PM Hasina: Bangladesh presents labour sector progress at World of Work Summit

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said Bangladesh presented various steps, taken to reform its labour sector, to the world community by participating in the ‘World of Work Summit: Social Justice for All’ held in Geneva recently.

“Overall, by participating in the ‘World of Work Summit: Social Justice for All’, we have been able to present the various steps, taken by the government to reform the labour sector, to the world community,” she told a press conference at Ganabhaban here.

Following is the full text of the written speech of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Dear Journalists, Colleagues

Assalamu Alaikum.

I visited Geneva from June 13 to June 16, 2023 to attend the ‘World of Work Summit: Social Justice for All’ at the invitation of the Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The main objective of this summit was to take strong, coordinated and integrated actions towards global social justice. Besides, its object was to ensure the support of world leaders in the initiative of forming a global alliance titled ‘Global Coalition for Social Justice’ proposed by the ILO Director General.

The inaugural session of the summit was held in the morning of June 14. Apart from the representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the owners’ and workers’ leaders participated in this session.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi paid a courtesy call on me that morning.

During the meeting, I called on UNHCR to create a congenial environment in Myanmar for quick and safe repatriation of Rohingyas.

At the same time, I sought their support in expediting the temporary relocation of a section of Rohingya population to Bhasanchar. I expressed concern over the declining amount of international financial assistance, including food aid, for the Rohingya population and emphasized the importance of maintaining the attention of the international community to this end.

Then, Prince Rahim Aga Khan paid a courtesy call on me on behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). During the meeting, views were exchanged on the ongoing activities of AKDN in the field of education in the country as well as the expansion of AKDN’s activities in various fields, including nursing training, teachers training and climate adaptation.

In the afternoon, I had a bilateral meeting with His Excellency the President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset. During the meeting, the Swiss President recalled his visit to Bangladesh in 2018. I called upon the Swiss government to continue special trade privileges for Bangladesh after its graduation from the list of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The Rohingya situation was discussed with the Swiss President and I called upon the international community, including Switzerland, to play an active role in resolving the crisis. In our presence, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on knowledge and skills development was signed between Bangladesh and the Swiss Confederation.

In the afternoon, I addressed the plenary session of the ‘World of Work Summit 2023’ at the UN Office in Geneva. I highlighted the various initiatives taken to establish social justice with the spirit of the Great Liberation War as well as the various labour-friendly programs and initiatives taken by our government. I specifically mentioned that a major industrialized country in the world ratified only two ILO fundamental instruments but Bangladesh has ratified eight out of 10 fundamental instruments.

I reiterated our government’s firm commitment to creating a safe work environment, eliminating child labour, ending harassment of women at work places, promoting environment-friendly industries, etc. I also presented five-point recommendations to make fruitful the initiative of forming a global alliance for the establishment of social justice. Quoting the speeches of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I said only social justice can lay the foundation for ensuring peace and sustainable development.

In the afternoon of the same day, I had a meeting with His Excellency the President of Malta George Vella. During the meeting, bilateral trade, safe, orderly and regular migration and increasing cooperation in the knowledge-based sector of blue economy were discussed.

Later, I had a meeting with Gilbert F Houngbo, Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO). I informed the ILO Director General that I myself play the role of bargaining agent on behalf of the workers of Bangladesh. At this time, I reminded that the minimum wage of garment workers has been consistently increased in every term of our government. We have raised the minimum wage of garment workers from Tk1,600 to Tk8,000.

Later, I held a meeting with His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa. At this time, I paid my tributes to the memory of the late leader Nelson Mandela and recalled his visit to Bangladesh on the twenty-fifth anniversary of our independence.

President Ramaphosa lauded Bangladesh’s socioeconomic and labour sector achievements and congratulated Bangladesh on becoming a member of the New Development Bank.

I conveyed to him, as the current chair of BRICS, that Bangladesh is interested to join the alliance. He said there is a possibility of taking a decision on increasing the number of members of the alliance at the BRICS summit to be held in Johannesburg in next August. I requested him to set up South Africa’s Embassy in Dhaka.

