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Statement by H.E. Mr. M. Morshed Khan, M.P., Foreign Minister of Bangladesh at the United Nations General Assembly General Debate
New York, 18 September 2002

Mr. President,

May I begin by extending you warm congratulations upon your election. We have every confidence that your stewardship of our proceedings will yield fruitful results. Credit is due to your predecessor, Mr. Han Seung Soo for his deft handling of our affairs. We also felicitate the Secretary-General for the leadership he has shown during the past year across a very broad range of subjects. His inaugural remarks that have set the tone for our deliberations are truly praiseworthy. We welcome the new Members this year, Switzerland and East Timor, and look forward to working closely with them.

This has been, as we all are painfully aware, a very difficult year. September 11, 2001 witnessed a dastardly act of barbaric terrorism. It also united peace-loving peoples all over the world as never before. As we continue our struggle to prevent the resurgence of such atrocities, we must also address ourselves seriously to the task of rooting out the causes that spawn such behaviour. Any action in this respect should be based on the widest possible international consensus built through consultations.

Bangladesh has been, and shall always be, a committed and active partner in the coalition against terrorism. We have taken every necessary step to share information and assist in the curbing of terror. We have sought to implement Security Council Resolution 1373, which we ourselves helped draft and adopt as a Council Member last year. At a regional level, we are presently examining ways and means of further strengthening the SAARC Convention on terrorism. Terror is totally unconnected to any faith or region. It is a global phenomenon that requires to be tackled by means that are both legitimate and consensual.

These include the promotion of democracy and democratic values, respect for human rights and the rule of law, peaceful resolution of conflicts and peace-building, cooperation of equitable economic development, eradication of poverty, equality of gender, measures aimed at confidence-building, mutual respect among races and peoples, and harmony not clashes between cultures. These are the main pillars on which we must build a world where hope will, reign in place of despair. In the construction of this edifice, the architect must be the, United Nations, which with its charter, principles and objectives, is the greatest institution crafted by human-kind.

Mr. President,

Bangladesh is relentless in the pursuit of these goals both nationally and internationally. Our problems, as all are aware, are many, and varied. Of roughly the size of the State of Wisconsin in the United States, we have a population of 130 million which makes us one of the largest nations in the world. Centuries of colonial exploitation had rendered us with inadequate infrastructures and resources, and constrained us by the claptrap of poverty. Subject to the vagaries of nature, our economy was a gamble in monsoons. Soon after our independence in 1971, we were perceived as a "bottom-less basket case".

Since then, we have come a long way. We have dedicated ourselves whole-heartedly to improving the quality of life of our people, and to their development. Our policies were grounded in certain values dear to our hearts. We acted in the firm belief that development is only possible against a matrix of democracy, human rights and rule of law; that structures and institutions in society must be inclusive, participatory and accountable; and that growth must be pro-poor, pro-environment, pro-equity and pro-women. In our view tolerance between religions and appreciation of differing opinions must be imbedded in the social psyche. Our rich intellectual heritage and cultural tradition were the source of home-grown innovative ideas such as micro-credit and special educational projects that enabled us to initiate a quiet revolution in our society that has led to the process of a huge societal transformation.

As a result, we were able to achieve many successes that have been widely acclaimed. Despite our being a traditional society, through effective family-planning programmes we were able to cut population growth - rate by 50% over the last two decades. In agriculture, we now produce sufficient food-grains to feed our entire people. We have invested heavily in human-resources development and provided massive budgetary allocations to primary and secondary education. Schooling up to twelfth Grade is free for girl students, and all are awarded stipends. Gender mainstreaming is a major policy-thrust. Womens empowerment in Bangladesh receives the highest priority. This is mainly achieved through initiatives such as special provisions for education for girl children, employment of women in garment industry and micro-credit generating self-employment for women. Global recognition to these endeavours were manifest in our recent election to CEDAW.

Excellent cooperation exists between the government and civil society. Bangladesh hosts some of the world's largest and most active NGOs. In our development process, we are ourselves in the driver's seat. A mix of appropriate macro-economic policies and effective utilization of external assistance has vastly reduced our dependence on foreign aid. A document at Monterrey entitled "Successful Development: models for the 21st Century" says & I quote: "The lesson in Bangladesh is that ODA -when applied in conjunction with a country's efforts to resolve its own development challenges - can yield dramatic results". Today what we seek is not compassion, largesse, or charity, but greater market access for our manufactures, fairer trade and more investments.

We may still have a long way to go, but we believe we are on the right track.

Mr. President,

At an international level we are striving to reinforce mutually beneficial and cooperative relations with all countries. We are seeking, in concert with our development partners, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Special efforts made and successes achieved in Monterrey, Johannesburg and in the Summit on Children give us cause for hope. It is now important for all of us to seriously get down to implementing the promises made and achieving targets set. We are happy that our image abroad is one of a responsible, politically stable, moderate, democratic and constructive member of the international community. We have actively engaged our neighbours in the development of cooperation and understanding. As you will recall, it was President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh who first conceived of the concept of South Asian Regional Cooperation. Today, besides this, our Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia is also committed to bringing to fruition the Asian Cooperation Dialogue. As a demonstration of our commitment to global stability and peace, we have voluntarily given up the nuclear option and joined the NPT and CTBT. We actively participate in peace-keeping operations, today being one of the UN's largest contributors of peace-keepers.

I should note, though, that there are certain issues that continue to trouble us. In South Asia, our own region, the volatility of the situation between two nuclear-capable countries is deeply worrisome. Bangladesh encourages all concerned in South Asia to exercise restraint and seek solution to their differences through dialogue and meaningful engagement.

In Afghanistan, after emerging from the most destructive episode in its history, the country is yet to be provided the wherewithal for recovery and reconstruction. The international community must redouble its efforts to secure peace across Afghanistan and accelerate the reconstruction and rebuilding of the country. Unless we do so the long-term security and stability of our region will remain uncertain.

In the Middle East, the continued denial of the rights of the Palestinian people to their own State and freedom hugely concern us. The continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, trampling of human-rights and atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinian people by Israel must end immediately. Serious efforts must be resumed to seek a comprehensive solution to the problem that addresses the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people. We welcome the announcement made in Baghdad with regard to the return of the weapons' inspectors, and see this as a significant step towards fulfilling obligations under Security Council resolutions.

In Africa, the havoc wrought by ethnic conflict, disease and famine is most disturbing. The financial turmoil in Latin America is a matter of anxiety. Commitment to LDCs remain largely unmet. The existence of trade-distorting subsidies that impede development is agonizingly noteworthy. Restrictions on the movement of factors of production including manpower remain a major impediment to progress. Lack of consideration of emotional and human aspects of people's mobility across frontiers remain a source of pain. The concept of a Global Fund for Poverty Alleviation through some form of international taxation is also worth considering. These are subjects where we, with our limited capacity, can do little to influence, but in our modest way, we will do our very best to help. Those who can, must do more.

On our part, we will play an effective role, as we are indeed doing, in all international fora. In the WTO we will continue to work with others to implement the development objectives of the Doha Round and in the pursuit of fairer trade. We will cooperate with the international monetary institutions, Agencies, Funds and Programmes to promote the welfare of our people and those of comparable milieu. Within the United Nations we shall endeavour in every possible way to strengthen its institutions, and support reforms that will render them more participatory, representative and democratic. These are pledges, ingrained in the vision for the future, of the Government of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia. These are commitments that are at the core of the Bangladeshi ethos.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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