UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday said the election period will be an important time for Bangladesh to maximise civic and political space.
She also mentioned that freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of political activists, human rights defenders, opposition parties and journalists are important.
"There needs to be space for more dialogue among political parties and with a wide range of civil society actors to prevent grievances from building and erupting in social unrest," Bachelet told reporters at a crowded press conference at a city hotel.
She said it is also important to ensure that law enforcement forces have the necessary training to manage protests without resorting to the excessive use of force.
Bachelet said the voices of women, religious minorities and indigenous peoples, and especially young people need to be heard.
She thanked the government of Bangladesh for inviting her to visit the country, the first by a High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"I hope my visit will build on the government’s engagement with the UN’s human rights mechanisms and help deepen cooperation with us, furthering the promotion and protection of human rights in Bangladesh," Bachelet said.
During the visit she met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and several ministers - foreign, home, law, and education - and other government officials.
She also met with the National Human Rights Commission and representatives of civil society, as well as members of the diplomatic community and academics.
Bachelet interacted with students at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies on climate change and human rights.
She said civil society members are important resources that governments need to tap into.
"Critical voices can help to identify the problems, to acknowledge them, to dive deep into the causes and discuss solutions," she said, adding that acknowledging the challenges is always the first step to overcoming them.
"My exchanges with civil society representatives were rich and insightful – this was not surprising as Bangladesh has historically had a wealth of civil society expertise in various fields," she said.
Bachelet said democratic and civic space, as well as effective checks and balances and accountability are essential as Bangladesh aims for the next levels of development.