Mia Amor Mottley
Country: Barbados

Mia Amor Mottley

Mia Amor Mottley has lived a public life of firsts - first female leader of the Barbados Labour Party and the Opposition; first female Attorney General, a post she held for five years; and youngest ever Queen’s Counsel in Barbados. On 25 May 2018, Mottley become the eight Prime Minister of Barbados and the first woman to hold the post.

Early life and education

Mia Amor Mottley was born on 1 October 1965 in Barbados. Educated at Merrivale Private School (Barbados), the United Nations International School (New York), and Queen's College (Barbados), Mottley subsequently obtained a law degree from the London School of Economics. By 1986, Mottley was finalizing her training as attorney and received a law degree from the London School of Economics (Houghton Street, London, England). She is a lawyer by profession having been called to the Bar of England and Wales and in Barbados. She was admitted to practice in Barbados in 1987. Mottley is also admitted to practice in St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica. Mottley has been much influenced by her family. She is the granddaughter of Ernest Deighton Mottley (1907–1973), a real estate broker and successful politician particularly at the parish level. He was the first Mayor of Bridgetown (1959) who had represented Bridgetown in the House of Assembly from 1946 and who belonged to the conservative party and helped the poor. He was granted the 'Ordinary Commanders of the Civil Division' for public services in Barbados in June 1962 and assisted Wynter Algermon Crawford (1910–1993), Barbados' Trade Minister, at the Independent Conference in London during June and July 1966. Mottley's uncle, also named Ernest Deighton Mottley (1931–2008), a refuse disposal officer who lived in Great Britain for 18 years, he became the political leader of the short lived Christian Social Democratic party (CSD) created in March 1975.Her father Elliott Deighton Mottley (26 Nov 1939-), was also a barrister who sat in the House of Assembly, albeit for a relatively short time before vacating the seat to become consul-general in New York. He was educated at Eagle Hall School, Harrison College (Barbados) and Middle Temple (London) once served as Bermuda's attorney-general and sits on Belize's Court of Appeal. He married Mia's mother Santa Amor Tappin in December 1964 just three years after being called to the Bar and was elected to represent Bridgetown (Barbados) in May 1969. It has been suggested Prime Minister of the time, Errol Barrow, used his parliamentary majority to abolishing local government altogether and therefore undermine Elliott Mottley's strength in the political arena.

PC CREDIT: Prime Minister of Barbados and Incoming CARICOM Chair, the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley (Photo via BGIS)


Mottley first entered Barbadian politics in 1991 when, running on a Barbados Labour PArty (BLP) ticket, she lost the election race in St. Michael North East between herself and the late Leroy Brathwaite (a defeat of less than 200 votes). Between 1991 and 1994 she was one of two Opposition Senators in the Upper House where she was Shadow Minister of Culture and Community Development. During that time, she also served on numerous Parliamentary Joint Select Committees on areas ranging from Praedial Larceny and Domestic Violence. In September 1994, Mottley became one of the youngest Barbadians ever to be assigned a ministerial portfolio at age 29, she was appointed to the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture. During her tenure she co-authored the White Paper on Education titled “Each Child Matters” that draws the link between better education and job fulfillment. She was elected General Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party two years later. In that same year and again the following year (1997) she served as Chairman of the CARICOM Standing Committee of Ministers of Education.

PC CREDIT: At the 16th Raúl Prebisch Lecture by The Honorable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 10 September. Photo: Timothy Sullivan (UNCTAD)

Mottley was appointed Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs in August 2001 and is the first female (in Barbados) to hold this position. She is also the youngest ever Queen’s Council in Barbados. In addition to being a Member of the Privy Council of Barbados, she was Leader of the House and a member of the National Security Council and the Barbados Defence Board. During her tenure as Attorney General, Ms. Mottley appeared before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in a Constitutional/Capital Punishment matter, one of the last matters coming from Barbados to be heard before that body. In addition, she was the Agent for Barbados in the International Maritime Arbitration between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. Mottley is credited with being the visionary behind the Education Sector Enhancement Programme, popularly known as Edutech, which aims to increase the number of young people contributing to the island’s sustainable social and economic development. This revolutionary programme involves the widespread use of information and communication technologies to assist in improving the quality of the teaching/learning process. In Youth Affairs, Mottley directed the establishment of the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme and a National Youth Development Programme. Two years later Mottley was to serve as Barbados’s second female Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Social Council of Barbados and the Deputy Chairman of Barbados’ Economic Council. A position she held until 2008 and allowing her extended responsibilities including the chairmanship of a number of key Cabinet sub-committees, notably Telecommunications Reform and one oversight of the administrative and legislative initiatives to prepare Barbados for the advent of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. Under Prime Minister Owen Seymour Arthur’s BLP administration in February 2006, a government reshuffle resulted in Mottley becoming Minister of Economic Affairs and Development, a post she also held until 2008, where her responsibilities put her in charge of key economic agencies in the country.

