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The Inaugural Kofi Annan Lecture delivered by Hon. Mia Amor Mottley

“Trust and inclusion are indivisible… We need a New Internationalism, a truly inclusive United Nations and international system.” – Mia Mottley

On 23 September 2022, the Kofi Annan Foundation, in partnership with the International Peace Institute, Open Society Foundations, and International Crisis Group co-hosted the inaugural event in the Kofi Annan Lecture Series featuring H.E. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. Learn more about the Kofi Annan Lecture Series.

Welcome Remarks:
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, IPI President and CEO
Nane Annan, Wife of His Excellency the late Kofi Annan, Member of the Board of Directors of the Kofi Annan Foundation
Mark Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundations

Featured Speaker:
H.E. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados

Concluding Remarks:
Comfort Ero, President of International Crisis Group
The Honorable Kevin Rudd, Former Prime Minister of Australia, Chair of the IPI Board of Directors

Watch the First Kofi Annan Lecture Series Event

 

The Kofi Annan Inaugural Memorial Lecture

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Delivered by Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados | New York | 23 September 2022

It is truly a privilege to have been asked by this group of organisations to give this inaugural lecture in honour of Kofi Annan.

For many states, the multilateral system that Kofi Annan championed for his professional life is of the highest importance.

He knew that big places are made up of small places, and when he visited Barbados in 2002 to inaugurate a new UN House, he expressed this with his usual sensitivity and candour:

…small countries appreciate that collective interest, and collective action is also the national interest.

What happens in your nations is of great concern to the rest of the world. Your countries are places where, in concentrated form, many of the main problems of development and environment are unfolding. Your experiences, your experiments, your transformation — can guide the way to a brighter future for all peoples.

So I speak to you today in a mode of reflection, as a daughter of the African diaspora and the leader of one of those countries Kofi Annan understood so well.

I speak to you about the life and legacy of one of Africa’s finest sons; one who led the world and truly made a real difference. Kofi Atta Annan – Nobel Laureate orator, visionary, mediator, intellectual, optimist, and a gentleman.

I speak to you about how that legacy resonates so strongly today as the world is confronted with perils and challenges unknown for generations but, against which Kofi warned us time and again.

This evening, a proud daughter of Africa will speak to the legacy and vision of an African son; a legacy of which we can all be proud and a vision with which I and many others closely identify.

Make no mistake, Kofi Annan’s perspective and work were shaped by the fact that he was African. That he understood the enduring impacts of colonisation on environment, society, economy and psyche. His approach as Secretary General was influenced by the fact that across his continent, the struggle for peace, an end to poverty, a desire for genuine independence, and true self-governance still endured against a history of colonial occupation, citizen oppression and rampant resource exploitation.

In these remarks I want to look at him as African son, global citizen, and assess his contribution, legacy and vision as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

It was my honour and pleasure to meet Kofi Annan that time he visited Barbados exactly twenty years ago. I was then a young Minister carrying the portfolio of Education, Culture and Youth Affairs. How time flies! Speaking at the opening, Secretary General Annan paid tribute to Barbados’ aspirations, capacities and achievements and made a statement that has endeared him deeply to Barbadians: that though a small island developing state, “Barbados punches far above its weight in the global community.”

It was a generous compliment and Barbadians have embraced it with enthusiasm and pride, feeling keenly the magnitude of the compliment. We accepted this kind remark with the responsibility which comes with it, understanding only too well the battles hard fought, then and that we must continue to fight those battles. Shortly after, Barbados successfully hosted the first United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States in 1994, marking the first time that the U.N held a global conference in one of the world’s smallest states.

I did not know Kofi Annan well but I feel deeply the connection of his work to the work I have been entrusted to do today. So you will forgive me, I hope, if, from time to time, I refer to him simply as “Kofi”, as a sign of affection, respect, inspiration and connection.

And when I use the words respect, inspiration and connection, I am referring to his ideas and his actions on the global stage. But also to who he was as an individual.

Kofi Annan’s country of birth, Ghana, has special place in the heart, and indeed the genes of Barbadians. Many of our ancestors came from that region Africa via the crime against humanity that was the trans-Atlantic slave trade. But on that grotesque and tragic history, we have forged new bonds.

In 2019, the President of Ghana visited Barbados and addressed a joint sitting of our Parliament. And I had the honour to speak at the 65th anniversary of independence celebrations in Ghana earlier this year. Later we opened our first diplomatic mission in Africa in Accra last year. Just a few weeks ago we co-hosted with the African Export Import Bank, the first ever Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum, under the theme of One People, One Destiny: Uniting and Reimagining Our Future”.

