OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES: REFLECTS ON TWO YEARS IN BANGLADESH

My country’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” As I begin my third year as U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, these words ring true – each day, I remain impressed by the potential of the country, by the energy and resiliency of its people, and by its vibrant civil society.

As I said last year, Bangladesh has come a very long way from its beginnings. As I look to the future – a future that comes one day at a time – I see opportunity, but also significant challenges. Prior to the January 7, 2024 parliamentary election, the United States advocated publicly for a free and fair election that would reflect the democratic aspirations of the people of Bangladesh.

Ambassador Peter Haas visits the Central Shaheed Minar on International Mother Language Day. -Photo courtesy: U.S. Embassy Dhaka

This did not happen. The United States still cares deeply about democracy – in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Quite simply, we believe democracy is the best way to achieve enduring economic prosperity that serves all of a country’s people. We will continue to support the brave members of civil society and human rights defenders. We will continue to call for an end to the systematic repression and harassment of media professionals who are just doing their jobs. We will continue to press for greater freedom of speech and assembly. And we will continue to call for meaningful political dialogue to pave the way for a more open, peaceful, and democratic society.

At the same time, we will look for areas where Bangladesh and the United States have shared interests. On these issues, the United States is willing to move as quickly as Bangladesh is. I have already begun a series of meetings with cabinet members of the new government, looking for opportunities where we can collaborate on areas of mutual importance.

Social and environmental resilience, for example, is critically important. My team and I intend to continue engagement with Bangladesh on climate change and the transition to clean energy. Climate change affects everyone, Americans and Bangladeshis alike. And I hope to build on our excellent cooperation that brought more than one hundred million of Covid vaccines to the people of Bangladesh.

Ambassador Peter Haas visits the Banani Durga Puja Mandop during Durga Puja celebrations. -Photo courtesy: U.S. Embassy Dhaka

The security relationship between our countries and in the region is also an important one. Our militaries (or armed forces) and law enforcement officials are finding more ways to expand their ability to work together to counter security threats and alleviate the impact of natural disasters. We also hope to play a role in the modernization of Bangladesh’s military.

On the labor front, the United States believes that Bangladesh must align its laws, policies, and practices with international labor standards. President Biden has set out a Global Labor Strategy that prioritizes labor rights around the world. This Strategy will guide our actions in encouraging Bangladesh to adopt laws and policies that ensure workers can form and join independent, democratic unions freely and without fear, reprisal, or retribution.

Ambassador Peter Haas inaugurates the new EMK Center. -Photo courtesy: U.S. Embassy Dhaka

The United States remains committed to supporting Bangladesh’s progress on labor rights, including through targeted development assistance. The United States is by far the largest foreign investor in Bangladesh, as well as the largest single market for Bangladesh’s exports of goods and services. We can – and should – make our economic relationship function for everyone’s benefit.

Finally, we will continue to work closely with the government to sustainably provide humanitarian assistance to nearly one million Rohingya survivors of genocide and to seek a safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return home for all, once conditions in Myanmar allow.

The future comes one day at a time, and each day brings opportunity. Know that the United States stands with the people of Bangladesh as you reach towards that future – and we will always support you on your journey.

Written by-

H.E. Peter D. Haas
Ambassador
United States of America to Bangladesh

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