H.E. MR. REAZ RAHMAN
MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF BANGLADESH
THE 56THSESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
New York, 12 November 2001
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I warmly congratulate you on your unanimous election to the Chair. We share the conviction around this hall that you will infuse a new perspective and dynamism in the work of this Assembly.
I also join in the warm tributes paid to your predecessor Mr. Harri Holkeri whose untiring efforts served to bring the General Assembly closer to being the center of all our activities.
We are delighted to congratulate Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his
staff on the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2001. He has brought
honour to us all. His re-election to a second term is a just tribute to
his dedication, commitment and sheer hard work. We assure him our fullest
support and cooperation.
We meet today against a somber backdrop - a shocking human tragedy, whose victims span the globe including Bangladeshis. The catastrophe of 11 September has scarred us all deeply. It has brought irrevocable change, inevitable hardship. Yet it has honed and hardened a common resolve, a steely determination to confront and condemn all such irrational and mindless acts of violence that seek to coerce, intimidate and lash out indiscriminately in blind hatred against governments and societies.
Bangladesh stands committed to fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestation by whoever and wherever it is committed. We believe that terrorism hampers peace and security and creates political chaos and economic instability around the world.
We have, therefore, pledged total support to the concerted efforts of the international community to confront this scourge as best, as quickly and as comprehensively as we can. We have initiated the process of identifying any possible administrative or financial focus or network of suspected terrorists. We have not and will not give any form of sanctuary, training or any support to any kind of terrorist group or cell. We are responding to the call of the Secretary-General and working towards becoming party to a number of UN anti-terrorist instruments. We already subscribe to the 1987 SAARC Convention on Terrorism and believe that it has scope for further strengthening.
As a member of the OIC, we support and will actively participate in efforts to reach an agreement on the early completion and adoption of a comprehensive Convention to Combat Terrorism. We hope that there will be an inclusive approach that will unite us all in our common struggle against terrorism. Sustained and creative efforts must be taken to retain and consolidate existing solidarity.
We are aware that terrorism has no consistent profile, that it has many
variables reflecting the increasing complexity of human society. But this
much is sure, we know, what it is not. We must emphasize and underscore
emphatically that terrorism has no connection to any one religion or, any
particular region of the world. It is a global phenomenon and should be
addressed as such. We, therefore, welcome President Bush's statement to
the UNGA on 10 November where he quoted the Sheikh of Al-Azher University,
the world's oldest Islamic Institution of higher learning, as having declared
"...that terrorism is a disease, and that Islam prohibits killing innocent
Previous speakers have underlined that the spotlight on terrorism should not blind us to the pursuit of other pressing objectives. Indeed, terrorism is but one aspect of many negative forces that shape the substance of what we call globalization, including drugs, organized crime, illicit transfer of small arms, money laundering, environmental degradation, new diseases that have invaded all societies. Many have intrinsic inter-linkages. None respect borders. They call for collective approaches and concerted global action.
On the positive side, two crucial forces have impelled globalization
- mass consciousness of individual rights and the impact of science and
technology. The push for individual rights, humanitarian concerns and a
burgeoning new humanitarian law are reflected in the worldwide sweep of
democracy. Advances in science and technology have closed the information
and communication gap. They along with economic force and markets and especially
the mobility of capital, labour and business have effaced national frontiers.
Computers, data-links, satellite communications, e-mail and e-commerce
criss-cross boundaries at will. Together these forces have changed the
nature of our world, challenged the context and meaning of sovereignty
and infused the need for new and dynamic approaches. The state's role as
the sole or key actor is being confronted by NGO's, civil society, transnational
corporations, human rights activists. Good governance, transparency and
accountability have become vital catchwords.
These radical changes that came in the wake of the end of the Cold War coincided in Bangladesh with the overthrow of military dictatorship in 1990 and the induction of democracy. Since then Bangladesh has held in successive three general elections that have been acclaimed by all impartial observers both local and foreign as being eminently free and fair. We have the unique distinction of being the only parliamentary democracy where elections are constitutionally carried out by an Interim Caretaker Government within a 90 day period.
The roots of democracy have taken hold and have spread their tentacles quite deep and wide. Today, despite all its limitations of poverty and orthodoxy, the people of Bangladesh have demonstrated unequivocally that they are a functioning, moderate, modernizing Muslim country. The most recent elections held in 1 October 2001 had a voter turnout of 75% of an electorate of over seventy million people. What was extraordinary was the unprecedented numbers of women that freely exercised their right of franchise.
In an overwhelming demonstration of support the people have returned the four party alliance led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia to power with more than two-thirds majority seats in the Bangladesh Parliament. This is an outstanding endorsement of and triumph for democracy. It also imposes a huge burden of responsibility on the government to measure up to the massive mandate.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia has firmly responded. The new government is committed to consolidating and developing a sustainable structure of democracy with the participation of the Opposition. The prime focus is to restore law and order and ensure social peace, harmony and justice so as to improve our capacity to fight poverty, illiteracy and underdevelopment. Four factors pace the economic agenda of the new government - reducing poverty, raising rural productivity, boosting trade and jump-starting industry and encouraging investment.
