Honorable Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen,
Honorable Mayor Md. Atiqul Islam,
It is an honor to be here with you today to mark this momentous occasion.
Fifty years ago this month, Bangladesh embarked on a struggle for its existence. Against all odds, and with great debt owed to those who sacrificed their lives, a new nation emerged.
As Senator Edward Kennedy told students at Dhaka University in February 1972, there are many parallels between the United States and Bangladesh’s history.
“Like you, a powerful and established Government was determined to deny us freedom.
Like you, our early leaders endured terrible adversity before their cause prevailed.
Like you, once the new American nation was born, there were those who said that such a weak and impoverished country could not survive in the modern world.
They thought our great experiment in freedom would surely fail.
And yet we confounded all their wisdom. We were poor in everything but hope and courage.
We had no wealth, but we had resources far more valuable and important.
We had people with the energy and commitment to make our nation strong, and leaders with the vision to see the way, and help the people build their future.”
The United States and Bangladesh have been strong enduring partners for the past five decades.
Our economic partnership grows every year. Two-way trade flows reached a record nine billion dollars in 2019. The United States is the largest single country export destination for Bangladeshi products and remains the largest holder of foreign direct investment stock in Bangladesh.
American companies are proud to be contributing to Bangladesh’s development in many ways, from dredging the nation’s mighty rivers, to sparking a natural gas and clean energy revolution, to providing world-class airplanes and locomotives to facilitate travel and trade.
I’m proud American companies in Bangladesh are model corporate citizens. Whether it’s Coca-Cola building climate-resistant facilities at schools in southwest Bangladesh, or Mastercard training over 100,000 female entrepreneurs in financial and business skills, their corporate social responsibility programs help Bangladeshis achieve a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
The United States and Bangladesh have also worked together for decades to address some of the most pressing global challenges. Since independence, the United States has provided over $8 billion in development assistance to improve the lives of people in Bangladesh, including $1 billion in health assistance over the past twenty years.
Since 2013, U.S.-sponsored education programs have reached 1.3 million children in over 5,000 schools, supporting the government’s goal to provide high-quality education for all Bangladeshi children. In 2019 alone, we supported 225,000 farmers with new technologies to increase food security and economic opportunity for their communities and their families.
We partner on everything from maritime security, countering terrorism and trafficking in persons, to promoting STEM education – including among young women — and strengthening the higher education sectors.
The United States applauds Bangladesh’s continued generosity as host to one million Rohingya refugees. As the largest international donor of humanitarian relief to host communities and refugee populations in Bangladesh, the United States is committed to remaining your steadfast partner in finding a durable solution to this crisis.
The outbreak of COVID-19 highlighted the importance of our decades-long partnership in public health. I’m particularly grateful for the speed of the Bangladeshi private sector in producing much-needed personal protective equipment used for American frontline workers. Since last March, the United States has provided over 73 million dollars to support Bangladesh’s COVID-19 response, including donating 100 high quality, American made ventilators and gas analyzers. This increased the local ability to save lives, as well as certify and re-check the effectiveness of all ventilators in the country and produce ventilators locally. The United States also contributed $2 billion to the COVAX initiative to help ensure the delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines globally, including to Bangladesh, which is projected to receive an initial 10.9 million doses from COVAX by June.
We’re also proud to work with Bangladesh to combat the effects of climate change. Together we have strengthened the resiliency of local communities to natural disasters, by building over 500 cyclone shelters in coastal areas. These shelters provide life-saving protection to 900,000 people during cyclones, floods, and other natural disasters. We support Bangladesh’s efforts to reduce its emissions through more efficient and clean energy production. In cooperation with the Ministry of Power and Energy, we mapped the potential for wind and other renewable energy sources, which will help transform Bangladesh’s energy landscape.
We recognize and applaud Bangladesh’s advocacy and action on behalf of climate vulnerable countries around the world. Bangladesh’s leadership on climate is a foreign policy achievement worthy of celebrating on the 50th anniversary.
It has been a privilege to be a part of the growing partnership between Bangladesh and the United States the last three years. I am constantly inspired by the determination and ingenuity of the Bangladeshi people, the dynamism of our growing relationship, and the beauty and diversity of Bangladeshi culture. It is truly a shonar bangla.
As both our nations look to the next fifty years and beyond, our struggles to perfect our hard-won liberty live on. May we resolve together to strengthen our democratic institutions, end discrimination and unequal treatment, and promote inclusive human rights and shared prosperity for all our citizens.
On behalf of the U.S. Embassy team, warmest congratulations to all Bangladeshis on the Golden Jubilee of your independence. As we celebrate Bangladesh’s many great achievements, we join you in looking forward to an even brighter future.