Opposition Leader

Following the Barbados Labour Party's defeat in the election held on 15 January 2008 and Prime Minister Owen Arthur's laying down the mantle as party leader, she was chosen as BLP party leader on 19 January 2008. She is the first woman to lead the party, as well as the country's first female Opposition Leader. Mia Mottley was sworn in as Opposition Leader on 7 February 2008. On 18 October 2010, Mottley's appointment as Leader of the Opposition was revoked following a shift in support of five of her Parliamentary Colleagues to former Prime Minister Owen Arthur who assumed the leadership position that same day. Following a second election defeat on 21 Febraury 2013, Mottley was again selected as Leader of the Opposition.

Community Involvment

At the community level, Ms. Mottley founded the annual LIME Pelican Semi-Pro Football Challenge in 2011, and is the patron of the Lynden Grove Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to community causes.

Prime Minister

On 24 May 2018, Mottley successfully led the BLP to a 30-0 victory over the Freundel Stuart led Democratic Labour Party. She was sworn in as Barbados' eight Prime Minister on 25 May 2018. She is the first woman to hold the post. She is currently also the Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs, and Investment

Covid-19: a lesson in leadership from the Caribbean

The coronavirus crisis has exposed a lack of global leadership and a fractured international community. In amongst the mess, unsung heroes – often women and under-resourced nations – have demonstrated the power of solidarity and moral leadership. A prime example of this is the Caribbean, which has led a well-orchestrated, regional response to Covid-19 thanks to the tenacity of leaders like Barbados Prime Minster Mia Mottley. In a recent CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, she called for ‘all countries to step up’ and support Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks. Leadership is tackling Covid-19 beyond your borders All nations have been affected by Covid-19. The absence of global leadership and a coordinated response is taking its toll everywhere, but particularly on the most vulnerable nations. This crisis has made us all aware of how interconnected our systems are, and how much economic recovery in one nation depends on recovery elsewhere. Nowhere is that more true than in the Caribbean, where economies are very open, highly vulnerable to disease, natural hazards, and other economic stresses, and highly dependent on tourism revenues (which have been totally wiped out). Ms Mottley has been very vocal on the global stage. At the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit back in September 2019, speaking then on behalf of all SIDS (which represent 20% of nations), she stated: ‘we refuse to be collateral damage to the greed of others’. But in combating climate change, and as we are now seeing with global responses to the Covid-19 crisis, the international multilateral system is faltering. There is a dearth of moral leadership, a resurgence of nationalism, and competition between nations, all struggling to deal with their own problems.

The Caribbean’s coordinated response to Covid-19

As the first coronavirus cases to reach the Caribbean were confirmed in early March, states introduced selective quarantine measures and took decisions unilaterally to close borders. Yet it soon became apparent that without a coordinated effort, they would all be in trouble. When a hurricane hits, countries usually procure equipment from their powerful neighbour to the north, but not this time – the Trump administration blocked distributors from selling PPE overseas. Sourcing from elsewhere also proved a challenge. Individually, islands have such small populations (Dominica has less than 70,000 people) that quantities needed are too low, and prices too high. Fortunately, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has a total population of 16 million, so when CARICOM stepped up with a proposal for joint procurement, the region was able to secure vital supplies. Member states have since developed joint policies on logistics and transport, ensuring common standards in intra-regional transportation of people and goods and support to regional carriers. As outgoing Executive Director of the Caribbean Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson, was keen to assure me: ‘coming out of the challenges we now have stronger bonds’.