In pursuing these key factors, the government will refine on its already established four fold strategy in 1991-96 : encouraging macro-economic reform, stimulating the private sector, enhancing the quality and quantum of development expenditure and concentrating on the quality not quantity of investment. A cardinal push will be for aggressive economic diplomacy in the wake of globalization that has called for closer interaction between domestic and foreign policy and which has triggered intense competition for greater access to markets, flow of resources and investments, the transfer of technology and employment opportunities abroad.
In pursuit of the preeminent objective of alleviating poverty a key
concern is to place people at the centre of all its public policies. In
Bangladesh's sustained efforts to eradicate poverty, the role of such innovative
empowerment schemes as micro-credit have found recognition and replication
around the world. Likewise progress has been achieved in removing illiteracy
through a non-formal literacy campaign, encouraging education for girls
through a variety of schemes to prevent drop-outs etc. Thus together with
the expansion of primary health-care facilities and managing natural disasters
through creative social partnership have strengthened the process of sustainable
In the field of foreign policy a fundamental charge remains that of reinforcing mutual, beneficial and cooperative relations with all countries and the consolidation of our image abroad as a responsible, politically stable, moderate, democratic and contributing member of the world community.
Our unwavering policy is to maintain close and friendly relations with our neighbors on the basis of equality, mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs and the settlement of outstanding bilateral issues through dialogue and negotiation. It is a matter of some gratification that close on the heels of the formation of the new government Special Envoys of the leaders of both India and Pakistan visited Bangladesh as a goodwill gesture to renew and reinvigorate ties.
In our region a priority objective will be to revitalize the momentum and credibility of SAARC so that we can put our own South Asian house in order in the pursuit of the quest for world order. It is a matter of particular importance that the stalled 12th SAARC Summit will now be taking place on 4-6 January 2002 in Kathmandu, Nepal. It is of vital importance that this first millennium summit of South Asian leaders forge a new vision for the future of the region that will encompass promotion not only of its socio-economic mandate but the reduction of tension, normalization of relations and the creation of a broader-based climate of confidence building.
Bangladesh believes that the most compelling security challenge facing South Asia is promoting sustainable growth, reform and development. Nuclearization in South Asia has, if anything, enhanced security concern in the region. Bangladesh adheres to the growing recognition that security goes beyond the weapons a nation possesses and extends to raising living standards and building stable and healthy democracies. The link between development and security is thus crucial in South Asia. This was the underlying rationale of SAARC. The guiding motivation (as enunciated by the late President Ziaur Rahman) was to visibly improve the quality of life of the common people in an environment of peace.
Bangladesh firmly believes in the future of SAARC and its South Asian identity. The expansion of democracy in South Asia and along with it economic reform and market liberalization have opened doors for closer interaction with the world. Its huge emerging market, its large capable middle class with good entrepreneurial, technological and scientific skills have opened the way for extensive economic and commercial opportunities. SAARC continues to retain positive potential for economic cooperation and as a basic harmonizing force for security and confidence building in the region.
In the global context a cardinal priority for Bangladesh will be to
play an active role through concrete initiatives mixed with moderation
and pragmatism in all socio-economic fora and to promote the cause of developing
countries as a whole and the least developed in particular and especially
to keep alive special treatment for the poorest of the poor. This calls
for strategies to stop falling investment, restructure and reduce debt,
promote trade and encourage technology transfer. One crucial factor is
that the development objective must assume a sharper focus and a more humane
face than the theme of adjustment and reform.
A fundamental objective for Bangladesh consistent with our Constitution is to strengthen the role of the UN as the central organ for the cooperative management of the world's problems. Our role and membership of the OIC, the Commonwealth and the Non Aligned Movement have enhanced our representative capacity and have increased our ability to contribute to the UN's goal of peace, security, development, justice and the rule of law. Bangladesh will continue to actively contribute to peaceful settlement of disputes, to bolster collective security, and peace-building. Our commitment to peacekeeping remains firm and has manifested itself in the participation o Bangladesh military, and civilian contingents in may areas of simultaneous conflicts. We are immensely proud to be currently the largest contributor among blue helmets serving in ten UN missions. In the field of peacekeeping we believe that the recommendations of the Brahimi Panel provide a good basis and we feel that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations should be equipped adequately to handle such a requirement. Bangladesh strongly believes that the issue of representation of TCCs, both at the military, civilian police and diplomatic components in the DPKO and other Departments as well as in the mission headquarters, should be seriously considered in the context of proposed expansion scheme. We intend to vigorously pursue this matter at the appropriate forum.
Bangladesh's term in the Security Council is now about to come to an
end. We have sought to live upto our responsibility with pragmatism and
moderation. We have tried to make the work of the Council more transparent,
open and pro-active and to develop an effective inter face between the
Council and the general membership to reflect the aspirations of all, on
issues of common interest.
