The extensive socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic threaten to reverse hard-won development gains in the Asia-Pacific region.
"The world is facing unprecedented challenges of the century due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected the economy along with public health, it has brought about a positive shift in global efforts towards tackling climate change and the growing competition for natural resources," said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
She was speaking on Thursday while delivering her speech through a video message at the 76th Commission Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap).
The theme of the 76th Commission's session was "Promoting economic, social and environmental cooperation on oceans for sustainable development."
Bangladesh's Ambassador to Thailand and Permanent Representative to Escap Md Nazmul Quaunine was elected chair of the 76th Commission of Unescap.
Sheikh Hasina had earlier been scheduled to attend the meeting in Bangkok and deliver the keynote speech at the conference.
However, as this was for the first time in history that a Unescap session was held on a virtual platform, owing to the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, she delivered her speech through a video message.
She placed three "fundamental ocean issues" forward to strengthen economic cooperation among member states of Escap.
"We need enhanced support for capacity building through a sharing of knowledge, expertise and transfer of technology from advanced countries on the blue economy," Sheikh Hasina said.
She also highlighted the need for joint research among member countries on fisheries development to increase regional fish production and set up a common platform network to deter, combat and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The premier also urged Escap to initiate mapping and management of resource identification while at the same time taking steps to protect critical coastal habitats and biodiversity.
"The oceans and seas constitute the last resource frontier of the world – contributing to our sustenance, helping toalleviate poverty, and offering employment opportunities," the prime minister said.
"Environmental pollutants are a major hurdle for the marine food-web and require an integrated response for the world economy to move towards a sustainable, inclusive and resource-efficient path of using the resources of the oceans."
The premier also highlighted Bangladesh's commitment to promoting the growth of blue economy as part of its long-term national development strategy.
"Bangladesh has been implementing conservation programmes and using sustainable and eco-friendly technologies, and a host of other measures to protect freshwater and marine resources."
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano also sent their video messages to the opening session.
At the session, the Asia Pacific nations agreed to cooperate in tackling the socio-economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic through adopting a resolution to that end.
A seven-member Bangladesh delegation led by Md Khurshed Alam, Secretary, Maritime Affairs Unit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in and contributed to the session through projecting Bangladesh's position on various agenda items.