The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, S.C., Prime Minister of Barbados (right) poses with H.E. Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba and the G77.
The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, S.C., Prime Minister of Barbados (left) with H.E. Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the G77 + China Summit held in Havana, Cuba.
Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Muy Buenos Dias a Todos!
One of Barbados’ daughters of the soil, Dr. Sharon Milagro Marshall has written book entitled “Tell my mother I gone to Cuba.” And so this morning I am here to tell my mother and everyone else that I am in Cuba.
My brother Miguel, the warm hospitality extended to the members of my delegation and myself has been nothing short of heart-warming. Everywhere we turn that indomitable Cuban spirit continues to shine in spite of sixty plus years of a callous, cruel and crippling economic blockade unilaterally imposed by the United States of America and exacerbated by the unacceptable and unjustified declaration of Cuba as a sponsor of State Terrorism introduced in the dying days of the last Presidency of the USA.
I speak with this clarity as in 1976 an act of terrorism was perpetrated against Cubana Flight 455 that led to 73 people dying as the plane took off from Barbados. No one was ever held accountable in spite of the mountain of evidence available. In spite of this we commemorate each and every year the sacrifice of those Cubans, Guyanese and Koreans who lost their lives as victims of the worst aspects of geo politics.
I was 10 years old when this awful act happened but I will never forget it as you would appreciate. This reinforced the reality of the world in which we live in which the mighty and the powerful have acted as they wished without consideration of fairness and accountability. Ironically, we understand the importance of teaching our children the importance of accepting responsibility and of being fair, and not accepting bullying or that size should determine fairness. But we forget that it is equally applicable to adults and countries.
I have come with a simple message. The Hour is now and the future is ours to grasp – TOGETHER!
It is therefore not surprising that almost 80 years after the establishment of the United Nations, the majority of the world’s population are awakening to the reality that our future cannot remain within the shadows of an Order that the multilateral institutions of the last century promised us would be a feature of our past and not the bane of our modern existence. Regrettably, what we have seen with the advance of years is a consolidation of power and wealth in the hands of a few. That concentration is likely to be further exaggerated by the continued privatization of knowledge as my brother Miguel has said this morning.
The lack of access to a level playing field is not only found in matters of high science and technology but also in the basics of access to internet and digital tools in our schools. The internet for example, remains outside of the reach of those 600 million in Africa who do not yet even have access to electricity.
As unjust as that scenario is, it is further reflected in the absence of a just industrial strategy for the Global South.
It is reflected in vaccine apartheid in spite of the clear moral imperative that exists for us all as human beings to save as many lives as possible, especially in times of global peril. Those few people in the developed world who belong to the old and existing Order were predominantly the ones who slept easy during the time of the pandemic with the knowledge that they would have access to life saving vaccines.
It is perhaps most acutely seen as we fight the climate crisis – Not Climate Change – the Climate Crisis, as the people of Dominica and Pakistan and Libya have experienced. On behalf of my people and Government, I extend sympathy to the people of Libya and equally those of Morocco for the debating loss of life and widespread damage to property.
There is no doubt that the world in which we live is facing unprecedented multiple crises. It does so at a time when mankind has attained more progress through scientific, engineering and technological development than at any other time in human history. The difficulty is that like with all else, the inventions we have seen can be used either for noble or equally wicked purposes.
This means 2 things –First, our awareness and alertness must be constant; and secondly, it does matter who owns and who controls the technology and the science.
Why must we be alert NOW?
Because like many other temptations from time immemorial, our reliance on these things will cause us to be easy prey, if we do not remain ever conscious of our purpose and our mission for our people. The rise of social media and AI threatens to detablalise at best and enslave at worst billions of people with an ease of conquest that minitiaurises the achievements of the Spanish Armada.
Why does control and ownership matter AS WE GO INTO THE FUTURE?
We have sent that in times of crisis or scarcity, domestic interests and ethnic relationships have mattered more than fairness and preserving the effectiveness of our multilateral institutions whose very existence was intended to preserve fairness and a level playing field.
How will we use science and technology to protect the planet?
