On behalf of the UN team in Bangladesh, it is my privilege to be here to celebrate UN Day: the birthday of our founding Charter – a landmark document that embodies the hopes, dreams and aspirations of “we the people”.
Nelson Mandela once said that we must remember to celebrate the milestones as [we] prepare for the road ahead
With this in mind, as Bangladesh continues on its path toward a prosperous future, I would like to highlight some of our key achievements over the past year, which has been marked by some momentous milestones for the UN, and some phenomenal firsts for the UN in Bangladesh.
All of the milestones that the UN has achieved are achieved in partnership. And the global milestones are events where many members states have played their part.
This is a countdown from 100 and ending with the firsts.
The International Labor Organization has been working since 1919 on social justice and the free and full fulfilment of human and labour rights. A 100 years to ensure full and productive employment and decent work for all, as acknowledged in the UN General Assembly’s adoption of its resolution on the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.
Today is the pre-launch of the UN’s 75th anniversary which is next year. Our aim is to mark next year’s anniversary by launching conversations across the world on why international cooperation matters in light of current, global mega-trends and the threats they pose to the future we aspire to.
For 50 years, the United Nations Population Fund has been a champion of sexual and reproductive rights, working to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled. Since UNFPA’s inception, the number and rate of women dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth has been halved and young people are more connected to sexual and reproductive health education and services than ever before.
40 years ago, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women was adopted, a revolutionary document that commits to protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of girls and women around the world, and to ensuring equal opportunity for all, regardless of gender.
It is also the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Alma-Ata Declaration. A major milestone in the field of public health, the declaration was borne from a conference co-convened by the World Health Organisation, that brought together health experts and world leaders to pledge their commitment to ensuring primary health care is accessible to everyone, everywhere.
Come November, we will celebrate 30 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified treaty in the world. The convention has inspired governments around the world to invest in children’s access to healthcare, nutrition, and education; to ensure children’s freedom from violence and exploitation; and to guarantee children’s voices are not only heard, but their needs are addressed.
It has been 25 years since the landmark International Conference on Population Development was held in Cairo, Egypt, which culminated in a revolutionary Programme of Action that saw 179 countries, including Bangladesh, unanimously agree that sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, equity, and the empowerment of women should be at the heart of development efforts.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first time that the UN Security Council explicitly mandated a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians (UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone). This is a unique anniversary for Bangladesh: its contribution to UN Peacekeeping is among the highest in the world and more than 6,500 Bangladeshis currently serve in peace operations, providing protection, ensuring basic service delivery, and facilitating aid access to millions of people affected by violence and conflict.
For 10 years, the Standing Orders on Disasters (SOD) have been a key guiding document on disaster preparedness in Bangladesh, outlining the roles and responsibilities of government ministries, divisions, agencies, organizations, committees, public representatives, and citizens in mitigating the risks and reducing the harms of natural disaster in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya response
We have significant results that Bangladesh has achieved in leading the humanitarian response to the Rohingya crisis. Despite the challenges inherent in such a massive humanitarian operation, we have managed to navigate a sometimes difficult year without a large-scale loss of life.
The international humanitarian community – including local/national NGOs, international NGOs and the United Nations agencies all working in tandem to support the Government’s efforts – is proud to be a part of this legacy. Of course, much work lies ahead in addressing the ongoing needs of the refugees themselves, who remain in a precarious position, as well as the affected host communities in Cox’s Bazar District.
We remain committed to doing everything we can to supporting Bangladesh in continuing along this path of compassion, peace and tolerance.
On to the firsts for UN and Bangladesh:
- IFAD has opened an office in Bangladesh following the signing of a Host Country Agreement with the government. IFAD has already generated USD 1.2 billion to kickstart projects geared toward poverty alleviation across the country, with a focus on providing support to landless and marginal farmers, smallholder producers, and rural entrepreneurs.
- Bangladesh has committed to developing a plan of action to implement 178 of the recommendations proposed by the UN Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review, a pledge reiterated during MOFA’s human rights conference in February which celebrated Bangladesh’s election to the Human Rights Council, where it will hold a seat for the next three years.
- The Convention on Violence and Harassment in the Workplace was adopted in June of this year. A shining example of what can be achieved through multi-stakeholder collaboration, the convention was crafted with contributions from governments, employer’s organizations, and trade unions, to recognize the serious toll that violence and harassment can have on individuals, businesses, and governments.
- UN Committee against Torture reviewed Bangladesh’s compliance with the UN Torture Convention for the first time in 20 years, providing important recommendations for action.
- Bangladesh ratified the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, a key component of the UN Convention on Trafficking, which establishes the first ever universal definition of “trafficking in persons”.
- The Armed Forces Division and the Ministry of Disaster Risk Management co-organized a humanitarian civil-military exercise on earthquake preparedness to strengthen national capacities to keep pace with the changing nature of disasters. A national Emergency Medical Team training with relevant national authorities to strengthen first responders’ capacities to deliver rapid, lifesaving healthcare to Bangladeshis affected by natural -disaster.
- The first SDG Progress report was launched. The report highlights progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, pinpoints areas that call for immediate, inclusive and targeted responses, and highlights positive developments in several areas, including expanded coverage of social protection and the total expenditure on health, education services to address the multinational nature of poverty in the country.
And the last but important first:
- The Government of Bangladesh hosted the Global Commission on Adaptation in Dhaka in July, to discuss the myriad challenges of climate change, which, in her recent address at the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated was “an existential threat, in particular for climate vulnerable countries.” Bangladesh continues to be a pioneer of climate change adaptation and remains one of the most important partners of the GCA.
That ends our walk through the journey from 100-year anniversaries, to a series of significant firsts that we can celebrate on this UN DAY.
Milestones mark journeys through time, providing reference points along a road to indicate the distance one has travelled, a reminder of just how far we have come.
As we reflect on these milestones and prepare for the road ahead, today, on UN Day, I would like to reaffirm our commitment to helping secure a peaceful future for all Bangladeshis and to ensuring that no one is left behind on the country’s path to prosperity.
On behalf of the UN, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude and appreciation to you all for your partnership, collaboration, and commitment to ensuring Bangladesh continues to grow and flourish.
Thank you to our Government counterparts – line ministries, divisions and in local government particularly to colleagues in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Economic Relations Division for their continued collaboration; to our development partners, NGOs, civil society and private sector partners for their unwavering support and partnership; and to the UN team in Bangladesh, who are dedicated to ensuring that the goals and mission of the UN are fulfilled.
Happy UN Day!