SWEDISH SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES NETWORK
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina lectured on Climate Change at Lund University
Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, visited Lund University on Saturday 19 December 2009. Sheikh Hasina was a key participant at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) that took place in neighbouring Copenhagen during the period 7–19 December 2009. In connection with this conference, she accepted an invitation by Lars Eklund and Mashiur Rahman to visit Lund University to hold a public lecture about ”Climate Change in Bangladesh – Facing the Challenges”.
The seminar, jointly organised by SASNET and the Association of Foreign Affairs at Lund University (UPF), was held at Palaestra (next door to the main university building), Universitetsplatsen, Lund, and drew a full house, 250 people – Lund University students and researchers, as well as many other interested people and members of the local Bangladeshi community. See the poster about the seminar.
Sheikh Hasina was accompanied by her sister Mrs. Rehana Siddique and niece Ms. Azmina Siddique, and also Mr. Mohammad Ziauddin, Ambassador at Large, and a large delegation of around 20 Bangladeshi Members of Parliament who all had attended the COP 15 conference along with the Prime Minister.
Bangladeshi Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dipu Moni, arrived later in the afternoon, whereas two other ministers that were supposed to come to Lund, Prof. A. F. M. Ruhal Haque, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, and Dr. Hasan Mahmud, State Minister for Environment and Forest, had to stay back in Copenhagen because of prolonged discussions at the Copenhagen climate conference.
On this snowy day, the temperature was minus 7 centigrades, the Prime Minister arrived to Lund by car, protected by both Danish and Swedish police besides her own security personnel. She was welcomed to the hall by Lund University Vice Chancellor, Professor Per Eriksson, and the Bangladeshi Ambassador to Sweden, Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed.
The seminar started with Ms. Bubu Munshi Eklund singing a song by the Bengali Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
Sheikh Hasina was then introduced to the audience by Dr. Anna Lindberg, SASNET Director, and Ms. Erika Rubin, programme coordinator for the Association of Foreign Affairs at Lund University.
In her lecture, the Prime Minister recapitulated the history of her country, and her personal experiences of bloodshed and terrorist attacks. Experiences that has formed her strong will to make Bangladesh a country of peace. She then turned to the issue of the day, namely the climate conference negotiations in Copenhagen and the great threats that climate change means to Bangladesh.
Since Bangladesh is regarded as one of the countries extremely exposed to climatic threats, this has made its leadership visible in the global climate change negotiating process highlighting its 'right to survival as a human being'. Myriad natural disasters regularly interrupt agriculture and challenging water resources, health, energy, and urban planning, among other areas. Countless lives had been lost and families uprooted by the thousands year-round, creating millions of climate change refugees. According to scientific estimates, one in every seven people in Bangladesh would be a victim of climate change by 2050. The dredging of all major rivers had been placed at the top of the adaptation agenda. Some 14,000 cyclone shelters had already been built and more were on the way.
After her presentation, Vice Chancellor Per Eriksson made a few concluding remarks. Thereafter he accompanied Sheikh Hasina from Palaestra to the main University building for a short sightseeing tour.
During this time all the Bangladeshi students at Lund University, more than 50, gathered outside the University building for a rather chaotic photo session with their Prime Minister.
The Vice Chancellor finally hosted a delicious lunch for Sheikh Hasina at the Old Bishop’s House, before the Prime Minister and her entourage had to return to Copenhagen.
The seminar and the entire visit to Lund was documented by a couple of Bangladeshi TV company crews, and a large number of newspaper journalists. Read an article about the seminar, entitled ”Mitigation of climate change impacts: Developed nations must take responsibility: Hasina”, published on 20 December 2009 in The New Nation (the Internet edition of the leading Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Ittefaq).
Text and photo: Lars Eklund, SASNET