Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived to attend this year's proceedings of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN's headquarters in New York, enjoying possibly the highest profile among her fellow world leaders of any Bangladeshi head of government, in the country's 51-year history. This would be reflected in the very busy schedule the prime minister would keep during her stay in New York. Apart from her leader's address to all the gathered delegates in the cavernous Great Hall of the General Assembly, the PM's itinerary was filled with important meetings and sideline events - including some that she would have to chair.
The theme of this year's general debate was: "A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges". If anyone was well-placed to address that, it would be Hasina, currently serving on two high-powered leaders' groups convened by the secretary general to prepare the world for a slew of crises that may arise in the foreseeable future- even before it is fully recovered from the bruising effects of the pandemic. The initiatives by Antonio Guterres are an effort to be 'better-prepared' to handle the next crisis, that assumes the scale of a shock - just like Coronavirus did in early 2020.
Soon after arriving and checking in at UNHQ, the iconic Dag Hammarskjold Building, PM Hasina would attend her first event on the sidelines, with the launching of the Platform for Women Leaders (see next story).
A powerful message against war
In her leader's address to the General Assembly, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, before leaving the UN premises, demanded an immediate end to the Russia-Ukraine war and lifting sanctions for the sake of lives and livelihoods of people worldwide. Her forthright call to the leaders of much bigger, more powerful nations, drew the attention of the media as well as delegates present at the time.
It even got covered in the Washington Post's rolling coverage of the UNGA - not very common for a leader from Bangladesh.
"We want the end of Russia-Ukraine war. Due to sanctions, and counter-sanctions, not a single country, rather the entire mankind including women and children are being punished," she said.
The Prime Minister made the call while delivering her statement at the 77th session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Like previous years, she delivered her statement in Bangla. The theme of this year's general debate is "A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges".
She mentioned that the impact of Russia-Ukraine war does not remain confined to one country, rather puts the lives and livelihoods of the people of all nations in greater risk, and infringes their human rights. People are deprived of food, shelter, healthcare and education.
She said Children suffer the most in particular and their future sinks into darkness. "My urge to the conscience of the world community- stop the arms race, war and sanctions. Ensure food and security of the children. Establish peace," she said.
"We share one planet, and we owe it to our future generations to leave it in a better shape," she said.
"Dialogue is the best way to resolve crises and disputes," she added.
Rohingya crisis: Possible repercussions
Talking about the forcibly displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar, Sheikh Hasina said, Last month Bangladesh witnessed five years of the 2017 mass exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh from their home country.
"Not a single Rohingya was repatriated to their ancestral home Myanmar, despite our bilateral engagements with them, discussions with partners in trilateral format and engagements with the UN and other partners to assist Myanmar to create necessary conditions for safe and dignified repatriation," she complained.
In this connection, she said the ongoing political turmoil and armed conflicts in the country has made possibilities of Rohingya repatriation more difficult. "I hope the United Nations will play an effective role in this regard," the PM added.
Talking about the prolonged presence of Rohingyas in Bangladesh, she said, it has caused serious ramifications on the economy, environment, security, and socio-political stability in Bangladesh.
"Uncertainty over repatriation has led to widespread frustration. Cross-border organized crimes including human and drug trafficking are on the rise," she said, adding that this situation can potentially fuel radicalization.
"If the problem persists, it may affect security and stability of the entire region, and beyond," she cautioned.
'Promote inclusive climate action'
Regarding the impact of climate change she said it is one of the biggest threats for humankind. "In the past, we have seen a vicious cycle of promises being made and broken. We must now change this course," she said.
In Bangladesh, she mentioned that the government has led to many transformative measures to tackle perilous impacts of climate change consistent with implementing the Paris Agreement and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
During Bangladesh's Presidency of Climate Vulnerable Forum, it launched 'Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan', which aims to put Bangladesh on a sustainable trajectory from "one of vulnerability to resilience to climate prosperity," she said.
"Our national plans and policies on climate change and natural disaster are gender responsive and take into account the critical role of women in adaptation and mitigation," said Hasina.
She said Bangladesh is ready to support other vulnerable countries to develop their own prosperity plans. "I call on world leaders to promote inclusive climate action," she said.
