Appreciating Bangladesh’s leadership on climate front, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Volkan Bozkir has said 2021 amid COP26 presents another important year for Bangladesh as a global leader on climate action.
“Covid-19 is the story of 2020 and 2021, but the existential threat of climate change remains. You are on the front line,” he said while delivering his keynote speech at the Foreign Service Academy.
The UNGA President said Bangladesh’s efforts to draw attention to the need for urgent global cooperation, including through Bangladesh’s leadership of the Climate Vulnerable Nations’ Forum, are noteworthy.
He said an increase in global warming of just 1°C globally risks flooding that would displace 40 million Bangladeshis by the end of the century.
“I welcome the government of Bangladesh’s plans for low-carbon industrialisation,” said the UNGA President, adding that recent announcements by large carbon emitters of improved climate change commitments give a hope that this year will see the course correction they need.
He was delivering the Sixth Lecture of the Bangabandhu Lecture Series at the Foreign Service Academy on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen also spoke at the programme titled “Bangabandhu, Bangladesh and the United Nations.”
State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, were, among others, present.
Bozkir said Bangladesh is an active and influential Member State in the UN, and he is delighted to visit Dhaka, on only his second overseas trip since assuming the Presidency in September last.
There are many synergies between his priorities in this 75th session of the UN General Assembly and the work interests of Bangladesh, whether in relation to the situation of LDCs and LDC graduation; Covid -recovery and the attainment of the Sustainable Developments Goals, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and humanitarian action, he said.
On vaccine issues, he said there is really no more pressing issue facing this region and the world. “From the earliest days of my Presidency, I have emphasised the importance of fair and equitable distribution of vaccines.”
Bozkir agreed with Bangladesh and others that Covid vaccines should be treated as a global public good.
Indeed, he said, this was the focus of a dedicated panel during the special session of the General Assembly on Covid-19, which he convened in December last. “A lot has happened since then. Yet, much more remains to be done.”
Bozkir said they have seen countries and companies from across the world come together to invest in, develop, and bring to market multiple proven vaccines.
Billions of dollars have been provided to multilateral mechanisms to procure and distribute vaccines. And yet, he said, the fact remains that only 0.3% of all vaccines have gone to low income countries.
Bozkir said from the health worker in an LDC, to a teacher in a refugee camp, to the elderly in care facilities across our countries, “we must all be covered. The most vulnerable groups – people on the move, in conflict zones, and those already marginalised – must be prioritised.”
He said Bangladesh has promoted solidarity throughout the Covid-19 response, engaging actively in multilateral initiatives and helping its neighbors as well.
“With disruptions to commercial supply, it is clearly important that Bangladesh be included in the multilateral vaccine response. We are not safe until we are all safe,” he said.
Bozkir said Bangladesh has demonstrated pride in its achievements and is a model for other countries seeking to move up the value chain, while continuing to invest in people. “I am looking forward to your much anticipated graduation, with appropriate safeguards to reflect the vulnerabilities of Covid- recovery and climate change.”
On peace and security in the United Nations, Bozkir said Bangladesh is also a leader as the number one contributor of police and troops to UN peacekeeping missions.
Of the 175,000 personnel deployed to 54 peacekeeping missions across five continents since 1988, currently 6,608 Bangladeshis are serving in nine missions around the world, including, Central African Republic, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Yemen, and South Sudan.
“These brave men and women leave their families behind in order to protect communities in need. I pay particular tributes today to those peacekeepers who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving under the blue flag of the United Nations,” Bozkir said.
He said peacekeeping remains one of the most innovative responses provided by multilateralism to the maintenance of international peace and security. “Under the primary purview of the Security Council, peacekeeping also has an important track in the General Assembly.”
He commended the engagement of Bangladesh in the General Assembly, where it has advocated for the importance of increased participation of women in the field of peace and security, including in senior positions, for smooth transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding and to sustaining peace.
“You were an early advocate and supporter of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and you walk the talk,” Bozkir said.
He said in September this year, he will convene a High-level Forum on Culture of Peace, as requested by the membership.
He hoped it will address the rise of hate speech and discrimination, which has increased significantly during this pandemic, as well as reinforce what they know, which is that gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to building and sustaining peaceful societies.
“I look forward to Bangladesh’s participation in this event, and I trust that as foreign service officers you will work to promote the spirit of a culture of peace – there is no more noble goal than the pursuit of diplomacy for peace,” Bozkir said.
He said this is clear in Bangladesh’s mission-driven approach to service, particularly at the United Nations in New York, where Ambassador Rabab Fatima, is an active and highly respected Ambassador.
“Those of you who have worked with Ambassador Fatima know that she brings a dynamism and unique insight to all of her endeavours. When Madame Ambassador speaks, all in the room pay attention,” Bozkir said.
He said, “As we contend with a multitude of challenges, including the parallel threats of Covid-19, climate change, and conflict around the world, I trust that you will take a leaf out of her book and pursue an energetic, entrepreneurial style of diplomacy for peace.”
In conclusion, he said, the dictum of Bangladesh’s foreign policy is friendship to all, malice to none.
“At a time of great contestability and geostrategic rivalry, this positive and independent outlook should serve you well; you should cherish it, and use it to forge a peaceful and prosperous path for your country, region and the world,” he said.