Prime minister Sheikh Hasina delivers speech at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the UN headquarters in New York on 23 September 2022

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday once again sought help of the United Nations and global leaders for a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis through their safe, sustainable, and dignified return to the Rakhine state in Myanmar.

This is the 6th UN General Assembly session where the Bangladesh prime minister sought help.

Sheikh Hasina also gave utmost importance on dialogue to resolve crises and disputes, urging the world community to stop arms race, war and sanctions for building a peaceful world, reports news agency BSS.

“My urge to the conscience of the world community- stop the arms race, war, and sanctions, ensure food and security of the children; build peace,” she said.

The prime minister made this call while delivering her speech at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the UN headquarters in New York.

“We believe that antagonism like war or economic sanctions, counter-sanctions can never bring good to any nation,” she said, adding “Dialogue is the best way to resolve crises and disputes.”

She continued that “We believe without addressing root causes of conflict, we cannot sustain peace.”

Wanting to see a peaceful world with enhanced cooperation and solidarity, shared prosperity and collective actions, Sheikh Hasina said “We share one planet, and we owe it to our future generations to leave it in a better shape.”

She went on saying that “We want the end of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.”

She noted that in punishing one country with sanctions, counter-sanctions, the entire world including women and children are being punished.

“Its impact is not limited to a country, rather puts the lives and livelihoods of the people in greater risk, infringe their human rights; people are deprived of food, shelter, healthcare and education,” she said, adding, “Children suffer the most in particular. Their future is lost in darkness.”

The ongoing political turmoil and armed conflicts in the country has made the repatriation of the displaced Rohingyas more difficult. I hope the United Nations will play an effective role in this regard
Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh prime minister

The 77th session of the UNGA is taking place from 13 to 27 September at the UN Headquarters in New York, in the first in-person format since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic with heads of states and governments from 193 Member States.

The UNGA session is taking place at a time when overlapping crises unfold around the world with food insecurity is looming, humanitarian needs are deepening, climate goals remain largely unmet, inequality is worsening.

The world leaders will exchange statements in-person in the General Assembly Hall, on the theme ‘A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges’ to consider and debate how they can collectively solve the shared problems of present time-and create a more sustainable, more just future for all.

Alongside the Russia-Ukraine war, the peace and stability, climate change, food insecurity, Covid-19 pandemic, Palestine and migration issues among others concerning the global as well as Bangladesh perspectives were prominently featured in Sheikh Hasina’s speech in the 77th session of the UNGA.

As the world begins to recover from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic over the past two and a half years, Sheikh Hasina said, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has plunged the world into a collective uncertainty.

“Growing food insecurity, energy and economic crisis are affecting us all,” she said.

She observed that countries that are already in vulnerable situations needing support to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will now face even more challenges to achieve the SDGs.

“Today we’ve reached a critical time, when mutual solidarity must be shown more than at any time in the past. We need to prove that in times of crisis, the UN is the cornerstone of the multilateral system,” she said, adding “Therefore, in order to gain the trust and confidence of the people at all levels, the UN must lead from the front and work to fulfill the expectations of all.”

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina delivers speech at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the UN headquarters in New York on 23 September 2022

In this context, she mentioned about the Global Crisis Response Group (GCRC) and said “as a champion of this group, I am working with other world leaders to determine a global solution commensurate with the gravity and depth of the current situation”.

The prime minister further said that Bangladesh is fully committed to complete disarmament, including the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and that is why it has ratified the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2019. “We’ve consistently implemented our commitment to peacekeeping operations”, she added.

I don’t want war, I want peace, I want welfare for humankind. I want economic development for people. I want to ensure a peaceful world, developed and prosperous life for future generations
Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh prime minister

As a reflection of our peace-centric foreign policy, she said Bangladesh has consistently demonstrated its commitment to UN peacekeeping operations as the leading troops and police contributing country, presently being the largest.

They (peacekeepers) help maintain peace, support capacity building of national and local institutions, protect the civilians from harm, empower women and other vulnerable communities and build a sustainable society, she said, adding that while performing their duties, many of them died.

The Bangladesh prime minister said as the current Chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, her country is doing their part by creating a platform for multi-stakeholder engagements in support of the conflict affected countries.

“We are committed to continue our efforts in strengthening the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda,” she said.

Mentioning that Bangladesh has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy on terrorism and violent extremism in its land, she said “We do not allow our territory to be used by any party to incite or cause terrorist acts or harm to others.”

She also called upon the member states to work together for the conclusion of an internationally binding instrument to tackle cyber-crimes and cyber-violence.

Mentioning the brutal and pathetic tragedy of her life on 15 August 1975 when her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of family members were killed, she said “So, myself as a sufferer, I can rightly realise the pain and agony that people endure due to the horrors of war, killings, coups and conflicts.”

She said “Therefore, I don’t want war, I want peace, I want welfare for humankind. I want economic development for people. I want to ensure a peaceful world, developed and prosperous life for future generations.”

She continued “My earnest appeal to you, ‘stop war, stop arms race’. May the values of humanity be upheld.”

“Let us join our hands together and build a better future leaving no one behind,” she added.

Rohingya Crisis

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has once again called upon the United Nations and the global leaders to take effective measures for sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas, warning the global community that if the problem persists further it may affect stability and security beyond its region.

Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on 7 March 2019

“The ongoing political turmoil and armed conflicts in the country has made the repatriation of the displaced Rohingyas more difficult. I hope the United Nations will play an effective role in this regard,” she said.

The prime minister told the gathering of world leaders that last month Bangladesh has witnessed the five years of the 2017 mass exodus of the Rohingyas to Bangladesh from their home country.

