Diplomats Recalled for Tête à tête

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-President stresses foreign service-cabinet collaboration

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited back to the country heads of diplomatic and consular missions for consultations through a two-day retreat (March 9-10) convened in Monrovia to deliberate on what can be done to further enhance Liberia’s relationship with the rest of the world and how to attract more investments, through bilateral means, to the country.

The retreat, which began on Thursday and ended Friday, was held at a local resort in Paynesville under the general theme: “Promoting Liberia’s Transformation Agenda through the Liberian Foreign Service,” and its working theme is “The Liberian Foreign Service: A Partner for Transformative Economic Development.”

The diplomats were here to examine lapses/gaps in communication and coordination between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the missions; develop strategies to bridge said gaps; and develop policies that will increase trade, which will support priorities set forth in the Agenda for Transformation (AfT).

They, during the course of the retreat, developed policies by which Liberia can attract technical and logistical support for the justice and security sector in view of UNMIL’s drawdown, officials of the ministry said yesterday in Monrovia.

The retreat brought together all 25 heads of Liberia’s diplomatic missions across the world.

In light of her impending departure from office, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for a robust and effective intra-governmental working relationship so that her administration can finish on a strong note.

The President said diplomats need to bring back home what they have learned in other countries to help build Liberia, adding that the consultation is necessary because it will help broaden the understanding of the workings of various segments of the government.

She called on members of Liberia’s diplomatic and consular missions across the globe to share with their colleagues at home (members of the cabinet) best practices, policies and programs that are making tremendous impacts in their areas of assignment to see how they can be implemented locally.

President Sirleaf said the meeting was also convened to thank the Foreign Service officials for sticking with her throughout the years.

“This is an opportunity to thank you all for being with us all these years and the successes we had had together collectively. We want to appreciate you for what you have done. You are career public servants, which mean you move from one administration to another. So what we are doing will pass on to the next people,” the President said, adding that though there will be changes, reforms, new policies and approaches, “but there are some things that will remain. There are certain fundamentals, foundations we have put in place that anyone who succeeds me will want to build upon. You will be the ones that will be part of the continuity and will be able to carry on these things that will help to further improve the country as the new administration will want to.”

The President said that “all of these should be done with one thing in everyone’s mind—the interests of the country’s. In all that we are doing and want to do, the country’s interests remain paramount.”

Meanwhile, MOFA authorities said that retreat is meant to provide a platform for determining viable strategies and options that Liberia’s missions abroad can use to deepen engagements with host governments and the private sector in their jurisdictions to encourage investment in Liberia and enhance development partnerships, support and cooperation between respective countries.

Minister Marjon Kamara said participants are expected to deliberate on ways by which the ministry can achieve its top three priorities over time, namely: Operationalize the implementation of existing bilateral and multilateral agreements for speedy economic recovery and growth; transforming the Liberian Foreign Service; and improving service delivery to and relations with Liberian citizens, national agencies, and foreign nationals and institutions.

Though the retreat has been long overdue, Minister Kamara said “there could have been no perfect time like this. This retreat has provided the platform where we are to meet and share ideas. I’m glad for your presence.”

A working session was convened immediately after the opening program, during which the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Commerce and Industry, Justice, National Investment Commission, General Services Agency, and the National Elections Commission made presentations.

It is anticipated that at the end of the retreat there will be an acceleration of the Ministry’s efforts to operationalize existing bilateral and multilateral agreements for speedy economic recovery, growth and development

Liberia currently has 21 embassies, two permanent missions and two consulates-general accredited near various capitals in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

This is the second time diplomats have been invited for a retreat; the first was in August 2011.

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