Bangladesh’s Engagement With UNESCAP: A Path Towards Regional Development – Analysis


On April 25, 2024, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina delivered a poignant address at the 80th Annual Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), held in Bangkok, Thailand. Her remarks echoed far beyond the walls of the conference hall, resonating with a global audience and sparking discussions on critical issues facing the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

Bangladesh’s Prior Active Engagement in UNESCAP

Bangladesh actively participates and contributes to the initiatives of UNESCAP, continuously enhancing its involvement in ESCAP-related activities. It has introduced four resolutions on various socio-economic issues of common interest to Asia-Pacific countries and organized five side events. Bangladesh remains engaged in every committee and expert group meeting of UNESCAP. The nation’s decade-long efforts in sustainable development were recognized in the Sustainable Development Report, 2021, with Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Hasina receiving the SDG Progress Award during the 76th UNGA in September 2021. During the 77th session of UNESCAP in May 2021, Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Hasina proposed a 4-point recommendation to address the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized regional cooperation for shared prosperity. Bangladesh endorsed the Policy statement of UNESCAP, declaring a strategy aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Bangladesh organized a strategic dialogue titled “Sustainable Graduation in the Challenging Time: Perspectives from Bangladesh and the Region” during the 77th session, facilitating discussions on post IPoA era actions in the context of COVID-19. Bangladesh co-sponsored the event “Moving Past Coal in the Asia-Pacific Region” during ESCAP’s 77th Commission Session, fostering discussions on transitioning to alternative development pathways. Bangladesh actively supports ESCAP’s initiatives on regional connectivity, regional trade agreements, and regional cooperation frameworks, including the Global Compact for Migration.

With a strong belief in regional cooperation for shared prosperity, Bangladesh actively participates in regional initiatives such as SAARC, BIMSTEC, and Trilateral Highway projects, supporting increased connectivity and ESCAP’s initiatives like the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway. Bangladesh aligns with ESCAP’s mission on energy and is committed to ensuring access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all in line with SDG7 targets. Bangladesh’s delegation participated in the Second Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific, contributing to discussions on achieving universal and responsive CRVS systems.

Bangladesh backs ESCAP’s efforts to enhance regional connectivity by promoting the development of an intermodal regional transport network, a regional energy network, and interregional trade facilitated by agreements such as the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) and the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific. Bangladesh supports initiatives like the Infrastructure Financing and Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) Network of Asia and the Pacific, as well as the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). Recognized as a “champion” for GCM implementation, Bangladesh actively contributes to fostering regional cooperation in various areas.

Bangladesh holds elected membership in the Governing Council of all five Regional Institutions under ESCAP, including the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT), the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT), the Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM), the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (CSAM), and the Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP). This underscores the recognition of Bangladesh’s leadership by the Asia-Pacific community within this significant UN body.

Bangladesh and the 80th Session 

By urging world leaders to denounce all forms of aggression and atrocities, Prime Minister Hasina underscored the moral imperative of prioritizing peace and human rights. Her impassioned plea for international solidarity against conflict resonated deeply in a world grappling with geopolitical tensions and humanitarian crises.

Moreover, Sheikh Hasina’s reaffirmation of Bangladesh’s support for the UN Secretary-General’s “New Agenda for Peace” signaled the nation’s unwavering commitment to multilateralism and global cooperation in pursuit of a more just and peaceful world order. This steadfast support strengthens Bangladesh’s diplomatic standing on the world stage and enhances its influence in shaping international discourse on peace and security.

The Prime Minister’s call for the Asia-Pacific region, particularly ASEAN, to take proactive measures to address the Rohingya crisis underscores Bangladesh’s proactive role in seeking regional solutions to humanitarian challenges. By leveraging regional partnerships and fostering dialogue among neighboring countries, Bangladesh aims to catalyze collective action towards resolving the plight of the Rohingyas and ensuring their safe and dignified return to their homeland.

Furthermore, PM Sheikh Hasina’s invitation to UN-ESCAP to collaborate in building climate resilience among vulnerable nations reflects Bangladesh’s proactive approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation. As one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, Bangladesh recognizes the urgency of mobilizing international climate financing and strengthening the capacity of developing nations to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change. By engaging with UN-ESCAP on this front, Bangladesh seeks to harness international support to bolster its climate resilience efforts and safeguard the well-being of its citizens.

She highlighted that Bangladesh has significantly decreased poverty levels from 41.51 percent to 18.7 percent between 2006 and 2022, with extreme poverty dropping from 25.1 to 5.6 percent during the same period. Expressing confidence in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, she underscored Bangladesh’s remarkable strides in enhancing food security, particularly through targeted initiatives aimed at improving maternal and child nutrition. Emphasizing the current focus on addressing inequalities in income distribution, asset ownership, and social protection, she stressed the importance of concerted efforts within the Asia-Pacific region to combat pressing environmental challenges such as the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and transboundary pollution.

However, the 80th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) marked a significant milestone in the quest for leveraging technological advancements and digital innovation to foster sustainable development across the region. With a specific focus on addressing the needs of countries and populations, ESCAP’s adoption of a resolution urging close collaboration among nations signifies a pivotal moment for Bangladesh. Firstly, the emphasis on promoting research, dialogue, and the development of digital technologies presents a unique opportunity for Bangladesh to bolster its digital literacy initiatives. By investing in targeted education and training programs, the nation can empower its citizens with the skills needed to facilitate the digital landscape effectively, thereby bridging the existing digital divide.

Secondly, the resolution’s call for increased investment in digital infrastructure holds immense promise for Bangladesh’s development discourse. Improved internet connectivity and telecommunication networks can facilitate greater access to information, essential services, and economic opportunities, thereby driving inclusive growth and socio-economic advancement. Moreover, by fostering a supportive policy environment conducive to digital entrepreneurship, Bangladesh can stimulate more innovation and cultivate a robust vibrant digital ecosystem that fosters economic resilience and competitiveness.

The session’s broader agenda addressing sustainable energy connectivity and support for countries in special situations resonates deeply with Bangladesh’s development priorities. By aligning with ESCAP’s initiatives in these critical areas, Bangladesh can harness international cooperation and resource mobilization to accelerate progress towards achieving its sustainable development goals. Overall, the outcomes of the 80th ESCAP session offer Bangladesh a strategic roadmap for harnessing the transformative power of digital innovation to drive inclusive and sustainable development for its citizens.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s address at the UNESCAP session exemplifies Bangladesh’s proactive and principled approach to global challenges. By championing peace, human rights, and climate action on the international stage, Bangladesh reaffirms its commitment to advancing the collective well-being and prosperity of the global community.

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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