Dame Billie Miller gets CARICOM’s highest honor for ‘a Life Dedicated to Service’

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Dame Billie Miller, former Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados and Foreign Affairs Minister received the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) the Community’s highest honour.

The award was conferred on Dame Billie virtually during the opening ceremony of the Forty-Third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM on 3 July 2022, at the Assuria Hermitage High Rise Centre in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Barbados Foreign Minister, the Hon. Jerome Walcott accepted the award on behalf of Dame Billie.

Please see her citation below:

CITATION FOR THE AWARD Of THE ORDER OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (OCC) TO DAME BILLIE MILLER D.A., BCH, LL.D (Hon), AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY

A Life Dedicated to Service

Introduction

Today we have the pleasure of honouring one of the most distinguished daughters of the Caribbean, Dame Billie Miller of Barbados, who has lived a life of dedicated service to the people of the Caribbean, and who has been a trailblazer in the fight for the rights of women all over the world.

Early life and education

Billie, as she is affectionately and universally known, was born on January 8th 1944 into an eminent Barbadian family. Her father, Fredrick ‘Freddie’ Miller, was repeatedly elected, as a member of the Barbados Labour Party, to the Parliament of Barbados from 1948 to 1966, and served as Minister of Health during his tenure. Billie grew up in her family home in Brighton, St. Michael

She was educated at Belair Junior School and Queen’s College, Barbados, and went on to study law at King’s College, then in Newcastle, and the Council of Legal Education in England.

Public Service

  • From 1969 – 1976, practised as a Barrister and Attorney-At-Law. She was the third woman to practice law at the private bar in Barbados.
  • In 1976, she won the seat for the City of Bridgetown.
  • With her hard work, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was approved in 1983.
  • Minister of Health and National Insurance, and became the first woman to sit in the Cabinet of Barbados.
  • Re-elected seven times as a Member of Parliament for the City of Bridgetown.
  • Between 1986-1991, Senator and Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate.
  • A member of the steering committee of the Commonwealth Caribbean Resource Centre (COMCARC)
  • From 1994 – 2003, The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Business, and added to her work, the portfolio of Tourism and International Transport from 1995-1999.
  • Leader of the House of Assembly from 1994 to 2003
  • Deputy Prime Minister under the Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
  • Senior Minister in the Cabinet, retaining the portfolios of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade until retirement.

A few of her illustrious achievements: 

  • 2014–2018, Member of a Dispute Settlement Panel of the World Trade Organisation;
  • 2017-2018, High Level Group on Commonwealth Governance;
  • 2010-2017, Member of the Board of Directors of Women Deliver (New York);
  • 2008-2014, Member of the Board of the Inter-American Dialogue (Washington D.C.);
  • 2002-2008, Coordinator of CARICOM Ministerial Spokespersons with Responsibility for External Bilateral Negotiations between African, Caribbean and Pacific States and the European Union (ACP-EU), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Free Trade Area of the American (FTAA);
  • 2002, President of the 32nd Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS);
  • 1996-2002, Chairman of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Advisory Council on Women in Development (Washington D.C.);
  • 2000-2001, Chairman of the Association of Caribbean States’ Ministerial Council;
  • 1998, President of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States Council of Ministers (Brussels);
  • 1997-1998, The first woman Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Association; 
  • 1996-1999, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association;
  • 1994, Chairman of the NGO Planning Committee for the first International Conference on Population and Development, Egypt;
  • 1991-1997, President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region;
  • 1981-1986, Member of the Council of the University of the West Indies;
  • 2009-present, Vice President of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons;
  • 2011-present, Patron of the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership;
  • 2016-present, Patron of the Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Foundation of Barbados;
  • 2019-present, Member of Global Americans

Her list of honours and awards, both national and international, is also a lengthy one. 

  • The Queenss Silver Jubilee Medal – 1977
  • The Barbados Centennial Award – 2000
  • The Grantley Adams Award – 2001
  • The National Order of Juan Mora Fernandez  – 2001
  • The Woman of Great Esteem Award –– 2002
  • The Dame Elsie Payne Award for Excellence – 2002
  • Grand Officer of the National Order of Benin
  • Honorary Fellow of the Honors College at Florida International University –  2001
  • Dame of St Andrew – 2003
  • The Order of Bernardo OHiggins in the rank of Gran Cruz – 2006,
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, 2006
  • Selected as the Laureate for the United Nations Population Award– 2008
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws – 2014
  • Created Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary – May 2018

Conclusion

Dame Billie has been passionate about many things all her life: her beloved Bridgetown, serving the people of Barbados, promoting a robust role for NGOs in making lives better, advancing the cause of regional integration and unity, and fighting for the rights of small island states in the international arena.

She has been not only outspoken and unrelenting in her advocacy, but has also taken the time to encourage and mentor many young women, including the present Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon. Mia Mottley, Q.C., M.P. In this case, her mentorship has obviously borne precious fruit.

It is with great pleasure the Caribbean Community confers on Dame Billie Miller its highest award – The Order of the Caribbean Community.  Let us all join in expressing our congratulations to Dame Billie. 

Thank you.

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