Diplomacy in 2018: Dhaka maintained lively presence at global stage

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Dhaka, Dec 27 (UNB) – Bangladesh maintained its “stronger presence” in international forums with much of its diplomacy remained focused on Rohingya issue “successfully” in the outgoing year 2018 compelling the international community to stay engaged with Bangladesh and mounting pressure on Myanmar.

Bangladesh could successfully keep the Rohingya issue “alive” through its “prudent diplomacy” throughout the year though many thought that it will be a “forgotten” issue, a diplomat told UNB.

He, however, said the Rohingya repatriation plan, as agreed by Bangladesh and Myanmar to begin in mid-November this year, failed.

Some were trying to give an impression that Bangladesh has taken the Rohingya issue as a “business venture” and Bangladesh does not want the repatriation of Rohingyas.

Bangladesh, however, through its diplomatic efforts – some visible and some invisible – could “successfully” remove such wrong perception through its seriousness about the beginning of repatriation, a senior official told UNB.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the 73rd UN General Assembly made three recommendations for solving the Rohingya crisis at its root, including the abolition of discriminatory laws, policies and practices of Myanmar against the minority group.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali kept highlighting the need for accelerating efforts to create a conducive environment in northern Rakhine State and build houses and villages for returnees to facilitate repatriation.

Minister Ali along with joint working group members on Rohingya repatriation in August this year visited the northern Rakhine State and saw the ‘trail of widespread devastation’ suffered by people there.

Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the joint working group (JWG) on December 2017 to start repatriating Rohingya refugees by January 23, 2018. The JWG members from both sides visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar in October this year.

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Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN Ambassador Masud Bin Momen has said the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people remind them of the challenges the world as well as human rights defenders face today in realising human rights and fundamental freedom.

“As a committed, responsible, and responsive member of the international community, we’ve stood beside this helpless people and provided shelter to nearly 1.1 million of them fleeing persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The international community must come forward to put an end to the sufferings of the Rohingyas by ensuring their safe, voluntary, secured and dignified return to their homeland,” he said.

UNHRC Member

As the newly elected member of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council for the term 2019-21, Bangladesh has pledged to continue to play its contributing and responsive role towards realising the objectives of the global human rights instruments in the spirit of engagement and cooperation.

“It’s an important milestone for the country,” said State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam adding that the achievement signifies international community’s trust and confidence in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has so far won thrice – 2009-2012, 2015-2017 and 2019-2021 (election held in Oct, 2018 with 178 votes in favour of Bangladesh) during the tenures of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The UNHRC is active on Rohingya issue and an accountability mechanism is in the process through HRC. So, Shahriar said, Bangladesh’s presence in the HRC is extremely important.

UN Chief’s Visit

On July 2, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim made a joint visit to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar district and applauded Bangladesh for giving a safe haven to hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas driven from their homes in Myanmar by systematic and widespread violence.

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“In a world where so many borders are closed, the people and government of Bangladesh have opened their borders and received their brothers and sisters coming from Myanmar and from the terrible events there,” said Guterres in the capital on July 1 before heading towards Cox’s Bazar.

The UN chief also praised the World Bank for its multi-million-dollar grant for Bangladesh to support both Rohingyas and the communities hosting them.

Heads of UN agencies also visited Rohingya camps round the year to see the situations on the ground and find ways for resolving the situation.

OIC CFM & Rohingyas

Bangladesh hosted the 45th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on May 5-6 with the theme ‘Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development’ which gave special focus on Rohingya issue.

A 53-member high-profile delegation of representatives of the OIC visited Rohingya camps prior to the CFM. There was a separate sideline session on the humanitarian challenges of the Muslim world with a special focus on the Rohingyas on May 6.

Though the OIC leaders pledged that OIC will play a strong role in resolving the protracted Rohingya crisis, little has been done.

Bangladesh in ICC Bureau

Bangladesh has been elected member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Bureau for the next two years (2019-2020).

The States Parties to the Rome Statute unanimously elected Bangladesh as a member of the Bureau at the seventeenth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute held at The Hague, the Netherlands on December 5-12 this year.

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Bangladesh for the first time is going to play its role as a member of the Bureau since Bangladesh’s journey with the ICC as a Member State in 2010, said Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohammed Belal.

Migration Compact

Bangladesh, for the first time, placed the idea of the ‘Global Compact for Migration (GCM) to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration before the international community in 2016.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her address at the UNGA in 2016 made the proposal on the Global Compact for Migration.

The Compact was adopted at a high-level conference from December 10 to 11 this year in Marrakesh, Morocco to which Bangladesh affirmed full support and to its implementation.