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Barbados Prime Minister delivers a speech at the U.N. General Assembly

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2021 in New York. (Photo: John Angelillo/AFP via Getty Images)

'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley delivered a scathing indictment of the rich and powerful during her address at the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, condemning the leaders of wealthy countries for refusing to take basic steps to end the coronavirus pandemic, tackle the climate emergency, and usher in a more just society.

"How much more global temperature rise must there be before we end the burning of fossil fuels?"

"If I used the speech prepared for me to deliver today, it would be a repetition, a repetition of what you have heard from others and also from me," Mottley said at the outset of her remarks, which came after the leaders of African and Latin American nations decried the massive, persistent inequities in coronavirus vaccine distribution that have left billions of people without access to lifesaving shots.

"How many more times will we then have a situation where we say the same thing over and over and over, to come to naught?" she asked. "My friends, we cannot do that anymore."

In the roughly 15 minutes that followed, Mottley—the leader of Barbados' Labour Party and the first woman to serve as the small island nation's prime minister—decried the international community's continued inaction in the face of intensifying global crises.

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide action plan for vaccinations will be implemented?" Mottley said. "How many more deaths must it take before 1.7 billion excess vaccines in the possession of the advanced countries of the world will be shared with those who have simply no access?"

Watch the full speech:

"None are safe until all are safe. How many more times will we hear that?" she continued. "How much more global temperature rise must there be before we end the burning of fossil fuels? And how much more must sea levels climb in small-island developing states before those who profited from the stockpiling of greenhouse gases contribute to the loss and damage that they occasioned, rather than asking us to crowd out the fiscal space that we have for development to cure the damage caused by the greed of others?"

Mottley went on to dismiss the notion that the international community lacks adequate resources to make transformative progress in the fight against Covid-19, the climate crisis, and global inequality.

"We have the means to give every child on this planet a tablet, and we have the means to give every adult a vaccine, and we have the means to invest in protecting the most vulnerable on our planet from a changing climate—but we choose not to," she said. "It is not because we do not have enough, it is because we do not have the will to distribute that which we have. And it is also because, regrettably, the faceless few do not fear the consequences sufficiently."

"The nation states of this assembly and the people of this world must indicate what direction we want our world to go in," Mottley added, "and not leave it to the faceless few who have worked so hard to prevent the prosperity from being shared."


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