In her address to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina demanded appropriate global steps to build a tax-free world by making vaccines available at universal and affordable prices. He warned that the current “vaccine-splitting” trend would only prolong the epidemic.
“For a covid-free world, we must ensure universal and affordable vaccines for all people around the world,” he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina followed in the footsteps of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the UN General Assembly session in New York on Friday night (September 24), Bangladesh time, in her 16th Bengali address as Prime Minister.
Expressing deep concern over the widening of vaccine inequality between rich and poor countries, Sheikh Hasina said 84 per cent of the vaccines produced so far have reached the people of high and upper-middle income countries. On the other hand, low-income countries received less than one percent of the vaccine.
He said the vaccine inequality needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Sustainable recovery is never possible without millions of people being vaccinated. We cannot be completely safe.
Sheikh Hasina said immediate transfer of vaccine technology could be a way to ensure vaccine equality. Bangladesh is also able to produce a large amount of vaccines with the help of technology assistance and concessions on intellectual property.
Referring to the current crisis, the Prime Minister described the United Nations as the “best center of trust” and called on world leaders to work hand in hand in the hope of preserving that trust. As a strong supporter of multilateralism and the UN system, Bangladesh sees the UN as a symbol of hope and aspiration in this time of crisis. Forgetting all kinds of differences, we must stand up as a ‘single human race’, use the combined strength to build a prosperous world for all again.
In addition to tackling the Corona epidemic, he raised specific six-point proposals on a range of issues, including tackling the risks of climate change and the return of the Rohingya. Palestine and Afghan issues also came up in his discussions. He hoped for a strong role and continued cooperation from world leaders on the issue of Rohingya return.
Sadly, the epidemic will continue for some time to come, the Prime Minister said in her speech, adding that we now have to adopt a much newer, more inclusive and global plan than ever before to deal with this common enemy. The specific proposals he has made in this regard are-
First, in order to build a world free of covid, we need to ensure universal and affordable availability of vaccines. At this grand session last year, I called for the Kovid-19 vaccine to be considered a ‘global asset’. Many world leaders then agreed.
He said there was no response to his request. This vaccine inequality needs to be addressed urgently. Sustainable recovery is never possible without millions of people being vaccinated. We cannot be completely safe.
He, therefore, once again called for ensuring the availability of vaccines at universal and affordable prices for all.
In his second proposal, he said the epidemic has hit countries at risk of climate change the hardest. The report of Working Group-1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Climate Change paints a grim picture of the future of the planet.
Noting that it will be difficult to overcome the devastating effects of climate change without taking immediate action, the Prime Minister said no country, rich or poor, is safe from its adverse effects. He called on rich and industrialized nations to reduce carbon emissions, compensate for emissions and freely transfer funding and technology for sustainable adaptation.
He said that as the President of Climate Vulnerable Forum and Vulnerable-20 Group of Ministers of Finance, we have started the activities of ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan – Decade 2030’. In this plan, a program has been adopted to make climate as a regulator of prosperity, not a risk factor for Bangladesh.
The Prime Minister said the 26th Summit of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to be held in Glasgow could provide ample opportunity for us to garner support for the new inclusive plan. He urged everyone to take advantage of this opportunity.
Thirdly, the Prime Minister said, the education system has been severely disrupted due to the epidemic. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, about half of the world’s students have been affected by partial or complete school closures during the Corona period. Achievements such as enrollment, literacy rate, etc. are under threat as millions of students from low-income countries do not have the ability and technology to participate in distance learning.
He said investments should be made in digital equipment and services, availability of internet facilities and enhancing the skills of teachers. To this end, he called on the United Nations to ensure partnership and the necessary resources.
Fourth, he said, his country is on the way out of the list of least developed countries amid unprecedented adversity of the Covid-19 supermarket. However, the epidemic has threatened the aspirations of many countries. The Least Developed Countries expects further assistance from development partners in formulating incentive-based transit structures to accelerate sustainable transit. As one of the chairpersons of the preparatory committee for the LDC-5 conference, we hope that the specific outcome of the Doha conference will enable more countries to make a sustainable transition from the least developed country of Qatar.
He said in the fifth resolution that expatriates were essential workers in health and other emergency services during the epidemic.