Economic recovery through solidarity

Regional solidarity will be equally critical to ‘building back better’ – to recover from the crisis and build more resilient economies and societies. Caribbean states are keen to open borders; but they remain cautious. There is agreement this needs to be carefully orchestrated: given all the connections between islands, it doesn’t make sense to open airports in one island and not others; or ports but not airports. Heads of Government have also adopted a collective approach to requesting assistance from International Financial Institutions. Caribbean countries have high levels of debt – collectively owing $8.8bn that needs to be paid back this year and next – so borrowing to deal with the impacts of Covid-19 is simply not an option. They are calling for debt relief, disaster clauses in sovereign debt contracts and changes to the international aid rules. Most Caribbean islands are high-income sovereign states or overseas territories and therefore not eligible for ODA. Instead, Ms Mottley and others propose that a vulnerability index be used to determine need.

Moral leadership for the future

Ms Mottley has called for a new international economic order to address deepening inequality within and between countries, and to tackle the climate emergency. This is the kind of moral leadership the world needs. Ms Mottley is one of several female leaders that have been acknowledged for their superior responses to containing the spread of Covid-19. Hopefully, as a result of this crisis, we will give more space to these great leaders – and most importantly, listen to them. Barbados leader urges moral leadership to tackle climate crisis he world is doing far too little for small island states on the frontlines of the climate emergency. Now is the time to turn the corner. Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, challenged the world to reinvent the international order and do better by small island states that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, fighting for their survival in a war they did not start. “An international order that is not inclusive, or strongly rooted in fairness and moral legitimacy will fail to halt and reverse climate change,” Ms. Mottley said while delivering the prestigious 16th Raúl Prebisch Lecture at the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on 10 September. Ms. Mottley is the first woman to lead the island nation and the second woman to deliver the lecture established in 1982 to honour Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch, UNCTAD's founding Secretary-General. The first woman to deliver the lecture was former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1983. Other past speakers include renowned scholars Jeffrey Sachs and Jagdish Bhagwati and Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Lawrence Klein, among others.

PC CREDIT: The Associated Press Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly at United Nations headquarters on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. The General Assembly hall is equipped with a teleprompter, but few leaders used it Friday, with most opting for paper speeches. While reading speech texts from phones has become more common in general, the practice remains rare at the General Assembly. (UN WebTV via AP)

Ms. Mottley defended the rights of small islanders bearing the brunt of the climate emergency, saying she was committed to empowering them, giving them opportunity, a voice and a presence, even when others cannot or refuse to see them. “Because it is the right thing to do - not just politically but morally,” Ms. Mottley said.

Why moral leadership matters

Prime Minister Mottley expressed disappointment at today’s political and social movements that are turning back the positive advances made in the past century. “We are trespassing on ground that is best left in our history and not our future. And to this, we add the insidious threats of terrorism and, now, the existential threat of climate change,” she said. In such times, only moral leadership can guarantee the rights of the voiceless and the invisible, she said. “Just as we find it abhorrent today to contemplate, far less support, removing freedom and choice from other human beings, so must we also recognize that true freedom also requires changing the structural imbalances in power and wealth,” she urged. Moral leadership is needed to address the power and wealth imbalance that persists in today’s world, crippling the development aspirations of many nations, Ms. Mottley underscored. She cautioned that we must not be naïve in appreciating the head-start given to developed countries, which had the benefit of building their industrial base on the wealth taken from people thousands of miles away. Ms. Mottley described independence without options for development as “a hollow experience that breeds cynicism and fosters marginalization.”

‘Too small to be seen or to matter to some’

Small island states fail to access markets on fair terms and fail to have correspondent banking services because they are simply too small to be seen or to matter to some, Ms. Mottley observed. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, many global banks have decided to terminate or limit their correspondent banking services (also known as derisking) to different regions, including small island states, to avoid rather than manage risks. Ms. Mottley described this practice as one “not rooted in moral legitimacy or leadership” as these banks “rely on their might and size as bullies do in a playground” and called on public officials to urge the reversal of this insensitive practice. She called for a new international economic order to tackle deepening inequality within countries, for markets left to their own devices will favour the mighty and only occasionally, the lucky. She extolled the moral leadership exemplified by greats like Mahatma Gandhi, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and other public servants who championed fairness and equality of opportunity against great odds and won global support, albeit belatedly.

