PM’s UNGA Address: An Indomitable Voice from the Global South


The 77th United Nations General Assembly Session has just been held under the theme of “A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges”. The United Nations has rightly pointed out a theme that shed light on multidimensionality of global challenges and conveys a strong message to the world. The United Nations General Assembly is a multilateral platform where global leaders share their vision once a year and therefore it carries a profound significance regarding global diplomacy, the exchange of new ideas determining the future of world politics. The theme of 77th UNGA session implies the current geopolitical condition of the world because world politics is currently going through a paradigm shift owing to pandemic, war and sanctions. Even a few years back, the world was initially focusing on the major challenges like climate change, alleviation of poverty, hunger, etc. under the rubric of Sustainable Development Goals.

However, the global pandemic has added a fatal blow to climate change which is further deteriorated by the Ukraine-Russia war since February 2022. Moreover, the involvement of the west in ongoing conflict has just prolonged the crisis. Earlier, the challenges were confined to climate change and diseases but now the world is facing very notorious and historical challenges from war. Consequently, it has just enhanced the existing gaps between the global north and south. The post-colonial countries are still struggling to ensure basic developments. Once again, the world is now divided between haves and have-nots. Hence, the context of the world has prompted the UN to decide on such kind of a theme where world leaders can focus on the multidimensional and interlocking challenges.

If one follows the remarks made by other leaders of the world, there is less reflection of the theme of the UN. The context of the world has prompted the UN to decide on such kind of a theme where world leaders can focus on the multidimensional and interlocking challenges. In most cases, the leaders from both the developed and the developing worlds who are supposed to highlight global challenges and public goods, basically focused on their idiosyncratic interests. As a result, the issue of global humanity and peace did not feature much due to their parochial national interests.

In this regard, there was a major exception from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. During her speech of about thirty minutes, she rightfully focused on the theme of UNGA 77th session. Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina has been seen focusing on issues which the UN has been also emphasizing over the last few years. The speech has created a compelling ground for global leaders for upholding the peace and humanity of the world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rightfully identified the challenges of the world which are multidimensional.

During her remarks at the UNGA, she duly shed light on three major challenges, the world is undergoing. Firstly, she highlighted the rising arms race among the major powers. This has remained at the forefront because no one pays heed to the growing arms race in the COVID-19 pandemic induced world order. However, the arms race has now emerged as a reality in the world that everybody should take into serious consideration, especially with the threat of growing nuclearization.  Secondly, she focused on the Ukraine-Russia war which has been fought on the soil of Europe but has repercussions for the entire humanity. The global supply chain network is tremendously disrupted by the war in Ukraine and it has become a prime obstacle to global peace and prosperity. Thirdly, the war is also linked with another ominous phenomenon in the world which is sanctions and counter-sanctions imposed by the West on Russia. The myriad sanctions on Russia are so lethal that a single country has never faced such a colossal impact of sanctions. However, a few European countries are still purchasing energy like gas and oil from Russia to some extent but prompt transactions become very complex for the buyers owing to the entire gamut of sanctions.

The UNGA session is taking place as multiple crises coexist and spread over the globe. Food insecurity is on the horizon, humanitarian needs are growing, climate goals are largely unmet, and inequality is getting worse. The COVID-19 pandemic added another nail to the coffin with its presence in the volatile socio-political landscape of the world. Premier Sheikh Hasina has rightfully pointed out the nexus between the COVID-19 pandemic and these challenges and how they together are determining the future of the world. While thinking about the future of the world, PM Hasina’s speech is noteworthy as the underlying focus of her remarks was the future of the global south. Markedly, these challenges are phenomenal for the entire world but some parts of the world especially the global south is undergoing complexities as these challenges are not affecting every actor similarly. Although developed countries are suffering from price hikes and inflations, the main victims are the citizens of the Global South as they have limited purchasing power due to low per capita income.

The challenges mentioned by Premier Hasina in her remarks how are shaping the fate of the Global South. Many developing countries are struggling to stabilize their economies and complete their transition. However, these challenges have left serious repercussions for their economies, particularly it is ironic when these challenges had not been generated by the Global South.  The current context is related to great power rivalries and the war, arms race and sanctions which are induced by the great powers for their scramble for global dominance. The world as a result is now in a more volatile, uncertain and chaotic trajectory. Against such a backdrop, it brings enormous sufferings for the common have-nots from the Global South and their dream of prosperous and stable life has been shattered by the situation where the developing world has no role to create it. Hence, this is entirely a strong message that the Global South must convey to the world. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina precisely singularly focused on this argument.

Ironically, there is no country from the Global South coming forward to raise their voice against this injustice on the part of the developed world. Climate change can be a textbook example in which the Global South has no role to generate but still, they are the worst suffers of it. In the same way, the Global South is not by any chance part of Ukraine’s war but they are facing the brunt of war.

These kinds of moral positions or understanding are very significant because during the Cold War period, the non-aligned leaders tried to perceive things from their lenses like the new international economic order, an alternative global system, as a result, putting tremendous pressure on the powerful nations by their actions which paved the way for upholding global peace, environment, justice and human rights. During the juncture of the Cold War, the non-aligned movement played a very critical role in shaping and reshaping the future trajectory of the world. The two superpowers along with their respective blocs faced tremendous pressure to pursue arms control, disarmament, and taking initiatives for humanity. Against such a backdrop, some of the effective arms control agreements like START, INF, SALT, CTBT, and NPT were signed during the Cold War period. The world then witnessed a geopolitical confrontation and ideological battle where two antagonizing superpowers engaged in countering the influence of each other.

The world is once again now leading to the same trajectory with the return of the neo-Cold War and polarization. Unlike the Cold War era, there is a lack of strong voices representing the interests of the Global South. But Sheikh Hasina is an exception. She has demonstrated that she can lead the developing world in this watershed moment. The arguments and imperatives, PM Sheikh Hasina emphasized and focused on truly a representation of the voice of the Global South. It has profound significance to force the great powers to alter the course of their actions. Right now, the global powers are obsessed with geopolitical rivalry over bringing back their hegemonic dominance countering the rise of their opponents. Hence, the so-called friend and foe dichotomy is running the future of the Global South. In such a context, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has demonstrated a lot of visions and courage to focus on these issues which are basically based on the idea of humanity, justice, and peace and no power can ignore it. There is a strong urge in her speech for reversing the trends like war, sanctions, polarization and arms race to save the millions of people belonging to the Global South. Otherwise, the world will further plunge into chaos and uncertainty.

– Delwar Hossain, Ph.D. is Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and the founder of the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in Bangladesh Post [Link]