MIA AMOR MOTTLEY, Prime Minister of Barbados, said “the needle has not moved” since 2019, when she took the podium for the first time. In that interim, she did not see sufficient action on behalf of the world’s people. She asked how many more COVID-19 variants must arrive before a global vaccination plan was implemented, how many deaths must it take before the 1.7 billion excess vaccines in the possession of advanced countries were shared with those who lacked access, or how much fake news was going to be allowed to spread without defense of the public space.
She went on to say that she wondered how much global temperature rise must there be before countries ended the burning of fossil fuels, or how much more must sea levels climb in small island developing States before those who profited from the stockpiling of greenhouse gasses contributed to the loss and damage that they occasioned. “The answer is that we are waiting for urgent, global, moral strategic leadership,” she said.
She asked how much wealthier the top five tech firms ‑ whose current market capitalization tops $9.3 trillion — must become before people worried that so few had access to data and knowledge or that children were being deprived of the tools they needed to participate in online education. The world has the means to provide every child on the planet a tablet, to give every adult a vaccine and to protect each person from a changing climate. “But we choose not to,” she said. “We do not have the will to distribute that which we have.” And the faceless few do not fear the consequences.
The current age dangerously resembled that of a century ago, she stressed, on the eve of the Great Depression, after the world had fought a pandemic and when fascism, populism and nationalism led to the decimation of populations through actions too horrendous to contemplate. Unless this fire is controlled, “it will burn us all down”, she warned. Political will must be summoned to confront what must be confronted, she said, asking who will stand up in the name of those who have died during the pandemic, or because of the climate crisis, or on behalf of the small island developing States who need 1.5°C to survive as countries prepare for COP26.
“If we can find the will to send a person to the moon — and solve male baldness — we can solve simple problems like letting our people eat at affordable prices and making sure we have the transport,” she insisted. This was not 1945. It was 2021 with many countries that did not exist all those years ago, but which must now answer to their people. “Our voices must matter,” she said. At this dangerous fork in the road, Member States must indicate in what direction they want the world to advance, she stressed, calling for support for a plenary resolution endorsing the approach of Secretary-General António Guterres.
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