Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today paid tribute in the United Nations General Assembly to the late president of Bangladesh, Zillur Rahman, praising his political contributions to the country’s democratic transition.
“I share the sadness of his bereaved family, the Government and people of Bangladesh,” the Secretary-General said in his remarks in New York.
Mr. Rahman died on 20 March in Singapore from reported respiratory problems. The 193-member General Assembly paid tribute to the late president before starting its deliberations today.
“Despite such sad news, the people of Bangladesh have many reasons to feel positive about their future, and the late president can rest proud in the knowledge that his country has advanced dramatically since independence 42 years ago,” Mr. Ban continued.
He called Mr. Rahman “one of the country’s leading political figures” whose reward in the final years was the presidency, “an acknowledgement of a lifetime of dedication.” Mr. Rahman had taken office in 2009 while already in his 80s.
Noting the positive changes in Bangladesh in the past decade, Mr. Ban praised the progress made in achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in education, maternal mortality and access to fresh water and sanitation.
“Bangladesh is on track to graduate from the ranks of the least developed countries,” Mr. Ban said, noting that challenges remain, including population grown, raising food prices and unemployment.
The head of the UN also praised the country’s efforts to empower women, particularly the roles played by Bangladeshi women police officers serving in UN peacekeeping missions.
“They are showing women and men in the countries where they serve that there is nothing that a woman cannot do,” Mr. Ban said. He added that the country’s top political role is currently filled by a woman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
In his speech, Mr. Ban also noted the impact of the tornado that struck Brahmanbaria district on 22 March.
“My heart also goes out to the families who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods,” he said, adding that it is one more reminder of the growing vulnerability of the people of Bangladesh to climate change.