Time is running out

Ms. Mottley warned that time to harness global efforts to tackle problems such as the climate emergency – a problem too great for any one nation – was fast running out. “What will it take for us to get the mighty of the world to protect us against the existential threat to our survival?” she posed. It’s only a matter of time before those who bear the heaviest responsibility for causing climate change face its worst consequences, Ms. Mottley warned. “But we who are invisible do not have the luxury of time because we are busy trying to survive,” she said. The climate crisis presents an opportunity to the current generation to assume leadership and establish its moral legitimacy, Ms. Mottley said. But climate change – like other global problems such as international terrorism and financial crime – can only be defeated through multilateralism, she said. “If it matters enough, we can choose to end climate change. Our only limits are the limits to our imagination. We achieve what we put our resources behind.” In waging the fight against climate change, Ms. Mottley said, the world must claim ground, secure it and move forward. “We need collective partnerships. We need new voices to inspire and to influence.” She lauded the spirited efforts of the youth who are mobilizing and speaking up to demand more climate action from their leaders, saying these young people inspire hope for the future, and called on influencers to add their voices to the cause. Ms. Mottley said the nations of the world could solve the climate crisis by single-mindedly deploying their technologies and resources to halting the problem. The nation that wins the technological race to beat climate change will become the most powerful, she argued. She urged: “Let us choose to end climate change. We will achieve it. Human ingenuity will enable us to do so. But we cannot wait. Let us bring it forward.”

Outstanding Achievements

MIA AMOR MOTTLEY, Prime Minister of Barbados, said that as the international community meets in this “strange and impersonal virtual space”, there is a compelling need for nations to pause to reflect on what the United Nations needs to do as it reaches its important milestone. While it is fitting that the Organization’s accomplishments be reflected upon, there is no time for contented self-congratulations over what has been achieved as the world faces a new enemy, the pandemic, in addition to the deadly existential threat of the climate crisis. COVID‑19 has manifested in a perfect storm that threatens to disrupt gains made, including the limited progress of States such as Barbados to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She noted that an estimated 100 million more people have fallen into poverty, unemployment levels at their highest in decades and a global economic depression looms. Barbados strongly supports the Secretary‑General’s call for a new social contract to counter the growing gaps in trust and for a new global deal that is more inclusive and recognizes the different development levels among countries.

Stepping up to the podium: women’s participation in politics in Barbados

The Barbados Labour Party recently held a political rally for a by-election at Charles Rowe Bridge, St. George on Sunday 1 November 2020. This rally was important because during this event all speakers were women. They included Dame Billie Miller, Ambassador Liz Thompson, former Consulate General to New York Jessica Odle-Baril, Ministers Sandra Husbands, Cynthia Forde, Marsha Caddle, Santia Bradshaw and Kay McConney, Deputy Speaker of the House Dr. Sonia Browne, candidate Toni Moore and Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. The by-election was held on 11 November 2020 and Toni Moore, the BLP candidate won the St. George North seat. Political meetings and platform speeches are an important and exciting aspect of the Anglophone Caribbean’s political culture. They provide politicians with direct contact to voters and an opportunity to articulate important national as well as local issues. In this by-election, different political meetings were organised by the two established political parties, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). This meeting by the BLP provoked a backlash from within the party and outside the party because of the ‘all female cast’. This is instructive and speaks to the male-dominated political culture as well as persistent gender stereotyping of politics as a man’s activity. This despite Mia Mottley becoming the first female to hold the position of Prime Minister in 2018. The optics of female leadership seems encouraging, but society is still very patriarchal, and the political landscape is far from being gender balanced. Representation is at the core of democracy and has evolved over time to include different groups. Historically, the design of democracy and representation excluded women. There have been very few if any spaces for association for women politically and they tended to be restricted to playing private and/or supportive roles in the region. According to Hinds ‘Although women were active in the labour movement in the 1930s and 1940s, they tended to play supportive roles while these organisations were run by males and often centred around male employment …’ (2007). Moreover, inbuilt disqualifications prevented women from participating in national politics, but they found other spaces to make their mark. In the decolonisation and post-colonial periods, despite legislation that allowed participation, women still found themselves marginalised in the political sphere and excluded from decision-making processes because of the patriarchal male-dominated system that embodied political administration. The extension of the franchise to all women consequent on the declaration of Universal Adult Suffrage transformed politics in Barbados by increasing the voter base, to both males and females. However, women’s political participation largely involved casting of votes and there was a dearth of women’s involvement at other levels of the political process, mainly the decision-making levels.

