People's Empowerment and Development International Seminar
HE Sheikh Hasina
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Dhaka, Sunday, 21 Shraban 1419, 05 August 2012
Bismillahir Rahmanur Rahim
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Assamalumu Alaikum and Good Morning.
I thank you for your kind presence here today. I feel happy and humbled that the concept of "People's Empowerment" for peace, justice and development, which I mooted at the 66th Session of the UNGA have found resonance in your hearts. I also feel that your contributions from your own experiences will embellish the concept into a classic, universal and workable model for justice to all the people of the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a child growing up amidst pain and struggle of my father and the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, for freedom, democracy, and socio-economic justice, and experiencing years of my own struggle for the same, I learned to hold those values close to my heart. Indeed, there is no alternative to democracy for attaining peace, a pre-requisite for development. Absence of democracy and social justice can be linked to sustenance of poverty, inequality, deprivation and marginalization which in turn instigates extremism and terrorism.
It is well acknowledged that in our journey from Rio in 1992 to Copenhagen in 1995 to New York 2000 and back to Rio in 2012, the goal of creating "a society for all" has remained elusive. At present, a billion people still live on less than US$ 2 a day and suffer from extreme poverty, hunger, disease, malnutrition and illiteracy. Moreover, with millions living in conflict and deprivation of their fundamental freedoms and human rights, peace remains elusive with all forms of extremism thriving. New and emerging challenges such as rising oil and food prices, the global financial meltdown, the debt crisis, climate change, the lack of green and clean technology and the digital disconnect further isolate and marginalize poorer societies and the poorest from the global mainstream. In addition, absence of participatory democracy and social safety measures is destabilizing societies and giving way to people's uprising in parts of the world.
It thus appeared to me for sustainable peace, justice was the vital factor and this was attainable when people were empowered for meaningful engagement in development. Empowerment in turn requires (a) Eradicating poverty and hunger; (2) Reducing inequality; (3) Mitigating deprivation through social safety protection programs; (4) Creating jobs for all; (5) Greater inclusiveness; (6) Accelerating equitable sustained growth and human development; (7) and Countering extremist forces and terrorism. Believing that these are all interlinked and mutually reinforcing, I mooted the "Peoples' Empowerment" model at the 66th UNGA.
I firmly believe that this model of empowerment should be dedicated to the millions of people around the world who suffer political, economic, social, cultural, and even climatic disempowerment, deprivation, vulnerability, exclusion or marginalization. I have been trying to realize this model of empowerment for the 160 million people of Bangladesh through pro-poor programs aimed at bringing about holistic justice and equality, and thereby, strengthening democracy and achieving development.
In the spirit of the empowerment model, for accelerating human development, my government has been allocating highest budget in education. Today, we have 99 % primary school enrollment with expectation to achieve 100 % literacy rate by 2014. For school attendance, we are providing free text books up to secondary level with gradual provision for lunch to students, and cash incentives to parents. A Trust Fund has been established to support students to pursue their education up to graduation level. We are also providing internet services free to schools and have set up 4,501 Union Information and Service Centers in our bid for establishing "Digital Bangladesh" by 2021.
To ensure gender parity and empowerment, we have made education free for girls up to secondary level, and are encouraging women to take equal and active part in all aspects of our national life. I have ensured direct election of women to 12,828 reserved seats, with 20 as Chairpersons at the lowest tier of the local government. At the national level, beside me and the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader, a Whip, there are 5 cabinet ministers, 19 directly elected MPs with 50 more elected against reserved seats. Women occupy 30 % of all posts in government offices, and serve in armed forces, law enforcement agencies and in UN peacekeeping Missions earning accolade for the nation.
As per our Constitution, our party the Awami League's constitution, and the 5th and 7th Pillars of the "People's Empowerment" model, we are ensuring secularism and equality irrespective of race, religion, caste, gender, including the marginalized, disadvantaged, disabled, the aged. We are endeavoring inclusion of all within our ever expanding social safety net programs. We are also ensuring equal rights of the ethnic minorities in accordance with the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, concluded during my last tenure as Prime Minister. We are also meticulously rooting out terrorism and extremism from our soil.
All our efforts, especially during our current tenure of government, have helped reduce poverty by 10%, attain GDP growth rate of 6.5%, increased per capita income, attain MDG 4 on infant mortality and MDG 5 on maternal mortality. Our aim is to lift our poor people out of poverty by MDG timeframe of 2015. All these were possible despite the challenges of global warming, climate change, threatening sea level rise and migration of climate induced migrants. To meet these and other climate change challenges, we have set up a Climate Change Trust Fund with our own resources and a Climate Change Resilience Fund with the assistance of our development partners.
The People's Empowerment Model's effectiveness, global acceptability and sustainability lie in its inherent strength in addressing all forms of deprivation and disempowerment. However, to enrich and make the model universally acceptable for emulation in all societies your valuable contributions are essential. For its widespread implementation, the model would need the vital support of governments, civil societies, the United Nations, International Financial Institutions and development partners. It would hopefully also inspire fresh reaffirmation of global commitments, including on ODA, transfer of green technology, additional funds to combat climate change and integrate with the post-MDGs vision for sustainable development-all aimed at achieving a world of people living a life with dignity, equality and freedom. I thank you all for your kind attention.
Joi Bangla, Joi Bangabandhu,
May Bangladesh Live Forever.