Bangladesh Statement by Hon’ble Foreign Minister Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen
[A brief Background Note is annexed]
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Thank you Mr. Chair, Your Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud,
Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
I would like to thank the Chair for his able leadership in guiding today’s Extraordinary Meeting. I also thank the Republic of Turkey for taking the initiative for this Executive Committee Meeting. I further extend my greetings to all the Foreign Ministers (and Heads of Delegations) of present today. Your productive deliberations today would be critical in determining a common OIC response to the global challenges posed by this pandemic.
Let me also put on record, on behalf of the government and people of Bangladesh our deepest gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud for his continued patronage and support towards the organisation.
We also deeply appreciate the Secretary General H.E. Mr. Youssef bin Ahmed Al Othaimeen and his Secretariat for organizing this virtual Executive Committee Meeting today and for his pro-active role since the outbreak to raise awareness among the member states, including necessary coordination for early response initiatives by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group and Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF).
The Covid-19 outbreak, which I believe I need not introduce again, has pushed the whole of our known world into an uncharted territory. Daunting as it is – the Virus has challenged almost the entirety of mankind in terms of both lives and livelihoods. There is not a single nation, colour or creed, which is out of range for this deadly monster flying unseen in our airways. But these are also times which have brought out some of the rarest opportunities to introspect and see our faultlines more clearly. It has brought us the possibility to see more clearly than ever before the fragility of our own lives and our earthly ecosystems and how far we had fallen out as a species – simply by virtue of our being careless or callous in our irresponsible and unsustainable economic or political endeavours.
The COVID-19 outbreak is first and foremost a public health crisis. This comes with its multifaceted impacts on our life, including severe disruptions to societies and economies. The crisis, however, has manifest devastating but differentiated impacts on segments of the population, as it would hit hardest the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
For all, our great concern is the threat to human life, safety and well-being caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, which continues to spread aggressively globally. In Bangladesh, under the prudent and determined leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, our government took full preventive measures from the very early stage of the pandemic. The first COVID-19 case in Bangladesh was detected on 8 March and since then the number is gradually increasing (Note on updated numbers: total infections 3382, lives lost 110 and total recovered 87, total test conducted 29,578). Ever since Bangladesh has deployed all its efforts with full strength towards saving lives and sustaining the hard-earned growth momentum of the country.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina already announced the largest ever financial and social safety assistance package in Bangladesh’s history covering our industrial workers, agriculture sector as well as frontlines key workers including doctors, nurses, health professionals, law enforcement and field level people who are risking their lives to fight the coronavirus pandemic. This is not only for maintaining our own macroeconomic stability - but also that the global supply chain does not break down.
Migrant Workers, Refugees and other vulnerable groups
The impact of the crisis will definitely diminish the hard-won development gains of all Member States. LDCs like Bangladesh will face devastation disproportionately. Many of the OIC Member States, including the LDCs, are also a source of a large number of migrant workers in other OIC Member States, especially in the Middle East. These labour sending Member States of OIC are particularly vulnerable on two fronts – domestic and overseas. Thus, the OIC must adopt a holistic and inclusive approach in designing tools to address the crisis.
In our view, the key priorities for all OIC Member States at this stage should focus on:
First, Saving lives by allocating adequate medical facilities, equipments, experts and resources;
Second, Supporting livelihoods and providing life-saving food supports in tackling hunger amongst the most vulnerable groups; and
Third, Getting economic activities back on foot as quickly as possible.
I would also like to highlight the following:
a. While providing medical care and allocating related resources, we must pay special attention so that the marginal and disadvantageous groups of the society are equally benefited.
b. Due to prevailing working and living conditions, resident migrant workers are more exposed to the virus. Additionally, they are also susceptible to the economic meltdown being under threats of loosing jobs, which will need special attention to mitigate the sudden shock of unemployment.
c. The refugee community in the various OIC Member States could be the forgotten segment in the face of overwhelming resource burden to address the COVID-19 onslaught. We will require collective resolve and actions from the Members States to take care of the well-being of Muslim refugees around the globe, through allocation of adequate resources amidst this humanitarian crisis.
Here, I would like to put on record by thanking the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for his generous decision for providing free healthcare services to all COVID-19 patients irrespective of their residency status. In the same vein I express sincere appreciation for other leaders of the OIC Member States who have extended similar generosity.
Means to overcome challenges
To overcome the challenges of this pandemic, the OIC Member States require a regional and global response based on unity, solidarity and compassion. Intensified global and regional cooperation is needed not only to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic but also to overcome the economic hurdles left by this crisis.
