Bangladesh in UNGA: One More Step Forward in Multilateralism

Bangladesh has certainly come a long way from the first-ever speech in Bangla by the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the 29th General Assembly of the United Nations to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s participation at the the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The theme of the 78th UNGA was “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.” Bangladesh’s presence in this year’s BRICS and G20 summit which reflected the same agendas is a testament to the fact that the country truly believes in a sustainable and prosperous future that includes everyone.

PM Sheikh Hasina left for New York on 17th September. She had a rather eventful time till her 22nd September speech in the assembly which was in Bangla like the previous years. She attended several high-level summits related to SDG goals, development financing, climate actions, sea-level rise, pandemic response, and a high-level side event on the Rohingya crisis hosted by Bangladesh, Canada, Gambia, Malaysia, Turkey, the UK, and the USA.

This year’s UNGA clearly shows a keenness for discussing climate issues which is a priority for Bangladesh too.  During her speech in general debate, the HPM talked about climate change. She said that even though Bangladesh is only responsible for 0.47% of global emissions, it is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. The nation recognizes the severe consequences of climate change on its security and economy and is dedicated to conserving the environment and biodiversity and pursuing climate-resilient sustainable development.

Bangladesh has become a global leader in disaster management, disaster risk reduction, and local climate migration adaption solutions. Besides its ambitious Delta plan 2100 and National Adaptation Plan (NAP), the country has simplified housing and land projects like “Khurushkul Ashrayan Prokalpa” and “Ashrayan” to increase climate resiliency. Experts say the country’s green development economic zones can ensure utility provision, workplace safety, and environmental sustainability.

The country expressed its expectation of urgent, bold and ambitious collective actions to deal with climate issues together and called upon the major emitters to submit and implement ambitious NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) of $100 billion. The PM also called for global solidarity in sharing the burden of climate migrants and demanded an urgent operationalization of loss and damage funds, agreed in COP27.

During her speech, the PM adequately addressed many other issues of national and international value. She appealed to the leaders of the world to shun the path of war and confrontation and to choose the path of working collectively for peace, welfare and economic prosperity for the whole of humankind and future generations. She iterated the importance of collectively addressing the common challenges of humanity to secure a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future for all.  

She also mentioned the great sail of Bangladesh in her regime as the country has transformed from a lower-middle income country to a middle-income country- the poverty rate has reduced to half since 2006. Today the country is on its path to becoming a trillion-dollar economy. The per capita income of people has more than doubled in the last decade showing a steady graph of growth in the standard of livelihood. Its rapid economic growth has also availed the country the title of “development miracle” of South Asia. Bangladesh currently is the 35th largest economy in the world with a GDP of $411 billion.

HPM also talked about MDG and SDG goals that included empowerment of women in the country. Bangladesh has been providing stipends, scholarships and grants to about 23 million students and half of those recipients are female. Along with female literacy, Bangladesh is also working to increase the political representation of women at all levels, from the top to the lowest tier of government. This has elevated the country to the 59th position globally in terms of gender parity, indicating significant progress. HPM also mentioned previously that it’s high time the UN had a female secretary general. She further assured support for all international initiatives for the advancement of women including through the UNGA Platform for Women Leaders.

Similar to the previous year, the Prime Minister discussed the plight of two of the world’s most vulnerable communities: the Rohingya in Bangladesh and the Palestinians. Its solidarity with Palestine stems from a respect for the sovereignty and human rights of all people, but the Rohingya issue is mentioned because it has become a significant security concern for the nation. She stated that uncertainty over Rohingya repatriation has created widespread frustration that can potentially fuel radicalization. 

In August 2017, Rohingya refugees – almost 60 per cent of whom were children – poured across the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh- running from unspeakable violence and brutality that had forced them to flee. The exodus joined around 300,000 people already in Bangladesh from previous waves of displacement, effectively forming the world’s largest refugee camp. Six years later, the Rohingya rely entirely on humanitarian assistance for protection, food, water, shelter and health, and they are living in temporary shelters in highly congested camp settings. Many of them are getting lost in the sea trying to flee the camps while those who are trying to live in the makeshift camps are facing severe malnutrition, sanitation issues along with gang violence and sexual violence against women and children. 

For a country like Bangladesh, which has its own issues to deal with- the role of being a gracious citizen has cost them a lot economically and environmentally. So, HPM urged in her speech that to bring stability to the region and foster safety, everyone should work together for a brighter future for Rohingyas in their own land.

Bangladesh has found a profound place in the current world order with its meticulous growth, balanced by strong diplomacy and openness to multilateralism. PM’s attendance at UNGA has been another great addition to such multilateralism in relaying the countries’ openness in the world.

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