Speech by H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh at the 9th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development, 20 September 2021 at the United Nations, New York

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

I thank you, Professor Jeffry Sachs.

I also thank the Earth Institute, Columbia University, Global Masters of Development Practice, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network for inviting me to the 9th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development.

It is always a pleasure to be among students, academics and enlightened people.

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset our world. It has taken countless lives and upset livelihoods. Millions of people worldwide have been reduced to poverty and hunger. Education is facing huge disruption, especially of children.

The climate vulnerable countries like Bangladesh are adversely affected by the pandemic as well as natural disasters. Our development gains and SDGs progress have been badly hit.

In the face of this turmoil, I thank you for the opportunity to share our experiences and my perspectives on how to “build forward better” and to get back on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

As a policymaker, my association with the global development discourse is for more than two decades.

I led Bangladesh in the Millennium Development Summit in 2000, in the adoptions of the landmark 2030 Agenda, and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

Our achievements in MDGs were highly significant. We were recognized by the international community as a “development miracle” for our success, especially in poverty reduction, food security, gender parity in primary and secondary school, decreasing infant and maternal mortality rate, gender equality, etc.

Over the past one decade, our poverty rate came down from 31.5% to 20.5%, and our per capita income multiplied more than three-fold. The infant mortality rate was reduced to 23.67 per 1,000; maternal mortality rate to 173 per 100 thousand live births; and longevity of life rose to 73 years. We have set up more than 18 thousand community clinics and health centers to cater healthcare services mainly to women and children.

According to WEF, in political empowerment of women, Bangladesh is ranked 7th, ahead of its regional neighbors since 2014. Greater emphasis has been laid on female education. The girls’ education upto 12th grade has been made free.

Primary-school students are supported by stipends. Stipend money reaches the mothers or legitimate guardians directly through their mobile phone. About 23 million students have been brought under stipend and scholarships. We have established 20 new public technological and general universities in the country raising the total number of public universities to 52. Besides, as many as 105 private universities are offering higher education in the country.

Female-male school enrolment ratio rose to 53:47 in 2017 from 35:65 in 2009. Enrolment in pre-primary and primary level rose to 99%. The increasing female education has significantly lowered the rate of child marriage.

Free books are being distributed among students up to secondary level since 2010. School lunches have also been arranged. As a result, dropouts have drastically decreased. Our SDGs journey builds on these successes.

Bangladesh is the pioneer in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. We have recently submitted an ambitious and updated NDC. We have adopted the ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’ focusing on green growth, resilient infrastructure and renewable energy.

According to the Sustainable Development Report 2021 published by the University of Cambridge, Bangladesh has improved the most on the SDG Index since 2015.

Bangladesh is now among the five fastest growing economies in the world, and ranked 41st in terms of GDP. The UN recommended Bangladesh to graduate from the LDC category this year.

Our graduation comes at a time when we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our Independence and the Birth Centenary of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

I believe that there is no better way to pay tribute to our Father of the Nation, and millions of our freedom fighters.

We are on track to fulfill the dream of our Father of the Nation to build a “Sonar Bangla”– or “Golden Bengal”.

Since 2015, we have been working hard to integrate Agenda 2030 into our national plans and policies putting “whole of government” approach.

A high-level national committee was formed for the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs. We have already submitted two VNRs in 2017 and 2020. We have done sector specific assessments and integrated SDGs in our 8th Five Year Plan.  Our Second Perspective Plan has also been aligned with the SDGs.

It envisions transforming Bangladesh into an upper-middle-income country by 2031, and a high-income country by 2041.

The Delta-Plan 2100 captures the SDGs vision and beyond. It aims to create a prosperous and climate resilient delta for our future generations.

We have taken up a coordinated effort involving the government, the private sector, the civil society, and other stakeholders to ensure “whole of society engagement”.

To reach people who are the furthest behind, we have put additional focus on localizing SDGs. We have launched SDGs tracker. This serves as a data storehouse to monitor real-time progress of our SDGs.

We have invested heavily in our infrastructure capacity. We are launching mega infrastructure projects like the Padma Bridge, Dhaka Metro rail, Karnaphuli Tunnel and the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

Women have been mainstreamed in national development and economic activities. And they are now the backbone of certain vital sectors, such as the RMG.

Our investment in digitization and connectivity has spurred the digital economy, youth led innovations and transformative socio-economic changes. This is now also helping us tackle the COVID-19 pandemic better.

We have a huge youth population. We have invested heavily in their education and skills development to help them reap the maximum benefit of the digital economy and technological innovations.

Dear Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2030 Agenda is a global compact. This is our blueprint for a sustainable and inclusive global development. No single country can achieve this Agenda alone. We need enhanced global collaboration and solidarity to advance this agenda.

We have already entered the Decade of Delivery and Action of the Agenda. Yet the goals seem far away.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were off-track to achieve their SDGs. The pandemic has pushed them further behind.

We need to chart out a bold and ambitious global roadmap to put us back on the SDGs track, so that no one is left behind.

Let me share a few specific points in this regard:

First, the success of SDGs now depends on sustainable recovery from the pandemic. The call of the hour, and with real urgency, is to ensure vaccines for everyone, everywhere.

Second, we must close the huge resource gap in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Third, we are concerned about the rising trend in global poverty, for the first time since 1998, due to the impacts of the pandemic. Our recovery efforts need more focus on job creation, social protection, women empowerment, and science, technology, and innovation.

Fourth, we believe that Covid-19 recovery measures should complement climate actions to create stronger resilience against any future shock or calamities.

Finally, there must be more focus on enhanced monitoring and support mechanism for SDGs implementation.

The UN should have enhanced coordination in this regard.

It is also imperative to ensure that there are adequate and timely support measures to withstand emergencies and shocks to avoid any slide back.

Scaling up preparedness for pandemic and other emergencies should be done with priority at every level.

I shall rest it here.

I am happy to respond to any questions you may have. 

Thank you all for your kind attention.

Over to you, Professor Sachs.


Interactive/Q&A to follow moderated by Prof.