World must work together to tackle emergencies: HPM Sheikh Hasina at 76th UNGA

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Published on September 25, 2021
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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called on the international community to act together on global common issues and create space for new partnerships and solutions in order to tackle emergencies.

In her address to the 76th UN General Assembly in New York on Friday, Hasina said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the inadequacy of the global response to emergencies. It has also put a spotlight on the 'critical need' for global solidarity and collaboration, according to her.

"We must demonstrate our ability to work and act together on global common issues and create space for new partnerships and solutions. And that must start right here at the UN, with the member states across regions rising above narrow political interests. Only then can we pursue any meaningful collaboration towards a resilient and inclusive recovery," she said.

As the world reckons with the fallout of COVID-19, Hasina outlined the steps taken by her government to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Shoring up the healthcare system was key to Bangladesh's response, according to Hasina.

"COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh has been much less than feared. It is mainly because of our healthcare system that has been strengthened from the grassroots level. Besides, we adopted a timely multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach to tackle its challenges."

"From the very beginning, we took some firm decisions to balance between life and livelihood. They included 28 stimulus packages to the tune of $14.6 billion or 4.44% of our GDP to keep our economy afloat. We also allocated $1.61 billion for vaccines in the current budget cycle."

As the world charts its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hasina pointed out the malaise is likely to be around for a while. She stressed the need for "fresh, inclusive, and global ideas to fight this common enemy" and went on to highlight a few specific issues that require attention.

Education

As the pandemic has severely disrupted education across the world, Hasina called for a global plan with an emphasis on making up for the loss of learning by investing in digital tools and services, access to the internet, and capacity building of teachers.

“According to UNICEF, close to half the world’s students were affected by partial or full school closures. Millions of students in low-income countries did not have the resources and technologies to join remote learning facilities, jeopardising decades of gains in enrolment, literacy rates, etc.”

“We also call the UN system to rally partnership and resources to make that happen.”

Climate Change

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the climate-vulnerable countries, according to the prime minister. "The IPCC Working Group-I Report provided a grim scenario of the planet and unless there are immediate measures, the devastating impacts of climate change will be irreversible," she said.

“No country, rich or poor, is immune to the destructive effects. We, therefore, call upon the rich and industrialised countries to cut emissions, compensate for the loss and damage, and ensure adequate financing and technology transfer for adaptation and resilience building."

As the chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Ministers of Finance, Bangladesh launched the 'Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan – Decade 2030', outlining a transformative agenda from climate vulnerability to climate prosperity, Hasina said.

"The upcoming COP-26 Summit in Glasgow provides us with a good opportunity to rally support for such new and inclusive ideas. Let us not miss out on this opportunity."

Vaccine Equity

She also urged world leaders to urgently address the vaccine inequality or the growing ‘vaccines divide’ between the rich and the poor nations.

According to the World Bank, 84% of vaccine doses have so far gone to people in high and upper-middle-income countries, while the low-income countries received less than 1%, she said.

“We cannot chart out a sustainable recovery and be safe by leaving millions behind.”

Hasina reiterated her call to ensure equitable and affordable access to vaccines for all.

"Immediate transfer of vaccine technologies could be a means to ensure vaccine equity. Bangladesh is ready to produce vaccines on a mass scale if technical know-how is shared with us and patent waiver is granted."

Rohingya Crisis

As the Rohingya crisis enters its fifth year, Hasina once again called on Myanmar to create the conditions conducive for the return of their ‘forcibly displaced nationals'.

“We are ready to work with the international community on this compelling priority. On our part, to ensure their temporary stay in Bangladesh we have relocated some of the Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (Rohingya) to Bashan Char."

"We have also included all eligible from them in the national vaccination drive to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the camps. I would like to reiterate that the crisis was created in Myanmar and its solution lies in Myanmar.”

She urged the international community to work constructively for a permanent solution of the crisis through safe, sustainable, and dignified return of the Rohingyas to their home in the Rakhine State.

Fair Treatment of Migrants

Hasina noted that migrants have been the frontline contributors during the pandemic as essential workers in the health and other emergency services, with many of them particularly hard-hit due to loss of jobs, salary cuts, lack of access to health and other social services, and forcible return.

She urged the migrant-receiving countries to treat the migrants fairly and protect their job, health and well-being.

Taliban and the Threat of Militancy

The Bangladesh leader also underscored the need to maintain peace and stability in South Asia in the wake of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

Affirming Bangladesh's commitment to work with the people of Afghanistan and the international community for its socio-economic development, Hasina said, "We envision a peaceful, stable, and prosperous South Asia. We firmly believe that it is upon the people of Afghanistan to rebuild their country and decide the course of the future themselves."

"Peace remains a pre-eminent focus of our foreign policy. As a proponent of the flagship resolution of Culture of Peace, we remain deeply committed to creating a peaceful society.

"The menace of terrorism and violent extremism are jeopardizing peace and security in many parts of the world. Therefore, we maintain a 'zero-tolerance policy' towards these menaces."

Hasina reiterated Bangladesh's stance on the total elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction to guarantee world peace. “It was from that conviction we ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force earlier this year.”

The premier also highlighted the South Asian country's role as 'the leading peacekeeping nation' and its contribution to global peace. “Despite unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, our peacekeepers are serving in some of the most difficult circumstances across the globe with utmost dedication and professionalism,” she said.

Highlighting Bangladesh’s success in being on track to graduate from the LDC category despite the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hasina said the country looks forward to receiving more support from its development partners for an incentive-based graduation structure.

“As one of the co-chairs of the Preparatory Committee of the LDC 5 Conference, we expect a concrete outcome of the Doha conference enabling more countries to sustainably graduate out of the LDC category.”