PM seeks further ‘global collaboration’ to fight COVID-19

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Dhaka, Dec 04: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought “urgent global attention and further collaboration” to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, save lives and accelerate economic recovery as she placed three-point proposal at the 31st Special Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (UNGA).

“Yet, there is a need for urgent global attention and further collaboration in three priority areas … Bangladesh stands ready to work with all in this (global) efforts,” she said in a pre-recorded speech on Thursday evening New York time (Bangladesh time Friday morning) at the special UNGA session convened in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

The current Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Chair Azerbaijan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres have convened the two-day special session that started on December 3.

The three-point proposal placed by the Bangladesh prime minister in the special UNGA session are: ensuring universal and equitable access to quality COVID-19 vaccine, transferring technology to developing countries to manufacture it locally and providing them with financial assistances to face challenges in wake of the pandemic.

In her first proposal, Sheikh Hasina said the world needs to ensure universal, equitable, timely and affordable access to quality vaccines.

She pointed out that the 2030 Development agenda recognized the fundamental role of Universal Health Coverage for achieving the SDGs guided by the principle of equity.

“In the same spirit, when it comes to the access to vaccines, no one should be left behind … this would help us to defeat the pandemic, save lives and accelerate our economic recovery,” she opined.

The prime minister, in her second proposal, said the world must treat the COVID-19 vaccine as a ‘global public good, adding that the World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative of Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) and COVAX facility can play a vital role in this regard.

Sheikh Hasina said the developed countries should commit to technology transfer for the local manufacturing of vaccines in developing countries using IP rights waiver under TRIPS Agreement.

“Bangladesh has the capacity and is ready to produce vaccines if opportunity given,” she noted.

The prime minister, in her third proposal, said the challenges faced by the developing countries in the context of COVID-19, including financial assistance, should be specifically recognized.

“The UN, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), civil society alongside the national governments must do their share and actively cooperate with each other to combat COVID-19,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina urged the international community to take a renewed pledge to accomplish the 2030 Agenda for a sustainable world, saying that the COVID-19 can never be brought under control in one place unless it is brought under control everywhere.

“Let’s also take a renewed pledge to accomplish the 2030 Agenda for a sustainable world where our next generations stay resilient to future pandemics,” she said.

Mentioning that globally over 1.4 million people have already died and hundreds more are dying every day, the premier said the pandemic has made many people poorer, while many others are sliding back to poverty.

“Malnutrition, discrimination and increasing inequalities are gripping the nations, and education system got disrupted. It caused sharp decline in trade, commerce and tourism impacting people’s livelihoods,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the health systems and economies across the world.

“However the pandemic offers us an opportunity for a united response to safeguard people’s lives and their livelihoods, and learn from the crisis to build back better,” she said.

“Unfortunately, our fight against COVID-19 has not yet ended. Many countries are facing a second or third wave,” the premier continued.

Noting that Bangladesh is also badly affected by the pandemic, the prime minister said, “The COVID-19 has heavily impacted our economy, our lives and livelihoods, our migrant communities and jeopardized our hard-earned development gains.”

The prime minister spelled out her government’s various steps to offset the COVID-19 shock on various sectors of the country and minimise the sufferings of the people hit hard by the nationwide shutdown enforced to fend off the deadly virus.

“We intervened early and effectively, and took bold actions to protect our economy and people from the fallouts of the pandemic,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said her government has announced stimulus packages worth USD 14.14 billion which is equivalent to 4.3% of our GDP to minimize the impacts on the country’s business, employment and productivity.

“We’ve expanded social safety-net coverage providing assistance to more than 25 million people since detection of the virus in early March,” she said, adding extensive measures are put in place to contain the 2nd wave of the pandemic.

The prime minister thanked the current NAM Chair Azerbaijan and the UN Secretary General for convening this Special UNGA Session in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

“The session bears paramount importance as the world is still going through a difficult time in facing the deadly virus and dealing with its impacts,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina hoped that this session will serve to galvanize collective actions, global solidarity and multilateral cooperation to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.