“Not a single Rohingya was repatriated to their ancestral home Myanmar, despite our bilateral engagements with Myanmar, discussions with partners in trilateral format and engagements with the UN and other partners to assist Myanmar to create necessary conditions for safe and dignified repatriation,” she said with great concern.

To ensure a permanent solution to the Rohingya issue, she said “I shall now seek your attention to the forcibly displaced Rohingya peoples from Myanmar.”

The prime minister said the prolonged presence of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh has caused serious ramifications on the economy, environment, security, and socio-political stability in Bangladesh.

“Uncertainty over repatriation has led to widespread frustration. Cross border organised crimes including human and drug trafficking are on the rise. This situation can potentially fuel radicalisation. If the problem persists further, it may affect the security and stability of the entire region, and beyond,” she warned.

Earlier, in her speech in the 76th session of the UNGA, the Bangladesh prime minister sought the global community’s enhanced focus and active support to find a durable solution to the Rohingya crisis despite the uncertainty created by the recent political developments in Myanmar.

She said the Rohingya crisis was passing its fifth year now but “not a single forcibly displaced Myanmar national could be repatriated as yet… I would like to reiterate that the crisis was created in Myanmar and its solution lies in Myanmar”.

“Myanmar must create the conditions conducive for their return,” Sheikh Hasina added that time.

Aerial view of a burned Rohingya village near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine State, Myanmar, on 27 September 2017
Reuters File Photo

Even at that time she put emphasis on global community’s support for the peaceful repatriation process. “International community must work constructively for a permanent solution of the crisis through safe, sustainable, and dignified return of the Rohingyas to their home in the Rakhine State.”

Sheikh Hasina, in her 75th session of UNGA speech also mentioned about repatriation of Rohingya. She said, “Bangladesh provided temporary shelter to over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar Nationals. More than three years have elapsed. Regrettably, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated. The problem was created by Myanmar and its solution must be found in Myanmar. I request the international community to play a more effective role for a solution to the crisis.”

Before that, in the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in 2019, the Bangladesh prime minister said, “It is indeed unfortunate that I have to again raise this issue in this august body as the Rohingya crisis remains unresolved.

“We continue to host 1.1 million Rohingya who were forced to leave Myanmar due to atrocities committed against them. The crisis is now lingering into the third year; yet not a single Rohingya could return to Myanmar due to absence of safety and security, freedom of movement and overall conducive environment in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

“I would request the international community to understand the un-tenability of the situation. The crisis is now going beyond the camps. Despite our all efforts to contain it, the crisis is now becoming a regional threat. Moreover, increasing congestion and environmental degradation is challenging health and security in the area.

A satellite image taken on 24 September 2017 and provided by Amnesty International on 26 June 2018 shows what they describe as the geography of Myanmar`s Min Gyi village, divided between a Rohingya area surrounded by the Purma River on the north, east, and south, and an ethnic Rakhine area to the west
Reuters file photo

In the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly address, Sheikh Hasina said, “The Rohingya crisis has had its origin in Myanmar. As such, its solution has to be found in Myanmar. We also wish to see immediate and effective implementation of the agreement concluded between Myanmar and the UN. We want an early, peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis.

The Bangladesh prime minister presented a five-point proposal at the UN General Assembly in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in 2017 “with a view to finding a durable and peaceful solution to the sufferings of the forcibly displaced and hapless Rohingya.” But as those were not implemented, in her address in the next session of UNGA (73rd), she said, “We are disappointed that despite our earnest efforts we have not been able to begin Rohingya repatriation in a permanent and sustainable manner.”

Climate Change

The prime minister said that the impact of climate change is one of the biggest threats for humankind. “In the past, we have seen a vicious cycle of promises being made and broken. We must now change this course.”

Fighting against climate change in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, she said, the government has led to many transformative measures to tackle perilous impacts of climate change consistent with implementing the Paris Agreement and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

During Bangladesh’s Presidency of Climate Vulnerable Forum, Sheikh Hasina said that they’ve launched ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’, which aims to put Bangladesh on a sustainable trajectory from “one of vulnerability to resilience to climate prosperity”.

She said “Our national plans and policies on climate change and natural disaster are gender responsive and take into account the critical role of women in adaptation and mitigation.”

She added that “We are ready to support other vulnerable countries to develop their own prosperity plans. I call on world leaders to promote inclusive climate action.”

Covid-19 Pandemic

Since the beginning of the pandemic in Bangladesh, the prime minister said that her government has taken strategies to contain this crisis mainly focusing on three aspects.

Firstly, the government expanded national health care to prevent the transmission and spread of the infection, she said,

Secondly, she said, they have provided strategic fiscal stimulus to safeguard the country’s economy.

Health workers inoculate a woman with Covid-19 vaccine at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital in Dhaka.
File photo

And finally, the government has secured people’s livelihood, she added.

She said that these initiatives have helped reduce the number of deaths due to pandemic as well as reduce public suffering.

Mentioning that vaccination is the key to safe transition from the pandemic, Sheikh Hasina thanked the World Health Organisation and its COVAX system and partner countries for providing this vaccine.

As of August 2022, 100 per cent of the eligible population of Bangladesh have been vaccinated, she added.

The greatest lesson, learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic is that “Until we all are safe, no one is safe,” she said, adding “We must use the hard-earned lessons to stimulate critical and much needed reforms of our institutions, including of the United Nations, to better prepare for such calamities in the future.”

The prime minister said that Bangladesh is interested in looking for transformative solutions to poverty alleviation, mitigating climate change effects, preventing conflicts and finance, energy and fuel crises that the world is grappling with now.

“However, we need to understand the fact that socio-economic development cannot be achieved without ensuring peace and stability,” she added.