The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from New York in the early hours of Sunday, 1 July. He was taking part in a joint visit to the country with the President of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim.
Their visit was intended to highlight the generosity of Bangladesh in hosting the largest refugee influx of 2017 and the need for the international community to do more. The aim of the visit was to lay the groundwork for further dialogue with the Government of Bangladesh on medium-term planning for the refugee situation and to reiterate the United Nations and the World Bank’s support for finding comprehensive solutions to the situation of the Rohingya people.
On arrival at Dhaka airport, the Secretary-General said this was going to be a visit of solidarity, with the Rohingya refugees and with the people of Bangladesh, especially the local communities, who had shown so much generosity towards the refugees.
Later on Sunday morning, the Secretary-General, joined by the World Bank Group President, met with Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. They were accompanied by the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Natalia Kanem.
The Secretary-General and the World Bank President expressed solidarity with the Rohingya refugees and host communities. Bangladesh kept its borders open in a manner few countries do in today’s world, they acknowledged. They also assured the Prime Minister of closer collaboration between the two institutions under the leadership of the Government to address the complex Rohingya crisis.
They had an in-depth discussion on the double approach of creating conditions conducive for return in Myanmar of the Rohingyas while, at the same time, improving the conditions for the refugees, who were generously being hosted by the people and Government of Bangladesh, especially the local communities.
The World Bank Group President and the Secretary-General also commended the Government of Bangladesh for its achievement ensuring that lives are not lost in a disaster-prone country and for its collaboration with the United Nations and partners to protect the lives of the Rohingya refugees living in precarious congested camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The United Nations delegation then joined senior members of the Bangladeshi Government, as well as civil society groups, for an in-depth discussion of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Bangladesh.
The Secretary-General commended Bangladesh for its efforts in the implementation of the [Sustainable Development] Goals, noting that Bangladesh is building an inclusive and thriving economy which is making gains in reducing poverty, maternal mortality and increasing access to education. He also underscored the centrality of investing in women and youth. He again thanked Bangladesh for its generous support of Rohingya refugees. At a time when so many countries are closing their borders, Bangladesh kept theirs open, he noted.
The Secretary-General added that effective governance, as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal 16, is a fundamental enabler. That means ensuring accountable institutions, the rule of law, respect for human rights, open society and space for civil society.
The Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank Group then visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, situated in the house of Bangabandhau Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh and father of the current Prime Minister. It was in that house that Bangabundhu and other members of his family were killed on 15 August 1975 by a group of soldiers.
Mr. Guterres and Dr. Kim held a joint town hall meeting with United Nations staff working in Bangladesh, followed by a meeting with the United Nations country team. Then both men met with a group of civil society groups who run various programmes, with United Nations support, for the empowerment of girls and adolescents and against child marriage.
Later on Sunday evening, the Secretary-General and his delegation were hosted for an official dinner by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
On Monday, the Secretary-General and Jim Yong Kim visited Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where they saw first-hand the conditions of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Speaking at a press encounter in Cox’s Bazar, the Secretary-General said that it is impossible to visit the camps without being heartbroken over the suffering of the Rohingya people. He said he had listened to terrible stories of massive violence — of killings, rape, torture, and houses or villages burnt. And he added that it is also terrible to see more than 900,000 people living in terrible circumstances.
The Secretary-General said that the solidarity expressed by the international community has not been translated into sufficient support to the Rohingya people of Myanmar in Bangladesh, with the nearly $1 billion appeal only 26 per cent funded. The Secretary-General said he was extremely grateful to World Bank President Kim for mobilizing the World Bank and said he expected the World Bank to announce an extremely important contribution to the Rohingya refugees and to the local community.
During the day, the two toured what is now the world’s largest refugee camp, hearing first-hand accounts of the violence these refugees had been subjected to in Myanmar. Some described, in vivid terms, a climate of fear, with military raids in their villages. One man explained how women in his family were raped and killed while he was hiding in the forest. Others outlined the continuing restrictions on freedom of movement and lack of access to services imposed on them by the Government of Myanmar. The Secretary-General and the World Bank Group President took particular care to spend time with women and girls, who recounted stories of unspeakable violence against themselves and their families.
The Secretary-General and President Kim arrived back in Dhaka later on Monday, where they held a press conference. The Secretary-General reiterated that this is the moment when the international community needs to show complete solidarity with the Rohingya people and clearly request to Myanmar for accountability in relation to those that committed crimes.
The Secretary-General returned to New York on Tuesday, 3 July.