Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the international community to work constructively for a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis through safe, sustainable and dignified return of the displaced Myanmar nationals to their home in Rakhine state.
“The Rohingay crisis was created in Myanmar and its solution lies in Myanmar. While we expect the ASEAN leadership to step up their ongoing efforts, the international community needs to support all the accountability processes,” she said while addressing the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday.
She said to ensure their temporary stay in Bangladesh, the government has relocated some of Rohingyas to ‘Bhasan Char’. “We have also included all eligible from them in the national vaccination drive to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the camps.”
The Prime Minister also reiterated her call for ensuring equitable and affordable access to vaccine for all, saying immediate transfer of vaccine technologies could be a means to ensure vaccine equity. “Bangladesh is ready to produce vaccines in mass scale if technical know-how is shared with us and patent waiver is granted.”
She said all must come forth with fresh, inclusive and global ideas to fight this common enemy, and highlighted a few specific issues in this regard. For a COVID-free world, we must ensure universal and affordable access to vaccines for people across the world. 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 ‘vaccines divides’ between the rich and the poor nations.”
Citing the World Bank data, Sheikh Hasina said 84 percent of vaccines doses have so far gone to people in high and upper middle-income countries while the low-income countries received less than 1 percent. “This vaccine inequality must be urgently addressed. We cannot chart out a sustainable recovery and be safe by leaving millions behind.”
She said the impact of Covid-19 on Bangladesh has been much less than feared because of its healthcare system that has been strengthened from the grassroots level. “Besides, we adopted a timely multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach to tackle its challenges. From the very beginning, we took some firm decisions to balance between life and livelihood. They included 28 stimulus packages to the tune of US$ 14.6 billion or 4.44 percent of our GDP to keep our economy afloat. We also allocated 1.61 billion USD for vaccines in the current budget cycle.”
The pandemic has severely disrupted the education system, she said. “Millions of students in low-income countries did not have the resources and technologies to join remote learning facilities, jeopardizing decades of gains in enrollment, literacy rates, etc. We need a global plan to prioritise education recovery by investing in digital tools and services, access to internet, and capacity building of teachers. We also call the UN system to rally partnership and resources to make that happen.”
“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 incentivize sustainable graduation, we look forward to receiving more support from our development partners for an incentive-based graduation structure. As one of the co-chairs of the Preparatory Committee of the LDC 5 Conference, we expect concrete outcome of Doha conference enabling more countries to sustainably graduate out of the LDC category,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said they envision 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.”
She reiterated Bangladesh’s ‘zero-tolerance policy’ against the menaces of terrorism and violent extremism that are jeopardising peace and security in many parts of the world.
“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,” the Prime Minister said.
“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 to effective Covid-19 response,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said, “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.”