I thank you, Mr. President. It always good to be back in a UNICEF meeting. Good to see ED Fore and other dear colleagues.
I thank Mr. Sanjay Wijesekera and Mr. Victor Aguayo for their comprehensive overview of the theme for the current CPD session, namely Maternal and Child Nutrition: Progress, Challenges and Opportunities in a Changing World. Congratulations on an excellent panel discussion.
Allow me to highlight a few specific points on the Bangladesh CPD that is before the Board for approval.
UNICEF-Bangladesh partnership goes back over five decades; and we greatly value UNICEF’s support in advancing the rights and welfare of our children. For many of our human development achievements, especially in the areas of primary and mass education, essential immunization programmes and public health, and girl’s education, UNICEF has been our steadfast partner.
The Covid-19 pandemic now poses a serious threat to the hard-earned gains that we have made. Lack of distance learning facilities, growing poverty and other obstacles are resulting in drop outs, child labour and growing vulnerability of children. Girls are particularly vulnerable.
Last year, when the pandemic broke out, I remember saying that we must not allow this to become a children’s crisis. But sadly, that might exactly be happening now. The state of the world’s children is not good. More children are going hungry; malnutrition is rising; more of them are of school; millions more are deprived of the basic health care. They are more vulnerable than ever before to exploitation and abuse.
In this sobering context, the adoption of UNICEF’s new CPD for 2022-26 bears special significance for us. We see the CPD as not just a framework for continuation of the existing cooperation, rather as a recovery plan from this pandemic. I am pleased to see that the new CPD aims to support rapid recovery from the pandemic to enable timely achievement of sustainable development goals.
I thank UNICEF country and regional teams for undertaking extensive consultations. The Government was closely involved in the process of developing this CPD, to make sure that the CPD fully aligns with our national priorities manifested in our 8th 5-year plan and the perspective plan, as well as the UNSDCF.
In going forward, it will be important to ensure its full and effective implementation, through partnership and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, capacity-building of national institutions and accountability through proper monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
Allow me to share some ideas and expectations in this regard:
First, education should remain the top priority. Globally over 156 million students could not attend school due to the pandemic. Many of them, especially the girls may not return to school at all. In Bangladesh as well, we are facing similar challenges.
We need to review the conventional education system and devise innovative measures to ensure education for all. We must ensure no child is left behind, including the most vulnerable children. UNICEF has excellent distance learning tools and we would like to benefit from those in an inclusive manner as we build back from the pandemic.
Second, The CPD needs to prioritize health and nutrition of children. As a result of the pandemic millions of children have lost access to healthcare facilities. We must do our best to reverse the situation. Equally important is to address nutrition deficiency which affects the future income potential of the children and the adolescents.
UNICEF can leverage its advocacy, awareness raising campaigns and capacity building activities for the local service providers to expedite the reversal.
Third, the pandemic has made children more vulnerable to abuse and exploitations, such as domestic violence, trafficking, etc. Girls are particularly vulnerable, as are children living in poverty and difficult situations, and those who are differently challenged.
We are committed to ensuring the rights and welfare of children and eliminating all forms of violence against them. UNICEF’s cooperation is critical in this regard, especially in implementing our international obligations towards children as well enforcing as national legal mechanisms for the protection of the children’s rights.
Finally, the ongoing pandemic and the global climate change have raised the global poverty rate for the first time since 1999. Poverty of the parents affects the children adversely; often forcing them to leave schools for work. The Government has undertaken various initiatives for the eradication of poverty, but deep pockets of poverty still exists, compounded by the pandemic. The 8th 5-year plan of Bangladesh and the new CDP both aim to eradicate poverty by securing rapid inclusive growth. We expect the CPD will be able to achieve this desired outcome.
To conclude, I would like to express our appreciation to all stakeholders involved in the preparation of the new country programme and would request the members of the Board to endorse it. We also pledge our full support for the effective implementation of this CPD.
I thank you, Mr. President.