BANGLADESH has been an ardent supporter of the Non-Aligned Movement from its inception. Since our independence, Bangladesh has adopted a non-aligned policy based on the principles of peaceful co-existence and friendship towards all. Our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, recognising the importance of NAM, decided to join the movement as early as 1973 at the Algiers’ Summit. As we celebrate the birth centenary of our great leader this year, Bangladesh reaffirms its abiding commitment to the Bandung Principles, and reiterate in the words of the Father of the Nation, pronounced in his maiden speech at the United Nations in 1974 that: ‘Peace is an imperative for the survival of mankind. It represents the deepest aspirations of men and women throughout the world.’
In 2020, NAM is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Bandung Principles. At this critical point of time, NAM membership must reflect on the movement’s achievements so far and endeavour to make the movement more relevant and effective to face the current and emerging global challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 outbreak is the biggest global health emergency in a century and has caused devastating long-term socio-economic implications for all NAM member states. The fundamental principles of NAM, as we understand them, reflect the basic aspirations of the common people of the world — to remain free from hunger and disease, to get decent employment and to achieve quality education. However, the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges to these aspirations. Since NAM countries have different levels of economic development and social progress, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to responding to COVID-19.
On the other hand, the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces the importance of multilateral cooperation. NAM countries can, therefore, pool their best practices, experiences, crisis-management protocols, research, and resources, and share that with fellow members. Solidarity and collaboration amongst us are vital as we are trying to avail equitable and timely access to COVID-19 medicines and vaccines at affordable prices. Political commitment based on NAM’s shared values and principles and spirit of solidarity should be our guiding force.
The COVID-19 also poses a risk to our shared commitment to overcome some other challenges facing the world today, namely poverty, climate change, drought, desertification, violence, extremism, and conflicts. Besides, we are facing difficulties in repatriating persecuted 1.1 million forcibly displaced nationals of Myanmar known as the Rohingyas. These challenges require garnering the support of all member states of NAM to address them. We must foster a partnership to strengthen development commitments and humanitarian assistance as we start building back.
It is heartening to note that NAM has taken specific measures to help member states mitigate the challenges of the pandemic. Following the NAM Summit held on May 4 this year, a NAM task force was constituted. The task force, among others, is compiling a database of the basic humanitarian and medical needs and requirements of the NAM member states in their fight against COVID-19. As a member of the task force, Bangladesh continues to contribute to the task force’s work to fulfil its mandate.
In the six and a half decades since Bandung, the world has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today as we confront the challenges of the pandemic and strive to keep our development gains on track, we must realise that our destinies are linked more than ever before. We need to reaffirm the movement’s abiding faith in and a strong commitment to its principles, ideals, and purposes, particularly in establishing a peaceful and prosperous, just and equitable world. Bangladesh renews its unwavering commitment to the NAM values as we respond to this unprecedented challenge and build back better.
Dr AK Abdul Momen is the foreign minister of Bangladesh. This article is adapted from his statement delivered at the ministerial meeting of the NAM Coordinating Bureau held on the sidelines of the 75th UN General Assembly on September 29.
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