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UN starts consultations on Pakistan’s initiative for debt relief

(25 May 2020) : Ambassadors from over 22 countries, representing developing and developed countries from all regions, held a first round of consultations on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s global initiative for debt relief at their virtual meeting in New York on Monday.

Senior officials of the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also participated in the meeting, which was chaired by Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram.

Last month, the prime minister Imran Khan appealed to the international community, the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres and the international financial institutions to “launch an initiative to give debt relief to developing countries” to help in their fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Thanking Pakistan for convening the consultations and welcoming PM Imran’s initiative, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande called for moving quickly on debt and concessional finance to support the most vulnerable people around the world.

“We must also review our financial architecture, which has long-standing and evident gaps. We must strive to make our sovereign debt system fairer and more effective for debt crisis resolution, and encourage more responsible borrowing and lending,” Muhammad-Bande added.

“Such progress can only take place with political will and steadfast international cooperation and I call on Member States to help ensure critical liquidity in many developing countries suffering from a heavy debt burden,” the president went on to say.

“The early debt relief initiatives of the G20, World Bank, the IMF as well as from Member States – such as that of Pakistan’s Prime Minister – are welcome. We must leave no one behind in this time of crisis,” he added.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed underscored the need for the international community to address the debt challenges of developing countries in a sustainable manner. “For a significant number of countries, this will only be possible with some form of debt relief. Solutions can be found if we can muster political will to do so,” she said, adding that the 2030 global development agenda depended on it.

During the consultations, diplomats said several proposals for addressing the debt issue were presented. Ambassador Akram said that another meeting would be convened in near future to explore agreement on some of the measures.

In his opening remarks to the meeting, read out by Ambassador Akram, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, stressed the need for addressing the debt distress of many developing countries, which has a potential to become a debt crisis. He said that without international support, many developing countries would not have the fiscal space to respond to the current health and economic crisis.

The foreign minister hoped that the informal consultations would evolve agreement on some meaningful measures and practical actions to enable the developing countries to recover quicker and better from the current crisis and achieve sustainable development.

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