Mottley says ‘active citizenship’ critical to democracy
Prime Minister Mia Mottley said she believes “encouraging active citizenship” is critical to supporting democracy in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean and urged global leaders to work harder to end inequality and poverty.
The prime minister made her remarks during the virtual Summit for Democracy hosted by United States president Joe Biden on Thursday.
Mottley said “freedom of the press, freedom of elections, freedom of movement or freedom of association are not issues” in the English-speaking Caribbean.
“Barbados has had an active social partnership for the past 30 years that brings together government, the labour movement, and the private sector on all major national, social and economic issues,” she said.
“Our issue in this part of the region, I believe, is more encouraging active citizenship to support the architecture of our democracy, recognising that democracy comes in many shapes and forms.”
“Our fight also relates to the elimination of corruption in high and low places. We must, therefore, have these conversations, and it is vital that we deconstruct and truly appreciate where our concerns are as small island developing states in the Caribbean, where we may strengthen what we are doing within our countries and across the global community of nations.”
Mottley said it was important to find mechanisms through which governments can see, hear, feel, and give citizens the freedom to make choices that impact their lives.
“Fundamentally, democracy must always be about people,” she said. “It is ironic, therefore, that this pandemic has laid bare much of what must concern us today: the inequity and the discrimination; the lack of trust that is further fuelled by fake news; and the invisible hands that influence what we view in our virtual world.”
Mottley added: “…The fact that we are now facing a world where we don’t know who is controlling the algorithms in our virtual world or the promotion of the fake news, we will, therefore, have to make and take decisions if we are to avoid this peril that is truly affecting us at the very micro levels in our societies.
“Indeed, it is arguable that the minority, through practices and policies and through their manipulation of this data, can continue to make the majority unseen and unheard and without appropriate representation while still taking and saying they support democracy.”
Mottley urged fellow leaders that included new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz not “to ignore inequity or fail to summon the will to eradicate poverty”.
“We simply lack the will,” she said. “And we cannot continue to do so with credibility if we want to talk to our people about what they must support in terms of democratic ideals.
“We must commit to lifting the floor for all our citizens. We must not only focus on the ceiling being lifted, but we must raise that floor if we are to remove the inequity that is so bedevilling our world.”
“. . . That inequity and discrimination that we have seen in our city in our countries has also led, in my view, to much of the hesitancy, vaccine hesitancy, that we’ve seen across our countries.
“And this has been further fuelled by the lack of trust of many of our citizens, who for many decades, and in some instances, centuries, have been left out of the democratic deal, have been left out of the bounty that comes by being a citizen.”
Mottley said the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the climate crisis have underscored why the democratic ideals must also underpin relations in the international community and why there must be global public goods.
“This lack of vaccine equity continues to put us all at risk,” she said. “The possibility of climate refugees undermines democracies not only in the countries from which those refugees will come, but the neighbourhood within which those refugees will travel.
“We must equally be concerned about the lack of democratic ideals in the international institutions to which we belong.
“Whether it is the failure to give appropriate voice to small island developing states or LDCs (least developed countries), or whether we can maintain a United Nations that addresses the issue of reform of the Security Council and the allocation of the P5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council) as if it was a matter for the next decade, rather than the immediate concern of the nations of the world.”