Mr. President, Excellencies,
I thank you, Mr. President, for convening today’s special meeting on a very timely and topical subject.
Last year, we witnessed how an unforeseen public health crisis endangered the entire spectrum of our global gains. Going beyond the physical health and economic impacts, the pandemic shook all aspects of the human society. We also saw a sharp rise in racism, xenophobia and hate speech all over the world.
The international community has been making persistent efforts to address racism and human rights abuses based on race. The UN human rights instruments and the Agenda 2030 aim at building an inclusive society. However, the problems of racism and discrimination continue to loom large upon us.
As we plan to build back better, we must ensure ‘equality’ in a holistic manner. Otherwise, our economic recovery efforts would only take us halfway through our ultimate goal of ‘leaving no one behind’.
Equality and social justice have been one of the fundamental principles of Bangladesh’s State policy. Our inclusive and pro-people development model was founded on our respect for universal principles of human rights, with strong non-discrimination and equality clauses. It is from that commitment that we joined almost all major international human rights instruments.
Our COVID-19 recovery plan has placed the most vulnerable section of our society at the center. In addition to 19 stimulus packages that account for 3.7% of our GDP, the government has scaled up resilient social protection systems, with a focus on women, the ultra-poor, informal settlement dwellers, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.
As we step into the decade of action on sustainable development goals, and in the context now of the COVID-19 crisis, we have to address inequality in all its dimensions. Allow me to share a few points in this regard:
First: taking lessons from the pandemic, we need to invest in a just and equal health system – both at the national and the global level; and that can start with universal access to vaccines, for everyone, irrespective of race, status or nationality. We need to prioritize protection of basic human rights including the right to receive accurate information in our public policies. We can utilize the positive force of digital technology in this regard.
Second: as we embark on the journey to build back a post-pandemic world, we must ensure that the recovery is more just and equal for all. We must address the underlying root causes of inequalities, including poverty, violence, discrimination and exclusion, as well as lack of education and employment – through the sincere and concerted efforts of all stakeholders.
Third: education is the key enabler for creating a rights-based society. Education creates opportunities and helps individuals overcome structural discrimination. The pandemic highlighted the gaping digital divide within and between countries and communities, which left out millions of children, especially from the developing world out of a learning environment. This digital divide, exacerbates inequality, and needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.
Fourth: we need to create employment and other opportunities for people leaving behind. It is often the lack of opportunities that keeps fueling the cycle of violence and generate racial hatred. In this regard, I wish to highlight in particularly precarious situation of migrant workers globally in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. Their situation is an ugly manifestation of the inequalities and discrimination that prevails in our societies.
Fifth: the issue of gender equality continues to remain key in the fight against racism. It is critical that the deeply entrenched gender norms in societies that disproportionately affect women are addressed to root out all forms of inequality from our societies.
Mr. President – the UNSG called for a new social contract this morning, founded on inclusivity and sustainability. We can’t agree more with him. Indeed, we need a new paradigm in our collaborative efforts to address the multidimensional nature of inequality that exists; moving beyond rhetoric, and living up to our commitments, national and global. Today’s meeting, we believe, starts an important level of discourse towards that end. I thank you.