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On diplomatic appointments and our focused development plan

By Paul T. Shipale
This opinion piece follows a report in the daily English local newspaper of the Namibian Sun, which published an article authored by its newly appointed editor; Toivo Ndjebela, on Monday the 16th of July 2012, with the front page headline reading: "Major diplomatic reshuffle looms".

The said newspaper reported that at least six heads of Namibia's diplomatic missions will be recalled back home, if a proposal drafted by presidential advisor on foreign affairs, Tuliameni Kalomoh, sails through unopposed. The recommendation, seen by Namibian Sun, is dated February 24, 2012 but the Presidential Advisor on foreign affairs stated in a letter published by the same paper that he has never drafted such a proposal for the recall or reshuffle of Namibian Heads of Mission.

Nonetheless, in this regard, my brother, the young political scientist, Job Amupanda texted me the other day saying, "if we are to become serious contenders in international politics, we must reshape our foreign policy and stop making our diplomacy a sphere of the "failed" and the "unwanted" (sic), or recycled diplomats. According to Job, diplomacy must attract talent and lucid postures of international politics.

I agree with Amupanda on this scope that diplomacy must attract multi talented and multi lingua officials provided that we don't erase our living memories and walking archives by retiring all of our most seasoned diplomats at once but retain some of them and post them based on our country's needs, their experience and expertise. For this reason, I fully welcome the appointment of the new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the AU's Headquarters in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia; Her Excellency Anna Namakau Mutelo, who will see to it that the country contributes towards the building of new African progressive forces that will be equal to the task of the new century and to take forward the socioeconomic and political development of the continent.

In this regard, the newly Ambassador –designate is charged by the Head of State with the duty to work closely together with other representatives of the AU member States and the AU Commission to advance the developmental agenda of the continent and articulate the country's position's in a number of areas, including the country's dedication to the promotion of international peace and security. Against this background, she will work with the new Chairwoman of the African Union Commission, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, whose victory signifies not only a spectacular diplomatic coup for South Africa but also a major shift in the balance of power on the continent, according to a report by Caiphus Kgosana that appeared in the South African weekly Sunday Times of 22 July 2012.

According to that report again, not only South Africa will now be able to peddle influence but it has become a major power broker on the continent, as her dominance in the multilateral arena now firmly establishes her as the continent's foremost power. Indeed, if one considers that South Africa is a member of the BRICS alliance of emerging economies, South Africa is involved in the G20 forum; and has a seat on the UN Security Council, albeit a temporary one. Admittedly, the country is slowly but surely stamping her growing influence not only on the continent but also marking her role in global politics as the country will have a stronger case when influential positions in multilateral organisations become vacant in future.

For this reason, perhaps we should also, as a SADC member State and neighbour country, work closely together with South Africa who might play a role in securing us some important positions in the AU structures in order for the country to position itself in African politics. Already, it was partly thanks to South Africa that Namibia secured an important position of one of the posts of vice presidency at the Pan African Parliament (PAP) with the election of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Loide Kasingo, but we still need to do more.

I agree with Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari that it is also crucial that we get a return on our investment in South Africa's candidacy and an opportunity exists for Namibia to draw a laundry list of issues that should be carried into the continental and global agenda. South Africa provides such an important inlet into continental and global processes. Indeed, "national interests in the conduct of foreign policy ought to constitute concrete phenomena in well-calibrated strategic foreign policy thinking", as Hengari said but that does not mean that we cannot strategically define our own interests, no matter how small a country we are.

In itself, diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states. It usually refers to the conduct of international relations through professional diplomats with regard to issues of treaties, trade, war and peace, economics and culture. Since 1945, countries around the globe have conducted their foreign relations in the context of a world that practiced what can be called Classic Diplomacy. It was a world in which government-to-government relations were the principal activity; a world in which ambassadors and embassies were often a nation's only venue for expressing its national interests. It was also a world in which heads of state met to discuss the great questions of the day. In short, it was a world in which nations were more sovereign and independent actors than today's environment allows them to be.

Today, however, Public diplomacy is a multi-faceted effort extending beyond the government and official channels in a host country to influence the people's views about a country's policies, culture, society, and values. There is also a new added dynamic in the public diplomacy world as the result of the information/communications technology revolution.

In this regard, former American under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes said that, unlike the era of the Cold War, today, "there is an information explosion and we are now competing for attention and for credibility in a time when rumors can spark riots, and information, whether it's true or false, quickly spreads across the world, across the internet, in literally instants."

It is for this reason that former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice had stated that many U.S. diplomatic personnel, responsible for implementing U.S. foreign policy on a day-to-day basis, were in the wrong place and needed to be repositioned globally, under the Global Repositioning Initiative to engage the people in what is now called "localized diplomacy."

I already amply elaborated on these pages that in our lifetime, we are witnessing seismic shifts in global economic and political power relations, especially now that the western countries are bankrupt, as our Founding President, His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma always says. The transition to a world dominated by economies other than western industrialised countries is indeed underway. There is a major shift in economic and political power towards emerging economies already holding 41% of global foreign exchange reserves. By 2030 (if not earlier), these countries will rival G7 in the size of their economies. On the other hand, Africa is the third fastest growing region after Asia and the Middle East and its economy is now roughly equal to that of Russia or Brazil (US$1.6 trillion in 2008) and will increase to US$2.6 trillion in 2015. The question we must ask ourselves therefore is; how do we reposition ourselves strategically as a country for our own interests and in order to boost inter Africa trade in line with this year's African theme?

I am pleased that the government has finalized the formulation of the country's next five-year plan, NDP4, which was recently launched on 19 July 2012 by President Hifikepunye Pohamba after the NPD3 has come to an end in March 2012. In this regard, the Government, through its NPC, has decided that in order to achieve the overall goals of becoming a prosperous and industrialised nation, there are certain things that must be done first instead of the previous 21 goals. It is for this reason that the government decided that NDP4 will focus on three goals, namely achieving high and sustained economic growth, job creation and the reduction in income inequality. NDP4 is also a focused development plan that has identified four strategic areas, namely, logistics, tourism, manufacturing and agriculture and departed from previous development plans in the sense that it will be developed in two phases, namely, to set the strategic direction through a high level document and to focus on sectorial implementation plans in order to allow an annual sectorial review of what must be done and obtain the necessary alignment with the budgetary allocation. Without a doubt, the launch of the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) is therefore a clear indication that our government has a coherent visionary and overarching political and economic strategy.

I am also pleased that the Office of the President, has achieved a significant milestone in its quest towards the implementation of the Performance Management System which was adopted by the Office of the Prime Minister and in line with its Strategic Plan of 2010-2015. The signing of Performance Agreements provides the Office with the opportunity to ensure accountability, professionalism, integrity, confidentiality and teamwork as some of the core values of the organisation in order to render effective support services to the Head of State and the Cabinet in the execution of their constitutional mandates as well as monitor progress to provide remedial action in time.

Above all this will convert the Office into a learning Institution that will equip its staff members with the necessary skills to enhance productivity and provide value for money to the nation, said the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Attorney General, Dr. Albert Kawana who, together with the Secretary to Cabinet, Frans Kapofi, witnessed the signing of the Performance Agreements by the Staff in the Office of the President. The Minister also called for objectivity and fairness and cautioned the supervisors and management to guard against discrimination based on tribe, ethnic affiliation and gender. All in all, we are on the right track and just need to work collectively, including with all AU member States for the development of the continent.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.


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