UNCTAD15 Opening Plenary and Ceremony – Oct 4, 2021. (UNCTAD)

 Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley says there is a need to bridge the digital divide in the world. And, she believes that this situation must be tackled if the fundamental issues of inequality and vulnerability in the world are to be dealt with.

Ms. Mottley shared her view today, as she addressed the opening of the 15th Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

The Prime Minister told her audience: “The COVID pandemic has led to more children being left outside of the school system over the course of the last 20 months, and next to the death of persons, it is for me the greatest tragedy of this pandemic. That we have had to go online is great, potentially, but that we have gone online with so many offline is a tragedy.

“And, to that extent, therefore, we must ensure that connectivity, access to electricity, access to tablets that are affordable and rugged and access to content are immediately within the hands of our young people in this world. If not, we will find that the worst problem that we will confront is…people with ability without opportunity. That is the recipe for social instability.”

With regards to vaccines, Ms. Mottley maintained that there needs to be an international clearinghouse to provide fair access to countries.

She noted that in many instances, countries were being left on the margins because of their lack of capacity to access medicines and pharmaceuticals as a result of the costs.

She said during the four days of talks, she expected the issue of food security to come to the fore, particularly for island states and landlocked countries that did not have the capacity to control transport and logistics.

She continued: “Even with the establishment of the World Trade Organization, the kind of fair and level platform that we expected has not really materialised and the consequences of it for small states such as ours has been the decimation of our productive sectors, particularly in the areas of agriculture and manufacturing.

“It is ironic that the COVID pandemic that has so closed the world now has laid bare the absolute need for food security on the part of island states. The disruption in transport and logistics has made it absolutely clear to all who can see that without the development and structuring of a robust capacity to feed our own people, we will not be able to sustain our development.”

The Prime Minister again highlighted the debt challenges and said the use of GDP should not be the basis upon which concessional finance or access to other types of measures could be used. She pointed out that if countries did not have the fiscal space, they could not put all the necessary measures in place. 

The conference is being held in a virtual format, with events being streamed from Barbados, Geneva and across the world. Its theme is: From inequality and vulnerability to prosperity for all.

sharon.austingill-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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