In the evening, I attended a dinner hosted by the ILO Director General at the ILO headquarters.

In the morning of June 15, Qatar’s Minister of Labour and the president of this year’s International Labour Conference Dr Ali Bin Samikh Al Mari paid a courtesy call on me. During the meeting, he praised the role of 3,70,000 Bangladeshi expatriates working in Qatar. Besides, he expressed interest in recruiting more Bangladeshi workers in Qatar.

After that, I joined the discussion titled ‘New Economy and Society in Smart Bangladesh’ organized at the office of the World Economic Forum.

In my speech, I highlighted Bangladesh’s development journey, ‘Vision 2041’ to build a Smart Bangladesh, Bangladesh’s readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR, introduction of quality, inclusive and transformative education system and local adaptation efforts to face the impact of climate change.

I called for establishment of a 4IR Centre in Bangladesh. Then, I had a meeting with Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum. In the meeting, we agreed to engage in a Virtual Reality initiative by the World Economic Forum. Besides, I gave consent in principle to Bangladesh’s participation in the program of planting and caring for one trillion trees around the world under the initiative of the Forum.

In the afternoon, I attended a luncheon hosted by the Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva. Heads of various UN agencies and other few agencies attended it. Among the participants:

1. Ms Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General, UNOG.

2. Ms Mia Seppo, Assistant Director-General, ILO.

3. Ms Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UNTAD.

4. Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman,

 World Economic Forum.

5. Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, WMO.

6. Daren Tang, Director General, WIPO.

7. Doreen Bogdan, Secretary-General, ITU.

8.Prince Rahim Aga Khan, AKDN.

9. Mr Volker T?rk, High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR.

Our Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Secretary and senior officials were present.

While exchanging views, the guests who were present there assured us to be more creative and future-oriented in maintaining the activities of their respective organizations in the continued progress of Bangladesh.

In the evening, the Director General of the World Trade Organization, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala paid a courtesy call on me. During the meeting, various issues, including diversification of Bangladesh’s exports, increasing the capacity of deep-sea fishing and agreement on subsidy in the fisheries sector, were discussed. She expressed hope for a favourable decision in the next ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in favour of transitional least developed countries like Bangladesh.

Later, in the evening, I attended a reception organized by Bangladeshi expatriates in Switzerland.

In the morning of 16 June 2023, I left Geneva for Dhaka. I exchanged greetings with fellow passengers on the Bangladesh Biman flight.

Honorable Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Hon’ble Minister for Foreign Affairs visited Geneva as my entourage. Besides, Hon’ble Minister of State for Ministry of Labour and Employment and two honorable members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Labour and Employment, who were visiting Geneva to participate in the 111th International Labour Conference, joined as members of the Bangladesh delegation.

Overall, by participating in the ‘World of Work Summit: Social Justice for All’, we have been able to present the various steps taken by the government to reform the labour sector to the world community. At the same time, we informed the international community about the various preparations and activities undertaken to build a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ through the implementation of Vision 2041.

Besides, I believe that discussions with His Excellency the President of the Swiss Confederation, Malta and South Africa will further accelerate our multidimensional relations with these friendly countries.

Earlier, I visited Doha to attend the 3rd Qatar Economic Forum at the invitation of His Highness the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani from May 22 to 24. The main objective of this forum was to find solutions through mutual discussions and exchange of views among the government policymakers, prominent economists, business leaders and journalists at the international level to face the multi-faceted challenges going on globally.

In the morning of May 23, I attended the opening ceremony of the 3rd Qatar Economic Forum. On the same day, I addressed university administrators, different faculty members and students at Qatar University Research Complex Auditorium in Lucille City. In my speech, I outlined the progress we have made in Bangladesh in the past fourteen and a half years in various fields, including economic development, poverty alleviation, education and knowledge-based society, and women’s empowerment.

