Annan a man for small nations

Annan a man for small nations
Photo by George Alleyne

“Barbados has lost a friend” were the telling words of Prime Minister Mia Mottley as she remarked on the passing of former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, a man who went out of his way to make tiny member states of that world body feel important.

While acknowledging that Ghana has lost an outstanding son of the soil in the death of Annan recently she pointed out that in his visit to Barbados some 16 years ago, he left the people repeating, to this day, “an iconic description of Barbados’ state of development and our role in international politics.”

On his 2002 visit to Barbados to double a vacation with the opening of a brand new UN building, United Nations House, to serve this island and the others of the Eastern Caribbean, Annan had reportedly remarked, that Barbados “punches above its weight.”

His comment on the world performance of this 166-square-mile island has since been used by almost everyone in this country to either re-assert the place of their land in world affairs, or as a reminder of where the country once stood, especially during discussions on its faltering economy.

“This was a status that we enjoyed for many years in the past, and which my government is working assiduously to re-instate for the benefit of the country and the people. Today, to say that Barbados ‘punches above its weight’ is a call to action,” Mottley said in a statement on the former world administrator’s death at age 80.

“His achievements were many, but of particular significance and relevance to Barbados was his work on building an international development agenda. Annan’s insightful work in this area was far-reaching,” she said and referred to the UN Millennium Development Goals that led to the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Development Agenda.

“Barbados accords highest priority to these development objectives and the resulting collaboration with our development partners,” she said, adding, “Barbados will always remember this great statesman for his dignity, his vision and his support to our national development efforts”.

Along with Barbados, Annan proved an inspiration to the swath of Eastern Caribbean states when he said at the 2002 UN House dedication, “it is well known that in the United Nations there are many small countries that punch above their weight, and I am sure that there are many in this room and in this region that will continue to do that.”

Annan who rose through the ranks of the UN and had a remarkable period serving as Secretary General from 1997 to 2006, said, “it is also remarkable to hear that the small countries take the United Nations very seriously because they do know what it means.”

Going on to describe small nations as “the backbone of the United Nations in terms of your support and encouragement,” he said, “I think the small countries appreciate that collective interest, and collective action is also the national interest.”

“What happens in your nations is of great concern to the rest of the world. Your countries are places where, in concentrated form, many of the main problems of development and environment are unfolding. Your experiences, your experiments, your transformation — can guide the way to a brighter future for all peoples.”