Zero tolerance on terrorism and extremism
The Prime Minister reiterated Bangladesh's stance of 'zero tolerance' to terrorism and violent extremism. "We do not allow our territory to be used by any party to incite or cause terrorist acts or harm to others," she said.
She also called upon the UN member states to work together for the conclusion of an internationally binding instrument to tackle cyber-crimes and cyber-violence.
Commitment to human rights
As a responsible member state, Bangladesh is fully committed to protecting and promoting human rights of its own people, PM Hasina said. "We have adopted a holistic and inclusive approach to ensure the political, economic, cultural and social rights of the people."
She said Bangladesh is interested in looking for transformative solutions to poverty alleviation, mitigating climate change effects, preventing conflicts and finance, energy and fuel crises that the world is grappling with.
The premier said Bangladesh will continue to extend its support to the occupied Palestinian people.
She reiterated Bangladesh's unequivocal support for the two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Briefly describing the success of Bangladesh in controlling COVID-19, she said, as of August 2022, hundred percent of the eligible population of Bangladesh have been vaccinated.
Besides, in the 77th UN General Assembly 2022, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted the economic progress of the country, its successes in different sectors including education, food security and health, and gender inequality.
Winning Friends for Bangladesh
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that she is returning from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with friendship for Bangladesh.
She made the remark in response to a query regarding what she was returning home with from the 77th UNGA.
"Friendship, I'm returning home with friendship for Bangladesh. Everyone tried to mention Bangladesh's development," the PM said.
PM Hasina was speaking at a press conference held at Bangladesh's Permanent Mission in the UN.
"The most important thing is that we want peace. I don't want war, I don't want conflict. I think I have been able to convey this message to everyone and everyone has appreciated Bangladesh and our role," she said.
Replying to another question on investment of expatriates in Bangladesh, the Prime Minister said that investment opportunities have been created so that expats can invest without hassles in the country.
"The government is establishing 100 economic zones for domestic and foreign investment," she added.
In response to another question, she said, expats who do not have NID can open bank accounts with their passports. "That arrangement has already been made."
Platform for Women Leaders launched
On September 20, Women Heads of State and Government met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) High-level Week to discuss global issues in the newly created UNGA Platform of Women Leaders. The event, under the theme of "Transformative solutions by women leaders to today's interlinked challenges", highlights that women's full and effective political participation and decision-making are crucial to addressing global priorities effectively, decisively, and inclusively.
With the presence of Her Excellencies President Katalin Novák of Hungary, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa of Samoa, and Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja of Uganda, as well as Prime Minister Evelyna Wever-Croes of Aruba and Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs of St. Maarten, and former Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand, the event was hosted by the Office of the President of the General Assembly and UN Women, in cooperation with the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL).
Recent global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate, and conflicts, have shown the positive difference women's leadership and decision-making can make in executive positions, parliaments, and public administration. For example, the UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker shows that governments with higher women's representation in parliaments adopted a higher number of gender-sensitive policy measures in response to COVID-19, including policies aimed directly at strengthening women's economic security.
Out of the 193 Member States of the United Nations, only 28 women serve as elected Heads of State or Government. Whilst progress has been made in many countries, the global proportion of women in other levels of political office worldwide still has far to go: 21 percent of the world's ministers, 26 per cent of national parliamentarians, and 34 percent of elected seats of local government. According to a new UN report, at the current pace of progress, equal representation in parliament will not be achieved until 2062.
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iceland and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, said: "It is my strong belief that the world needs more women leaders and more diverse leaders, people with all kinds of backgrounds and life experiences. The decisions leaders make affect all people in our societies. These decisions should be made by people who have a real and deep understanding of how most people live, of what their concerns are, and are therefore responsive to their needs."
The UNGA Platform of Women leaders and today's event will also help bring visibility to women in prominent political leadership positions. The critical role of women's leadership in driving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is well documented. Countries with greater numbers of women political leaders tend to give greater attention to issues like health, education, infrastructure, and ending violence against women. In response to the pandemic, women leaders championed policies that addressed the pandemic's social and economic impacts on the most vulnerable groups. In conflict-affected contexts, data show that women's representation in public life brings heightened credibility to peace processes and negotiations, helping unify divided communities. Research has also shown that seeing more women in power increases girls' educational and career aspirations.
