Intervention by Ambassador Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN at the Asia Pacific Group meeting with UN Secretary General on 27 April 2020

Good morning Excellencies, Mr. Secretary General.   Good to see you all.

I thank you, Ambassador, for so ably steering the work of the Group at this profoundly challenging time. I also deeply appreciate this excellent initiative by you, to invite the Secretary General to the APG’s monthly meeting.

I thank you Mr. Secretary General for your pragmatic stewardship in leading the UN system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your comprehensive focuses on response, mitigation and recovery, and timely appeals and response plans have served to enhance the public’s faith in the UN. Bangladesh was happy to join your Global Ceasefire Appeal and Appeal on Gender based Violence and COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll in Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP’S recently released annual Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2020 forecasts growth in Asia-Pacific developing economies to slow down significantly this year. The ADB revised its growth forecast for the region down to 2.2 percent in 2020, from an initial forecast of 5.5 percent. The estimated increase in health emergency spending will be to the tune of $880 million per year through to 2030. The pandemic’s shock will also have a serious impact on poverty reduction across the region and impact on meeting SDG targets. I shall not go into the details of the heavy impact this will cause to the region, as it has been covered by previous speakers. Allow me, to briefly highlight a few issues of particular relevance for our group.

Against this bleak scenario, having the privilege of the presence of the Secretary General amongst us, my delegation would like to make a few points which are of particular relevance to our Group.

  • Firstly, Asia and the Pacific region host 4 per cent of the migrant workers in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant distress on migrant workers, and this is bound to have serious socio-economic instability in migrant sending and destination countries alike. The region, characterized by substantial remittance inflows, will suffer heavily due to a significant drop in remittance earning. Managing migrant returns (in big numbers) would be a huge challenge as well. And that would be compounded by the looming restrictions on human mobility due to the pandemic and the resultant drop in the overseas labour market. This will require immediate policy intervention and discussion at global level. We expect you, Mr. Secretary General, to address these developments and initiate discussions to address the growing migration crisis globally.
  • Secondly, the pandemic was a costly reminder for the need for heightened attention to and action on health emergencies and public health management system. This had not received the attention it deserved; and we are seeing the consequences of that now. The UN has to take the lead for renewed focus on the matter particularly under the agenda ‘Global health and foreign policy’. There have been several initiatives already taken by the GA; but we need to see tangible outcomes; real cooperation and collaboration. [Public health and health emergencies would need to receive greater attention and resources in UN country programmes, post-pandemic.]
  • Thirdly, My delegation commends the UN’s response to this pandemic. The 2 billion-dollar Global HRP and the Response and Recovery Fund are timely steps, so are various packages offered by UN Funds and Programmes. Yet, much more is needed. A comprehensive interagency response will need to be put in place to fulfill the objectives of the funds fully, quickly and in a demand-based manner in the target countries. As your appeals and plans are implemented, we expect you to ensure that APG countries get the fair share of the allocation and benefits from these funds.
  • The UNCTs are now preparing country response plans in different countries. We wish to reiterate that the Country Response and Recovery Plans should be development-focused and aligned with our national priorities while supporting us in meeting our immediate health emergency needs.
  • Finally, Achievement of 2030 Agenda, in which we are already lagging behind, will face greater impediments due to the COVID-19 triggered downturn. We would therefore, need to make adjustments in our global, regional and national efforts to keep us on track. UN would have to initiate deliberations in this regard.
  • We wish to see the UNDS enhance its engagement and coordination with other development partners and donors, international financial institutions, regional bodies, and the private sector to stimulate their support to the APG countries with innovative packages and financial instruments. We will count on your support, Mr. Secretary General, in this regard.

I thank you, Mr. Chair. I thank you all.