Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr. Dipu Moni, MP was unanimously elected Chairperson of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) at its 38th Session held in New York today.
CMAG, the nine-member grouping of Foreign Ministers of Commonwealth countries established as part of the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme adopted during 1995 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in New Zealand, is the custodian of the political values of the Commonwealth. The body is mandaded to assess serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in member states, and to take decisions for collective Commonwealth action aimed at the preservation and restoration of democracy and good governance. Currently, Foreign Ministers of Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Jamaica, the Maldives, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Trinidad & Tobago and Vanuatu are the members.
Dr. Moni has been a member of the CMAG since November 2009. This election has made her the first female Chair of CMAG. She has also become the first from a South Asian country to chair this important Commonwealth body. In her introductory statement after the election, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister expressed her intention to work closely with other members of the group in the result-oriented pursuit of upholding the values and principles of the Commonwealth. She said that, since a great degree of trust has been reposed in CMAG by the wider membership of the Commonwealth, she would work with absolute sincerity and objectivity to keep CMAG credible and effecive.
The session of CMAG under the Chair of Bangladesh Foreign Minister welcomed the completion of the first phase of voter registration and commencement of the constitutional consultation process in Fiji. However, it stressed the need for independence of the constutional process and urged the interim government of Fiji to address the human rights issues for creating conditions necessary for credible constitutional process leading to free and fair election.
The CMAG meeting received a personal briefing from the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed about the political situation in his country. The Ministers welcomed the release of the report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) of the Maldives established to inquire into the transfer of power on 7 February 2012 and noted the conclusions of the report that the transfer of power was legal and constituional. The meeting decided to move the consideration of the issue of the Maldives to the non-specific agenda item ‘Other Matters of Interest to CMAG’ in its future meetings and to re-instate participation of Maldives in the next CMAG meeting, unless any serious concern emerges in the mean time. The group called for reconciliation, dialogue and implementation of the recommendations of the report of CoNI namely investigation into police brutality, and reform and strenghhtening of the institutions such as Judiciary, Parliament, Police, Human Rights Commission, etc.
The Foreign Minister also participated in the Annual Coordination Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OIC Member State at the UN Headquarters on 28 september 2012. She said that Muslim world is anguished and outraged over the creation and publication of the highly offensive and reprehensible film “Innocence of Muslims” and of an obscene cartoon in the satirical French weekly, Charlie Hebdo. Bangladesh has condemned the film and blocked the web site Youtube carrying the offensive film. She asserted that it is an established principle that hate speech, indeed inciting hatred by any means cannot be justified as freedom of expression. She remarked that, at this trying moment, the Muslim world need to maintain calm and confront these Islamophobic insensitivities with fortitude; any resort to violence would be counter-productive. With a view to preventing such cultural aggression against Muslims, she emphasized the need for intensifying efforts for implementation of the OIC-sponsored resolution at the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council on ‘Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.’ The Foreign Minister also reiterated unflinching support of Bangladesh for the just cause of Palestine and the rights of the Palestinian people. She stressed the need for invoking the spirit of Islamic solidarity and moderation to bring a halt to the violence in Syria, at least, to give a chance to negotiation and to save the lives of innocent civilians, women and children. The Foreign Minister commended the pro-active role of the OIC Secretary General in implementing the decisions taken on the issue of Rohingya at the 4th Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit Conference. Bangladesh participated in first meeting of the OIC Contact Group on Rohingya Muslim Minority, that has been established in pursuance of decisions of the Extraordinary Summit.
“Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been maintaining a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and posture against terrorism in all its forms including nuclear terrorism”, said Dr. Dipu Moni on 27 September 2012 at a ‘High-Level meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism’ in New York organized by UN Counter Terrorism(CTITF) Secretariat and the UN Offices for Drug and Crime (UNODC). The Foreign Minister also said that given Bangladesh’s impeccable credentials on disarmament and nuclear proliferation Bangladesh would pursue its aspiration to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy specially power generation. The Foreign Minister called for greater capacity building, education and training support to LDCs endeavoring for nuclear energy generation from the IAEA special fund to combat nuclear terrorism. She briefed the meeting about the wide ranging legislative and regulatory measures undertaken by the present government including by Atomic Energy Regulatory Act-2012 to specially facilitated nuclear power generation under comprehensive IAEA safeguards and verification monitoring. The meeting attended by Foreign Ministers of forty countries having nuclear capability is the first high level UN meeting on ‘Countering Nuclear Terrorism’.
Later in the afternoon (27 September 2012) Dr. Dipu Moni attended the “3rd Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking” and reaffirmed the unequivocal commitment of the present government in combating human trafficking specially of women and children. She said that the present government has demonstrated unprecedented resolve to criminalize trafficking and create a comprehensive rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration regim through the enactment of the country’s first ever anti-human trafficking law, ‘Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act 2012’ , a National Action Plan 2012-16 and a National Strategy to prevent Human Trafficking. The meeting was attended by foreign Ministers of thirteen countries including UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Russia, Philippines, Egypt and Belarus and head of IOM Mr. William Lacy Swing, head of UN-Women Ms. Michelle Bachelet and Head of UN offices for Drug and Crime (UNODC). The meeting unanimously adopted a Ministerial declaration on the global Plan of Action against Trafficking.
The same (27 September 2012) afternoon the Foreign Minister also attended the “35th Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 and China” and called upon the group to strengthen its unity and play effective leadership role in promoting the special vulnerability of the LDCs including those from climate change, poverty, lack of market access, unemployment, external death burden and other prevailing inequalities. Dr. Dipu Moni also underlined the G-77‘s priority focus to influence the global discourse on the democratization of the decision making process and governance architecture of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs). The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Bangladesh’s commitment to work closely with the G-77 and the China to re-energies global efforts to capture the three pillars of sustainable development into the developing agenda in a post 2015 MDGs era.
Later in the evening (27 September 2012), the Foreign Minister held a bi-lateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of Singapore Mr. K. Shanmugam and discusses issues of political and economic interest between the two countries. Dr. Dipu Moni said that Singapore be the fifth largest destination of Bangladesh’s skills and semi-skills labor should establish a training institute in join collaboration with Bangladesh for skilled training of Bangladeshi workforce specially in the hospitality and nursing sectors. The Foreign Minister also urge the Singapore Foreign Minister to encourage more Bangladeshi exports to Singapore market and greater Singapore direct investment in the Bangladesh Market. The Singapore Foreign Minister assured the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh that Singapore would continue to provide training awards to Bangladesh civil servants and expand such training facility to the services sector especially in the private sector. The two Foreign Ministers emphasize the need for holding regular foreign office consultations under the relevant bi-lateral protocol.