Barbados has enjoyed a long and distinguished presence on the world stage. It has been a wide and varied manifestation whether it was in the sports arena through National Hero The Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, or business and entertainment global icon and fellow National Hero Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
The name of Barbados has also featured highly in the area of science and technology. Our very own computer scientist Alan Emtage is famous in the science world for conceiving and implementing the first version of Archie, widely considered the world’s first Internet search engine.
From these 166 square miles also emerged Dr Velma Scantlebury, the first black woman transplant surgeon in the United States of America, who specialises in kidney transplants. Dr Scantlebury has repeatedly been named on the Best Doctors in America and Top Doctors in America lists.
We could also add to our outstanding citizens, Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to be elected to the US Congress and the first to seek to become a presidential candidate for either political party. She was born in Brooklyn to Barbadian parents and spent part of her early childhood on the island.
It was, therefore, not hyperbole on the part of the late Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Kofi Annan, when the Ghanaian diplomat famously remarked that Barbados “punches above its weight”.
It was an endearment that is often referenced when highlighting the achievements of this tiny island.
Increasingly, however, Barbados’ profile is rising in diplomatic and geopolitical circumstances with the increasing prominence of Prime Minister Mia Mottley. She has been in local and regional political circles for several decades and comes from a lineage of aspirants to high office, going back to her grandfather Ernest Deighton Mottley, the former Mayor of Bridgetown.
We have been observing her steady rise as a global public figure. The Prime Minister has been a singular voice from the Caribbean in her outspoken and convincing arguments for special and differential treatment for small island developing states (SIDS), as well as developing nations on the African continent.
She was condemnatory of industrialised countries who hoarded the world’s supplies of COVID-19 vaccines during the height of the pandemic in 2020 when small, lesser-developed nations in the Americas and Africa struggled to access vaccines, medical equipment and supplies for their citizens.
The Prime Minister, through her vaunted Bridgetown Accord, has advocated for special development financing arrangements, and in some cases has also called for the write-off of some countries’ debt, to give their economies room to breathe and escape their longstanding debt traps.
Mottley’s name has been whispered out loud as a possible candidate for the position of Secretary General of the UN, a powerful vacancy that will arise in 2026.
A woman has never headed the UN in its 78-year history and Mottley’s possible candidacy has reportedly gained legs since her power speeches on platforms such as the UN General Assembly itself, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, popularly referred to as COP.
If Mottley were to require any further additions to her expansive resume for the top UN post, one could easily add the historic agreement between Venezuela’s two main political parties to guarantee transparent elections in 2024, which she was a key figure in securing.
The agreement was facilitated by the Norwegian government and culminated a process that started in 2019 when Prime Minister Mottley made the bold offer to the Nicolás Maduro administration and his arch-rival and Opposition leader Juan Guaido, to reduce tensions that have led to violence on the streets of Caracas and an implosion of the Venezuelan economy.
With the signing of the historic agreement at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St Michael on Tuesday and witnessed by high-level representatives from the European Union, Colombia, Mexico, Russia and Norway, Mottley may have edged closer to the Secretary-General position, if that is what she truly desires.