Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Sunday said the participating states in the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) should put stronger pressure on Myanmar to create a more conducive environment so that the forcibly displaced Rohingyas can go back to their homelands in a safe, voluntary and dignified manner.
“It’s extremely important that the ASEM member states create stronger pressure on Myanmar for creating more conducive environment so that the Rohingyas can go back to their villages and townships in the state of Rakhine of Myanmar in safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable manner,” he said.
The Foreign Secretary made this remark while addressing at a seminar on ‘ASEM Day: Celebrating and Fostering Connectivity’ at the BIISS auditorium in the city as the chief guest.
The Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) arranged the seminar held with BIISS chairman Ambassador M Fazlul Karim in the chair.
Masud Bin Momen said it is true that the ASEM members have always been sympathetic to the Rohingyas. But it is time to take further concrete actions to help them, he said.
Bangladesh as an active member state seeks support from ASEM on the Rohingya issue, he said, adding that ASEM should continue to support the Rohingyas as Myanmar is a member state of the ASEM.
In the backdrop of the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 23, 2020 to monitor and ensure that Myanmar follows the decisions and fulfill the conditions put forward by the ICJ, the ASEM can ensure and play an important role in this issue, he said.
Masud Bin Momen said Bangladesh has been providing shelter to more than 1.1 million Rohingyas who fled persecution in their homeland in Rakhine state of Myanmar.
BIISS Acting Director General Colonel Sheikh Masud Ahmed and Deputy Chief of Mission at Chinese Embassy in Dhaka Yan Hualong, among others, spoke on the occasion.
The Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an Asian–European political dialogue forum to enhance relations and various forms of cooperation between its 53 partners --51 member states including Bangladesh and Myanmar, and two regional organisations.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Indian High Commission in Dhaka will jointly organise a seminar titled “Bangladesh and India: A Promising Future” here on Monday.
Prime Minister's International Affairs Adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi will address the seminar as the chief guest while Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will deliver the keynote speech at the seminar.
The Indian Foreign Secretary is scheduled to arrive here on Monday morning on a brief visit to finalise things ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit this month.
He will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Monday.
This will be Shringla's first visit to Bangladesh as the Indian Foreign Secretary.
BIISS Chairman Ambassador M Fazlul Karim, BIISS acting Director General Colonel Sheikh Masud Ahmed, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das
and Distinguished Fellow, CPD Dr Mustafizur Rahman will attend the seminar, among others.
Shringla will leave Dhaka on Tuesday morning, an official told UNB.
The two countries are working on the programmes to be jointly inaugurated during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi will attend the birth centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and have bilateral talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina.
Modi will arrive here either on March 16 or 17 as talks are going on at official-level to finalise the date.
Confirming Modi's visit in March, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Prime Minister Hasina will be able to receive her Indian counterpart at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport if he comes on March16.
Sheikh Hasina will be visiting Tungipara on March 17 to pay homage to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, said the foreign minister adding that it will be good for the Bangladesh side if Modi comes on March16.
The foreign minister said there will be a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and the Foreign Affairs Ministry is working on the agenda to be discussed at the meeting.
The two countries are also working on the programmes to be jointly inaugurated during the visit, said the Foreign Minister.
Earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that March 2020 to March 2021 would be observed as the 'Mujib Borsho' (Mujib Year) across the country to mark the birth centenary of Bangabandhu while the mega event will be held on March17.
Year-long programmes at home and abroad will be observed with the participation of the mass people at the government and party levels apart from engagement from Bangladesh's foreign friends.
The 'Mujib Borsho' will be followed by the golden jubilee celebrations of the country's independence in 2021.
Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and former Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi are also expected to visit Dhaka this year to attend the birth centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Indian government announced that they will also work together to commemorate the two important anniversary years -- Bangabandhu's birth centenary in 2020; and 50 years of Bangladesh's War of Liberation, and the establishment of India-Bangladesh bilateral diplomatic ties in year 2021.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), has said that twelve countries, including Bangladesh, will walk out of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group in the next decade.
He said this while briefing the LDC Ambassadors accredited to the United Nations in New York on Friday (February 28), said a press release.
“This is one of the rare success stories of recent development history. However, these countries will be graduating with a host of vulnerabilities and fragilities. Thus, in order to ensure their smooth and sustainable transition, international development community has to devise a set of support measures for the graduating LDCs", he said at the briefing. .