Today, certain issues both political and economic have assumed center stage and our attention is telescoped upon them.
Prime amongst them is the situation in Afghanistan. Bangladesh is a
part of the international coalition that seeks to find a stable, durable,
social, political and economic structure established in Afghanistan as
soon as possible. It is our hope that the Afghan people will have a true
opportunity to choose their own system of governance in line with human
values and democratic practices in a post Taliban dispensation. Such a
government should be broad-based, multi-ethnic, demographically equitably
represented, responsive to the needs of the Afghan people, acceptable to
the people of Afghanistan, the neighborhood and the international community.
We welcome efforts to focus on positive and finite solutions to the problem
of Afghanistan especially efforts being made, with the assistance of the
UN, for forming an interim, transitional government acceptable to the Afghan
people. We also welcome two key projections. First the need for
a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation plan and efforts to mobilize
funding. Second a hard focus on ways and means to facilitate the
return of refugees. Of immediate importance is the vast humanitarian tragedy
in Afghanistan, the need to contain and minimize the loss of human lives
and to reach out immediate relief to refugees and displaced persons.
While new threats to peace, security and economic stability are emerging,
the old ones remain. The threat of nuclear catastrophe hangs over our head.
Occupation, inter state and intra state conflicts, particularly in the
Middle East, Africa and in the Balkans still continue to threaten regional
and global peace and stability. We are particularly concerned at the steady
deterioration of situation in Palestine arising out of the encroachment
on Palestinian territories and the collective punishment meted out to the
Palestinian. Bangladesh will continue to maintain it unflinching support
to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people for an early establishment
of a State of their own with Jerusalem as its capital.
Poverty today remains the " preeminent moral and humanitarian challenge of our age" as the Secretary General has put it and hence needs to be tackled with due sense of priority. The Secretary General has reminded us of the commitment made by our leaders during the Millennium Summit last year to eradicate this scourge. We are glad that the recent meeting of G-8 in Genoa has also attached priority to the eradication of poverty and we would look forward to the early implementation of their commitment in a humane manner.
The role of external financial support in the development process has assumed greater importance for the fact that better education, knowledge, skill and awareness are required to be effectively integrated into the global economic and market mechanism. The decline in the Official Development Assistance (ODA), which played an important role in the capacity building in the developing countries, causes serious concern to us. Bangladesh reiterates its call to the development partners to fulfill their obligation in this regard.
Over the last few decades, access to global market has been seriously
limited for the products of the developing countries in general and the
LDCs in particular. In this context, Bangladesh calls upon the development
partners for creating more access for trade, including offering duty free,
quota free access to products from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
on a secure, long term and predictable basis with realistic and flexible
Rules of Origin to match the industrial capacity of the LDCs. We are optimistic
that during the ongoing Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization
in Doha would be able to effectively focus on the obligations for implementing
the earlier commitments made during the Uruguay Round agreements. Debt
repayment is also an enormous burden on the developing countries, particularly
on the LDCs. We urge the developed countries to expand the HIPC facility
for including more indebted developing countries, with particular focus
on the LDCs.
The issue of human rights is extremely important to us. The Secretary
General has underscored this point in his statement to the Assembly. While
we greatly value the political and social rights as important components
of the human rights regime, we want to emphasize on the need to develop
a comprehensive concept of human rights, to include the right to development
as an integral part of the entire concept.
Information and communication technology could be a useful tool to improve
the productivity among the people of developing countries. Our experience
in integrating technology with the human beings, particularly with the
rural women, has been quite revealing. It has been seen that those who
have access to technology, in this case mobile phone technology, have doubled
their income compared to others. We therefore, emphasize on the urgent
need for accelerated transfer of technology, with particular focus on the
information and communication technology, which could be used for human
resources development in the developing countries.
Bangladesh is committed to strengthening and to follow-up many ideas
to bolster its capacity to lead especially of the UN General Assembly.
Bangladesh also strongly supports the idea of forging a better coordination
between major organs of the United Nations, namely the General Assembly,
Security Council and the ECOSOC for working out a long term strategy for
sustainable peace and development. We are happy to note that the Secretary
General has recently proposed a system wide coordination in the context
of addressing the issue of prevention of armed conflict. While we always
welcome such a move, we believe that similar effort could be undertaken
in many other important areas of activity of the United Nations.
In conclusion, I would like to say that it is not the lack of material
condition or resources that prevents the promotion of a collective and
shared perspective on the common challenges. What we perhaps need is to
muster the determination and courage to build up a collective and inclusive
approach for undertaking pragmatic and forward-looking actions. The challenges
of 21st century reminds us once again that we must seek harmony through
diversity, peace through dialogue and prosperity through mutual cooperation.
The United Nations offers the most appropriate and central mechanism to
promote our best aspirations and objectives. The journey to peace has always
been arduous; nonetheless, it is the longing for peace, progress and justice
that have inspired us to work for our better tomorrow.