1311Published on September 25, 2020
Dr. Rashid Askari:
On 25 September 1974, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a historic speech in the 29th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The speech has made history especially for two reasons. First, it was delivered in Bengali and second, it ushered in fresh ideas and policies to build a brave new world free of economic inequalities, social injustice, military aggression and threats of the nuclear war.
“Today in this august council, I feel myself fortunate to have the privilege of speaking a few words in front of you. I am also part of the satisfaction I notice in you derived from the achievement of the representation in the great parliament of mankind by the seven crore people of Bangladesh. This is a historic moment for the Bengali nation. Because, today their struggle for achieving the rights to self-governance has met with big success.
The Bengali has struggled for many centuries for the right to live a free and honorable life as independent citizens of an independent country. They expected to live in peace and harmony with all the nations in the world.
The great ideology which has been enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations is the ideology of our people and for this ideology they have made the supreme sacrifice. The Bengali nation is dedicated to building such a world order in which will be reflected people’s desire for achieving peace and justice. And I know in this pledge of ours is lying the memory of the departed souls of millions of martyrs. It is the good fortune for us that Bangladesh entered the United Nations at such a time when the post of the president of this council has been assumed by such a great man who himself was an active freedom fighter.
The struggle for peace and justice
Honourable President, I remember your valuable contribution to making the Non-Aligned Movement in Algiers a success last year. I would like to have the privilege of congratulating them whose supreme sacrifice has enabled Bangladesh today to take its place in the United Nations. I also express deep gratitude from the bottom of my heart to the countries and nations who have extended their support for the independence struggle of Bangladesh. I also express my heartfelt thanks to the countries and the nations who have helped us in the efforts of consolidating the newly-earned independence, reconstructing the war-ravaged country and accepting the challenge of rendering more services for the good of the people. I also express my sincere thanks, on behalf of the people of Bangladesh, to them who congratulated us on our being seated in the United Nations. The struggle of Bangladesh epitomizes the universal struggle for justice and peace. So, it’s quite natural that Bangladesh would stand by the oppressed of the world from the beginning.
It is observed in the experience of a quarter century since the birth of the United Nations that it had to carry on incessant struggles against overwhelming odds for the implementation of its ideals.
Millions of freedom fighters of Asia, Africa and Latin America had to sacrifice their lives in order to achieve the right to self-control promised in the UN Charter. The struggle is still going on. The war is going on against the unlawful occupation of areas by the exercise of muscle and the abuse of power to vitiate the equitable rights of the people and against racism. The struggle hasn’t ended in failure. Great victory has been achieved in Algeria, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Guinea-Bissau. It is proved by the victory that history is in favour of the people and the final victory of justice is inevitable.
The way of the future
Injustice is still rampant in many parts of the world. Our Arab brothers are still fighting for the complete eviction of the invaders from their land. The equitable national rights of the Palestinian people have not yet been achieved. In spite of the acceleration of the process of abolishing colonialism, it hasn’t reached its ultimate goal. This is more strongly true of Africa, where the people of Zimbabwe and Namibia are still engaged in the final struggle for national independence and absolute freedom. Although racism has been identified as a serious offence in this council, it’s still destroying the conscience of the people. On the one hand, we have to struggle to overthrow the flow of injustice and on the other; we’ll have serious challenges ahead of us. Today all the nations of the world are confronted with the hard struggle for choosing their paths. On the wisdom of choosing the path depends our future. Whether we will move towards a frightening world ridden with starvation, poverty, unemployment and hunger and utterly shaken by the fear of being completely ruined by the nuclear war, or we will look forward to one where, in the age of astonishing advancement of science and technical knowledge, human creativity and enormous success are able to build a fear-free better future. This future will be free from the threats of nuclear war. By the equitable distribution of all the wealth and technical knowledge of the world, the door to such welfare can be opened where everyone will have the minimum assurance of a happy and honest life.
The current economic condition in Bangladesh
We should take immediate measures to work towards building an equitable international economic system against the backdrop of the economic disaster that has recently occurred in the world. At a special session of this council held earlier this year, the serious economic situation of the present world was discussed. I am speaking on behalf of such a country which is currently at the top of the list of countries affected by the economic disaster. I'd like to talk a little about how serious this loss is.
