UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday highly praised Bangladesh for making remarkable economic and social progress and is aiming to graduate from Least Developed Country (LDC) status in a few years.
“Starting from a low baseline, Bangladesh has made strides in socio-economic development, poverty eradication, access to education and health, women’s and children’s mortality, access to food, water and sanitation,” she said.
It has also stepped up to provide refuge to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee persecution and serious international crimes being committed against them across the border in Myanmar.
Bangladesh also continues to face challenges on the human rights front, and I have been able to discuss many of these extensively with the Government and civil society members, she added.
The UN High Commissioner arrived in Dhaka on Aug 14. In Dhaka, she met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Ministers for foreign affairs, home affairs, law, and education and other State officials.
Bachelet also met with the National Human Rights Commission and representatives of civil society, as well as members of the diplomatic community and academics. She was able to interact with students at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies on climate change and human rights.
The delegation from her Office was also able to represent me in meetings with other stakeholders, including trade unions and political parties.
“But successive UN human rights reports have documented a narrowing of civic space, increased surveillance, intimidation and reprisals often leading to self-censorship.”
Laws and policies over-regulating NGOs and broadly restricting the freedom of expression make it difficult – and sometimes risky – for them to function effectively, the UN rights chief added.
She said Democratic and civic space, as well as effective checks and balances and accountability are essential as Bangladesh aims for the next levels of development.
“It also contributes to decrease the risk of corruption and other hurdles to sustainable economic development and sound fiscal management.”
Speaking about the election, she said the election period will be an important time for Bangladesh to maximize civic and political space, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of political activists, human rights defenders, opposition parties and journalists.