There is something almost cosmic to the coincidence that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s birthday each year falls right towards the back end of the annual get together of world leaders under the banner of the United Nations, as the colours of fall (or autumn) set in and the trees shed their leaves in America. This annual shindig of the international family of nations, each represented by their leader, happens to be - first and foremost - a global talkathon. Here, no nation is denied the opportunity to have its say. Well, almost no nation.
At the just-concluded 77th session, for the second straight year, Afghanistan and Myanmar weren’t heard at UN General Assembly’s leaders’ meeting, with no representative of either government stepping forward to take the lectern as the UN tries to resolve who should represent them. Joining them this year was the small African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe - although their no-show happened to be more of a mystery, with no real explanations on offer or sought, it would seem. It goes without saying of course, that every year, a number of leaders’ participation just goes under the radar at the UNGA, that takes over the Turtle Bay area of New York City for almost a fortnight with all its side events, press conferences and external partnerships. Who flew in or who left when, is difficult to keep up with at the best of times.
This year, with the in-person events resuming at full throttle for the first time in three years following the pandemic, there was an even greater rush and urgency to the proceedings. Time was when the Bangladeshi delegation would quietly register its presence on the designated date for its leader’s address, before withdrawing into some sideline events arranged by the expatriate community, somewhere far away in Brooklyn.
Over the course of the last ten years though, that has visibly changed. As Sheikh Hasina’s stature has grown among world leaders, with each passing year she seems to pack a busier and busier schedule during her stay in New York. The expatriate community, that includes a very energetic overseas wing of her own party, the U.S. Awami League, increasingly must satisfy itself with one or two sightings of the prime minister at best in their midst. Under Hasina’s leadership, Bangladesh today is an acknowledged partner in a number of bilateral and multilateral partnerships with the nations of the world, in a variety of fields ranging from security to the economy to conservation efforts. Its voice is increasingly heard, even sought.
Earlier this year, the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres invited our PM on board a very select group of just six leaders (the others being the highly respected heads of government of Barbados, Denmark, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal) to form a Global Crisis Response Group, to steer any global response, should the need arise, to any energy or food crisis that may suddenly occur, given the present vulnerabilities in which the world economy finds itself.
At the same time, Sheikh Hasina acts as co-chair of the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, with Mia Amor Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, who is also held in very high regard at the world leaders’ table. Their first event to raise awareness on this potentially vile problem was held on the sidelines of this year’s UNGA.
Meanwhile, a newly established Platform of Women Leaders, an initiative of UN Women, could hardly have been complete without the participation of one who is now the longest serving active head of state or government among women in the world. With the departure of Angela Merkel from Germany’s political arena, and the recent demise of Queen Elizabeth, perhaps no other woman commands the respect and admiration of her fellows at the world’s highest forum for deciding humanity’s course forward.
If birthdays are a time to reflect on life’s achievements, not just for oneself but for others, Sheikh Hasina’s is timed perfectly to demonstrate her worth to her people. Confidently strutting across the world stage, she is a beacon for her country’ aspirations. And we wish her many more still to come, as the very best ambassador for our nation.