Assalamu w Alaikum & ShuBho-Shokal
Vice Chancellor Islam, Board of Trustee Chair Mr. Ahmad, distinguished faculty, and dear students, the future leaders of Bangladesh, Happy International Day of Peace!
On such an important day, we must reflect on the importance of mutual understanding and collaboration. For the majority in the room here today, you young and energetic students each carry enormous potential to make this world a better place.
This year the United Nations General Assembly set out a call for action. We all have a collective responsibility to foster more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, free from fear and violence.
Through the five pillars of the United States’ Indo-Pacific Strategy, today I want to explore how together we can build just and inclusive societies in this region.
The United States envisions a region that is:
- Free and open,
- Secure, and
As the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, I am committed to building our bilateral partnership to tackle shared challenges together. Today’s discussion offers a chance to reflect on each of these pillars, on Bangladesh’s contributions to them, and on how the U.S. plans to continue supporting Bangladesh to advance our shared goals towards peace and prosperity.
Let’s start with the first pillar, “Free and Open”:
Peace flourishes in an environment where nations can freely choose their own path and partners and the people of each country will be allowed to freely elect their leadership.
It’s about respecting sovereignty and ensuring that each country has the autonomy to make decisions that best serve its interests. The United States and Bangladesh share this commitment, advocating for a world where all nation’s choices are respected and supported.
We also seek to advance common approaches to critical and emerging technologies, the internet, and cyber space, that protect privacy and human dignity.
As Bangladesh approaches its national election in few months, we are ready to extend our support to ensure a free, fair, and peaceful election to make sure the people can freely elect their leaders. We speak out regularly on the systematic and pervasive oppression of journalists, media personalities and even Nobel laureates who hold their government accountable.
Just last week, we hosted Dan Negrea, Senior Director of the Freedom and Prosperity Center of the Atlantic Council as a U.S. Speaker who – through his research – provided facts and analysis to better understand how strong rule of law, democracy, and market economies create the surest path to national prosperity.
People to people relationships are the oil that runs the engine of global peace and prosperity. The bonds we create, both within our region and beyond, facilitate understanding and collaboration. We are working diligently to enhance these connections, foster cultural exchanges, promote trade partnerships, and encourage educational initiatives that build bridges and bridge gaps.
We will continue to forge stronger connections within and beyond the region. As Ambassador, I am committed to building our bilateral partnership with the people of Bangladesh to tackle shared challenges together.
Our ties do not just connect our governments but bridge our people. We’re deepening ties between our people through educational and exchange opportunities.
Through U.S. government sponsored exchange programs, we have had the opportunity to build lasting friendships and relations between Americans and Bangladeshis.
I felt honored to witness our bi-lateral relationship crossing the 50-year milestone last year. The enduring friendship between our two nations has been forged by decades of people-to-people ties between Americans and Bangladeshis. Each of our alumni is part of a strong foundation that supports the bonds of friendship between our two nations and our ever-expending bilateral relationship.
Since Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s participation in an International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) program in 1958, nearly 6,500 Bangladeshis have studied, taught, and developed professional expertise through U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. And on this International Day of Peace, I would like to highlight the contribution of the only Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, our esteemed alumnus of the Fulbright program.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank NSU for housing and hosting our Fulbright and English Language Fellows and Specialists, both Americans and Bangladeshis, who continue to boost our intellectual and cross-cultural capital.
The United States offers world class education to students at over 4,000 accredited colleges and universities. With the increasing number of Bangladeshi students studying in the United States, Bangladesh is currently ranked 13th among the top sending countries of origin for students studying in the United States, leapfrogging other countries with a 23% year to year increase. Last year more than 10,500 students attended world-class educational institutions in the United States.
Here I must also share how excited we were to see the overwhelming response during our recent largest-to-date university fair held on September 7 and 9, with 31 U.S. universitiesy which reached around 8,000 students in Dhaka and Chattogram.
