Home>Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados: "Without Heart, Your Brain Goes Nowhere"

15.09.2022

Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados: "Without Heart, Your Brain Goes Nowhere"

Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, addressing the students. (credits: Thomas Arrivé)

Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, was invited by Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) on 12 September to deliver the inaugural lesson of the Class of 2024. The passionate conversation she initiated and carried was introduced by Mathias Vicherat, President of Sciences Po, and moderated by Arancha González, Dean of PSIA. The Prime Minister took this opportunity to address “future leaders” on issues such as climate change and development funding but also on core values such as justice and solidarity.

The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, a first choice guest speaker

One word that can caracterise Mia Amor Mottley is unique. Her one of a kind personality, her passion, her eloquence, her brilliant mind, her empathy have made her be the first in many titles and accomplishments. She was indeed the first woman to hold the positions of Attorney General, leader of the opposition in Parliament, and leader of the Barbados Labour Party. She is the 8th Prime Minister of Barbados since 2018, reelected in 2022, and first Prime Minister under its republican system: a change she made a reality. She is the first Barbadian to appear on the cover of Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in 2022.

Introducing her, Mathias Vicherat could not help but tell the new cohort of PSIA students how lucky they were. He also made a few important announcements. Firstly, the relationship of Sciences Po with Barbados seems stronger than ever with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that extends the alliance with the University of the West Indies to its Barbados campus. As another step, the specialisation of the Poitiers campus will now be “Latin America and the Caribbean”. Finally, climate change is such a priority for Sciences Po, that 12 post doctoral students and 16 senior researchers will be recruited to support research on environmental transition.

Arancha González, the Dean of PSIA, expressed her joy to receive the Honourable Mia Mottley and presented her as a “timeless advocate of climate change and access to finance for all”. She explained how struck she has been by “how clear she is and how constructive in offering solutions”. She announced that the Prime Minister will answer two questions: why should students care and what can students do.

Why should one care? Learning to think and to never lose compassion

Prime Minister Mia Mottley started addressing the students of the 2024 cohort by telling them, “I sat where you are”. She went on explaining that they will be “the ones deciding” and that she has faith in their generation, in its capacity to “think better” and to shape this world. She believes that, “Your role here is to come out with the capacity to think and to exercise discretion and never to lose compassion. Without heart, your brain goes nowhere”. She feels the world today is much the same as it was when she was a student. Mia Mottley wonders how leaders could look at species disappearing in their lifetime without showing concerns, she humors the students, “Have you ever seen dinosaurs?”. The Prime Minister dates back the first warnings about global warming to the late 19th century. This summer of heatwaves, floods, droughts… should allow young people to ask why such apathy was shown. The Prime Minister wonders, “Can we learn from history like we are supposed to?”.

Preparing for her inaugural lesson, Mia Amor Mottley wanted to focus on the values of justice and solidarity. She was surprised to hear that those values are today seen as old school. She decided to make them simpler, timeless, children know those values in their hearts: fairness and togetherness. The way the pandemic was handled is the best example, there was not enough cooperation between countries to avoid a worldwide disaster. It is crucial that people find a way to live with each other because, “The world can only survive if we take care of the most vulnerable among us”. Regarding fairness, some offenses are still waiting for a long due apology, according to the Prime Minister of Barbados. She added that, “Haïti has paid the price for daring to want to be free”. She cannot accept that the African Union is not part of major international organisations when it is so much bigger in size and demographic than the European countries.

Young students have a key role to play in climate change. They often feel unheard or misunderstood by their elders, as was explained by two students. Mia Mottley states that, “This has happened to every generation before and it will happen to every generation after”. When she was a student, the main battle was the apartheid. The resistance in South Africa actually rose from the secondary school pupils, when they learned that Afrikaans was made compulsory. Solidarity should never be considered an old school value.

What can one do? The importance of “time, context and perspective”

Prime Minister Mottley is a fierce advocate against climate change. She has made a point of raising awareness, like she did at the COP26 in Glasgow. However, she firmly believes that climate change and development should always go hand in hand and that an issue cannot be settled without thinking about context and perspective. Students brought the example of the workers in the oil or coal industries who might lose their jobs. Mia Mottley affirms that, “Green energy is good business and good jobs” but that it takes time to lead such a transformation. Balance and time are of the essence.

Fairness should also always prevail as a core value. Citizens, leaders, countries, should “talk with each other and not at each other”. The Prime Minister of Barbados was vehement on the fact that a development bond to be repaid in seven or ten years (to the World Bank) is of no use. She dreams of a new definition: the “climate vulnerable countries”, countries that would be the most damaged by one climatic event, that would be unable to correctly recover. That new definition could help allocate vital fundings.

All in all, Mia Amor Mottley reminds students that, “Sovereignty lies in the people”. Her main focus as a leader is “a better life for our people”, that is why she tries in Barbados to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”, for example by betting on research to reduce seaweed and secure reefs. In order for a revolution to happen, she firmly believes that there needs to be a complete review of how to educate people. Journalists should be schooled in economics, everyone should. People need to become active citizens and keep on educating themselves when they leave school or university. The Prime Minister of Barbados identifies as a major issue misinformation and people not accepting facts anymore. A functioning society needs trust and the only way to get rid of this disbelief in facts is to educate people, to encourage them to develop their sources of information.

The Dean of PSIA concludes the lesson by quoting to the music lover Prime Minister a song from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. She asks, “Are you happy in this modern world?” and adds, “She’s not happy but she wants to change it”.

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