Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley delivers Nelson Mandela Lecture in South Africa

Mia Mottley

Her address pursued the theme “Social Bonding and Decolonization in the Context of the Climate Crisis: Perspectives from the Global South”.

“Seventy percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries and when you exclude middle-income countries from being able to borrow, you are effectively condemning the poor in middle-income countries to remain in poverty for the rest of their lives, cementing inter-generational poverty.”

“The notion that Barbados, Bahamas and the Maldives cannot borrow as of right from the World Bank in today’s world in a climate crisis is so preposterous, that it tells us that we need to reset and recalibrate urgently if we are to prepare for fighting these battles.”

“But if we are going to win this battle, then you need to learn what special drawing rights are and you need to understand why it is that people in the south are borrowing at rates of interest that are much much higher than the people in the north, and you need to understand why the policy prescriptions for countries in the north when they face financial crises are different from the countries in the south. And you need to ask yourselves, what is the common thread? Especially at a time when many refuse even in the north to acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis.” 

“The Bible talks to us about tithing and the Quran speaks to us about giving back to those, and we simply say that if you are going to make 100 cents in profit, $200 billion in the last quarter alone, some estimates explain that they may even reach $2 trillion in one year in profits – then, you have a responsibility to put something on the table in a Loss and Damage fund for those who are now having to pay out.”

“No one would ever have thought that the United States of America would take days to count votes in an election. No one would ever have thought that the United Kingdom would have had three

Mia Mottley

prime ministers in less than three months. And, regrettably, none of us would have ever dreamt to see war in Europe after World War II again, so soon and so tragically. Mind you, it is almost as if they’ve forgotten that war existed in Africa and in the Middle East for decades. The world that we have come to know has changed upon us and we will either decide as people of the south to be firm craftsmen of our fate and shapers of our destiny, or we will continue to be the victims as we have been for centuries.”

“So, my friends, how do we redefine the spirit of Madiba (Nelson Mandela)? How do we redefine in my own country what we have come to call sharing the burden but sharing the bounty? That we must all come together to fight the cause and share the burden, but remember that when the bounty is to be shared, that it is all who must share in it. That the patrimony that is ours through the sea, through the wind, through the sun, has been left to us not for a few but for all.”

“I hope and pray that we will take the example of Madiba and the people of South Africa in understanding what is required to win mighty battles that are necessary for good harmony with the planet and with people. And in spite of all of the odds showed to them and all of the odds showed now to us, ‘we can do it simply if we try’ – the words of Black Stalin, a Trinidadian calypsonian. But ironically, I want to leave you with another phrase, because something tells me that the spirit of the world has been awakened and that everything will be alright.”