The meeting was chaired by the Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Bangladesh Rabab Fatima, the acting Chair of the Coordination Bureau of the LDC Group in the United Nations.
The meeting was addressed by the Permanent Representatives and Ambassadors of Afghanistan, Laos, Nepal and Sierra Leone. Roland Mollerus, head of the UN CDP Secretariat, Susannah Wolf, Deputy Chief, Office of the High Representative Least Developed and Land-locked Countries (OHRLLS) and Matthias Bruckner, Economic Officer, CDP Secretariat also spoke on the occasion.
Dr Debapriya, a member of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) of the United Nations, pointed out that the graduating LDCs suffer from structural weaknesses and include small island states, landlocked countries, climate change affected economies and post-conflict societies.
He alerted the participants of the meeting about the possible impact of the post-graduation loss of the preferences and flexibilities usually available to the LDCs. He particularly highlighted the specific implications in the areas of duty-free and quota-free market access, access to concessional and blended finance, enforcement of intellectual property rights and technology transfer.
Dr Debapriya suggested that a technical and political process needs to be urgently put in place to design a post-graduation incentive package for the countries leaving the LDC group. Such a package may be endorsed by the fifth UN Conference on LDC (LDC V) that is to take place in Doha in March 2021.
Ambassador Rabab Fatima in her concluding remarks called upon the LDC members and the international development partners to actively take part in the regional preparatory meeting of the LDC V that is to take place in Dhaka in end April 2020.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen inspected the consular service facilities while visiting the Bangladesh Embassy in Paris on Friday.
He spoke to service seekers present there to get firsthand knowledge on the quality of service provided by the Embassy.
The Foreign Minister was also updated on the Paris Embassy's preparedness for the celebration of the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, according to a Foreign Ministry bulletin Saturday.
Later, he attended a reception held in his honour by the Jalalabad Association of Paris where two French mayors and a handful of councillors from various French cities were also in attendance to exchange views on various contemporary global issues.
The French representatives were fulsome in praising the Bangladesh government for its proactive role to promote climate change related issues and adopting innovative approaches to combat the menace of climate change.
While responding to the expatriates' concerns, he held that the government will take steps to improve services at the airports, and form a special tribunal to prosecute land grabbers.
Dr Momen also attended another reception held in his honour by France Awami League as the chief guest.
During the meeting, the local Awami League leaders conveyed their keenness to work with UNESCO on celebration of the International Mother Language Day.
The ambassadors of three Nordic countries -- Denmark, Norway and Sweden -- on Saturday promised to have a stronger partnership with Bangladesh with a focus on green growth and increased investment flow to help Bangladesh grow in a faster way.
The three countries also laid emphasis on ending Rohingya crisis through sustainable return of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State safely reminding Myanmar that the responsibility lies there.
Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh Winnie Estrup Petersen, Norwegian Ambassador to Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken and Swedish Ambassador to Bangladesh Charlotta Schlyter shared their priority areas from renewable energy to blue economy, sustainable use of ocean resources, climate change and rights issues.
They also sought a more favourable environment for investment in Bangladesh removing barriers as there is a growing interest from the Nordic companies in Bangladesh.
Stronger collaboration with both the private and public sectors with focus on green growth, innovation and sustainability, IT, telecom, and energy issues were highlighted for prosperous Nordic-Bangladesh partnership in the years to come.
Issues related to labour rights and other rights ones, the role of private sector, ocean pollution, climate change, river pollution, air pollution, women rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also came up for discussions at the dialogue.
They said for successful private sector collaboration with further growth and more job creation, there must be further progress in Bangladesh’s ease of doing business and competitiveness saying this will enable Bangladesh to enter the global scene with full-fledged economic force and help attract more FDI.
The Nordic ambassadors were addressing a symposium titled 'Bangladesh and Nordic Countries: Prognosis for Partnership’ at Six Seasons Hotel in the city.
Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, chaired and conducted the symposium while Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan delivered welcome remarks.
Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cosmos Group, hosted the symposium as part of Cosmos Dialogue Ambassadors’ Lecture Series.
The ambassadors stationed in Dhaka laid emphasis on resolving Rohingya crisis noting that the order of the top UN court -- International Court of Justice (ICJ) -- with provisional measures is an important step on accountability front.