This is a small measure of the broader relations that bind the Caribbean and Africa together and which today are offering us connections for both the heart and the head.

 

Dear friends,

As Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s achievements were stellar.

I will mention a few before I look at two particular aspects of his thought.

The International Criminal Court came into being during Kofi’s first term as Secretary-General in 1998. It is worth noting that the Court has a significant Caribbean connection: the late Prime Minister and later President of Trinidad and Tobago, ANR Robinson, had launched the idea in 1989.  But Kofi Annan brought his powers of persuasion to bear on the subject and by so doing was able to achieve the establishment of the Court which had been opposed by certain influential countries.

Kofi Annan’s work, in strong collaboration with Mark Malloch Brown, led to the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. It was ground-breaking. It created a common development agenda for the entire multilateral system and the world. The MDG’s led to today’s SDG’s and Agenda 2030. Even as we struggle as an international community to attain these goals, their value, impact and universality remain undiminished.

He launched the Global Compact in 2000. Its objective is to encourage greater corporate social responsibility at the global and national levels and advocate for greater collaboration between the Private sector and the United Nations.

Under Kofi Annan’s watch, we saw the establishment in 2002 of the ground-breaking Global Fund to fight Tuberculosis, AIDS, and Malaria.

And, of course, Kofi Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, along with the United Nations. The Nobel Committee’s citation paints the critical arch under which he worked.

“While clearly underlining the U.N.’s traditional responsibility for peace and security, he has also emphasized its obligations with regard to human rights. He has risen to such new challenges as HIV/AIDS and international terrorism, and brought about more efficient utilization of the U.N.’s modest resources. In an organization that can hardly become more than its members permit, he has made clear that sovereignty can not be a shield behind which member states conceal their violations.”

I want to draw on two primary sources of Kofi’s thinking today.

On December 11, 2006, Kofi gave his final speech as UN Secretary-General. He chose the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Harry Truman’s home state of Missouri as a homage to an American President whom he described as “the master-builder, and the faithful champion of the Organization in its early years”.

In the cold Missouri winter, not so far from where he started his journey as a young student on scholarship in Minnesota half a century earlier, he shared what he described as the five lessons from his time in office.

The first lesson was about the value and importance of Collective Responsibility.

 We do not live alone and we cannot survive alone. In the collective are equity, protection and strength. The challenges we face are global and demand a global response.

Yet, as members of the human family and leaders of the countries of the world, we are confronted with the greatest threats to development and human wellbeing.

We are confronted with the clear and present danger of the existential threat posed by climate change to all in the future but today to those living between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

We are confronted with the unstoppable and destructive power of a pandemic and the looming danger of the antimicrobial threat.

We are confronted by the fragility of global supply chains.

But have we, understood Kofi’s lesson that without collective responsibility, our chances of defeating these monsters are jeopardised?

A spring and summer when from the USA to China, Europe to Pakistan, floods, wildfires, thunderstorms, freak storms, and heat, so scorching that the airport at Heathrow had to be closed when the runway started to melt along with Pakistan’s glaciers, leaving 33 million homeless and 1500 dead.

How many more must suffer?

How many more economies must be pushed to the brink?

The second lesson which Kofi shared with us was the necessity for Global Solidarity.

If ever there was a time for global solidarity, that time was presented to us by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus spread all over the world, touching every shore, killing millions and causing untold harm to millions more. I remind you that Kofi had cautioned us in an almost prescient foretelling:

All of us are vulnerable to what we think of as dangers that threaten only other people …. But millions (of Americans) could quickly become infected if….a new disease were to break out in a country with poor health care and be carried across the world by unwitting air travelers before it was identified.

While the COVAX facility was supposed to ensure vaccine doses to the larger populations of the developing countries, through vaccine nationalism and outright shameless hoarding, by November 2021, some 576 million doses had gone to developing countries while developed countries held on to 7.5 billion doses.

Where is the justice in that? Where the global solidarity?

 

To the end, Kofi Annan believed in his third lesson, the Rule of Law as the platform for both undergirding and delivering peace and development.

He was a mediator on difficult global issues and believed in respect for sovereignty and the rule of law at the national and domestic levels as a precursor for peace and prosperity. He would have been in his element today.

