Begum Khaleda Zia

Address at the United Nations 50th Anniversary - Oct. 23, 1995

Begum Khaleda Zia
October 23, 1995— New York City
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Mr. President,

The United Nations has turned fifty. We are celebrating this landmark anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter to reaffirm its goals and rekindle its ideals.

As we observe this anniversary, we may pause to reflect on the circumstances in which this august body was founded after a terrible world war in the middle of this century. The goal was to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to enable mankind to live in peace and security with the common aim of striving for development and progress. The United Nations has had its share of successes and failures, but, there can be no thought of abandoning it because there is no alternative.

Our commitment to the United Nations is unswerving. We have always upheld and resolutely pursued the United Nations mandate for peace and development. As we salute the United Nations flag and pay tribute to those who wear the blue helmets of peace-keepers throughout the world, we take great pride in our record of being among the foremost troop- contributors dispersed over many conflict areas. We are ready to serve the United Nations cause through standby forces closely linked to both early-warning and preventive systems.

Bangladesh fully supports the reforms and restructuring of the main organ of the United Nations. I feel it is indeed ironic that when so many world leaders have gathered to solemnly pledge their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, when it comes to making crucial decisions affecting the destiny of mankind, such decisions are made by a handful of countries.

Strengthening the rule of law is critical to preserving the security of smaller and weaker States. The enhanced role and contribution of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) thus assumes greater relevance. Measures for compulsory jurisdiction or arbitration through the ICJ or third-party mediation are therefore important.

While we are assembled here to celebrate the founding of this august body, over 40 million people in my country are facing poverty and destruction owing to deprivation of our rightful share of the waters of the Ganges River by India through unilateral withdrawal at Farakka.

While withdrawal of water during the dry season causes serious drought, the release of excess water during the rainy season creates severe floods in a vast area of Bangladesh. Besides the colossal loss in economic terms, this is causing serious degradation to the environment and to the ecology.

The Farakka Barrage has become an issue of life and death for us. Owing to obstruction of the natural flow of water upstream, a process of desertification is evident throughout the northern and western parts of Bangladesh. Vegetation is dwindling, salinity is spreading in the south, threatening industry and agriculture with ruin. Fish and animal resources are facing extinction. Innumerable people of various occupations who depended on the River Padma for their living are becoming unemployed. Many are being uprooted from their homes and hearths. As the whole world voices concern for the protection of the environment and human rights, at that very moment a big part of the population of Bangladesh is being pushed over to the threshold of poverty and destruction. This is a gross violation of human rights and justice.

I had mentioned this acute problem before this world body in 1993. Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, the problem still remains unresolved. I would like to call upon all of you gathered here today to help resolve this problem.

If we look around the world today at the numerous conflicts, big and small, at aggressions perpetrated against small States, at genocidal conflicts and ethnic cleansing, and denial of the right of lower riparian countries to the water of common rivers, there are many who may question the justification of this world body.

Despite these drawbacks, mankind has not been able to evolve a more effective forum. The fiftieth anniversary offers the ideal opportunity to review its achievements and to look forward to look forward to a strengthened and reinvigorated United Nations, a United Nations that has been restructured, attuned and democratized to meet the challenges of the next millennium.

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