New York

26 March 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at General Assembly meeting to pay tribute to the memory of His Excellency The Late President Zillur Rahman of Bangladesh

I am honoured to be here to pay tribute to the memory of H.E. Mr. Zillur Rahman, who had served as President of Bangladesh since 2009.

He was one of Bangladesh’s most respected statesmen with more than fifty years of dedicated service to the country and its people. 

He was elected as the 15th President in 2009, and made important contributions to the country's democratic transition throughout his political life. 

I share the sadness of his bereaved family, the Government and people of Bangladesh.

My heart also goes out to the families who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods from the tornado that struck Brahmanbaria district last Friday.

It is one more reminder of the vulnerability of the people of Bangladesh to climate change, a vulnerability we all increasingly share.

However, despite such sad news, the people of Bangladesh have many reasons to feel positive about their future, and the late President can rest proud in the knowledge that his country has advanced dramatically since independence 42 years ago. 

Bangladesh is setting an example on building resilience and disaster preparedness.

It is a leader on sustainable development and in seeing great progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

More and more boys and girls are attending school.  Maternal and child mortality is dropping, and the country is strengthening social protection and improving public services, including sanitation and fresh water.

Bangladesh has long been a pioneer in microcredit, and its economy is thriving

As a result, Bangladesh is on track to graduate from the ranks of the least developed countries. 

Bangladesh is also a leader in women’s empowerment.

I am particularly proud of the efforts of Bangladesh’s women police officers who are serving with UN peacekeeping missions.

They are showing women and men in the countries where they serve that there is nothing that a woman cannot do.

Women’s empowerment is a top priority for me, and Bangladesh’s women – from its Prime Minister, Her Excellency Sheikh Hassina, to its police officers are in the vanguard.

Of course, Bangladesh continues to face serious challenges. 

Population growth, inequality, rising food and energy prices and the need to create decent jobs for young people, will all continue to test the country.

So too will the challenges of democracy, reconciliation, healing and justice related to the struggle for independence.

President Rahman believed in independence for Bangladesh.  He worked for it and was one of the country’s leading political figures.

His reward in his final years was the presidency – an acknowledgement of a lifetime of dedication.

Today we mourn his loss, but take comfort that the country he helped to found is growing stronger by the day.

I thank you.