As we consider history and look around the world, it is true to say that the UN has lived up to its mandate of preventing the scourge of another world war, but we have not eliminated small wars, sabre rattling, and sectarian violence. A survey of the global security situation, notably in eastern Europe and the Middle East, but in many other place as well, reminds us daily of the tragic inability of the international system to deliver more peace and more security to the many vulnerable people of the world.

When will we as a global community, prefer the silence or music of peace, over the dissonant sounds and profits of war?

 

Mutual Accountability – was Kofi’s fourth lesson.

For me, this raises the question of [“who guards the guards?”]

The European Union and the OECD have developed black and grey lists of other countries they deem noncompliant with rules which govern anti-money laundering measures. They frame the rules. They act as judge and jury. They treat their countries preferentially, they pronounce verdicts, often without the application of the rules of natural justice which give an accused a right to be heard and to prove their innocence. And countries like mine end up on black lists.

But what is the reality?

It was not our banks that precipitated the global financial scandal and crisis. It is not through our banks that the corrupt proceeds pass. The countries which bear the responsibility for the real problems in global financial services, appear to be exempt from rules and scrutiny to which developing countries are subjected. Annan cautioned:

Accountability, of states to their citizens, of states to one another, of international institutions to their members and of this present generation to future ones – is essential for our success.

Who then is going after the real centres of money laundering and the safe havens for corrupt capital?

What does mutual accountability look like and how do we put it in place?

 

The necessity and value of Multilateralism was the fifth lesson that Kofi shared in Missouri, and I quote:

It is only through multilateral institutions that states can hold each other to account. And that makes it very important to organize these institutions in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong.

When put this way, questions follow naturally. Questions of effectiveness, questions of what is now commonly called, “fitness for purpose” of international organisations. Questions about the future of multilateralism in a world with an extreme populism, a rising tide of nationalism, religious sectarianism, and a world that has changed since the institutions of the past which were supposed to save the world and its people, were established.

Does multilateralism as we know it today, effectively address our common problems of security, inequity and inequality, exclusion, climate change, and socioeconomic deprivation, by finding solutions for “our common future” and delivering “the world we want”?

Does it give credence or impetus to, “Our Common Agenda? Does it enlarge our freedoms –  Freedom from want; Freedom from fear; Freedom to live in dignity?

It is my view that we cannot and will not deliver on large or small freedoms, on the absence of want, fear or create a pervasive culture of dignity, until we deal with the issue of citizen inclusion.

One of the greatest challenges facing leaders today is the deficit of trust. Distrust creates distance between citizens on the one hand, and leaders and institutions on the other. Those institutions could be national, regional or global, distrust fosters the same consequences. Where there is distrust, there is also alienation and exclusion. Trust has currency, it has value, it is a fulcrum for social stability. Trust is built when citizens become invested in the societies in which they live. That investment comes from citizens feeling a sense of social and economic inclusion; believing that they are valued and have a future.

Trust comes when citizens believe and can attest to the existence of global, moral, strategic, leadership which acts as an ethical compass to economic equity and social equality for citizens. In other words, trust and inclusion are indivisible. Trust does not occur by accident. It is not the random byproduct of chaotic governance, poor governance structures, or weak and failing institutions or leadership that is alienated from the populace. Deep and increasing distrust results when citizens believe that their governments, national and global institutions, are disconnected from them, do not represent their views and are not concerned about including them. Inclusion involves giving individuals agency, a say in their affairs, and a stake in the societies and economies in which they live.

When citizens in the developed world believe that they have no obligation to help developing countries, it is because they do not know and may not wish to know, that it was the slave trade and the gun that built empires and empires that financed industrialisation. The face of colonisation allowed their countries to thrive and become wealthy, that my country and others like mine are pushed to the brink of disaster. And the very same countries which have pushed us there while growing their economies, will take the money made at our expense and lend it to us at commercial rates or insurance premia to fix the climate crisis that they have caused. So the polluter profits instead of paying.

Trust is not created when countries pledge $100 billion per annum for climate finance and then deliver a fraction to developing countries; or commit to 0.7% of GDP as ODA, but dont give it; when the countries that stop others from exploiting new found fossil fuels are historically the world’s largest producers and polluters. Trust does not follow when the world’s citizens can see, and here I use Kofi’s language that the, “Global partnership for development is more phrase than fact.”

This year’s global political climate has been as hot as the world’s temperatures. As leaders, we must ensure that people have real access to the fundamentals of development; that lives of dignity can be theirs. That is how trust is build. World leaders and intuitions must not, as Kofi put it, leave our citizens, “to rot on the margins of the world economy.”

Trust and inclusion. How do we build them?

