The UK and Bangladesh hold their fourth Strategic Dialogue
London, 9 September :
The United Kingdom and Bangladesh held their fourth annual Strategic Dialogue on Thursday 9 September 2021 at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London, UK. The dialogue was led by FCDO Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Philip Barton KCMG OBE and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary (Senior Secretary) Ambassador Masud Bin Momen.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, FCDO Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, welcomed Ambassador Momen to the UK. Lord Ahmad said:
“Today Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and I spoke about the strong links between the UK and Bangladesh. We are both committed to tackling climate change and looking for future opportunities to strengthen trade between our countries.”
The UK-Bangladesh Strategic Dialogue provides an important forum for a productive exchange of views across the entire breadth of bilateral relations, covering political and diplomatic relations, global and regional issues, economic and development partnerships, and security and defence.
The dialogue began with both sides welcoming the opportunity to meet in person for the first time since 2019, particularly as this year marks 50 years of independence for Bangladesh. The delegations recognised the value of the deep social, cultural, and people-to-people links between the UK and Bangladesh, including vibrant diaspora connections and our shared membership of the Commonwealth.
The UK and Bangladesh expressed their deepest condolences to those who had lost loved ones during the pandemic. The UK congratulated Bangladesh on its nationwide vaccination campaign including through COVAX vaccines.
The UK raised concerns reflected in the FCDO Annual Human Rights Report, including the impact of the Digital Security Act, political space, and extra-judicial killings. Both countries agreed on the importance of free and fair elections, on vibrant civil society to promote accountable governance and institutions, and on freedom of expression and religion.
The UK and Bangladesh agreed to cooperate on global challenges such as conflict prevention, support for the rules based international order, and countering terrorism. Both countries welcomed joint defence cooperation, including training, professional military education and instructional exchanges, and looked forward to inaugurating a Defence Dialogue later this year.
On climate change, the UK and Bangladesh reiterated the urgent need for all countries to take ambitious action to combat climate change. The UK commended Bangladesh’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encouraged further leadership in the coming years on low carbon development and net-zero emissions by 2050, including a net zero target and phasing out all coal use. Bangladesh welcomed the UK’s actions to secure international climate finance from all sources. Both countries expressed appreciation for the UK-Bangladesh Climate Partnership, launched in January 2020.
The UK congratulated Bangladesh on its United Nations recommendation for graduation from Least Developed Country category in 2026. The UK reiterated its commitment to support Bangladesh to achieve a successful graduation and continue its export-led growth by providing duty-free, quota-free access to the UK market until 2029. Both countries agreed to continue discussions on the future shape of their development partnership as Bangladesh consolidates middle income status.
The UK, as the second largest cumulative investor in Bangladesh, welcomed the inauguration of the UK-Bangladesh Trade & Investment Dialogue in February 2021. The UK stressed the importance of improving the business environment and tackling market access barriers in Bangladesh, which would be of benefit to both countries.
The UK and Bangladesh welcomed the depth of their people-to-people links . The UK noted the opportunities provided by the new points-based immigration system, including provision for up to two years of work by eligible students following graduation. The UK asked Bangladesh to implement the Cross Border Higher Education Act to allow higher education partnerships to grow between the two countries.
The UK commended Bangladesh for hosting the Rohingya refugees who, in August 2017, fled atrocities by the Myanmar military. The UK and Bangladesh reiterated their commitment to the goal of enabling the Rohingya to return home in a safe, voluntary and dignified way as soon as the situation allows. The UK stressed the need to focus on the Rohingyas’ well-being, and noted that access to education and livelihoods would help prepare the Rohingya for eventual return to Myanmar and to live dignified lives while in Bangladesh. Both countries committed to working with the international community, including ASEAN and the UN, to resolve the crisis. .
The UK and Bangladesh agreed to collaborate more actively so that Bangladesh continues progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This would include new and ongoing UK technical assistance and programmatic interventions to support the economic recovery, improve learning outcomes in primary and secondary education, strengthen public health services, and tackle the climate change crisis.
In closing, both countries welcomed the constructive discussions, and looked forward to the next Bangladesh-UK Strategic Dialogue which would be held in Dhaka in 2022.