“Norway has repeatedly said that the responsibility for creating a conducive environment that ensures the return of Rohingays lies on the government of the Myanmar,” said Norwegian Ambassador Bleken.
She said the ICJ order on provisional measures under the Genocide Convention is an important step towards ensuring protection of Rohingyas. “The order is legally binding and we expect Myanmar to fully implement the order.”
Appreciating Bangladesh’s role, she said Norway will continue its humanitarian efforts for Rohingyas and the host communities apart from continuing their dialogue with Myanmar to solve the situation.
Swedish Ambassador Schlyter said it will be important that Rohingyas can return home and responsibility rests on Myanmar for making their “voluntary, safe and sustainable” return possible.
She said there is also an issue of accountability and her country welcomed the ICJ order on provisional measures. “We expect Myanmar to comply with them.”
The Swedish Ambassador appreciated Bangladesh’s role in dealing with the Rohingyas and assured that they will continue to do their part both for the Rohingyas and the host communities.
Danish Ambassador Winnie Estrup Petersen laid emphasis on building peace in Myanmar and addressing the accountability issues for atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Rakhine State.
She hoped that Rohingya people, one day, will be able to return to their homes safely.
The Danish Ambassador said Bangladesh is so blessed with vibrant youth population and they need to be engaged and heard ensuring that opinions are freely exchanged. “That’s crucial for the future of this young democracy. We must listen to the diversity…they hold the key of the future.”
She said Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world and much more will be needed to protect the livelihoods of millions of people in Bangladesh.
As the Bangladesh’s economy grows and increases, the Danish Ambassador said there is need to look at how emissions can be reduced and take care of the environment -- the air, water and land and biodiversity.
Norwegian Ambassador Bleken appreciated the whole-of-society approach of Bangladesh and assured their support for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She said not only economic growth, it is also strong institutions and the rule of law that are necessary to reach the SDGs. “We’ll continue to cooperate with Bangladesh in the areas of health, agriculture, gender equality and governance issues.”
The Norwegian envoy also said they will continue to focus on climate change, sustainable use of ocean resources, education, private sector development, human rights and humanitarian assistance as main priority areas.
She thinks that the flow of foreign direct investment in Bangladesh is still low compared to opportunities it offers.
“Bangladesh should be an interesting market for Nordic companies,” said the envoy putting emphasis on predictability, willingness to follow internationally accepted dispute resolution mechanism for more investment.
The Norwegian envoy said Telenor-Grameenphone has been a great success story in Bangladesh and hoped that Norwegian investment will continue to increase in Bangladesh.
Swedish Ambassador Schlyter said there is no doubt that the development cooperation between Bangladesh and Sweden represents a remarkable journey helping people lift out of poverty.
The Nordic Ambassador recognised the strong cooperation with Bangladesh noting that their cooperation has been successful.
Terming their partnership with Bangladesh "very deep and long-lasting one", the ambassadors said their countries have more to gain.
Dr Iftekhar said the purpose to have such extremely productive discussion is to allow the thought leaders interact among themselves with diplomats and Foreign Ministry representatives on core issues.
He believes that the efforts that Cosmos Foundation are making in order to put inputs into government policies is taking shape or will be taking shape someway bringing results to enhance the quality of decision making.
Enayetullah Khan said Bangladesh enjoys very good relationship with the Nordic countries and termed the relations as all-weather friendship.
He mentioned that the Nordic countries were a source of support and succour from the start, beginning as donors, and then transforming themselves into development partners and now into collaborators across a wide spectrum of economic growth and progress.
“Bangladesh has also enthusiastically embraced them, and together we’ve weaved a net of cooperation that is worthy of global emulation,” he said.
Khan said the Nordic commitment and contribution to international development is by no means reflected only in Bangladesh. “I should stress here the emphasis on international development, and not just aid in the form of grants or ODAs.”
Former Ambassador Farooq Sobhan, former adviser to caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Md Nojibur Rahman, foreign affairs experts, civil society members, business leaders and senior journalists attended the event.
The five Nordic countries -- Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden -- all recognised Bangladesh on the same day - February 4, 1972.
This early and decisive move to come out and endorse the nascent state spoke to the support for Bangladesh's independence across the region in Northern Europe that these countries occupy.