Bangladesh has sought substantial UN support to tackle the fallout of Covid-19, saying it could impede Bangladesh's socio-economic progress and graduation from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category, which was previously expected by 2024.
During a meeting with a UN delegation led by UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo on Wednesday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said despite many challenges, Bangladesh made progress in poverty reduction, education, health and women empowerment in the previous years but that faces a huge setback now.
He particularly mentioned the negative impacts of the pandemic in the country's readymade garment (RMG) industry and the joblessness of hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi migrants abroad, said a foreign ministry statement on Thursday.
He said these two sectors are the mainstays of the economy. The country's RMG sector fetches about 34 billion USD annually and employs about 40 lakh workers, a majority of them women. On the other hand, over one crore Bangladeshi migrants send home 18 billion USD every year.
Since the global outbreak of coronavirus, orders worth about 3 billion USD have been cancelled, raising fears of more cancellations as the US and European countries, the major buyers of RMG products, have been hard hit by the pandemic.
If those fears prove true, a substantial portion of RMG workers could lose their jobs, industry leaders said.
Lockdowns and possible slowing of economies in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where a majority of Bangladeshi migrants work, could also lead to mass joblessness, forcing several lakh to return home in the coming months. This could lead to higher levels of unemployment at home, economists said.
UN Population Fund recently said child marriage and maternal mortality could go up in the country as poverty could deepen and many expecting mothers may not be able to avail services in health facilities.
During the meeting with the five-member UN delegation at the State Guesthouse Jamuna in the city, Foreign Minister Momen said creating jobs domestically would be a major challenge and sought UN assistance for re-skilling, re-employment and reintegration of the returnee migrants.
"Considering the large population, Bangladesh should receive a substantial allocation from the UN's response and recovery fund," he said, emphasizing the need to have a coordinated partnership with the UN to ensure existing endeavours remain on track.
Momen highlighted the environmental vulnerability of Bangladesh and reminded the delegation of the responsibility of developed countries in mitigation of climatic impact, in light of the Paris Agreement.
"Bangladesh, as the current chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, will work with all concerned to ensure climate justice," he said.
He also sought UN support for establishing the Global Climate Adaptation Centre as well as an Innovation and Knowledge Centre to promote South-South cooperation -- the technical cooperation among developing countries.
Momen thanked the UN agencies for their continued support on the Rohingya issue, but also expressed deep concern that there was no progress in repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.
The ongoing violence and continued military offensive and resultant instability in the Rakhine province are forcing Myanmar nationals to flee and take perilous journeys by land and sea in search of security, he said.
"This has broader ramifications on the overall repatriation as Myanmar is failing to create conditions conducive to the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas," Momen said, pressing the UN to work with Myanmar more constructively.
The UN team thanked the foreign minister for highlighting issues of importance to Bangladesh and providing guidance on how UN agencies can effectively partner with Bangladesh in its journey towards prosperity.
Mia Seppo assured of its full support for Bangladesh to recover from the socio-economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She reiterated the UN's commitment to remain focused on the issue of Rohingya repatriation, including through engaging more constructively with Myanmar.