His Excellency Mr. Il-ham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, let me express my heartfelt thanks to you, your Excellency for organizing this Online Summit on COVID-19. This Summit bears the testimony of NAM’s continued relevance at this unprecedented critical time of humanity.
The world is going through an extraordinary crisis. We are fighting an invincible enemy that has attacked the world unprepared, triggering an overwhelming global public health challenge. Sparing no country, rich or poor, developed or developing, this global pandemic has shaken the world, affecting peoples’ health, lives and livelihoods, paralyzing economic activities, closing borders, halting travels, and restricting social and international mobility that we are so accustomed to.
Quite early into the pandemic, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina issued a 31-point directive seeking to mitigate its impact on the vulnerable population, including people living in poverty, daily workers including those in informal sectors, ethnic and religious minorities, women, people with disabilities, older people, migrants, and children.
On the health front, we mobilized enough testing kits – gloves – masks – PPEs to protect the health workers. Our private sector is supporting the Government by setting up thousands of hospital beds. Our doctors, nurses, health workers, defense and law enforcement personnel, are working in the front line. Despite having a large informal economy and highly dense population, we are religiously implementing various nationwide measures including restriction on movements since 26 March to contain the spread of this infection.
While we are battling the COVID-19 at the national level, we have not forgotten the welfare of more than 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals sheltered in Bangladesh. My Government has taken special care and already formulated a COVID-19 Response for the Rohingya population to prevent the spread of this virus inside the camps. Good news is, till to-date, not a single Rohingya is infected.
This pandemic is going to impact our economy and business adversely. The two major sectors of Bangladesh economy- Ready-made Garments (RMG) and remittance, are experiencing the most significant blow of the pandemic. Standing export orders worth USD 3.17 billion have already been cancelled by our foreign buyers affecting 4 million, mostly women workers plus nearly 15m of their dependents. Amid massive lockdowns of labour receiving countries, many of our migrant workers totaling around 11.3 million have already lost or on the verge of losing their jobs. Right now, thousands of them are suffering for food and basic needs. Their return will pose two-pronged challenges to us – to reintegrate them into the society, and to engage them in gainful jobs. To absorb the economic shocks, our Government has already announced an economic stimulus package of nearly USD 11.6 billion, highest in it’s recorded history, aiming at spurring economic activities, protect our farmers, workers and to enhance our social safety net programs targeted to the most vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society.
As the world struggles to cope up with the adverse impacts of the pandemic, we have to work out innovative solutions and approaches to tackle the crisis. Let me make a few suggestions for the NAM membership to consider.
First, we need robust global leadership from G7, G20, and OECD. The UN-led multilateral system should step forward. In this regard, my Government supports the decision of this NAM Online Summit to establish the Non-Aligned Movement Task Force to establish a database that will include the basic humanitarian and medical needs and requirements of NAM Member States.
Second, migrant workers are frontline contributors to the societies and economies in the richer countries. But they are suddenly finding themselves in dire situations, and many of them are also facing the grim prospect of losing jobs and means of livelihood. We need a meaningful global strategy to share burden and responsibilities.We must ensure that none of these workers, who are part and parcel of development efforts of both host and home countries, must not die of starvation and secondly, their retention of jobs for next 6 months should be considered favorably.
Third, it is a fact that developing countries have to divert their resources to address the immediate health emergency. This will undoubtedly make the implementation of the SDGs challenging for them. Many of them will require short, medium and long term support from the bilateral and multilateral development partners in the form of finance, capacity building, technology transfer, debt waiver, concessional loans and grants. NAM membership needs to engage with the development partners, organizations and financial institutions to forge a strong partnership to overcome this challenge.
Fourth, we will have to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders and must work hard to resolve disruptions to the global supply chains. Development cooperation has to be strengthened with increased concessional finance. Your Excellency, the health emergency must not be allowed to turn into a food crisis. Moreover, the pandemic should not divert attention and resources away from our long-term development needs of the agenda 2030.
During this unprecedented global pandemic, the international community must redouble its efforts and act in unison to face the challenges. Many a time in the past, infectious diseases had endangered humanity and, each time, we have overcome the crisis. This time, with our united and committed resolve, we are sure to defeat this enemy. We hope that NAM’s call for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic would result in meaningful global action.
Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu