Bangladesh At The Antalya Diplomacy Forum: Addressing Climate Migration And Refugee Crises – OpEd


During the inaugural panel discussion of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum convened in Antalya, Turkey on March 2, 2024, Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud addressed the pressing issues of global climate change, climate migration, and climate refugees. Alongside Foreign Ministers from Malaysia and Bangladesh, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, and the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, various facets of “Building Asia-Pacific Regional Architecture: The Challenge of Unmatching Interests” were deliberated upon.

Minister Mahmud underscored that, akin to numerous small and island nations, Bangladesh has borne the brunt of climate change and global warming, emerging as one of the most severely affected regions. He emphasized the imminent risk faced by Bangladesh’s entire coastal area due to rising sea levels and the escalation of greenhouse gas emissions over the past three decades. Minister Mahmud stressed that this phenomenon has resulted in a continuous influx of climate migrants, necessitating an urgent revision of the definition of climate migrants and refugees by the global community. He highlighted the detrimental impact of global warming, among other factors, in exacerbating the proliferation of climate migrants and refugees.

Amid a global refugee crisis and escalating displacement, Bangladesh stands out as a beacon of compassion and resilience, particularly in light of its generous acceptance of over 1.2 million Rohingyas. This significant humanitarian gesture has not only demonstrated Bangladesh’s steadfast commitment to upholding the principles of solidarity and human rights but has also underscored its pivotal role as a prominent advocate on the international stage.

The Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF) is an annual gathering held in Antalya, Turkey, starting in 2021, where policymakers, diplomats, and academics convene to exchange ideas and perspectives on international diplomacy, policy, and business. Organized by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the forum aims to bring together heads of state, government officials, and representatives from various sectors to discuss global issues over a period of up to three days. The forum, themed “Recoding Diplomacy,” attracts participants from around 75 countries, including senior politicians, diplomats, military and security experts. Its purpose is to address contemporary diplomatic and energy policy challenges, emphasizing the concept of networked security. Discussions focus on transatlantic relations, European and global security, and other pressing issues facing the international community.

Notably, the 2022 edition of the forum facilitated high-level talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu within the framework of Russia–Ukraine peace negotiations. The ADF is characterized by its informal nature, serving as a platform for discussion rather than decision-making. It features panels, side events, and youth forums, with partnerships established with organizations such as the Atlantic Council and the Munich Security Conference. The forum’s upcoming edition, initially scheduled for March 2023, was postponed due to the 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake and rescheduled for March 2024, with the theme “Effective Diplomacy for Peace and Order.”

The central theme of this year’s Forum is “Advancing Diplomacy in Times of Turmoil” designed to provide a comprehensive examination and a pathway towards achieving peace amidst the current tumultuous global landscape. Persistent conflicts, terrorism, irregular migration, the surge of xenophobia and Islamophobia, emerging threats from AI, climate change, natural calamities, pandemics, and widening economic disparities represent just a portion of the myriad global challenges. Additionally, the declining trust in the rules-based international order poses a significant concern, destabilizing the predictability of the international arena within which nations facilitate.

Back in March 2022, Former Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen urged Asian nations to assume leadership roles in confronting the evolving challenges and opportunities presented by the swiftly changing global landscape. He conveyed this message during his participation in the roundtable discussion titled “Asia Anew: For sustainable regional growth” at the 2nd Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey. During the roundtable, Dr Momen discussed Bangladesh’s strategies for addressing pressing issues like COVID-19 and climate change, outlining the government’s plans to elevate Bangladesh to the status of a developed nation within the next two decades. He stressed the importance of providing affordable green technologies to all countries and the necessity of investment to generate meaningful employment opportunities.

Dr Momen reiterated Bangladesh’s proposal for establishing a South-South forum of Foreign Ministers aimed at facilitating the exchange of ideas and promoting best practices to address economic challenges in developing countries. The roundtable, attended by various other Asian foreign ministers, provided a platform for these discussions. In light of ongoing global conflicts, Dr Momen highlighted Bangladesh’s advocacy for a culture of peace, emphasizing the crucial role of tolerance and empathy in building a sustainable and habitable world for future generations. He also addressed the Rohingya crisis, commending Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s bold decision to provide shelter to 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, while stressing the importance of international cooperation in resolving regional crises.

During the recent gathering, Bangladesh emphatically called upon the global community to promptly reassess and update the prevailing definition of climate migrants and refugees, aligning it more closely with the established UN criteria for migrants and refugees. The foreign minister underscored the intrinsic value of life on our planet, emphasizing that while Bangladesh and numerous environmental experts have long been addressing the issue of climate change, it has only recently garnered widespread acknowledgment from global leaders.

Despite the mounting evidence and urgency, affluent nations, which bear the greatest responsibility for exacerbating global warming, have regrettably failed to take adequate measures to address this existential threat and safeguard our shared environment. Minister Hasan pointed out that while climate change may manifest as a local issue, its repercussions are undeniably global in scope, with Bangladesh serving as a poignant example of a nation disproportionately impacted by its adverse effects. In light of these sobering realities, Bangladesh implored all activists, policymakers, and global leaders to recognize the paramount importance of revising the definition of climate migrants and refugees. It is imperative, the foreign minister stressed, that a comprehensive and inclusive definition be formulated through collaborative efforts to ensure the effective protection of vulnerable populations and the preservation of opportunities for future generations.

Amidst the discussions and deliberations at the forum, Bangladesh’s presence resonates as a potent reminder of the urgent need for collective action and burden-sharing in addressing the plight of refugees and displaced populations worldwide. By sheltering and providing for such a substantial number of Rohingyas, Bangladesh has not only alleviated immediate suffering but has also exemplified the spirit of compassion and empathy that transcends borders and nationalities.

As a strong voice at the forum, Bangladesh brings to the forefront the pressing challenges and complexities associated with refugee crises, urging the global community to adopt a comprehensive and sustainable approach to addressing the root causes of displacement. Moreover, Bangladesh’s firsthand experience with hosting displaced populations offers invaluable insights and perspectives that enrich the dialogue and inform the formulation of effective strategies for mitigating the impact of displacement and fostering long-term solutions.

In essence, Bangladesh’s proactive engagement and steadfast advocacy serve as a powerful catalyst for mobilizing international support and solidarity in addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by refugee crises. Through its actions and advocacy, Bangladesh continues to inspire hope and reaffirm the enduring values of compassion, solidarity, and resilience in the face of adversity on the global stage.

Syed Raiyan Amir

Syed Raiyan Amir is a Senior Research Associate at The KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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