Although the range of challenges facing small island developing states (SIDS) can be overwhelming, this country’s Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, has hailed the United Nations (UN) as the “only hope” for fair and transparent dialogue in international fora.
The Prime Minister’s high commendation for the UN set the tone for wide-ranging discussions during a meeting with President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, at Colony Club Hotel, Porters, St. James, yesterday.
Ms. Mottley contended that there is a “ring fence” in the operations of some international agencies at the negotiating table as to what they would permit or disallow in advancing the agenda of SIDS.
“That is why the freedom and flexibility of the United Nations in terms of the promotion of advocacy, as well as the opportunities for networking, becomes absolutely critical in pushing our agenda. We are facing a climate crisis, we are facing the pandemic and you saw what the pandemic did to St. Vincent and I am sure that you heard that Barbados looked like an apocalyptic sight, four days after the volcano. With the help of the UN, we were able to come up with an assessment of damages of just over one per cent of GDP so it is not an insignificant event for us at all,” she emphasised.
The Prime Minister used the occasion to engage the UN General Assembly’s President Bozkir about the unfortunate situation in which GDP is used by overseas lending agencies to deny countries like Barbados access to developmental financing.
She argued that such a position did not identify the development priorities and the avenues available to critical financing for vulnerable countries, so as to cushion the impact of devastating hurricanes or other natural disasters.
Reflecting on the damage caused by Hurricane Elsa earlier this month, Ms. Mottley informed the meeting that just under 3,000 houses had been assessed for damage and the process was still ongoing, but was concerned that Barbados may not be able to claim for the damage incurred.
“I hope that the level of bullying and nationalism that we are seeing globally would recede against the backdrop of our knowledge as to what could happen if left unchecked. I hope from your perspective that you have been able to add to the conversation that ‘might cannot always be right’ and…the United Nations is needed most by the people who need the protection and that is really the perspective of many small nations,” the Prime Minister underlined.
The two officials also discussed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On this point, President Bozkir acknowledged that the world was “caught unprepared for this pandemic”.
He reasoned that the world needed to solve the pandemic in order to make the next steps and this required fair and equitable vaccine distribution.
“If we leave it to countries to distribute, then it would become a commodity. A country will say ‘Well, I like you, I give all the vaccines to you’ or ‘I don’t like you and you won’t get any vaccines’ or ‘If I give you vaccines, what will you give me?’” President Bozkir maintained.
The two officials also discussed navigating educational challenges during COVID-19; land degradation; and plans to establish a diplomatic presence in non-traditional areas; and the fractured Cuban/United States relations, a situation which was preventing people living in that county from accessing food and critical medical supplies.
Ms. Mottley shared that Cuba had readily provided over 150 personnel to provide nursing and medical services to Barbados over the last 14 months. She was highly critical of the ongoing embargo in place for at least six decades.
The UN General Assembly President thanked Government for its hospitality during his two-day working visit, and personally thanked Prime Minister Mottley for joining in the organisation’s 75th Anniversary celebrations.
Before arriving in Barbados for a two-day working visit, President Bozkir visited Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These visits serve as the final trip of his presidency, which began in September 2020 and ends this September.
Also present during the meeting were Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott; Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw; Permanent Secretaries Simone Rudder, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Alies Jordan, Prime Minister’s Office; and Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations, Francois Jackman.
President Bozkir departed the island yesterday evening.