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UN family is with Bangladeshis to address challenges: Mia Seppo

Solution to Rohingya crisis lies with Myanmar, she says

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 20 September, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news
UN family is with Bangladeshis to address challenges: Mia Seppo

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The United Nations has assured Bangladesh of extending all-out support to address various challenges, including Covid-19 recovery, climate change and smooth graduation from the LDC bracket.

“The United Nations family is with all people in Bangladesh to address these challenges, from our support to 165 million Bangladeshis,” UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo said on Sunday.

She said the Bangladesh government and the UN recently finalised the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF), the UN development system’s collective roadmap to support and accelerate achievement of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 8th Five-Year Plan and Perspective Plan for 2021-2041.

Speaking at the “DCAB Talk” organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at the Foreign Service Academy, Mia Seppo said the graduation from the group of least developed countries (LDCs) will bring many opportunities for Bangladesh, but will prove unsustainable if the country cannot address emerging challenges associated with the pandemic impact such as income inequality, gender-based violence, climate vulnerability and a high prevalence of informality in the labour market.  DCAB President Pantho Rahaman and its General Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke at the event where the UN resident coordinator also shared UN views on the Rohingya and Afghanistan crises, issues related to Bhasan Char, climate change, sustainable and inclusive Covid recovery, Digital Security Act (DSA), gender issues and cooperation framework.

In developing the UNSDCF, she said five strategic priorities were identified as pillars where the UN system will concentrate – economic, social, environmental, governance and gender equality.

The UN resident coordinator heartily welcomed the government’s decision reopening schools from September 12. “The UN stands by Bangladesh to ensure that the schools remain open and all children in Bangladesh can continue their education journey safely and uninterrupted.”

To this end, she said, development partners, including the UN, worked closely with the government partners concerned to develop the safe school reopening guidelines which will focus on making up for learning lost and taking proactive measures to get marginalised children back into school.

Speaking about media, Mia Seppo said the world needs journalists more than ever to bring out truth while effectively dealing with the life-threatening misinformation. “It’s ironic that in a moment with most access to information there’s an avalanche of life-threatening misinformation out there,” she said.

The UN resident coordinator said journalists have the responsibility to bring out truth, spread science-based facts that save lives, protect people and ensure rights. “That’s the power of your pen. Use that power as a force for good.”

She said reports from journalists can help educate and clarify perceptions; as well as reconcile people and inspire patriotism. “You possess great potential to reinforce and create conditions that enable a more tolerant, just, peaceful and inclusive coexistence.”

The UN chief in Bangladesh put emphasis on enhancing capacities in conflict-sensitive reporting and play a more active and prominent role in driving media excellence and conflict-sensitive reporting for sustainable peace.

She said there is no development without peace and no peace without development; and sustaining peace is a continuous process. National and social cohesion must be sensitively managed to strengthen relationships of trust among Bangladeshis.

Media’s action and reporting can engender either social cohesion or mistrust and divisions among communities and people. “Media reports can give a rise to resentment, suspicion and conspiracy theories,” she said.

About the Digital Security Act, she said the UN is in talks with the authorities concerned, including the Ministry of Law, to review it and stop its misuse.

The UN resident coordinator also conveyed the global organisation's concern over signs of shrinking civic space, growing inequality and violence against women in Bangladesh.

In reply to a query about Bhasan Cha, she told reporters that the UN is at the final stages of starting operations for the Rohingyas in Bhasan Char. The UN is already in talks with Bangladeshi NGOs working in the island on how to work effectively there.

Mia Seppo said the Bangladesh government has made huge investments in Bhasan Char to make it a liveable place, but there was, rather, negative publicity.

On another question, she said the proposal from the World Bank regarding Rohingyas in Bangladesh has been misunderstood. "The solution to the Rohingya refugee situation lies with Myanmar," she said, adding that the most viable, durable solution is the voluntary repatriation of refugees in safety, dignity and sustainability.

Responding to another question, Mia Seppo said the UN will provide electoral assistance for Bangladesh only if there is any request on that particular front. “The UN stands ready to support under the framework of cooperation if there’s any request forthcoming.”