Describing the UK’s admiration for what had been achieved in Bangladesh over the past 50 years, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson on Wednesday said they will continue to work with Bangladesh in its efforts to achieve a smooth and successful graduation.
“Graduation is a milestone, not a finishing line. We’ll continue to work with Bangladesh to achieve a smooth and successful graduation,” he said, adding that they have also decided to provide continued duty-free, quota-free access to the UK market for three years after graduation, to 2029.
While speaking at “DCAAB Talk”, the envoy said he was delighted that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would be visiting London and Manchester to engage with British businesses during her visit to the UK.
Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) hosted the event. DCAB President Pantho Rahaman and its General Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke at the event.
The High Commissioner reflected on the huge challenge ahead at COP26 and said the UK is looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and welcoming the Bangladesh delegation to Glasgow.
“This was just one sign of the way that the UK was working with an increasingly confident, prosperous and outward-looking Bangladesh on the world stage, as we headed into the next 50 years of partnership,” he said.
At the High Commission in Bangladesh, Dickson said his teams were engaged deeply in issues such as climate and biodiversity, maritime security and many other areas, including working with British businesses to build a trade and investment relationship as Bangladesh graduated from Least Developed to Middle Income Country status.
Regional Security Challenges
The High Commissioner said the UK is working closely with the government of Bangladesh on regional security challenges.
A particular challenge is the Rohingya crisis that was created by the actions of the Myanmar army over four years ago, he said.
The UK was very clear that the shared objectives were for the Rohingya to go home to Rakhine state, as soon as it could happen in a way that was “voluntary, dignified and safe”.
“No one wanted to live in a refugee camp. Events in Myanmar were moving in a way that was worrying, so it seemed the Rohingya would likely remain in Bangladesh for some time to come,” said the High Commissioner.
The UK is working closely with the government of Bangladesh to ensure the extraordinary generosity in hosting the Rohingyas continued, and that the funding was there to provide the refugees with the healthcare, food, shelter, water and sanitation they needed until they could return to Myanmar.
The UK had contributed over £320m to the global response, working closely with allies on camp conditions and building resilience, including against Covid-19.
The High Commissioner was concerned about recent violence at the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.
He said the UK was exploring ways that refugees could be given more productive ways to spend their time, with the opportunity for them to volunteer, provide camp services and basic livelihoods, and for children to be educated.
On a global stage, he said, the UK also makes sure this crisis is not forgotten. “The UK is the penholder on the crisis in the UN Security Council and works hard to keep it on the agenda, despite not having full support from all UNSC members.”
Dickson said the UK is also using its new status as a Dialogue Partner to ASEAN and supporting the ASEAN Special Envoy to support better outcomes in Myanmar.
The High Commissioner said the solution was leadership – leaders needed to lead people away from exploiting division, towards healing it.
He said the UK was continuing to support the government of Bangladesh in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On vaccines, the envoy said, the UK was providing all its support globally, including to Bangladesh, through the COVAX programme. “The UK was not on the front page but was a significant part of the effort.”