PC CREDIT: Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley speaks during the 74th Session of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York on September 27, 2019. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, the Caribbean is not the only space characterised by this underrepresentation of women; it is a worldwide phenomenon. This underrepresentation is reflected in ranking data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) showing low percentages of female representation in Parliament since the 2018 elections in Barbados. There is 23% representation in the Lower House with 7 out of 30 seats and 38% female representation in the upper house with 8 out of 21 nominated positions. This is against a background across the region where women, by and large, do not hold more than 30% of elected positions. Prime Minister Mottley in presenting on challenges to women’s political representation in the Caribbean stated, ‘The reality of [party] membership is that more women are activists, more women are members, but fewer women have the opportunity to choose or decide anything, because it is a closed shop of decision-making’. Different countries have used different strategies to encourage opportunities for women entering the political decision-making process.

Prime Minister of Barbados lays out her vision for the future of SIDS

The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, delivered the keynote address at the recent Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) 30th anniversary event, ‘A SIDS Moment in December’, where she shared her vision for the next decade for small island developing states (SIDS). Reflecting on the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the difficulties SIDS have faced this year, she cautioned that climate action could not rest, commenting: “Whilst we can look forward to highly efficacious vaccines for Covid-19 in the new year, there is no vaccine available against the climate crisis.” She laid out her vision for the future and steps SIDS and others need to take to get there. Leading the way on climate action Reflecting on the increased role SIDS need to play in pushing for climate action, Prime Minister Mottley asked her audience “to imagine a world where the large, powerful countries and, increasingly, the multinational corporations did not dictate all of the rules, a world where small islands were not considered dispensable [but] were indeed visible. That is the future that we demand.” She noted the successes that the 44 SIDS that make up AOSIS have thus far achieved, including pushing for 1.5 degrees, rather than 2 degrees, as a guardrail for global warming limits; lobbying that generated the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees; and leading the world in ocean conservation and the concept of a ‘blue economy’. Engaging the climate crisis on multiple fronts Looking to the future and the survival of SIDS, Prime Minister Mottley commented: “The challenges we face as small islands force us to re-think…how best we can ensure our very existence. Perhaps AOSIS should now engage the climate crisis on multiple fronts, in addition to within the designated United Nations silos.” She described climate change as both a human rights issue and a national security issue and argued that most aspects of SIDS’ foreign policies and trade relations should therefore be influenced by the existential threat that climate change has posed. Moving forward, she recommended that SIDS need to: • Strengthen internal capacities to generate and interpret their own climate data, and to provide scientific evidence to their own policymakers and negotiators. • Strengthen dissemination of best practice among SIDS. She impressed that “…for too long we’ve spoken about a small island developing states network and the synergies and economies of scale that could be obtained by joint approaches to, for example, sourcing climate finance” without actually taking practical steps to do this, suggesting that now is the time to take more collective action. Actions for developing countries The Prime Minister outlined urgent actions needed from developing countries, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. She argued that debt problems, especially those of developing countries, must be addressed as soon as possible in order to prepare for an equitable, resilient, greener and sustainable economic and social recovery from Covid-19. She also made the case for integrating vulnerability into development financing, noting that SIDS have been consistently calling on the international community to do this, and for changing the development financing landscape for small states to incorporate a universal vulnerability index. “Many of our development partners are failing to live up to promises made under Monterrey Consensus, and failing to provide climate finance that was promised under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and then under the Paris Agreement,” she commented. “It is extremely unfortunate that due to the pandemic, scheduled negotiations have not commenced this year on a new collective finance goal for 2025 – we need urgent action. We commend the efforts to date of the G20 countries, the UN and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. “Much more is needed and much more quickly – we need fresh approaches and new thinking, and that is why Barbados has volunteered to be the smallest nation to ever host the meeting of the United Nations conference on trade and development. “There is much work to be done, and our survival as small island developing states depends on it.” Raising SIDS’ visibility “The most vulnerable among us must have a seat at the table when major policy options are being negotiated. For too long our voices have not been heard,” the Prime Minister commented. “We may be invisible to some but…we are certainly not indispensable.” She urged that now more than ever SIDS need the financial architecture and governance mechanisms to drive a global plan to prevent vulnerable counties from spiralling into ever-increasing debt, and to mount a green recovery to avert the climate crisis. ‘The great reset’ Prime Minister Mottley closed her address by asking SIDS: What type of future do we want and are we capable of creating? She framed the Covid-19 pandemic as an unprecedented opportunity to reset and choose a more sustainable path, commenting: “Let us make sure that no island is left behind in the great reset. Now is the time to regain our respect for science and our humility towards mother nature. “As the custodians of some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world…we have a unique perspective and the ability to lead the world into a truly enlightened future.”