PM urges quick, effective UN steps
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought expeditious UN and global interventions to protect all civilians in Myanmar's Rakhine State and take effective steps for a permanent solution to the protracted Rohingya crisis.
Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday, she called upon the UN secretary-general to immediately send a "fact-finding mission" to Rakhine.
She suggested several other steps to stop ethnic cleansing in Rakhine. "Firstly, Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State immediately and forever."
Hasina reiterated Bangladesh's call to establish "safe zones" in Myanmar under UN supervision to protect all civilians irrespective of religion and ethnicity and implement the recommendations made by the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine advisory commission unconditionally.
She said "sustainable return" of all the forcibly displaced Myanmar Rohingyas to their homes must be ensured so that they can return safely and securely and with dignity.
The PM said it was the 14th time she was addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA), but this time she came to New York with a heavy heart just after seeing the "hungry, distressed and hopeless Rohingyas" in Cox's Bazar.
"Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from Rakhine State are entering Bangladesh to flee violence. As estimated by the International Organisation for Migration, over 430,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh in the last three weeks," she told the UN's annual meeting.
Forcibly displaced people of Myanmar fled an "ethnic cleansing" in their own country where they had been living for centuries, she added.
According to the PM, Bangladesh was currently sheltering over 800,000 Rohingyas. The ongoing atrocities and human rights violations in Rakhine once again aggravated the situation at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, she said.
"We are horrified to see that the Myanmar authorities are laying landmines along their stretch of the border to prevent the Rohingyas from returning to their native land."
Hasina condemned all kinds of terrorism and violent extremism in Myanmar saying her government maintained a "zero tolerance" policy for terrorism.
She thanked the UN Security Council members and the UN secretary-general for their proactive attempts to denounce the atrocities against Rohingyas and call for bringing peace and stability in Rakhine.
"We don't want war. We want peace... we want people's wellbeing, not destruction of humanity. We want sustainable development. Let this be our collective goal."
The PM recalled Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's very first speech at the UNGA in 1974 in which he had expressed Bangalee nation's commitment to peace and justice.
"I know that the souls of our martyrs join us in pledging that the Bangalee nation fully commits itself to the building of a world order in which the aspirations of all men for peace and justice will be realised," she quoted Bangabandhu as telling the UNGA.
She stressed the need for resuming the Middle East peace process and called for ending all forms of hostilities and discriminations against the brotherly Palestinian people.
She said the UN had a potential role in developing a peace-building architecture while Bangladesh awaited "bold and innovative proposals" from the UN secretary-general on financing for "sustaining peace".
The PM renewed her call to stop the supply of weapons to terrorists and terror financing and settlement of all international disputes peacefully as terrorism and violent extremism posed a major threat to peace, stability and development.
"Terrorists have no religion, belief or race.... Having been a target of a number of terrorist attacks, I personally empathise with the victims of terrorism and appreciate their need for protection."
She also called upon the UN to address the growing threats emanated from the cyber space to prevent money laundering, terror financing and other transnational organised crimes.
Hasina criticised the use of religion to justify violent extremism saying families, women, youth, media and religious leaders at the community level should be involved to offset the spread of violent extremism.
She said as a major troop and police-contributing country to the UN, Bangladesh underscores the importance of upholding effectiveness and credibility of UN peacekeeping operations.
"We shall maintain our own capability and readiness, remain open to further pledges, enhance the scope of our peacekeeping training, and deploy more female peacekeepers," she added.
She reaffirmed the "zero tolerance" approach of her government towards any allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against any member of the peacekeeping force.
The premier announced Bangladesh's token contribution of $100,000 for the UN Peace Building Fund and contribution of another $100,000 to the Victim Support Fund set up for the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
She highlighted her government's position on different global issues, including safe migration, refugee crisis, climate change, SDGs and socioeconomic development.
Recalling her experience abroad, she said: "I can feel their [refugee] pain as I along with my younger sister had been a refugee for six years after my father, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and almost all members of my family were assassinated in 1975."
About climate change, Hasina said the Paris Climate Agreement remains Bangladesh's bastion of hope for climate justice. "By recognising the climate vulnerability, we are building resilience against the grave impacts of climate change."
Bangladesh believes in the potentials of Green Economy in advancing the conservation and Blue Economy for sustainable use of the ocean and seas, she added.
About the country's socio-economic development, the PM said Bangladesh has achieved exemplary success in building resilience against flood and other natural disasters.
"Crop intensification and invention of water resistant crops have helped us achieve self sufficiency in food. We have efficiently responded to the massive flood that has stricken the entire south Asian region this year."
She said as a member of the High Level Panel on Water, she attached high priority to implement its comprehensive action plan.
"Bangladesh has ensured access to safe water for 87 percent of its population by 2015, and we aim full coverage of our population by 2030," the PM told the UNGA.
The Bangladesh government was fully committed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as those complement its vision to transform the country into a middle-income one by 2021 and a developed one by 2041, she added.
Hasina said Bangladesh's economy posted a GDP growth rate of over 7.24 percent in 2016-17 and its foreign currency reserve reached $32.1 billion.
The level of poverty came down from 56.7 percent in 1991 to 23.2 percent today while the per capita income was projected to rise to $1,602 by the end of the current fiscal year, which was $543 in 2005-06 fiscal year, she said.
People's life expectancy increased to almost 72 years, said the PM, adding that these figures were indicative of Bangladesh's inclusive development.
"To ensure inclusive growth, promote investment and employment opportunities for all, we have taken an initiative to develop 100 special economic zones around the country," she said.
Mentioning that youngsters of Bangladesh were the main movers in realising her government's vision for a knowledge-based "Digital Bangladesh", she said the country would launch its first satellite -- Bangabandhu Statellite-1 -- into the orbit in December.
The government was working towards creating an environment to allow the youths to pursue transformative education, find decent jobs and turn into truly global citizens, she said.