What we need is a New Internationalism, a truly inclusive United Nations and international system.

The United Nations was founded with the intention that it should be, “The indispensable common house of the entire human family.” And for a while it was. But in the last 77 years, the world has changed and if the organisation is to serve today’s member-states, if it is not to run the risk of becoming irrelevant, it must be more inclusive.

The United Nations, particularly the Security Council must be reflective of more current geopolitical realities and the “birth” of new nations. There cannot continue to be a situation where the Security Council, in an organisation of 195 member-states, has 5 Permanent Members which have a right of veto and can use it to frustrate the will of the majority. It cannot be an institution that purports to serve a modern world and which is prepared to deliver on a future for the next generations when it carries and is constrained by the cloak of history.

My friends, I want to turn now to a second important expression of Kofi’s thought and legacy which is intimately connected to one of the greatest challenges countries like mine are facing right now.

A dozen years ago in 2009, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, Kofi Annan spoke passionately about the disproportionate impact of the crisis on developing states. States which had done little to cause the financial crisis but who were, once again, the biggest casualties. The parallels to the climate crisis are, of course, startling.

Kofi Annan recommended a slew of actions:

  • immediate assistance;
  • concessional lending and temporary financial support;
  • action to help countries tackle and adapt to the emerging climate crisis;
  • investment to strengthen food systems;
  • a level playing field in global trade; and
  • international financial institutions that reflect the make-up of the world, and give opportunities to emerging economies and least-developed countries.

He was candid, noting that the role of the international financial institutions has often been resented; policy conditionality and fiscal prescriptions have been controversial, not least as their impact on growth and human development has been disputed.

 

Today, the UN estimates that some 1.2 billion people in 94 countries are now at risk of food, energy and financial stability.

Over 71 million people have already been pushed into extreme poverty, with hotspots in the Balkans, Caspian Sea and Sahel regions.

Rich countries have bailed out the banks.

They have subsidised fossil fuel companies.

They have stood by as food, energy and pharmaceutical companies have seen their profits soar.

They have blocked progress on funding to help developing countries address the loss and damage they have already suffered due to climate change.

They have failed to mobilize the $100billion in SDR reallocation.

They have blocked proposals that would have made the IMF and World Bank more representative.

 

By the end of 2020, the global response to COVID-19 was estimated to be around $20 trillion. 90% of that was spent by a small number of rich countries. Just 0.04% of that  billion was pledged to SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs; the countries most in need. And now, we are on track to make the same mistakes again.

To some, this may sound like the appeal of a Global South leader for funding in times of crisis. It is not. This is about getting the world on track and learning from our mistakes. This is about finding just solutions to current threats and longstanding inequalities. It is about our interconnected fates, and the reality check that developed economies cannot escape the spread of climate or financial woes if we do not cater for all.

If a call to solidarity and justice will not spark the response we need to the converging crises stalking the world, we’ll take a response based on self-interest.

Earlier this year we started an exercise of talking and discussing with civil society and academics and countries, drawing on our experience and theirs and put together a small list of policy priorities that have the rarity of being both achievable and meaningful. We call it the Bridgetown Agenda.

Today, the world is facing an unprecedented trifecta of connected crises:

  • a cost of living crisis stemming partly from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic;
  • a developing country debt crisis following the pandemic and climate-related disasters, and;
  • the climate crisis as the glaciers melt and storms and droughts intensify.

The situation is compounded by tightening monetary policies in developed countries and a strengthening U.S. dollar.

One in five countries is experiencing fiscal and financial stress.

Unaddressed, there will be deepening hardship, debt defaults, widening inequality, political upheaval and a delayed shift to low-carbon.

Global leaders are now experienced in managing crises. They know what to do and have the means necessary. We must act now. We cannot be good at rescuing banks but bad at saving countries.

The first step is to immediately provide liquidity to stop the debt crisis in its tracks.

We call upon the Board of the International Monetary Fund at the Annual Meetings in October to:

  1. Return access to its unconditional rapid credit and financing facilities to previous crisis levels.
  2. Temporarily suspend its interest surcharges for heavy borrowers.
  3. Re-channel at least $100bn of unused special drawing rights (SDRs) to those who need it.
  4. Operationalize the Resilience and Sustainability Trust to provide concessionary funds for climate vulnerable countries to strengthen their climate resilience.
  5. At the same time the G20 should agree an ambitious Debt Service Suspension Initiative that includes all multilateral development bank loans to the poorest countries, and COVID-related loans to the middle-income. This will provide needed breathing room.

