Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said Bangladesh firmly believes that coronavirus vaccines should be declared “global public goods”, and called for a strong partnership to tackle challenges posed by the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic, she noted, has brought mankind at a crossroad of history, confronting possibly the gravest global challenge of our times.
“The socio-economic impacts of the pandemic are massive and are still unfolding. It is, therefore, extremely important to strengthen global and regional partnerships through coordinated efforts to address these challenges,” she said.
The PM said this in her prerecorded video speech at the opening plenary of the four-day annual conference Boao Forum for Asia (BAF) titled “A world in change: Join hands to strengthen global governance and advance Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Cooperation”.
Partnership and Connectivity
Sheikh Hasina focused on three issues:
First, the need for strong partnership to address the challenges posed by the pandemic, and to make vaccines available to everyone by declaring it as global public goods.
Second, the need to work together for harnessing the power of technology as the future will be driven by the 4IR, which comes with opportunities and challenges.
Third, seamless physical and digital connectivity which will be the key to reaping the benefits of the “Asian Century”.
She said that under the current state of globalisation, every country has to do its part for common good. Nations and economies will have to look out for each other as no single country in this world can sustain on its own.
“Let’s think together, work together and grow together,” she said.
More Access to Funds
The prime minister said that the pandemic highlights the crucial role of global governance to ensure that nobody is left behind even during crisis.
“Bangladesh believes in the primacy of global institutions. All nations need to work together to make the UN and other international organisations effective so that everyone’s vaccine and medical requirements are met,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said that the WHO, GAVI and other relevant organisations must uphold the rights of member states and ensure equity and justice.
Putting emphasis on declaring Covid-19 vaccines as “global public goods”, she said that countries producing the vaccines should help others produce them with a view to attaining universal vaccine coverage.
At these critical times, she said, financial and technical supports to developing countries have also become more important.
“Developing countries need more access to the funds of the international financial institutions and the multinational development banks.”
Growing Faster Together
The prime minister said that Bangladesh has been trying to mitigate the adverse impacts of the pandemic through balanced measures between life and livelihood.
“We’ve so far announced various stimulus packages worth $14.6 billion, around 4.4 percent of our GDP, for social protection and boosting economy,” she said.
She noted that Bangladesh is engaged in different regional connectivity initiatives through SAARC, BIMSTEC, SASEC, BBIN and BCIM.
Bangladesh is uniquely placed to connect the regions of South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and beyond through multi-modal linkages and believes that BRI could play an important role in this regard, the prime minister said.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that this continent has the advantage of huge demographic dividend, vast markets and the technological edge.
“If we join hands, together we can grow faster. This’ll also help us achieve the SDGs that we all committed to fulfil. We need to maximise the technological potentials of the 4IR by extending hands [towards] each other,” she said.
The Asian Century
The Prime Minister said that Bangladesh has created a remarkable structure for facing the future challenges through establishing high-tech parks, broadband and satellite connectivity. Most importantly, it has been preparing its young people for innovation, not just for imitation.
“Hence, together we also have to tap each other’s advantages as well as overcome various challenges that come with it, including cyber-crimes. Timely measures can help us realise the possibilities of the Asian Century.”
Tackling Climate Change Challenges
Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries.
“Despite our resource scarcity, we’ve established a climate Change Trust Fund of about $450 million from our own resources,” the PM said.
She said that Bangladesh has been implementing various adaptation and mitigation programmes to offset the adverse impacts of climate change. The Parliament in November 2019 adopted a motion declaring ‘Planetary Emergency’ to deal with climate change issues.
As part of celebrations of the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she said, Bangladesh is planting 30 million trees across the country.
“We’ve also adopted the ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’ which will help mobilise resources for a better and secured future,” she said.
The PM mentioned that as Bangladesh is the current president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, it is also hosting the South Asian Regional Office of Global Centre for Adaptation.
“The centre will work on disseminating local-based innovative adaptation strategies,” she said.