UNGA 2018: Hasina drums up world support for solving Rohingya crisis

Muhammad Zamir   | Published: September 30, 2018 21:21:44 | Updated: October 01, 2018 20:55:05

SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS ANTONIO GUTERRES ADDRESSES THE 73RD UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETING ON SEPTEMBER 25, 2018 IN NEW YORK CITY: "The Rohingya issue drew the attention of all the delegations present. This was partly generated through the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' active interest with regard to this subject"      —Photo: AFP  

World leaders at the on-going 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at New York are deliberating on some of the most pressing areas of concern that are not only affecting international relations but also heightening instability.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has actively participated in several UNGA activities and drawn particular attention of the world on the need to resolve the festering Rohingya crisis which has compelled Bangladesh to host more than a million Rohingya refugees from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. She underlined the need for their safe, sustainable and dignified return in a peaceful manner. She also focused on a constructive engagement with regard to various facets related to illegal migration. In addition, she stressed on the need for women empowerment to reduce poverty and on the significance of overcoming climate change challenges. She spoke about the great advances made by Bangladesh in the field of digitalization and urged all Members to work actively and, if possible, together in protecting cyber space for the benefit of institutions and people using that sphere.

The Rohingya issue drew the attention of all the delegations present. This was partly generated through the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' active interest with regard to this subject. Following the publication of a UN fact-finding report issued after investigation into atrocities committed against the Rohingyas, he called in August to hold  Myanmar accountable for "one of the world's worst humanitarian and human rights crises". The report recommended that the country's military leadership be prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Rakhine State that led to around 700,000 Rohingyas being forced to flee their homes. Such an assertion led US Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley to call for strong and immediate action against the Myanmar leadership. Canada's House of Commons declared on September 20 that the fact-finding report has led them to consider that genocide has been carried out against the Rohingya Muslims.

World leaders have urged for taking strong measures to pave the way for justice for the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities under attack in northern Myanmar. Sherine Tadros, Head of the UN Office for Amnesty International, stated this in clear terms. It was stressed that "States must see through Myanmar's repeated lies and deception, and establish an independent mechanism to gather and preserve evidence of crimes under international law before it is too late." The International Criminal Court has already said that it has jurisdiction to bring an indictment against military leaders but the Myanmar government has denied this and has rejected all claims of atrocities.

GLOBAL COMPACT ON REFUGEES: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed a meeting titled "High-level Event on the Global Compact on Refugees: A Model for Greater Solidarity and Cooperation" on  September 24 at the UN headquarters in New York and touched on several important aspects. She pointed out that the forced movement of over 1.1 million traumatised Rohingyas induced Bangladesh government to "open our border and provide shelter to the forcibly displaced Rohingyas. By doing so, we've not only saved lives, but also stabilised the entire region by containing the crisis within our border." She added that "pending their return, we are trying to address their basic needs."

It was noted that Bangladesh, which is struggling with the vast number of refugees, will be hoping that this UNGA session will persuade Member States and other Agencies to generate the necessary donation of US Dollar 950 million to help United Nations Agencies to meet the diverse requirements related to the looking after of the Rohingya refugees. This has regrettably, remained severely underfunded with only 33 per cent funding secured.

Hasina pointed out that the "Global Compact on Refugees" has been adopted at a time when the world is faced with swelling refugee crisis. Innocent people from various conflict-torn countries were leaving their homes for safety and security while many countries like Bangladesh were giving them shelter, protection and hope. She mentioned that most of these refugee-hosting countries were developing countries having own set of challenges. She placed a three-point recommendation on this issue. Firstly, "Myanmar must abolish discriminatory laws, policies and practices against the Rohingyas and address the root causes of their "forced displacement in a genuine and timely manner". Secondly, Myanmar "must create a conducive environment by building trust and guaranteeing protection, rights and pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas, and if needed, create a "safe zone" inside Myanmar to protect all civilians". Thirdly, "the people concerned in Myanmar must be held accountable and exposed to justice to prevent atrocity crimes against Rohingyas in light of the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council recommendations." This theme was reflected during her statement delivered at the UN General Assembly and her meetings on the sidelines with important international political figures from the USA, Britain, Canada and the European Union.

In a comment in an interview, Sheikh Hasina, while thanking the international community for their active interest on the issue, urged them to take all possible steps to apply concerted pressure on Myanmar to fulfill their obligations in repatriating their citizens because the patience of Bangladesh was wearing out.

Minister Sheikh Hasina in her deliberations in the UNGA has reiterated Bangladesh's firm commitment and support towards the resolving the emerging and evolving problems with regard to Palestine.

On another front, Sheikh Hasina participated in a meeting with leaders of international financial institutions and representatives from the American industry and trading sector to highlight the profitable aspects pertaining to investment in Bangladesh as the country moves up the economic development ladder. Nearly 200 leaders from the Bangladesh business sector were present at this inter-active exchange of views.

Sheikh Hasina in recognition of her exemplary role and leadership in the handling of the Rohingya issue was awarded two international awards during her visit to New York - one from the Inter Press Service News Agency and the other from the non-profit Global Hope Coalition.

Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance.



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