But liquidity is not enough; these crises have systemic roots.

Only investment will change their course. So while addressing these immediate needs, we must also lay the path toward a new financial system that drives financial resources towards climate-related and sustainable development goals.

These goals require the rapid scaling up of investment in the low-carbon transition in the energy, transport and agricultural sectors to safeguard the 1.5-degree Celsius target, providing for substantial investment in building climate-resilience and sustainability and critical investments in public health and education.

  1. We call on multilateral development bank shareholders to implement the recommendations of the independent G-20 Capital Adequacy Frameworks Review by the end of 2022.
  2. The World Bank and other MDBs must use remaining headroom, increased risk appetite, new guarantees and the holding of SDRs to expand lending to governments by $1trn.
  3. New concessional lending should prioritise attaining the SDGs everywhere and building climate resilience in climate-vulnerable countries.

Today, donors generally agree to offer concessional funding when a disaster has struck, but that is too late if we want to save lives. Investments in resilience before the disaster could save seven times the investment in avoided loss and damage.

Finally, the task of transformation is too big for governments alone. Moreover, on global public goods like climate we have to move beyond country-by-country responses that have become bogged down by issues of who should do more.

  1. We need a global mechanism for raising reconstruction grants for any country just imperilled by a climate disaster. This is fundamentally the loss and damage framework that should be financed by the fossil fuel industry and those that have contributed the most to the stock of green house gases emissions. We believe in sharing the burden and sharing the bounty.

 

  1. We need a new issuance of $650bn of SDRs or other low-interest, long term instruments to back a multilateral agency, a new global balance sheet if you like, that accelerates private investment in the low carbon transition, wherever in the world it is most effective. We have just one climate.

 

  1. And we need a change in the IMF articles so that it can direct future issues of Special Drawing Rights to those who need it most. I understand this will require US Congressional approval

 

  1. And we call on all Major issuers of debt, sovereigns and agencies to the markets should help normalise natural disaster and pandemic clauses in all debt instruments to absorb shocks better.

 

These clauses set out an orderly, predictable, temporary debt standstill

And it would provide the level of liquidity than no other instrument can.

In our case, it releases 18% of national income to fight the disaster.

Only last night I read a paper calling on Pakistan to suspend its debt servicing while it recovers from the disaster. This is a disorderly version of what is required in an orderly pre-determined manner.

If all debt instruments had them when Covid struck,

It would have handed developing countries one trillion of dollars of liquidity, when it was needed most. While leaving no creditor worse off.

I have asked my staff to distribute copies of the Bridgetown Agenda as we seek to build a global movement so that we may heed a certain call and ask the world to come together as one. It is our time to lend a hand to life for we are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day.

Yes my friends,

The challenges we face in every country across the world are, in many ways, more severe than any we have met – certainly in my lifetime.

Yes, wars, the pandemic, the climate and energy crisis, and the food security crisis are wreaking untold havoc on the populations of most of our countries – including the richest and most powerful.

Yes, our existing international fora to navigate and drive global policy-making are falling short in our moment of most need.

But the lessons from Kofi Annan’s life and work, actions, and words speak clearly to us, here and now. We know what we need to do as a global community.

From the embers of the COVID and climate crises, from the inadequacies and failings of the existing international system, from the desire of the global family for inclusion; from the need for capital investment, health care systems and technological access which put people at the centre of development, we are now challenged to look at what we have so far built, to consider what is and to craft what must be.

And now it falls to us to do what has not yet happened – the social and economic inclusion of the world’s people and the protection of the planet on which those people live. The responsibility is ours to write, by word and deed, the new Charter for the Twenty-First Century.

When Kofi Annan made his farewell statement before the General Assembly in September 2006, he had four and a half decades of experience serving the UN and the international community. From a junior professional officer to the very apex of the organization.

With the depth, breadth and length of that experience, through difficult times, faced with the challenge of forging unity where there was division and creating order where there was chaos, it was with his customary clarity, candour and optimism that he concluded his statement thus:

Yes, I remain convinced that the only answer to this divided world must be a truly United Nations. Climate change, HIV/AIDS, fair trade, migration, human rights – all these issues, and many more, bring us back to that point.

Addressing each is indispensable for each of us in our village, in our neighbourhood, and in our country. Yet each has acquired a global dimension that can only be reached by global action, agreed and coordinated through this most universal of institutions.

Yes, my friends, there is a choice we are making, we are saving our own lives, its true we will make a better day, just you and me….and you, and you, and you.

I thank you.

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