UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo on Sunday asked all to make sure that the world does not forget the protracted Rohingya crisis amid newer challenges such as Afghanistan.
“Making sure that the Rohingya crisis doesn’t become a forgotten crisis is a shared responsibility," she said. "Obviously, the government of Bangladesh through its foreign policy is doing a lot to make sure that the crisis is not forgotten.”
She was replying to a question at the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) organised 'DCAB Talk' at the Foreign Service Academy in Dhaka.
She shared her views on a number of issues including Covid-19 pandemic, ongoing UN General Assembly, Afghanistan crisis, Digital Security Act (DSA), gender issues, cooperation with Bangladesh, national elections and the role of media.
DCAB President Pantho Rahaman and its General Secretary AKM Moinuddin facilitated the interaction with diplomatic correspondents.
Replying to a question, she said the UN would provide electoral assistance to Bangladesh only if there is any such request on that particular front.
“UN doesn’t provide electoral assistance unless we’re asked to provide,” she said, adding that the whole process depends on requests for electoral assistance but the UN does not just step in on its own.
"UN stands ready to support under the framework of cooperation if there is any request forthcoming."
She lauded Bangladesh's role in handling the Rohingya crisis and recognised the government's massive investment in Bhasan Char where some of the Rohingya refugees are being relocated from Cox's Bazar crowded camp.
Regarding the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to engage in Bhasan Char, she said there are protections and humanitarian imperatives and they are obviously looking to support the massive efforts of the government Bhasan Char.
“We’re also looking to really work with those Bangladeshi NGOs who are already in Bhasan Char and providing services,” she said, indicating that they will be joining this partnership as soon as they have agreed on the MoU.
Responding to a question on the World Bank and the Refugee Policy Review, the UN official said that is a bit of “misunderstanding” and noted that it is not about integration but social cohesion. “You have to distinguish the global policy and Bangladesh policy.”
The World Bank says it is helping Bangladesh address the needs of the displaced Rohingya population until their safe and voluntary return to Myanmar. It is also supporting Bangladesh to minimise the impact of the influx on the host communities.
“The World Bank has a funding window for refugees and it’s a global window,” said the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, adding that the government of Bangladesh is very clear about its policy in terms of how to manage this crisis.
The UNRC said there are some areas where the UN is “concerned” about and some of them apply for many countries.
“We’re concerned about increasing violence against women, we’re concerned about growing inequalities – it’s a global concern. We’re also concerned about signs of shrinking civic space. Again it’s a global concern,” Mia said, adding that they hope that the review of the DSA will indeed improve that situation in Bangladesh.
Globally at the moment, she said, there is a big concern around shrinking civic space and that applies to so many countries.
“I don’t think for any country that aspires to be a democracy that helps it. We obviously encourage protecting the civic space,” Mia said, mentioning that it should be part of all the efforts to make sure Covid recovery is inclusive.
She said they have to recognise that protecting human rights is very much “collective responsibility” and the media have a responsibility in making sure that stories do not stigmatize the victims but spot issues of concern by protecting the privacy of the victims.
The UN official said Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the challenges of inequality, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and gender disparity.
As Bangladesh graduates from the LDC status, it will have opportunities but also face the challenges of inequality, which needs to be addressed very effectively, Mia said.
She said there is no development without peace and no peace without development; and sustaining peace is a continuous process.
She said the media's action and reporting can engender either social cohesion or mistrust and divisions among communities and people. “Media reports can give a rise to resentment, suspicion and conspiracy theories.”
The journalists have the responsibility to bring out the truth, spread science-based facts that save lives, protect people and ensure rights. “That’s the power of your pen. Use that power as a force for good.”
“You possess great potential to reinforce and create conditions that enable a more tolerant, just, peaceful and inclusive coexistence,” she said.