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PM Hasina at UNGA: UN-Myanmar deal must end Rohingya crisis

  • Published at 10:22 am September 28th, 2018
PM Hasina addresses UNGA_Reuters
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US, September 27, 2018Reuters

She says that despite Myanmar’s verbal commitment, the country has yet to take the refugees back

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has used her annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly to demand the “immediate and effective” implementation of the agreement signed by Myanmar and the UN to end the Rohingya crisis.

Stating that the crisis is “exerting immense socio-economic pressure on Bangladesh”, she also accused Myanmar of disregarding its commitment for the safe repatriation of the Rohingyas and denounced the atrocities committed against them.

“We are disappointed that despite our earnest efforts, we have not been able to conduct the Rohingya repatriations in a peaceful and sustainable manner,” the PM told world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday.

Hasina said that so far, several bilateral meetings have taken place between Bangladesh and Myanmar, but despite Myanmar’s verbal commitment, the country is unwilling to take its nationals back.

“We want to see the immediate implementation of the UN deal with Myanmar…the Rohingya crisis has its origin in Myanmar, so its solution has to be found in Myanmar,” she said.

The annual General Debate of the UNGA brings the leaders of UN member states together at UN Headquarters to discuss global issues. The UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the UN and is the only one in which all member states have equal representation.

The theme of the 73rd UNGA is “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”.

Hasina delved into the Rohingya issue at the beginning of her speech. She said Myanmar’s situation is reminiscent of the genocide committed by Pakistan’s forces in 1971 against Bangladeshis - and gave an account of the atrocities that were perpetrated during the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

She extended her appreciation of the international community for their support in assisting the Rohingya refugees, and said for as long as the Rohingya are not able to return home, they should be able to live in good conditions.

“With that in mind, we have started building a new housing facility for them with all the necessary amenities,” she said, while reminding the assembly that the status quo cannot continue.

Earlier this week, Hasina delivered a three-point proposal on the Rohingya refugees to the UN at a high-level event on the Global Compact on Refugees, organized by UNHCR.

She then expressed her optimism regarding the Global Compact for Migration, and said Bangladesh expects to see safer, orderly, and regular migration.

“The Migration Compact should serve as a living document for protecting the rights of migrants,” she said.

The premier also addressed the issues of terrorism and drugs, stating that Bangladesh stands firm against terrorism and all organized crime, and that it has aligned itself with the “Global Call to Action on the World’s Drugs Problem” mooted by the UN.

Development path

Sheikh Hasina then detailed the development achieved by Bangladesh under her tenure, including the increase in Bangladesh’s per capita income from $543 in 2006 to $1,752 in 2018, a reduction in poverty, swelling forex reserves, and increased power generation capacity.

“We’ve commenced our journey from being an LDC to the status of a developing country,” she said. “The pathway for graduation is inextricably linked with our SDG implementation strategy, which is integrated in our seventh Five-Year Plan.”

She stressed her government’s commitment to ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation for all, and to providing social security for people with disabilities and the homeless.  She mentioned the Asrayon shelter project currently being implemented with the aim of having no homeless person in Bangladesh.

In education, the premier spoke of her government’s aim to help empower women through free primary and secondary education for all. She cited free schooling up to 12th grade for girls, the provision of braille books for vision-impaired students.

She also spoke about the improvement in the quality of life in Bangladesh under her government, highlighting that 5.9% of the national budget is spent on the public health sector, resulting in reductions in maternal and child mortality and disease outbreaks, and an increase in life expectancy.

“We are working on providing urban facilities to all people in our country,” she said.

The PM outlined the steps taken by Bangladesh to fuel that progress.

She said: “We are building coal-based supercritical plants to ensure a sustainable power supply and in remote areas, the power supply is being ensured by 5.5 million solar panels. We have moved ahead with the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

She also highlighted the business opportunities in Bangladesh, including the voidance of double taxation and exemption of duties for foreign businesses.

Hasina welcomed the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation established by the UN Secretary General, and touched upon the Digital Bangladesh campaign as well as and the launch of Bangabandhu 1 – the first Bangladeshi geostationary communications and broadcasting satellite.

Towards the end of her speech,the PM elaborated on the critical issue of climate change.

Stating that Bangladesh is one of the 10 most climate-vulnerable countries of the world, she said Bangladesh is spending over 1% of its GDP to address climate change. She claimed initiatives are being taken to increase tree coverage from 22% to 24% in the next five years, and to implement the Delta Plan.

“We are the only country in the world that has adopted a development plan spanning 82 years,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has now surpassed its neighbours in South Asia on a number of development indicators. “But, our journey has not reached its end. Our journey will continue until the day we can build a ‘Sonar Bangla’ free from hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and exploitation.”

The prime minister concluded her speech by expressing her solidarity with the people of Palestine.

“We are shocked by the persecution of the people of Palestine, this must come to an end,” she said. “We must continue to strive for humanity, because it is humanity and goodwill that will take us forward on the path of development.”

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