Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has taken over the charge as the D-8 Chair for the next two years, has said it is now more important than ever to work together for building a better future.
“...the world is now passing through a critical period. The Covid-19 pandemic has created havoc on the global economy. It’s now more important than ever to work unitedly for building back better [future],” she said while delivering her closing remarks at the 10th D-8 Summit as the new D-8 Chair.
Bangladesh hosted the Summit virtually participated by leaders of Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey under the theme “Partnership for a Transformative World: Harnessing the Power of Youth and Technology.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered the opening remarks as the current Chair of D-8 and handed over the D-8 Chairmanship to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Sheikh Hasina attended the first D-8 summit held in 1997 in Istanbul, Turkey and chaired the 2nd D-8 summit hosted by Dhaka in 1999.
Hearing statements and suggestions from the D-8 leaders, she felt hopeful and confident that working together, the D-8 can create a better tomorrow for the one billion-plus people in the Member States.
“New solutions were encouraged. New ways were explored to transform societies and economies by optimally using the demographic dividend and the 4th industrial revolution,” she said.
This is the first time D-8 held the Youth Summit, she said, adding, “Let’s take the benefit of the demographic dividend that we as a Group are enjoying now.”
The Prime Minister said the private sectors of the D-8 countries will have more productive, mutually beneficial interaction and cooperation.
During the summit several different initiatives of the D-8, covering wide ranging issues like technology, agriculture, business, health and education, have been mentioned, she said.
“I’m confident that with our support and encouragement, the D-8 will flourish further in the coming days, and we’ll be able to achieve even more,” Hasina added.
At this juncture of time, she said, “Let’s transform the D-8 into a more dynamic, more visionary, more forward-looking Group. Let us take the D-8 to newer heights, let’s work for closer economic and social ties. Let’s work together to achieve our common vision of achieving peace and prosperity for our peoples.”
President of Indonesia Joko Widodo, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, Prime Minister of Malaysia Muhyiddin Yassin, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Egypt Mostafa Madbouly and Foreign Minister of Nigeria Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama on behalf of its President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the summit.
Harnessing Youth Potential
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put emphasis on establishing cooperation in harnessing the power and potential of the youth.
She said it could be done through skill development, utilising the full potential of ICT, creating necessary legal, institutional and infrastructural framework; and improving connectivity to facilitate trade and investment among the D-8 member states.
“The D-8, which was established 24 years ago, is now poised to deliver its goal of economic development through creating synergies,” the Prime Minister said.
Hasina said the power and potential of the youths who have made breakthroughs in business ideas, models, innovations and technologies is very important.
“The youth in our countries can be encouraged to come together through the business initiatives at private and even government to private level. The D-8 Business Forum together with the 1st D-8 Youth Summit has created this rare opportunity,” she said.
The Prime Minister said youths are well conversant with digital technology and have kept Bangladesh’s economy vibrant during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said the UN has estimated that the global economy is expected to lose nearly 8.5 trillion dollars in output over the next two years because of pandemic.
“To overcome the challenges, we need effective partnership and greater cooperation in the fields of technology and innovation.”
She mentioned that Bangladesh has put emphasis on the use of transformative technology for the last one decade, turning the country into a “Digital Bangladesh”.
She mentioned that the D-8 Secretariat can provide information of potentials within the Group and explore scope for "Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreements".
“Such information could help increase trade and investment dialogue, and more trade and investment among the member states. Trade is ultimately driven by the private sector,” she said.
Hasina also mentioned that it is important to facilitate the travel of business people for which Bangladesh has joined six D-8 members in ratifying "Simplification of Visa Procedures for the Businessmen of the D-8 Member States."
She said for effective and sustainable development within D-8, it is now imperative that the member countries cooperate with and assist each other on climate change issues.
“As the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum-CVF, we’ll be happy to work with the D-8 member states on the issue of implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
Talking about the Rohingya issue, Hasina said this problem is causing severe impact on the country’s environment, society and the economy. Bangladesh gave shelter to 1.1 million Rohingyas of Myanmar on humanitarian ground, she said.
“We’ve insisted from the beginning that the Rohingyas have to go back to the Rakhine State in Myanmar in a safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable manner,” she said.
Unfortunately, the PM mentioned, it has been more than three years after their influx into Bangladesh, and the repatriation process is yet to be started.
“We’re also concerned that if the crisis is not resolved, this may create security concerns in the region and beyond,” she warned.
Expressing her gratitude to the D-8 member states for their support on the issue, she urged them to put pressure on Myanmar for taking back the Rohingyas.
Talking about the natural disaster, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh has achieved phenomenal socio-economic growth even after the increasing frequency of natural disasters.
Last year, she said, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh had to bear the brunt of cyclone Amphan, and prolonged flood in large parts of the country.
“It’s estimated that close to 1 percent of our GDP is lost due to climate change, which is likely to increase in the coming decades if the current phenomenon is not reversed. This calls for an urgent and a meaningful cooperation among us for adaptation and mitigation measures.”
On the issue of Covid-19 pandemic, she said that just before the outbreak of the pandemic, Bangladesh had achieved an enviable GDP growth rate of 8.15 percent. Even during the pandemic, it achieved a GDP growth rate of 5.4 percent, one of the highest in the world, by putting equal emphasis on lives and livelihood.
“Apart from rolling out a stimulus package worth 1.24 trillion taka, which is around 4.4% of our GDP, our investment in food security, agriculture and adequate social safety nets contributed in overriding the fallouts of Covid-19.”
She said that the government is also providing various social protection supports to more than 9.5 million people.
“We’ve taken an initiative to provide a house to country’s every homeless person marking the birth centenary of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”
She mentioned that Women's empowerment and their equal involvement at all levels is also an important factor of economic stability.
She said Bangladesh is one of the top readymade garment exporters in the world. More than 85 percent of the workers in this sector are women. They are significantly contributing to the society and the economy.
The D-8 countries have agreed to explore the possibilities of developing and enhancing transport connectivity among D-8 Member States to facilitate trade and investment including the intraD-8 trade.
“There’s lot of opportunities and possibilities. We’ll take initiative to boost trade and investment and create jobs,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at a virtual press conference after the 10th Summit.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen were present.
Dr Momen said they believe that trade and investment among the D-8 countries will be increased through cooperation.
The Summit adopted two documents – “Dhaka Declaration 2021”, and “D-8 Decennial Roadmap for 2020-2030.”
Dr Momen said the D-8 leaders commended and supported the idea of the government of Bangladesh to engage the youth and ensure their participation in the new reality of 4IR through hosting the first ever D-8 Youth Summit.
If nurtured properly, the demographic asset of more than 50 per cent of the D-8 populace under 24 years of age could become the fulcrum that boosts up economic growth of the Member States, according to Dhaka Declaration 2021.