EU pledges €80 million more in flood assistance

EU to unveil a more coherent multi-sectoral strategy for supporting the reconstruction of flood-ravaged areas.

Irfan Ghauri/shahbaz Rana October 02, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) on Friday doubled its humanitarian aid by announcing an additional €80 million and indicated it would unveil a more coherent multi-sectoral strategy for supporting the crucial reconstruction of the flood-ravaged areas by mid-October.

In an online interview with The Express Tribune from Brussels, Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, said that 12 million out of the total 20 million affected people are still in need of assistance. She gave the interview immediately after announcing the additional assistance for Pakistan.

“Based on what we hear from our own experts in the field, the situation remains grave and the needs are real so we have decided to quickly and significantly increase our assistance, adding an additional €80 million and this is programmed to provide food, clean water, medical attention and shelter to communities in both the south and the north of the country.

The floods that started devastating the country on July 28 submerged one-fifth of Pakistan and affected one-tenth of the population. The international community is reluctant to give cash to Pakistan due to concerns over the transparent use of money. Two months have passed and the international community has disbursed just $55.8 million out of the committed $520 million in cash. The total world commitments both in cash and in kind amount to $1.63 billion.

With the latest commitment, the total pledges by the European Union and its 18-member states have come to €320 million.

The EU commissioner said that a more comprehensive  assistance package will be discussed at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) meeting to be hosted on October 14-15 by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton. The EU would unveil its limited trade concession package for Pakistan that would focus on reducing tariffs on made-in-Pakistan goods for Europe.

Kristalina said that there was a need to look at reconstruction of Pakistan in a way that makes the country stronger and more resilient when the next flood hits. “Pakistan is one of the 30 countries most vulnerable to climate change. So reconstruction has to bring also things like reforestation, better land management, and better planning in preparation for the next flood,” she added.

“I saw bridges washed out, houses destroyed, hospitals and schools down in rubbles. They need to be rebuilt, but in a way that sustains the next flood”.

She agreed that there was a need to further jack up the world assistance for Pakistan but there was a growing concern about the transparent use of money. The response of the international community to the first UN appeal for $460 million was swift and effective.

“In my discussion with the government I stressed that Europeans are generous in providing help to people in need, but they expect accountability of money, especially in this time of need”. She said that Pakistan has assured transparent use of money and the EU will provide development assistance to the reconstruction plan.

On a question of sharing the details of the trade package, she said, “As we speak the Commission and the member states are discussing the package and the focus is on increasing access to European markets for key Pakistani export products”.

About security concerns of the EU citizens working in Pakistan, she said: “The situation, especially in the north of Pakistan, is not easy. We are keen to see the government of Pakistan to do everything it can to protect humanitarian workers”.

“The relief measures are much needed but the EU has to draw up a broader strategy with long-term development aid and trade measures. This requires strategic thinking and much coordination,” said Shada Islam of the European Policy Centre.

Islam added: “Pakistan has to do what it says and promises - the authorities have to respond to the crisis more effectively and there should be pressure on Pakistan to improve governance”. Despite these concerns, money is flowing in from abroad. There is a surge in sympathy for the victims, she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2010.


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