Global Leaders Group gets working
On September 22, the Global Leaders Group co-chairs, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, hosted a UN General Assembly side event to discuss and address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) with Heads of Government and State, government Ministers and relevant stakeholders. The event was moderated by Global Leaders Group member Christopher Fearne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Malta.
AMR is already a global threat that contributes to almost 5 million deaths per year, while disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income countries. It poses serious threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health, and severely undermines the sustainability of agri-food systems.
"Urgent action is required to stop the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Without action, we face a future where we will be unable to treat infections in humans, animals and plants. We must work together to protect our medicines," said co-chair of the Global Leader Group on AMR, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
The 2016 Political Declaration of the High-Level meeting of the UN General Assembly on AMR was critical to galvanizing political action while officially recognizing AMR as a global crisis and that preventing and controlling infections are the key to tackling it. Today's side event was an opportunity to urge political leadership and action on AMR in advance of the UN General Assembly High-level meeting in 2024 that the Global Leaders Group is pleased to have secured to progress global action to mitigate AMR.
"As we continue together towards the High-level meeting in 2024, let us ensure we make an impact and set the course for concrete political action on AMR," says co-chair of the Global Leader Group on AMR, Her Excellency Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados.
The event was attended by Heads of Government and State, government ministers, stakeholders, and members of the Quadripartite comprised of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). While this side event was critical to continue the discussion of developing and implementing national action plans to address AMR, the Global Leaders Group urges all Heads of Government and State to build on this political momentum and continue to engage on AMR across all sectors with urgency and include it in all aspects of their work. The G7 and G20 countries particularly have a special role to catalyze and galvanize the global response against AMR.
"It is encouraging to see AMR as a consistent agenda item in G7 and G20 presidencies," says member of the Global Leaders Group on AMR, Christopher Fearne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Malta. "This momentum has to be consolidated with urgency and specific commitments."
The Global Leaders Group has been calling for specific actions from G7 and G20 countries that include fully funding their own national action plans on AMR, contributing to fund multi-sectoral national action plans of resource-limited countries through support to existing financial structures, financially supporting the AMR Multi-Partner Trust Fund, supporting financial incentives and mechanisms for the development of new antimicrobials (particularly antibiotics), vaccines, diagnostics, waste management tools, and safe and effective alternatives to antimicrobials, with a defined timeline and following through on their existing AMR commitments and finally, monitoring their progress annually.
In their respective roles, the members of the Global Leaders Group will continue to advocate for political leadership on this issue in every country and collaborate globally to address AMR through a One Health approach across the human, animal, plant and environment health sectors.
Culture of Peace: Our permanent contribution to the UNGA
Before the commencement of the 77th session, the President of the 76th Session of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, convened the General Assembly's annual high-level Forum on Bangladesh's flagship resolution on 'Culture of Peace'.
The Forum gathered a large number of Member States, representatives of the United Nations and other intergovernmental entities and the civil society.
The theme for this year's event was "The Culture of Peace: Importance of justice, equality, and inclusion for advancing peacebuilding."
The inaugural session was addressed by, among others, the Assistant Secretary General of the Peacebuilding Support Office, the Secretary General's Envoy on Youth, and the Rector of the University of Peace.
The forum also featured a plenary session for the member States and a panel discussion, which was chaired by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, and participated by expert speakers from the UN and civil society.
The speakers, both at the plenary and at the panel discussion, lauded Bangladesh's leadership in promoting the notion of culture of peace for over two decades.
They also recognized the renewed importance of the culture of peace in the context of current global challenges accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflicts, according to the Bangladesh Mission in UN.
Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, recalled Bangladesh's historic role in mooting the notion and steering the General Assembly resolution on 'Culture of Peace'.
"From the very moment of our birth as a nation we have committed ourselves to building of a world order, in which the aspiration of all men for peace and justice will be realized. This very commitment guided us in 1999 to introduce the GA resolution on Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace and also shaped our enduring commitment to the cause of global peace," the Ambassador said.
Ambassador Muhith also highlighted the continued relevance of the culture of peace in advancing peacebuilding.
The current peacebuilding architecture of the UN offers a viable means for promotion of positive peace, said the envoy.
"It promises to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflicts and end hostilities by addressing their root causes. This requires efforts towards transforming attitudes, institutions and structures that lead to peaceful societies," he added.
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