For outstanding leadership on the frontline of climate change
HE Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the second time in 2009, following a period in office between 1996 and 2001, and immediately set about tackling the issue of climate change.
With a population of 140 million, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most populated countries. It is also one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Cyclones, floods and droughts have long been part of the country's history but they have intensified in recent years. Her vision is to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041 through implementing environmentally aware policies.
The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 made Bangladesh the first developing country to frame such a coordinated action plan. Bangladesh is also the first country to set up its own Climate Change Trust Fund supported by nearly US$300 million of domestic resources from 2009-2012.
Her government earmarks 6-7 per cent of its annual budget on climate change adaptation.
In addition, the Bangladesh Constitution was amended in 2011 to include protection of the environment and safeguarding natural resources for current and future generations. Prioritized in the constitution along with wetlands and wildlife, the forestry policies initiative by Prime Minister Hasina has provided a natural barrier from some extreme weather events and the country’s forests cover has increased by almost 10 per cent.
Notable awards she received include UNESCO’s Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize 1998; Pearl S Buck Award 1999; FAO’s CERES Medal; Indira Gandhi Peace Award 2009; and Visionary Award by the Global South-South Development Expo-2014.
Sheikh Hasina—who overcame huge adversity when her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (the country’s first president), her mother and three brothers were assassinated in 1975— sets the example for other leaders, proving that investing in the environment can achieve social and economic development. As we embark on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, such examples are to be cherished.