• More developed Member States of the OIC may assist the LDCs and other developing OIC member states by supplying medical equipment and supplies in treating the COVID-19 patients.
• Steady distribution of food and essential commodities amongst the most vulnerable groups, irrespective of their residency status, are of utmost importance now to protect lives. If the lockdown situation prolongs, starvation is imminent in many of the OIC Member States, including amongst the migrant workers who are under threat of loosing their jobs and salaries.
• Charity and philanthropic organizations in OIC Member States may be encouraged to extend assistance in countries and communities in need.
• Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) can actively consider deferral and cancellation of loan payments of the OIC borrowing countries especially from the LDCs
• A voluntary COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund may be created by the willing OIC Member Countries, independent of the efforts put in place by the IsDB and Islamic Solidary Fund (ISF).
• Suitable projects may be submitted, particularly by LDCs in collaboration with charities/foundations, to seek assistance from the special account created under the ISF to help the vulnerable groups, including migrant workers - if they are not covered under the safety net programmes of the host governments.
Medium to Long-term Measures
Before closing, I would like to propose the following to address and overcome the impact of pandemics of this magnitude in the future-
• Long term assistance would be needed to revive the economic devastation caused by COVID 19. In this regard I thank IsDB for already laying out US$ 2.3 billion funding for Strategic Preparedness and Response Programme for COVID-19 pandemic. We hope IsDB would allow softer terms for such loans, particularly for LDCs.
• Measures encouraging boost of intra-OIC trade to help economic recovery.
• G20 has pledged a US$7 trillion package for revival of the global economy and also committed to helping the developing countries as well. As G20 Chair, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may help OIC member states, particularly LDCs and resources constraint developing countries, to avail necessary assistance from sthat economic package.
• Bilateral and Multilateral donors/lenders including WB, IMF may be requested through UN Mechanism to write off the debts/defer debt payments for a few years.
• The General Secretariat and its organs can take initiative to connect the research organizations in the field of medical sciences and medical equipment and also to incorporate the Business bodies of the member states to facilitate bulk production of the required medical items.
• The member states need to provide utmost importance on the issue of job retention of domestic and resident migrant workers - especially Muslim migrant workers - so that sudden shock of unemployment can be cushioned and the social balance can be preserved. Perhaps, we may engage new and innovative tools to strengthen SMEs in the migrant hosting countries –, which would offer win-win benefits for all.
• The humanitarian organizations in Member states may be provided with sufficient financial assistance, medical support to the Muslim migrant workers from LDCs and developing countries until the impact of the epidemic is over and also to advocate for their job retention to ensure their healthy livelihoods.
• Any response and recovery plan would require critical food security / agriculture value chain development. In this regard, I am happy to announce that Bangladesh readily agreed to establish the Regional Centre of Excellence for Rice, as proposed under the Islamic Organization for Food Security, to share its best practices. We may consider creating a global network of interoperable agricultural commodity markets across the OIC (under the Islamic Organization for Food Security –IOFS) - so that our farmers and allied businesses are connected and cushioned against a possible financial meltdown of a global nature.
• Collective actions of members states would be necessary to look after the well-being of Muslim refugees around the globe through adequate resource allocation amidst this pandemic crisis.
• And finally, for better coordination of all our efforts, we need to have a Coordination Mechanism established within the General Secretariat, engaging the Committee of the Permanent Representatives.
Excellencies, this pandemic has shaken the world and has shown how vulnerable our health systems are, especially in the LDCs. However, I believe, addressing this global challenge in unity and solidarity by the OIC Member States and the global community will make us resilient and inspire us to work towards the greater well-being of our peoples.
I thank you all.
Upon the request of the Turkish government, an extraordinary virtual meeting of the OIC Executive Committee at the level of Foreign Ministers was convened on 22 April 2020. The present members of this committee are:
i. Turkey (immediate past summit chair)
ii. Saudi Arabia (present summit chair and host country)
iii. The Gambia (next summit chair)
iv. Bangladesh (immediate past CFM chair)
v. UAE (present CFM chair)
vi. Niger (next CFM chair)
DRAFT WORK PROGRAMME
1. Opening of the Meeting;
2. Adoption of the Agenda;
3. Statement of the Chair of the Meeting
4. Statement of the Secretary General
5. Statement of the Heads of Delegation of Member States
6. Adoption of the Final Communique