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Diplomacy in 2018: Dhaka maintained a lively presence on the global stage

  • Published at 03:17 pm December 28th, 2018
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina as she arrives at the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Canada on June AFP

From the Rohingya crisis, to the Global Compact for Migration, the country has led responses to global issues

Bangladesh has maintained its strong presence in international forums with much of its diplomacy successfully remaining focused on the Rohingya issue, in the outgoing year, 2018; compelling the international community to stay engaged with Bangladesh and mount pressure on Myanmar.

Bangladesh has successfully kept the Rohingya issue "alive" via its "prudent diplomacy" throughout the year, though many thought that it would be a "forgotten" issue, a diplomat told UNB.

He, however, said the Rohingya repatriation plan, as agreed by Bangladesh and Myanmar, to begin in mid-November this year, has failed.

Some tried to create the impression that Bangladesh has undertaken the Rohingya issue as a "business venture" and that Bangladesh does not want the repatriation of Rohingyas, he added.

Bangladesh, however, through its diplomatic efforts—some direct and some indirect—was able to "successfully" end this perception through its seriousness about beginning repatriation, a senior official told UNB.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at the 73rd United Nations (UN) General Assembly, made three recommendations to solve the Rohingya crisis at its roots; one was abolishing Myanmar’s discriminatory laws, policies, and practices against the minority group.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali highlighted the need to accelerate efforts to create a conducive environment, and build houses and villages, for returnees in northern Rakhine State; to facilitate repatriation.

Minister Ali, along with Joint Working Group (JWG) members on Rohingya repatriation, in August this year, visited northern Rakhine State and saw the widespread trail of devastation suffered by people there.

Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the JWG on December 2017, to start repatriating Rohingya refugees by January 23, 2018. The JWG members from both sides visited Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar in October this year.

Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, Ambassador Masud Bin Momen, said the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people remind them of the challenges the world, as well as human rights defenders, face in realizing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"As a committed, responsible, and responsive member of the international community, we have stood beside this helpless people and provided shelter to nearly 1.1 million of them fleeing persecution in Myanmar's Rakhine state. The international community must come forward to put an end to the suffering of the Rohingyas, by ensuring their: safe, voluntary, secured, and dignified return to their homeland," he said.

UNHRC member 

As the newly-elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)—for the 2019-2021 term—Bangladesh pledged to continue to play its contributing and responsive role in realizing the objectives of the global human rights instruments in the spirit of engagement and cooperation.

"It is an important milestone for the country," said State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam adding that the achievement signifies international community's trust and confidence in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has, so far, thrice been voted to the UNHRC—2009-2012, 2015-2017 and 2019—2021. The latest election was held in October 2018 with 178 votes in favour of Bangladesh, and all wins were during the tenures of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The UNHRC is active on the Rohingya issue and an accountability mechanism is being developed through the council. Thus, Shahriar said, Bangladesh's presence in the HRC is extremely important.

UN chief's visit 

On July 2, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim made a joint visit to Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar district.

They lauded Bangladesh for providing a safe haven to hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas driven from their homes in Myanmar by systematic and widespread violence.

"In a world where so many borders are closed, the people and government of Bangladesh have opened their borders and received their brothers and sisters coming from Myanmar and from the terrible events there," said Guterres in Dhaka on July 1 before heading towards Cox's Bazar.

The UN chief also praised the World Bank for its multi-million-dollar grant for Bangladesh to support both Rohingyas and their host communities.

Heads of UN agencies also visited Rohingya camps, year-round, to see and resolve the situation on the ground.

OIC CFM and Rohingyas 

Bangladesh hosted the 45th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) from May 5-6. It was themed "Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development," and focused on the Rohingya issue.

A 53-member high-profile delegation of OIC representatives visited Rohingya camps prior to the CFM.

There was a separate session on the humanitarian challenges of the Muslim world with a special focus on the Rohingyas on May 6.

Though the OIC leaders pledged that the OIC will play a strong role in resolving the protracted Rohingya crisis, little has been done.

Bangladesh in ICC Bureau

Bangladesh has been elected a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Bureau for the next two years (2019-2020).

The states parties to the Rome Statute unanimously elected Bangladesh as a member of the Bureau at the seventeenth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, held at The Hague, the Netherlands on December 5-12 this year.

Bangladesh, for the first time, is going to play its role as a member of the Bureau, since Bangladesh's journey with the ICC began as a Member State in 2010, said Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohammed Belal.

Migration compact 

Bangladesh, for the first time, proposed the idea of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) to ensure safe, orderly, and regular migration, to the international community, in 2016.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her address at the UN General Assembly, in 2016, proposed the GCM.

The Compact was adopted at a high-level conference from December 10-11 this year in Marrakesh, Morocco, for which Bangladesh affirmed its full support and implementation.

Bangladesh in OPCW Executive Council

In November this year, Bangladesh was elected member of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council for the tenure of 2019-2021.

The council consists of 41 OPCW member states that are elected by the Conference of the States Parties and rotate every two years.

"It places us in the driving seat of peace diplomacy," said Ambassador Belal, who was elected member of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) for next three years.

He told UNB that his election in the ICC shall remain a challenging assignment. 

The 17th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the ICC in The Hague, elected him in a vote by 123 nations.

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