Coordinator system in leading a comprehensive response to the floods which swept across Pakistan last summer, affecting more than 33 million people and threatening to wipe out decades of development gains.
When the climate catastrophe first struck in July 2022, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan H.E Munir Akram recalled that the Resident Coordinator was one of the first partners contacted.
“We immediately contacted our partners in the UN development system – to make a quick evaluation of the damage’s extent, and to translate that into the emergency appeal – the 911 response. It was a critical early-stage response that no other organization was equipped to provide.”
In a recorded video message, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan H.E Bilawal Bhutto Zardari agreed that in the immediate aftermath of ‘the most devastating climate catastrophe of this century,’ the support from the Resident Coordinator proved vital, describing the RC system as a ‘one-stop shop, our go-to place to coordinate the response, streamline our efforts and ensure a smooth exchange of information.’
“The devastating rains and floods of last year have been a hydra-headed challenge, needing a humanitarian response, development action, and climate change adaptation,” UN Resident Coordinator (RC) Julien Harneis said, joining the UNHQ session online via video.
“The scale of the devastation had demanded a whole of society response led by the Government. The reforms of the UN development system gave me, as RC, and my small team the tools to bring together all relevant parts of the UN, the agencies in the country, non-resident agencies, headquarters, the General Assembly, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as members states and the International Financial Institution.”
RC Harneis explained how the dual humanitarian and development role enabled his team to rapidly switch to providing humanitarian assistance and support the Government to launch an $816 million Flood Response Plan to address both immediate and longer-term recovery needs, mobilizing international financing and solidarity from critical donors including Member States and International Financial Institutions.
He added that one year before the floods, the team had through a new generation of Cooperation Framework [a roadmap for sustainable development jointly agreed by the National Government and the UN team], and a nationwide consultation, already identified that the Triple Planetary Crisis [climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss] as an existential threat to the Indus Basin River system and therefore to Pakistan.
“This had to be one of the UNs five priorities. So, when the rains started the UN support saw this from the very beginning as a direct result of climate change, needing humanitarian action, reconstruction and adaptation and needing national and international coordination,” Harneis said.
Participants noted that through the Resident Coordinator’s leadership, along with his team, leveraging the added value of the UN system at the global, regional and country levels, including making the most of the Development Coordination Office/Resident Coordinator System’s timely support, Pakistan’s path towards long-term resilience planning received a significant boost in January 2023 during the launch of the ‘The 4RF: The Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework’. This raised $9 billion in pledges, including from non-traditional donors.
The Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations expressed appreciation for the Resident Coordinator’s support in mobilizing international financing for these recovery and adaptation efforts. “The response that Pakistan received at the Geneva conference was an encouraging sign of international solidarity…It’s heartening that the machinery is already in place before the crisis happens.’”
RC Harneis flagged the value added of his coordination team, including the economist in the Resident Coordinator’s Office, to tightly coordinate with International Financial Institutions, and in particular the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. This was vital, as their financing of humanitarian activity mainly through the Government was as important as all the funds going through the UN and NGOs that make up the Humanitarian Country Team.
He also highlighted the essential collaboration of the UN team on the ground. “For the reconstruction the UN Development Programme (UNDP) brilliantly fulfilled the integrator role that the reform envisaged, pulling together the UN family first for the Post Disaster Needs Assessment and then Resilient Recovery Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework (4RF). This brought coherence to the UNs work with our partners: the Asian Development Bank, European Union and the World Bank. “
In essence, RC Harneis stressed that the UN development reform has made effective and timely mobilization responses possible, positioning the RC and the RC Office as the one-stop shop for all UN support in the country or outside.
“A good friend in government described the RCO as the 911, available 24/7, bringing together all parts of the UN to get solutions, adding that he never knew which bits of the UN were making it happen, but it just all came together. And this is how it has to be.”