Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados – public intellectual
The smallest bone in the human body is in the structure of the ear. It may be small but it may not be ignored. The big countries of the world have ignored the small nations because they are small. Small they may be but they have contributed their quota to the achievements of the world. Check in any area of the human endeavour such as sports and games, science and technology, economics and business, arts and craft.
What about the small island developing states, the SIDS? There are 38 member states, 20 non-UN member/Associate members of United Nations regional commissions that face “unique social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities.” These concern of these SIDS have been the preoccupations of the public intellectuals of the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea, AIS. Of these intellectuals Her Excellency Mia Amor MOTTLEY, Prime Minister of the Independent Republic of Barbados, is a leader.
The population of the SIDS is 65 million souls, constituting one per cent of world population. Such a significant population number get their importance from the dangers that face them today. Climate change and the rise in the temperature of seas and oceans are the most urgent challenges, which face them. Some other SIDS are Cuba, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Trinidad and Tobago.
In the way and manner Cuba and Singapore have solved their development challenges they have already added to world knowledge. Steel band comes out of Trinidad and Tobago while Jamaica gave us Reggae. Imagine what the world would lose if these inland nations were to disappear, if they were to be swallowed up by the seas and oceans, not to speak of the literature and economics Nobel laureates from St. Lucia and Jamaica.
The first Prime Minister of Jamaica, Eric Williams did his doctorate on capitalism and slavery, two topics that gave birth to the Caribbean islands and more. We could almost be tempted to parody a great empire builder and defender Winston Churchill: “never was so much owed to so few (islands) by so many!” Even in such an intellectually crowded space, we dare not forget to mention intellectuals such as C.L.R. James and John La Rose both of Trinidad and Tobago.
Mia Amor MOTTLEY was born in1965 and educated at Queen’s College, Barbados and the London School of Economics where she studied Law, like her father. Her grand-father was the first Mayor of Bridgetown. So, she grew up in a political family. She was appointed Minister of Education and the Youth at the age of 29. She became the eighth Prime Minister of Barbados in 2018 and first woman to hold the position.
Prime Minister Mottley made her first speech about Climate Change at the 74th United Nations General Assembly in 2019. Previously speaking on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Alliance of Small Island States, Mottley had spoken of SIDS insisting on 1.5 per cent Celsius instead of two per cent Celsius to the world body and later at the Climate Crisis in 2021 in Glasgow, COP26. As far as she was concerned two per cent Celsius would be a death sentence for the citizens of SIDS.
The second concept that she wanted the world to accept and understand is that of a Blue Economy. There was need to conceptualise the economy in a language that is sympathetic to the SIDS. For instance, how much resource space around the islands are SIDS given? Given that tourism is their main foreign exchange earner, how much of their beaches are they allowed to control? They need to confront the issue of Climate Crisis on various fronts. It must be seen as an issue of human rights as well as that of trade. “Much more is needed and much more quickly – we need fresh approaches and new thinking, and that is why Barbados has volunteered to be the smallest nation to ever host the meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. There is much work to be done, and our survival as small island developing states depend on it.”
She spoke about the fact that small islands are too invisible. “We may be invisible but…we are certainly not indispensable.”
SIDS face problems of food insecurity. They tend to have to import all food they need. They do not have space within, which to diversify their economy. Not only that, plastic pollution takes place around islands without anyone bothering that these SIDS are not humans to be affected. Users of plastic pollution turn the rescued plastic into plastic bags, and shoes and so on. What is in it for SIDS?
In our trading we have preferred the big economies. Yet we would be better off were we to choose to trade with the smaller economies closest to us.
It is also much safer and much more secure for our business men and women to trade with our likes. Our interpretation of our laws would be equal and would be managed in the same manner.
We must go back to a better understanding of “blue economy.” “Although the term ‘blue economy’ has been used in different ways, it is understood here as comprising the range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of oceanic resources is sustainable. An important challenge of the blue economy is thus to understand and better manage the many aspects of oceanic sustainability, ranging from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem health to pollution.” There is a second issue, which has to do with trading co-operation between big countries and SIDS and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). SIDS and LDCs must begin to sit and participate in all and every discussion, which have to do with the management of all the oceanic resources available to the SIDS.
With greater publicity that has accompanied COP26 that took place in Glasgow, more is bound to be known around the world about the Small Island Developing States and their plight in the present world. There were various interviews with Prime Minister Mottley and she was widely quoted to the effect that today it is their turn, tomorrow it would be yours.