In the afternoon, I had a meeting with the Honorable Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, Mohammad Bin Abdul Rahman Bin Jassim Al Thani, on the sidelines of the Qatar Economic Forum. During the meeting, we laid special emphasis on ensuring energy security.

Later, I had a meeting with His Excellency President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. During the conversation, he praised the socioeconomic development of Bangladesh. We put importance to speedy establishment of air services between the two countries under the recent Air Services Agreement. Besides, there was a discussion about enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the field of pharmaceuticals and ICT.

I informed about our readiness to engage in Contract Farming in Rwanda and adjoining other African countries under public-private partnerships in the light of our experience in agricultural research, extension and productivity growth.

On the same day, Qatar’s Honorable Minister of State for Energy, Saad Bin Sherida Al Ka’bi, met me. During the meeting, we had a fruitful discussion on the continued import of LNG from Qatar in continuation of the ten-year agreement executed in 2015.

Later, in the afternoon, Saudi Arabia’s Honorable Minister of Investment Khalid Al Falih and Honorable Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim jointly paid courtesy call on me. Very constructive discussions were held on various specific proposals related to expansion of trade and investment with Saudi Arabia.

Later in the afternoon, I was jointly met by the Honorable Minister of Investment Khalid Al Falih of Saudi Arabia and the Honorable Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim. Very constructive discussions were held on various specific proposals related to expansion of trade and investment with Saudi Arabia.

In this context, we agreed to accelerate the construction of container terminals, establishment of special economic zones and solar parks with a capacity of 400 megawatts through Saudi investment. In addition, I urged the Saudi authorities to invest in increasing the capacity of Payra seaport.

The Saudi delegation expressed its interest in enhancing cooperation with Bangladesh in food production and processing, readymade garments and pharmaceuticals sectors. I welcomed the Saudi government’s consideration of Bangladesh as a regional hub to expand their business in South and Southeast Asia.

In the morning of May 24, I took part in an interview with Haslinda Amin, a Bloomberg correspondent and presenter, at the main event of the 3rd Qatar Economic Forum.

At this time, I answered various questions related to the economic situation of Bangladesh in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, the precautionary loan from the IMF and the possibility of importing energy from various countries, including Qatar and Russia, in the light of our friendly foreign policy, the environment and preparations for the upcoming national elections.

I reiterated my commitment that my government will do whatever is necessary to keep the development progress of the country going for the welfare of the people of Bangladesh. I also said that the IMF agreed to expedite the disbursement of loans to Bangladesh because we have the ability to repay the loan by meeting the conditions of IMF.

After that, I held a meeting with His Highness the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani at his office Amiri Dewan. He greeted me at the entrance with great sincerity. His Highness the Emir praised the contribution of Bangladeshi expatriates working in Qatar to the economic and infrastructural development of Qatar.

He mentioned that on my request, he will look into alternative employment for Bangladeshis who have become unemployed after FIFA World Cup 2022. Besides, he assured continued import of LNG from Qatar to Bangladesh on favorable terms.

During the meeting, I reiterated the invitation to His Highness the Emir of Qatar to visit Bangladesh this year and he responded positively. I called upon the Government of Qatar to continue their active and constructive role in the future development of the Muslim Ummah.

On the same day, I visited Awsaj Academy, a specialized school for children with special needs, run by the Qatar Foundation in Doha. During this short visit, I got to know about the activities of the academy and conveyed greetings from the children of Bangladesh to the students there.

In the afternoon of May 24, the representative of Bangladeshi citizens living in Qatar met me. On that night, I left Doha for Dhaka. As my entourage, the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Adviser on Private Industry and Investment and the Honorable State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources visited Qatar.

Overall, my recent two visits to Qatar have added a new dimension to the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Qatar, which is reflected in the acceptance of invitation to visit Bangladesh by His Highness the Emir and the fruitful meetings held in Qatar. I am concluding my written speech. I request you to ask questions about this.

Khoda Hafez

Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu

May Bangladesh live forever.

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