With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this year was very different from different angles. There was no physical participation considering the threats of COVID-19 spread. While every year the leaders of different countries focused on their own development works and regional or global conflicts, they focused on describing steps to tackle COVID-19 and consequent economical depression. Bangladesh also shared its activities and insights related to the pandemics as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina delivered her speech at the virtual UNGA on Saturday last.
It was the 17th speech of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the edest daughter of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman, at UNGA this year. She attended the General Assembly sessions in-person for 16 times and this 17th attendance was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She is one of the leaders who delivered highest number of speeches at UNGA. She truly has become a global leader with her insights and experience.
This year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina especially focused on multilateralism, which has become very important during this COVID-19 pandemic. She mentioned the instance of creation of the UN as the Second World War created opportunities for countries to come together in their efforts to cooperate and said that, similarly this pandemic has emphasized the need for collective action under the guidance of right leadership.She also remembered the statement of Bangabandhu, delivered at the 1974 UNGA, in which he made a bold expression for multilateralism as it continues to remain equally relevant even today.
The top leaders of all the countries including Bangladesh highlighted all their efforts in encountering the COVID-19 pandemic in this session with especial focus on the economic challenges. Bangladesh, one of the most successful countries in this war, mentioned its actions and achievements. Many countries are trying to invent vaccine of COVID-19 and who are going to be the first receivers of the invented vaccine is a concern throughout the world as it involves regional and global politics, trade factors, price wars and many things else. PM Hasina, with her farsighted leadership, focused on the distribution of the upcoming vaccine. She mentioned that, itremains imperative to treat the vaccine as a ‘global public good’. She urged that if provided with the technical know-how and patents, the pharmaceutical industry of Bangladesh has the capacity to go for vaccine production in mass-scale.
PM Hasina shed lights on all achievements of Bangladesh in terms of economic and development context. She particularly focused on different initiatives of her government to solicit the humanitarian threats of COVID-19. Moreover, she pointed out improvements in health, education, gender equality, children and women’s rights, food security etc. She also described the huge stimulus package and aid distribution during the ongoing pandemic.
It is commendable that, Bangladesh, under the leadership of PM Hasina, has gone far to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 along with efforts to contain the pandemic hand-in-hand. She noted that, Bangladesh is working hard to transform Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021, attain the SDGs by 2030, a developed country by 2041 and a prosperous Delta by 2100.
She also focused on emphasizing more on the importance of leveraging science, technology and innovation for closing the digital divide and mobilizing resources and technology transfer as it is also crucial that graduating LDCs and recently graduated ones are harmonicallyscaled-up international support and incentive packages in the transition and post-transition phases to minimize the pandemic-triggered hurdles.
She also urged the international community and migrant receiving countries to treat migrant workers fairly and with empathy as they are being the major victims of the economic hardship all around the globe.
Sheikh Hasina also mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening the pre-existing vulnerabilities of climate-vulnerable countries like Bangladesh as we are already dealing with the dual impact of recent floods and the cyclone Amphan during this pandemic and emphasized on mapping out a sustainable and climate-resilient pathway out of the crisis as Bangladesh being the current President of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the V-20 Group of Ministers of Finance.
As it was in the previous speeches of her, she mentioned the huge participation of Bangladeshi law enforcement and armed forces members in the UN peacekeeping missions as our peacekeepers are putting their lives on the line to secure and sustain peace in conflict-ravaged countries. She said that, the international community must ensure the safety and security of these peacekeepers as well as called for due recognition of women’s role in peace and security.
She again expressed Bangladeshi government’s undaunted commitment to peace which resulted in the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and violent extremism. She also noted that, the national efforts have to be complemented by international cooperation to curtail this danger.
Since 2017, Bangladesh has been bringing up the Rohingya crisis issue and PM Hasina even presented a short proposal in 2017 at the 72nd UN General Assembly regarding this issue including full implementation of recommendations of Kofi Annan Commission, and establishment of civilian monitored safe zone in the Rakhine State, Myanmar’s manifestation of clear political will supported by concrete actions for sustainable return and reintegration of Rohingyas, building trust among the Rohingyas by discarding discriminatory laws and practices and allowing ”go and see” visit to the Northern Rakhine by the Rohingya representatives, guaranteeing security and safety of the Rohingyas by deploying civilian monitors from international community in the Rakhine state, ensuringby the international community that the root causes of Rohingya problem are addressed and the violation of human rights and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for etc.
Unfortunately, despite bringing up the Rohingya crisis issue on the table every year since 2017,not a single Rohingya could be repatriated.Bangladesh provided temporary shelter to over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals and more than three years have elapsed. PM Hasina mentioned that, the problem was created by Myanmar and its solution must be found in Myanmar as she again requested the international community to play a more effective role for a solution to the crisis.
During the course of her 17 speeches at UNGA, Sheikh Hasina brought up and focused on many issues and areas like; in 2011 she said that, a digital Bangladesh self sufficient in food, developed in education, health and gender equity, free from the curse of poverty and climate change is our dream. Bangladesh has made commendable improvement in establishing a ‘Digital Bangladesh’, ensuring food sufficiency and security, achieving quality and coverage of education, improving health facility, promoting gender equality and reducing poverty under the valiant leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She repeatedly focused on ‘zero tolerance’ for extremism and terrorism over the years at UNGA and achieved praiseworthy success in containing terrorism in Bangladesh. She has really proved herself as a man of words.
Along with her speech at UNGA, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday placed a five-point recommendation to protect the planet and save people from the adversities of the climate change. Bangladesh is one of the top countries working on climate change and is highly regarded.
The UN should extend their cooperation as suggested by PM Hasina in the areas like; promoting multilateralism in terms of fighting COVID-19 and its vaccine distribution, creating pressure on Myanmar for repatriation of the displaced Rohingyas with their rights, safety and security, enabling regional and international cooperation in containment of extremism and terrorism etc. We, as global citizens, will wait to see an effective intervention of this global institution in all global issues in the upcoming days.
From the daughter of the father of the nation to an orphan to an opposition leader to four-time prime minister of Bangladesh – the journey of Sheikh Hasina was full of obstacles. It is a wonder that she is still alive after so many attempts on her life. But during this journey she turned herself into a valiant leader, the mother of humanity and a global leader. Along with that, she transformed Bangladesh into a role model of development while placing this country at a stage of honor in front of the global audience. Yesterday was the 74th birthday of this great leader. We hope, she has a long healthy life as that will obviously realize Bangabandhu’s dream of ‘Shonar Bangla’. Belated happy birthday, Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Centre (DRC)