Bangladesh was born on the ravages of war. Since then we have been faced with natural disasters one after another. At last occurred the unprecedented flood. We are grateful to the United Nations, the related organizations and the Secretary-General for taking effective measures to recover from the recent flood disaster by extending a helping hand to Bangladesh. The President of Algeria Boumédiène and the Foreign Minister Bouteflika have appealed to the Non-Aligned countries to help Bangladesh. We are receiving good response from the friend countries and humanitarian organizations. Natural disasters not only hindered Bangladesh's progress—a near famine situation was created in the country.
With this, due to global inflation, there has been a loss of crore of taka in the repayments on the liability for a country like ours. The standard of living of the people has reached below the level of subsistence. The condition of the people whose annual per capita income is less than $ 100 is more miserable. Those who were living on less than the minimum food requirement estimated by the World Health Organization are now facing complete starvation. The indication which has been given about the future of the poor and needy countries is more disappointing.
International economic condition
Due to continuous hikes, the price of food has gone beyond the purchasing power of poor countries. On the other hand, the rich and developed countries are the main exporters of food. Because of the impossible increase in the price of agricultural machinery and materials, the attempts to procure food for the poor countries have not been successful. As a result of the global inflation, the cost of development planning for the developing countries has increased manifold. Their power to utilize their own resources has also diminished. Countries that are already suffering from huge unemployment problems have been compelled to cut down on their far minor development plans. If these plans had been executed, there would have been a possibility of income increase by only five to six percent. If all the nations of the world do not come forward to face the situation concertedly, the suffering of the people would assume such massive proportions, which is unprecedented in history. However, it is also unparalleled in history that a handful of people are enjoying incomparable material riches and opportunities alongside the accumulated suffering of numberless people.
The revival of human unity and brotherhood among us can bring about the change in the situation. Only the recognition of interdependence is capable of giving a logical solution to the current problem. Immediate and concerted efforts are needed to overcome the current disaster. The United Nations did not ever meet such a big challenge like the present one. The challenge is to try to harness the power of reasoning to build an equitable international economic system. This system will ensure the sovereignty of each country over its natural resources. The system will build international cooperation, practical framework, the basis for which would be the recognition of the common interests of all countries in the world in a stable equitable economic system. Now is such a time when we have to declare with unambiguous voice that we have an international responsibility. The responsibility is to make sure that everybody in the world can enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights conducive to the development and dignity of their personality.
This right is ensured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have to maintain our international responsibilities in such a way that every human being is assured of achieving the establishment of standard of living for the happiness and prosperity of themselves and their families. We are fully aware that the establishing of international rights, negotiations and peaceful environment can alleviate economic crisis. It has to be mentioned in this regard that emergency action should be taken to control the current competition of armament. The abatement of armament competition will not only create an environment for the elimination of economic crises—the enormous resources that are being wasted on this competition— can be used toward the well-being of mankind.
Bangladesh has been pursuing a non-alignment policy since its inception. The main idea of this policy is peaceful coexistence and friendship with all. Our complete allegiance to peace has emanated from the realization that only in a peaceful environment, we will be able to enjoy the fruits of our hard-earned national independence and employ all our resources and energy to fight hunger, poverty, disease, illiteracy and unemployment. So, we welcome all those efforts which are aimed at reducing tensions in the world, limiting armament, strengthening peaceful coexistence policies everywhere in the world, including Asia, Africa and Latin America. According to this policy, we have given continuous support to the proposal for keeping Indian Ocean as a peaceful area. The proposal to keep the Indian Ocean as a peaceful area was strongly approved in this Council.
We have given unwavering support to declare Southeast Asia as an area of peace, liberty and neutrality. We believe the rising nations who were united at the Non Alliance Conference gave strong support for peace. They have again declared the same promise of the vast majority of people in the world. The aim of this declaration is to protect national independence and establish peace and justice.
Peace is absolutely necessary for the protection of the existence of mankind. The hopes and aspirations of all men and women in world are embodied in this peace. Peace can never be sustainable if not based on justice.
