UN’s Guterres to visit Pakistan on Feb 16, address conference on Afghan refugees | Pakistan


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures during an interview with Reuters in Lisbon, Portugal, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/Files

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to visit Pakistan on February 16, a spokesperson for the Foreign Office said Monday, as the country prepares for an international conference on Afghan refugees.

The spokesperson said Guterres’ participation in the international conference — to mark “40 years of Afghan refugees presence in Pakistan: A new partnership for solidarity” and scheduled for February 17-18 — is an acknowledgement of the country’s hospitality towards the refugees, they added.

Pakistan is hosting the international conference in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), wherein the UNSG is set to present his keynote speech during the conference and he would be apprised of Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue during his visit, the spokesperson said.

Guterres is also scheduled to meet President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, as well as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and members of the Parliament. His four-day visit would conclude on February 19, 2020.

‘Building a positive narrative’

Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to inaugurate the two-day international conference on Afghan refugees here in the federal capital, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, ministers, and senior officials from around 20 countries — supporting the Afghan refugees across the globe and in Pakistan — set to attend the event.

In a press release issued Sunday, the foreign office said senior-level participation was also expected from the UN, multilateral developments banks, civil society, and the country’s private sector. “This conference is taking place at an important juncture when efforts at consolidating peace in Afghanistan are making progress,” it added.

The conference would provide an opportunity to highlight Pakistan’s exemplary compassion, generosity, and hospitality in hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the world.

It would further identify key developments and milestones in the 40-year evolution of the Afghan refugee situation, reflect on the lessons learned during this period, identify the challenges, and discuss solutions for voluntary, dignified, and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is confident that the Conference will reinforce international efforts as agreed to in the UN Global Compact on Refugees and Global Refugee Forum to bring about a renewed focus on the Afghan refugees.

“It will also help in building a positive narrative on refugees, especially at a time when borders are being closed on them and millions are being made stateless under nationalistic and ideological pretences,” the Foreign Office added.

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