If that science and technoliogy is only within the province of the wealthy North, how will we avert the loss of life, the inevitable climate migration and the consequential economic and social implosion that if persisting, without course correction, will threaten the very viability of countries and ultimately the planet – yes the very same one that is the only one proven to sustain human life and the rich bio-diversity co-existing with us.
I repeat, commitments made to protect our planet will be empty promises if we do not have the capacity to implement. Lack of access to technology and critical plant have reinforced why it is critical we collaborate and expose as many of our citizens (including our women) to education, opportunity and finance so that they too may innovate and expand the knowledge base of all of humanity.
The absence of policy space that allows us the pursuit of development as expressed in the SDGs, the inequitable access to finance whether from the international financial institutions or the private capital markets who continue to charge a premium for those borrowing in the South (in spite even of similar credit ratings) impede our ability to provide chances for our people to own and control technology.
That is why we have worked with many through the Bridgetown Initiative and the outcomes of UNCTAD XV and the many declarations of CELAC and the OACP to bring advocacy and solidarity to the urgent need for reform so that we may be able to see the expansion of science and technology and innovation by our people, for our people in the developing world.
However, this must be anchored by more noble and moral imperatives than we have seen in many instances in the last few centuries. I referred to the Spanish Armada but it was really the invention of gun powder and the improvements in navigation that unleashed terror and quest for dominion for centuries – as we continue to experience.
In a world that values knowledge and services, it is inevitable that those who control the internet, the software, the AI and the hardware will inevitably have similar dominion over others. And just as technology expands exponentially, so will power and wealth. It’s destabilizing effect will accompany the undermining of democracy and elections as has happened with the Fake news abounding. How? By the emergence of individual titans and Multi national corporations whose balance sheets dwarf those of many, if not the majority of the world’s nation states.
As Nation States, we must not be forced to have to choose between investment in food and shelter or rebuilding from natural disasters over investment in education, innovation and technology. We need the policy space, the finance and the commitment to work together to overcome these hurdles if there is to be a last stand in the name of the majority of the world’s citizens. We need to move to a digital world without the fear of being in perpetual subjugation.
This meeting is essential along the pathway for building solidarity as have others. But at some point there must be a quickening of the pace and a widening of the scope of our actions. We are seeing the recognition that perpetuation of extractive industries dominating economic activity in our countries Cannot continue. But there are many things must be PUT in place if this and reparations are to contribute to our development.
We need solidarity if we are to secure justice and opportunity. It cannot be business as usual. And we cannot allow division to weaken our efforts.
We must use science and technology as an instrument of empowerment but it will only happen if we work together and in pursuit of the right objectives.
Equally, Science and Technology must not be allowed to run amok in an unregulated global environment for that too will lead to the exponential consolidation of power and wealth.
We must be clear as to what we will require in terms of accountability and transparency enforced by multilateral institutions and effective domestic regulation. Cooperation and solidarity is critical because technology does NOT see boundaries. Our voice and presence must therefore be at the table in forging the protective and enabling rules of engagement.
There can be no more appropriate place to have this conversation than in one of the true beacons of the developing world’s struggle for equality in Science and Technology. With little, you have done much – in spite of 60 years of blockade and deprivation. AS important you have truly walked the walk of anchoring these innovations in a noble mission of service to humanity at large and individuals from villages to towns, across the globe! We are not here by accident but we must determine if we leave as individual sovereign states or as the global majority intent on righting centuries of historical injustice and sworn to the empowerment of those of our people who have not seen or heard.
The fact that each of us has taken the time to be here on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly is testimony to the esteem in which we hold this grouping. It is an important and timely opportunity for us to have a focused and frank exchange of views on highly disruptive technologies and what they portend and how they can aid or hurt us.
Friends the hour is upon us.
Either as the G-77 and China we pledge to work together to make the world a fairer and more equitable place for all or, we sound the death knell. Multilateralism must become the hallmark of our engagements on international norm setting and on frameworks which bind us. There is far more for us to achieve working together for the people whom we serve than pursuing individual and narrow-minded agendas that do none of us any good.
To paraphrase our late, beloved Comandante Fidel Castro “It doesn’t matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.”
Let us pledge today in all our diversity, differences and similarities to unite and work together for Planet and Peace, progress and prosperity for our people!
· Source: Government of Barbados