The world’s leaders have been urged by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to cooperate for world peace, human happiness, and development by eschewing conflict and violence.
“My appeal today is to all of you – to the leaders of the world, to shun the path of war and confrontation, and to work collectively for enduring peace, welfare for humankind and economic prosperity for our people and future generations,” she said.
Today (Friday), at the General Assembly Hall in this city, the prime minister spoke during the General Debate of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
According to her, the pandemic’s effects, the existential climate crisis, and the widespread effects of the war in Ukraine, which have adversely affected global food, financial, and energy security, pose threats to the overall progress towards a peaceful and prosperous common future. These threats have also significantly hampered the achievement of the SDGs in developing countries.
The prime minister stated that Bangladesh always supports Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his steadfast commitment to fostering multilateralism as well as for his actions, audacious declarations, and forward-thinking and practical steps to ensure that the UN fulfills its mandates and is able to meet the challenges of the modern world.
She brought up the Rohingya tragedy, climate change, the food crisis, human rights, women’s empowerment, healthcare, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), terrorism, the government’s inclusive economic development, as well as other global and regional issues in her speech to the UNGA session.
Like the previous years, Sheikh Hasina addressed the session of the UNGA in Bangla for the 19th time following the footsteps of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who delivered his address in Bangla in the UNGA on September 25 in 1974.
This year’s UNGA theme is: “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”.
She referred to assassination of 18 members of her family that included her father, then President of Bangladesh, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujubur Rahman, her mother and three brothers, three sisters-in-law and paternal uncles on August 15 in 1975.
The premier said she and her only sister survived the brutality as they were abroad at that time.
“Before that, in 1971, three million of our countrymen were killed during our great War of Liberation while two hundred thousand women were heinously tortured and abused,” she said.
“As a victim of and witness to brutalities of war and assassination. I can feel the pain and agony that people endure due to the horrors of wars, killings, coup d’‚tats and conflicts,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina called for attention from world leaders in her speech to the six-year-old forced migration of the Rohingya people from Myanmar.
She said: “Let’s bring those hopeless people hope of a brighter future in their own land and thereby foster safety and stability in the region.” She mentioned that the displaced Rohingyas want to return to their own nation, Myanmar, and live a peaceful life there.
“Out of humanitarian concern, we have given shelter to those who fled their homes for safety. However, the situation has really turned unbearable for us now. The prolonged presence of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh has caused serious ramifications on the economy, environment, security, and socio-political stability in Bangladesh,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina opined that uncertainty over repatriation has led to widespread frustration and this situation can potentially fuel radicalization.
“If the problem persists further, it may affect the security and stability of the entire region, and beyond,” she said.
Rich countries must fulfill their $100 climate commitments, she said and called upon the developed countries to walk on their promises.
“We call upon the major emitters to submit and implement ambitious NDCs. The developed economies must fulfill their 100-billion dollars commitments,” she said.
The development needs of the climate-vulnerable countries must be considered, she said, adding that they demanded an urgent operationalization of loss and damage funds as agreed in COP27.
“We call for a stronger global solidarity in sharing the burden of climate migrants induced by sea-level rise, salinity increase, river erosion, floods, and droughts,” she said.
Bangladesh is among the nations that are most vulnerable to climate change while producing less than 0.47% of global emissions, she said.
Sheikh Hasina continued by stating that urgent, audacious, and ambitious collaborative action is required to confront these threats, which pose major risks to the security and economic prosperity of our present and future generations.
“Bangladesh is committed to protecting and preserving the environment and biodiversity and pursuing a climate-resilient sustainable development path,” she said.
The premier said Bangladesh established the “Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund” back in 2009 to finance climate adaptation and allocated 480 million US dollars to this fund so far from our own resources.
Sea dykes, cyclone shelters are constructed; greenbelt and tree plantation initiatives are undertaken for climate adaptation and mitigation purposes, she said.
“We are implementing the world’s biggest housing project for people displaced by the impacts of climate change in Cox’s Bazar by constructing 139 multi-storied buildings with all necessary amenities to shelter 4,409 climate change-affected families,” she added.
The premier said they are implementing the “Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100” with an objective to achieve a safe, climate-resilient and prosperous delta through coordinated delta management process.
She said her government has undertaken the “Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan”. “We are working to ensure our gradual transition from climate vulnerability to climate resilience,” she said.
“More than six million people are using solar home systems. We are also working for a more sustainable energy mix. We hope to have 40% of our energy from renewable sources by 2040,” she added.
She said that the government offers affordable rice and other goods to 10 million people who fall into the low income category and has taken various steps to keep inflation in check.
“I have called upon our people to grow their own food and leave no cultivable land uncultivated. Our scientists have now developed climate-resilient varieties including drought-and flood- and salinity-tolerant varieties of crops,” she said.
She said they are deeply concerned that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has become defunct and call upon all parties concerned for its early restoration.
Political declaration to accelerate SDG implementation:
Sheikh Hasina said a political declaration will accelerate implementation of the 2030 agenda.
“We believe, despite some limitations, the Political Declaration will accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda,” she said.
“Therefore, we welcome the successful holding of the SDG Summit this year and the adoption of its Political Declaration,” she continued.
The premier said for a timely achievement of SDGs, financing is one of the most critical factors adding that unfortunately, however, the international financial infrastructure is barely aligned with the SDGs, nor can it respond to the financial needs of developing countries especially during crises.
“Today, we urgently need an international financial architecture that will help developing countries receive concessional, low-cost, low-interest-rate funds, with minimum conditionalities,” she said.
Besides, developing countries must also have equitable access to IMF’s SDR funds during emergencies and disasters and s special ‘disaster clause’ should be included in all lending instruments, she opined.
“We must make all efforts to collectively address the common challenges of humanity to secure a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future for all. And, for that, we must choose unity, solidarity, and multilateralism over fragmentation, insularity and isolation,” she said.
Since assuming office in 2009, the premier said they have invested heavily to build a human-centric, inclusive, modern democracy as envisioned by our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Following his pathway, she said their tireless efforts, pragmatic policy interventions and forward-looking investments have transformed Bangladesh from a lower-middle income country to a middle-income country.
“We have reduced the poverty rate from 41.5 percent in 2006 to 18.7 percent in 2022 and the extreme poverty rate from 25.1 percent to 5.6 percent,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said, “Building on our success in achieving MDGs, we have made sustained progress in achieving the SDGs, she said, adding that like other countries in the world, Bangladesh also faced serious challenges. COVID 19 pandemic, various man-made crises and natural disasters have intensified those challenges manifold.
“We thank the Secretary-General for proposing a 500 billion dollar SDGs stimulus package and demand its early operationalization,” she said.
In Bangladesh, she said they have taken a set of tough fiscal and policy choices to ensure macroeconomic stability and to control inflation during and post pandemic period.
“On the other hand, we have increased our investment in social safety net programs and provided targeted support for agriculture, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and other vulnerable sectors. We have expanded the social safety net coverage to ensure social and financial security of destitute women, widows, the elderly, persons with disabilities, persons of third gender and other marginalized segments of the society,” she said.