To the students and young scholars here today, I hope you will consider following in their footsteps. I encourage you all to visit our EducationUSA advising centers and American Spaces located in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet, Rajshahi and Kulna. EducationUSA is the only official information source on U.S. higher education and it’s free.
Our American Spaces stand as testaments of the U.S. commitment to the people of Bangladesh. These are platforms where ideas flourish, where diversity is celebrated, and where bridges of friendship and cooperation between the peoples of the United States and Bangladesh are built.
Now, let’s focus on the third pillar, “Prosperous”:
The U.S. Government is committed to promote broad-based prosperity, so that no country is left behind in the 21st century. Ensuring steady economic growth is a key component of the strategy.
Economic growth is a cornerstone of peace. It provides opportunities for people to improve their lives, lifts millions out of poverty and reduces the risk of conflicts borne out of desperation.
The United States and Bangladesh share a vision of economic prosperity for all. Through trade, investment, and development cooperation, we are committed to improving the livelihoods of our citizens.
The United States is one of the largest source countries for foreign direct investment in Bangladesh. As Ambassador, I commit to working with Bangladesh to build an attractive investment environment and support U.S. investors to enter new sectors for the benefit of all our people.
We are working together towards bolstering regional security and stability.
Security is essential for lasting peace. It’s about creating a stable environment where nations can thrive without fear of conflict or aggression. The United States and Bangladesh stand together in our commitment to regional security. And we are proud to partner with Bangladesh on these challenges and more.
The United States trains with and provides equipment at no or reduced cost to Bangladesh security services including the armed forces and Coast Guard. Examples of this include high-speed Metal Shark Boats and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that allow the Coast Guard and Navy to quickly cover vast swathes of maritime territory. This helps Bangladesh’s security services mitigate challenges to the nation’s sovereignty including violent extremism, cross-border drug trafficking, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Bay of Bengal that negatively affects Bangladeshi fishermen and the national food supply.
Finally, “Resilient”, our commitment to build regional resilience to transnational threats.
The challenges we face today transcend borders, and we must tackle them together. Climate change and health crises are among the most pressing issues of our time. The United States and Bangladesh are committed to addressing these challenges collectively. By working together, we can build resilience and respond effectively to shared global crises.
The United States is proud of our strong partnership with Bangladesh to improve the health conditions for its citizens for the past fifty-plus years. More recently, the United States stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Bangladesh to withstand the global COVID-19 pandemic. The United States was the largest donor of COVID-19 vaccines to Bangladesh — providing nearly 115 million doses – and also contributed nearly $150 million and trained over 50,000 healthcare providers to help protect the people of Bangladesh from the pandemic.
Through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Government is partnering with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to mobilize $250,000 in emergency funding to help respond to the Dengue outbreak in the country. We continue to provide useful info to help citizens protect themselves from this scourge!
On climate, we have mobilized billions of dollars in clean energy, clean air, and climate resilience projects throughout the region. President Biden has pledged to quadruple U.S. climate assistance to $11.4 billion annually by 2024.
These are only a few examples of how we are supporting to become more resilient to transnational threats.
Our Embassy is hosting a regional program called the Climate Action Champions Network (CACN), partnering with four other countries, to bring together young leaders to undertake climate action initiatives in the region. The network consists of 100 youth participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, who are currently implementing in-country and cross-border projects.
As we consider these five pillars of the U.S.-Bangladesh relations, let us remember that peace is not merely the absence of conflict but the presence of cooperation, understanding, and shared prosperity. Our ambition for the #GlobalGoals reflects a commitment to action – to work collaboratively towards a world where peace and sustainability go hand in hand.
In closing, I urge you, the future leaders of Bangladesh, to take this theme to heart. Your ambition, creativity, and determination will play a vital role in achieving the Global Goals. Be advocates for peace, forces for democratic ideals, champions of connectivity, and ambassadors of prosperity. Through your actions, you can help make our world a more peaceful, connected, and prosperous place for all.
Thank you and may your ambition for the #GlobalGoals drive you to create a brighter future for Bangladesh and the world.