Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for ensuring universal and affordable access to vaccines for people across the world.
While addressing the General Debate of the 76th UNGA on Friday, the Bangladesh premier also called upon the development partners to provide more incentives to facilitate a sustainable LDC graduation and urged migrant receiving countries to treat expatriate workers fairly and protect their job, health, and well-being during these trying times.
She also sought enhanced focus and active support of the international community to find a durable solution to the protracted Rohingya crisis.
Earlier on the day, while speaking at the virtual "United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021", Hasina emphasised developing a "resilient food system" globally by producing more food for the growing population of the world.
Stressing the need for universal access to Covid vaccines, the prime minister told the UNGA, "In the last UNGA, I urged this august assembly to treat Covid-19 vaccines as a 'global public good.' This was echoed by many other leaders. Yet these calls remain largely unheeded. Instead, we have seen growing 'vaccine divides' 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 pointed out, adding, "This vaccine inequality must be urgently addressed. We cannot chart out a sustainable recovery and be safe by leaving millions behind.
"Therefore, I reiterate my 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."
The premier called 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 to fight the adverse impact of climate change.
"The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the climate-vulnerable countries. The IPCC Working Group-I Report provided a grim scenario of our planet.
"Unless there are immediate measures, the devastating impacts of climate change will be irreversible. No country, rich or poor, is immune of the destructive effects."
Highlighting Bangladesh's effort to mitigate climate change impact, she said, "As the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Ministers of Finance, we have launched the "Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan – Decade 2030" outlining a transformative agenda from climate vulnerability to climate prosperity.
"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."
Referring to the adverse impact of the pandemic on education, the Bangladesh prime minister said, "The pandemic has severely disrupted our education system. 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 enrollment, literacy rates, etc, she said, adding,. "We need a global plan to prioritize education recovery by investing in digital tools and services, access to internet, and capacity building of teachers. We also call on the UN system to rally partnership and resources to make that happen."
Seeking support from development partners in the country's graduation to the group of developing countries, Sheikh Hasina said, "Despite the unprecedented challenges by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are on track to graduate from the LDC category. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has put at risk the graduation prospect and aspiration of many countries. To motivate and incentivizes sustainable graduation, we look forward to receiving more support from our development partners for an incentive-based graduation structure."
Speaking on the Rohingya crisis, she said the Rohingya crisis is in its fifth year now and yet not a single forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals could be repatriated to Myanmar.
"Despite the uncertainty created by the recent political developments in Myanmar, we expect enhanced focus and active support of the international community to find a durable solution to this crisis. Myanmar must create the conditions conducive for their return. 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 COovid-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 Rakhine State.
She also said Bangladesh expects the ASEAN leadership to step up their ongoing efforts, and the international community needs to support all the accountability processes.
"The Covid-19 has brought to the fore the inadequacy of the global response to tackle emergencies. It has also put a spotlight on the critical need for global solidarity and collaboration for effective Covid-19 response.
"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."
"At this critical juncture, the United Nations stands as our best hope. Let us join our hands together to keep that hope alive," she said.
At the beginning of her speech the premier congratulated Abdulla Shahid, former foreign minister of Maldives, on his election as the President of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. She also congratulated Volkan BOZKIR, the preceding President, for his leadership in the face of unprecedented challenges during the historic 75th Session of the General Assembly.
"It's my great pride that this is my 17th participation in the UNGA to represent my country, Bangladesh," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
Mentioning that the current year is a very special year for Bangladesh, she said, "This year we are celebrating the golden jubilee of our independence. This celebration coincides with 'Mujib Year', the Birth Centenary of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
"I pay my profound respect and homage to the Father of our Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose selfless, lifelong struggle and visionary leadership brought us our long-cherished Independence. I also pay my deepest tribute to the valiant freedom fighters for their courage and sacrifices to free our motherland."
The premier said they have been working hard to fulfill the unfinished dream of our Father of the Nation. "We are now among the five fastest growing economies in the world, ranking 41st in terms of GDP. Over the past decade, we have reduced the poverty rate from 31.5%to 20.5%. Our per capita income jumped to more than threefold in just one decade to $2,227. Our foreign currency reserve has reached an all-time high to $48 billion."
"Our 'Digital Bangladesh' initiative has stimulated transformative impacts on socio-economic development, education, disaster risk reduction, women's empowerment, and so on. Our social safety net programmes have also made significant expansion."
AS for SDG Index Score, the Sustainable Development Report 2021 identified Bangladesh as having progressed the most since 2015. Such progress was due to heavy investment in women's advancement and empowerment, which contributed to our transformative development, she added.
"We have achieved the milestone of LDC graduation this year. Our vision is to transform Bangladesh into a knowledge-based developed country by 2041; and a prosperous and resilient Delta by 2100."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the UNGA that Bangladesh envisions 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. Bangladesh stands ready to continue to work with the people of Afghanistan and the international community for its socio-economic development."
Peace remains a pre-eminent focus of our foreign policy, she mentioned, adding, "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."
"Today, we take pride as the leading peacekeeping nation and our contribution to global peace," she said.
"We firmly believe that the ultimate guarantee of international peace and security lies in the total elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. It was from that conviction we ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force earlier this year."
Reminding the world that she is still seeking justice for the brutal massacre of her family that took place 46 years ago, she said, "I survived the carnage as we (including her sister) were away abroad at the time. For 6 years we were in exile suffering from the agony of losing near and dear ones.
"Nevertheless, my struggle continued and upon returning to Bangladesh, I have devoted my life to fulfilling the dream of my father, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for a happy and prosperous Golden Bangladesh. I shall continue to do so as long as I live, Insha Allah."