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PM shines spotlight on issues affecting SIDS at UNCTAD 15

PM shines spotlight on issues affecting SIDS at UNCTAD 15
Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados addresses the audience at UNCTAD 15. (Picture by Sandy Pitt)

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Prime Minister Mia Mottley affirmed her administration’s commitment to working “assiduously to ensure the issues” impacting small island developing states such as Barbados are “kept to the fore through advocacy and more”.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony and Plenary of the 15th Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) held Monday morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, she said although progress had been made through the years, it was insufficient.

She’s hoping that the conference which ends on Thursday, would see “positive movement”.

“This is an interesting moment for the world in which we live, and many asked why Barbados would even want to assume this responsibility. This organisation was formed to give voice and protection to developing nations. If ever there was a time for that voice to be heard on trade and development, it is now.

“There are many small island developing countries and LDCs (Least Developed Countries) that have had to endure the most difficult of periods. One or two generations after these countries have become independent, we have found ourselves now grappling with factors that undermine our very ability to sustain our economies and to sustain our societies. And the very time when the world needs literally support and a constant assurance of fairness and equity, it is receiving the opposite,” said Mottley.

With Barbados being the smallest country ever to host UNCTAD, she’s optimistic that “our voice can find resonance globally among our colleagues within the small island developing states, among our colleagues within the LDCs, among middle income countries, among the developed world” and “to recognise that if we do not give purpose to this organisation, if we do not find a just and fair way for the pursuit of international development, if we cannot ensure that our citizens receive the basic of life, food and shelter without being threatened by the climate crisis, that these actions will come to naught. We do not wish our name to be associated with failure,” she asserted.

The Prime Minister will be UNCTAD’s president for the next three years.

She also said it was hoped that UNCTAD 15, along with COP26 (United Nation Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow and the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference, both due to take place later this year, would provide “an opportunity to be able to ensure that those issues that regrettably have been on the table for too long, can literally be moved ahead and that we can see positive movement”.

“We recognise that it’s not going to be easy, and we recognise that there still will be battles because those who benefit from the status quo, have no interest in altering the circumstances of our people,” she said.

Mottley further told the delegates the hope was that Bridgetown Covenant, “which we are hoping to be the outcome document of this conference”, and “the Spirit of Speightstown”, would create a framework which UNCTAD could use over the next three years, to advance its causes.

“Hence, today is not the end of a journey but the beginning of a journey for us as we move forward. We also believe we have a duty, Secretary [Rebeca] Grynspan, for us to advance not just the other words that we’ve heard throughout the years, but also the reality of small island developing states and LDCs.

“Against that backdrop we find resonance with our colleagues within the Caribbean Community who along with us have continued to raise our voices for too many issues, for too long,” she stated.

Mottley also spoke about the impact of the climate crisis, the debt crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the digital divide. (GBM)