Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reminded the international community that the fates of people across the globe are intertwined amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as she called on world leaders to ensure that any proven vaccine is made accessible to all countries at the same time.
The Bangladesh leader made the call during her address to the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations via a video link on Saturday, reports bdnews24.com.
Expressing hope over the availability of a vaccine soon, Hasina said, "It is imperative to treat the vaccine as a ‘global public good’. We need to ensure the timely availability of this vaccine to all countries at the same time."
Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry has the capacity to mass-produce a vaccine, if given the 'technical know-how and patents', the prime minister said.
Since its emergence in China's Wuhan in December 2019, the novel strain of the coronavirus has wreaked havoc around the world, infecting more than 31 million people and killing almost a million.
As the pandemic rages on, the economic fallout from it has been profound for countries both rich and poor, making the need for a viable vaccine all the more pressing.
The race for a remedy to the virus is now heating up, with nearly a dozen potential candidates entering the final stages of the clinical trial process.
But as the wealthier nations have already spent billions to get their hands on a vaccine as soon as it becomes available, it has raised questions about the fates of countries that are lower down the pecking order.
The poorest nations in the world make up a large portion of the global population and the spread of the coronavirus is unlikely to be bridled if they are to miss out on a vaccine.
Against this backdrop, Hasina reminded member states of the need for solidarity and collective action, principles on which the UN was founded.
"Just as the Second World War created opportunities for countries to come together in their efforts to cooperate, through the establishment of the United Nations, similarly this pandemic has emphasised the need for collective action under the guidance of right leadership," she said.
Hasina also reiterated Bangladesh's 'unflinching commitment' to multilateralism as embodied in the UN Charter and added, "The pandemic has indeed aggravated existing global challenges. It has also reinforced the indispensability of multilateralism."
With the assembly taking place on a digital platform for the first time in the UN's history, Hasina also reflected on her personal memories of the General Assembly Hall.
"This General Assembly Hall evokes deep emotions in me. From this very hall in 1974, my father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman delivered a speech for the first time in Bangla as the Head of Government of a newly independent country," she said.
“I also had the privilege of attending the General Assembly Sessions in-person for 16 times. I emphasised world peace and solidarity in all my speeches. As a Head of Government, this year I am delivering my 17th speech in the Assembly."
Describing the COVID-19 pandemic as an "unprecedented crisis" in the history of mankind, Hasina paid tribute to all frontline fighters, including health workers and public servants who are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of the affected countries and people.
"I also commend the United Nations Secretary-General for his bold leadership and multilateral efforts during this crisis. Bangladesh was among the first rank of countries to endorse the Secretary-General’s various initiatives, including his global ceasefire appeal.
Hasina’s father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the 29th General Assembly for the first time in Bangla on Sept 24, 1974, just eight days after Bangladesh's admission as the 136th member state of the United Nations.
And on the 46th anniversary of that historic speech, Hasina renewed her pledge to realise his dream of building a “Shonar Bangla”, free of poverty and exploitation based on democratic principles with full enjoyment of human rights as the nation marks the birth centenary of its founding father.
"With profound gratitude, I remember the undisputed leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bangalee of all time. He taught the Bangalee nation to stand firm in the world by ending exploitation deprivation and oppression. Following his footsteps, we have been able to secure a respectable position for Bangladesh in the Comity of Nation," she said.
"From this august Assembly he declared, and I quote 'The noble ideals enshrined in the United Nations Charter are the very ideals for which millions of our people have made the supreme sacrifice. … the Bangalee nation fully commits itself to the building of a world order, in which the aspiration of all men for peace and justice will be realised.'”
The reflection that Bangabandhu made in 1974 continues to remain equally relevant even today as the world grapples with the current crisis, according to Hasina.
She also reiterated the fundamental principle of Bangladesh's foreign policy -- “friendship to all and malice to none” -- while highlighting the country's commitment to international peace, security and the establishment of a "culture of peace".
"During the pandemic, we see the rise of hate speech, xenophobia, and intolerance. Embracing the spirit of a Culture of Peace can help address these worrying trends," she said.
"Currently, we are the largest troops and police-contributing country in the world to the peacekeeping missions. Our peacekeepers are putting their lives on the line to secure and sustain peace in conflict-ravaged countries. International community must ensure their safety and security."
Lingering Rohingya crisis
The prime minister also urged the international community to step up the efforts to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
She said, "Bangladesh provided temporary shelter to over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. More than three years have elapsed."
“Regrettably, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated. The problem was created by Myanmar and its solution must be found in Myanmar. I request the international community to play a more effective role for a solution to the crisis.”