Bridgetown, Barbados

04 October 2021

Secretary-General’s remarks at UNCTAD15 Joint Press Conference with Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Dear members of the press, thank you very much for your presence.   
 
I want to first of all thank Prime Minister Mottley and all Barbadians for your warm “Bajan” welcome — and for so graciously hosting this year’s UNCTAD.  
 
This country’s journey has been a remarkable one.  
 
Overcoming colonialism and achieving independence. 
 
Forging a modern and increasingly diverse economy.  

From tourism and agriculture.  
 
To becoming a hub of business in the Caribbean. 
 
To building a digital economy — enhancing efficiency while creating new jobs.  
 
To its ambitious and comprehensive economic reform efforts.  
 
Barbados is also an influential regional leader in the Caribbean.   
 
A valued member of the United Nations for the last 55 years.  
 
A strong supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals — including through its participation in the National Voluntary Review process.  
 
A longtime advocate for Small Island Developing States — hosting the first-ever global conference on the sustainable development of these countries in 1994.  
 
An environmental and climate leader through its aspiration to become a green, resilient and fossil-fuel free economy by 2030.  
 
And a powerful global voice — as Prime Minister Mottley so clearly demonstrated in her address at the UN General Assembly two weeks ago.  
 
Like so many small island developing states, Barbados is also a country where the global challenges we face are starkly revealed.  
 
COVID-19. Climate change and natural disasters — like July’s Hurricane Elsa. Job losses and economic hardship. Inadequate infrastructure and unfair trade rules. And inequalities and poverty.  
 
So this is a fitting place to discuss the urgent steps we need to take to ensure a strong, sustainable economic recovery for all.  And that is a clear objective of UNCTAD. 
 
Through my address to the Conference, and in my meetings and discussions during this visit, I am highlighting the urgent work ahead. 
 
We need to end the pandemic, by uniting the world behind a bold global vaccination plan and reaching 70 per cent of people in every country by mid-2022.  
 
We need to end debt distress, by following the four-point debt crisis action plan I outlined in my speech today.  
 
To expand liquidity — including by a substantial re-allocation of Special Drawing Rights to vulnerable countries that need them.  
 
To suspend debt payments into next year, for all countries that need it — including middle-income countries.  
 
To ensure effective debt relief and develop a comprehensive strategy to reform the international debt architecture, which traps too many countries in deadly cycles of debt waves.  
 
And to work with the private sector and multilateral development banks to develop innovative financing tools, and help lower risk and draw capital to  
bankable, job-creating projects in communities that need them.  
 
We also need to support all the systems that have been starved of investment by the pandemic — health and education, social protections and decent jobs.  
 
We need to level the playing field for trading nations like Barbados. This includes stronger rules for fair and open trade, and helping developing countries modernize and digitize their trade infrastructure so they can compete.   
 
And finally — we need to tackle climate change, with bold commitments at the upcoming COP26.  
 
All countries should follow through on their commitment to help developing countries adapt to the green economy — with at least $100 billion in climate finance annually in support of developing countries’ programs of mitigation and adaptation.   
 
And I repeat my call to donors and multilateral development banks to allocate at least 50 per cent of their climate support towards adaptation and resilience, and make it easier for countries affected by natural disasters to access the funding they need.  
 
Throughout, I look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Mottley on these and other issues.  
 
Barbados is an important and influential voice at the United Nations, and we will work with all Barbadians to shape a better, more sustainable future for all.  
And we believe UNCTAD can be a fundamental instrument to achieve that objective.  
 
Thank you and of course, I will also be at your disposal for any questions.   

[…]

Question: My question was related to what the UN SG said at the opening ceremony. He spoke about the fact that some countries have in fact their economy recovering and you have other that seem to stay behind. So I would like to have the impressions of the Prime Minister about that.

[Prime Minister of Barbados answers]

Moderator: Perhaps, Secretary-General Guterres, would you like to comment as well?

Secretary-General: Well, I have nothing more to add.  It is true that developed countries are able to mobilize about, as I mentioned in my intervention, 28 per cent of their economy in recovery programmes. The least developed countries only 2 percent of their very, very small economy. And this creates an increase in inequality.  

What is dramatic is that the situation was already very unequal when everything started.  The vaccines made inequality bigger.  The debt situation makes inequality bigger.  The interest rates that Barbados has to pay are much higher than the interest rates that apparently Germany has to receive when they issue bonds.

On the other hand, we see that the special drawing rights have increased inequality, because they were distributed according to the quotas, and so those that have more, got more.  And if the redistribution is not meaningful - and until now it is not clear that it will be meaningful- this inequality will be even more dramatic.  

Of course, when one looks at adaptation costs. When we see the impacts of climate change -of course, there is an impact even in New York - but when we see Small Island Developing States, when we see drought in areas of Africa, when we see storms, namely, between the two tropics, it is clear that the acceleration of climate change is increasing inequality.

So, we should be reducing inequality, we should be bringing justice to the world, we should be creating cohesion within our societies and everything that is happening.  And every way we are dealing with the things that are happening is increasing inequality.

Moderator: Thank you, Sir.