The settlement of disputes in the subcontinent
Since we are peace-loving, we follow the principles of settlement in this subcontinent. This is our firm conviction that the emergence of Bangladesh has been instrumental in establishing peace and stability in the subcontinent. And instead of previous conflicts and rivalry, it will be possible to establish cooperation and friendly relations among the people of three countries of ours. We have established friendly relations with our great neighbours-- India, Burma and Nepal. Forgetting the past, we are trying to establish new relations with Pakistan. We have never stopped trying to bury the bitterness of the past. We have given the proof of our sincerity in making new history of peace and co-operation in this subcontinent by granting general amnesty for 195 war criminals. There were lots of evidence against these 195 war criminals of involvement with crimes against humanity, nevertheless, forgetting all the crimes we have wanted to create such an example of forgiveness which will herald a new chapter of peace, prosperity and co-operation in the subcontinent. In ensuring peace in the subcontinent we haven’t given any preconditions nor have we done any bargaining. Rather, we have been motivated and influenced by an auspicious future inspiration for the people. We have also emphasized on justice and mutual understanding in resolving other major disputes. The distress of 63,000 Pakistani families has been a pressing humanitarian problem. They have again expressed their allegiance to Pakistan and got their names listed to the International Committee of the Red Cross with a view to returning home. According to international negotiations and rules, they preserve the right to return home. At the same time, an immediate solution to their problems is necessary for the sake of humanity. The fair share of the assets of former Pakistan is another problem which needs immediate solution.
Bangladesh is ready for negotiations and settlements. Our expectation is that Pakistan will respond to our call for the greatest interest of the people of this subcontinent and will come forward to solve the unsettled problems on the basis of justice and negotiations. If so, there will be no more impediments on the way to normalizing the situation in the subcontinent. Bangladesh will continue its efforts to establish good neighbourly relations with all its neighbouring countries.
The basis of the relations will be peaceful coexistence, respect for each other's sovereignty and regional integrity, and noninterference in each other's internal affairs. We will keep continuing our support for establishing peace in this part of the world and elsewhere.
The United Nations and people’s progress
In this world beset by grief, distress and conflict, the United Nations is the center of people’s future hopes and aspirations. Despite numerous difficulties and obstacles, the United Nations, for more than a quarter century since its birth, has made significant contributions to the progress of mankind in the political, economic, social and cultural fields. The number of such countries is very less which like Bangladesh have been able to realize the practical success and prospects of this organization. This United Nations, under the inspirational leadership of Dr. Kurt Waldheim and his worthy and dedicated colleagues, has done a plenty of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work in our country. The aim of the work is to remove the wounds of war from the heart of Bangladesh, to revive the productivity of the war-ravaged economy and to rehabilitate about a crore of refugees who had taken refuge in India during the liberation war. The Secretary-General, his colleagues and various international organizations have given inspiration and lead in the coordination of performing this big responsibility. I express my gratefulness to them on behalf of the Government and the people of Bangladesh. It’s my firm conviction that the United Nations will also come forward with such constructive mindset to resolve the rest humanitarian crises remaining in the subcontinent.
We are also grateful for the efforts the United Nations is making to collect aid to help people affected by the recent devastating flood in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the countries which are affected by natural disasters time and again. Therefore, Bangladesh has special interest in tackling the situation arising from natural disasters and building regular institutions capable of facilitating the world communities to be more prompt. Of course, such a system has already been introduced as the beginning. This system is the establishment of the office of the coordinator of United Nations disaster relief. It is very necessary to strongly build the organization so that it can play its role effectively. All member states of the United Nations have special responsibility in this regard.
Dear President, finally I want to declare again our complete faith in the indomitable power of the human being to achieve the impossible and overcome the difficult barriers. For countries like ours which have emerged from the struggle and sacrifice, faith in this ideology will keep them alive. We may have to suffer. But we defy dissolution. In facing these battles of life, people’s power of resistance and firm commitment are the final word. Self-reliance is our goal. People’s joint effort is our prescribed course of action. There is no room for doubt at all that international cooperation and partnership in resources and technology can facilitate our task, can alleviate people’s sufferings. However, the emerging countries like ours should have confidence in their own efficiency. It should be kept in mind that only through the united and concerted effort of the people, we can be able to reach our specific goal, can build a better future.”
Writer: Former Vice-Chancellor of Islamic University Bangladesh