“We’re awaiting urgent leadership”

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—Mottley again sounds call to global leadership on pressing issues in UN address

UNITED NATIONS – Prime Minister Mia Mottley laid into the 76-year-old United Nations for failing to “move the needle” of action on increasing perils such as COVID-19 and climate change, questioning who will “get up and stand up” for the world’s people.

In what has become a set piece of her international appearances, she took to the floor of the UN General Assembly in New York with unscripted remarks containing a flurry of questions for a congress of global leaders “that only comes and does not listen to each other that only talk and will not talk with each other”.

And yet again, she sounded the theme of a “global moral strategic leadership” which she declared was desperately needed.


Mottley deviated from her scripted speech as she said: “We must lead and we must act. How many variants of COVID-19 must arrive, before a worldwide vaccination plan is implemented? How many deaths must it take, before 1.7 billion excess vaccines are shared?

“How much must global temperatures rise, before we end the burning of fossil fuels? How much must sea levels climb, before those who profited from stockpiling greenhouse gases contribute to the loss and damage they caused?

“And yes, how much must hurricanes destroy, locusts devour, and islands submerge, before we recognise that US$100 billion is not enough? The answer Mr President, is that we are waiting for urgent leadership.”

She went on to press the international community to indicate how many crises and natural disasters need to hit before there is a change of the old conventions of aid in order to reach those most vulnerable.

Mottley also questioned the unwillingness of states to deal effectively with fake news even as they continue to defend the public digital spaces.

“We have come together with alacrity to defend the right of states to tax across the digital space but we are not prepared to come together quickly to defend the right of our citizens not to be duped by fake news in that same space,” she declared.

The Prime Minister also called out the world’s wealthy technology firms, questioning how much richer they must get before “we worry about how so few have access to data and knowledge”.

She said: “We have the means to give every child a tablet, every adult a vaccine and invest in protecting those most vulnerable from a changing climate but we choose not to.

“We do not fear the consequences enough. How many times must leaders come to talk and not be heard, before they stop coming? How many times must we talk about making the decision-making institutions more representative of the world before international institutions become derelict just as we need them most?”

Mottley warned that unless decisive action was taken, no country would be left unscathed.

“If we do not control this fire, it will burn us all down. As I said two years ago… now is the time for leadership,” she said, questioning who will sign the new charter for the 21st century that will bring hope and progress for “our people now”.

She continued: “Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died during this awful pandemic? Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died because of the climate crisis? Who will stand up at COP 26 for small island developing states for 1.5 to survive? Who will stand up for all those who continue to suffer in the indignity of unemployment and under employment? Who will stand up for our children who simply want to learn mad to live in a world without being forced into migration?”

Mottley said that the world have been schooled in accepting that democracy is fundamentally about the will of the majority.

She said: “If that means something in this international community in this global civilization, the question must be when therefore will the majority of nation states and citizens of the world have the right to shape the destiny of this world? This is not 1945 with only 50 countries signing the [UN] Charter.

“Our voices must be heard and must matter.”

She said Barbados is calling on the international community and people of the world to “indicate the direction that we must go in to save our planet and to save our people.

“We will move a resolution in plenary to endorse the direction proposed by the Secretary General in his speech and Our Common Agenda. And we will reach out to the people of the world directly especially our young people whose world it is that is in peril,” she added. (SD/CMC)

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