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Get up, stand up: Barbados leader invokes Bob Marley to goad UN

Published: Updated:

An impassioned Barbados prime minister on Friday sought to spur meaningful action from the 193-member United Nations on crises from climate and COVID-19 vaccines to poverty and education, invoking singer Bob Marley: “Who will get up and stand up?”

“If we can find the will to send people to the moon and solve male baldness ... we can solve simple problems like letting our people eat at affordable prices,” Mia Amor Mottley told the annual gathering of world leaders in New York.

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Mottley - who has led the Caribbean island nation since 2018 - called out the 76-year-old world body for “nice words” instead of action, saying people question the relevance of an organization “that only comes and does not listen to each other that only talks and will not talk with each other.”

“How many more leaders must come to this podium and not be heard before they stop coming? How many times must we address an empty hall of officials and an institution that was intended to be made for leaders to discuss with leaders?” she said.

Mottley summoned the late Jamaican singer, songwriter and musician by saying: “The words of Robert Nesta Marley. Who will get up and stand up for the rights of our people?”

“Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died during this awful pandemic? The millions. Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died because of the climate crisis?”

After sending video statements last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, many leaders again returned to New York this week to address the General Assembly with the focus very much on an inequitable rollout of vaccines and the climate crisis.

“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 change in climate. But we choose not to,” Mottley 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,” she said.

Read more: UK PM Boris Johnson tells world leaders ‘increasingly frustrated’ at climate inaction