United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Barbados on Saturday, 2 October, for a two-day visit to take part in the opening ceremony of the fifteenth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, known as UNCTAD15.
On Sunday morning, the Secretary-General met with a group of young Barbadians who are working on innovative solutions to the world’s great challenges — from climate action to COVID-19 recovery. In a frank exchange, the United Nations Chief told the young activists that his generation has failed to meet expectation of passing a world in good shape to the next generation. He stressed that their generation “cannot afford to fail”, and it is therefore incumbent upon leaders to support young people in their efforts.
Also on Sunday, the Secretary-General saw first hand the impacts of climate change in Barbados. Accompanied by Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley, the Secretary-General visited an area impacted by sea-level rise, coastal erosion and land slippage, and learned about the enormous efforts being undertaken by the Government of Barbados to address these challenges.
The Secretary-General stressed the need to support developing countries with climate finance as “the goal of adaptation is to build resilience to prepare people for the devastating impact of climate change”. He noted that “small island States all around the world cannot do it without much more support”. He again appealed to developed countries and the world’s international financial institutions to provide at least 50 per cent of climate finance to support developing countries to adapt and build resilience to climate change, emphasizing that this is a key priority for the upcoming twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.
Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General spoke to local media. He described his travel to the country as a “visit of solidarity with Barbados and its people, solidarity with the Caribbean and solidarity with all small island developing States”. He added that those countries — and Barbados, in the first line — “are the main victims of the inequality that prevails in the world at a moment when solidarity will be more necessary than ever”.
The delegation wrapped up the day’s activities with a visit to United Nations House, where the Secretary-General met with members of the United Nations team working in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
On Monday morning, the Secretary-General spoke in person at the opening ceremony of UNCTAD15, which took place in Bridgetown. He pointed out that the Sustainable Development Goals are at risk of failure and stressed that we need to turn the current trajectory around with a bold, sustainable and inclusive global recovery.
He spotlighted four glaring challenges, which, if not addressed, make any notion of prosperity for all a distant dream. These are debt distress, systems starved of investment, unfair trade and a climate emergency that leaves small island developing States such as Barbados perilously vulnerable.
The Secretary-General noted that small island developing States are looking to the future with worry, and that they hear the words, but do not see the actions behind them. He repeated his call to donors and multilateral development banks to allocate at least 50 per cent of their climate support to adaptation and resilience. (See Press Release SG/SM/20950.)
Following the UNCTAD15 opening ceremony, the Secretary-General held a press conference with Prime Minister Mia Mottley and UNCTAD's Secretary-General, Rebeca Grynspan. He stressed that all countries should follow through on their commitment to help developing countries adapt to the green economy, providing at least $100 billion in climate finance annually in support of developing countries’ programmes of mitigation and adaptation.
The Secretary-General emphasized that Barbados is an important and influential voice at the United Nations, and that the Organization will work with all Barbadians to shape a better, more sustainable future for all. He added that UNCTAD can be a fundamental instrument to achieve that objective.
The Secretary-General travelled back to New York on Monday, 4 October.