Dr. Elwood Dunn (PhD), prolific Liberian writer and policy analyst, has stressed the need for a people-centered policy between and among countries with diplomatic ties, making specific emphasis on Liberia and India.
Making the plea recently while attending the International Conference on India-Africa Relations in Calcutta, India, Dr. Dunn indicated that public policy over time has tended to be a government monopoly as there are no alternative or independent thinking entities.
Dr. Dunn said, “When it comes to Indian-Africa relations, I believe that this is largely a domain of governments. Even in the realms of business, investments, trade and the other avenues of international intercourse, the space for setting the pace is limited for non-government actors.”
The Liberian policy analyst noted in his keynote address that the traditional norms of two government forums prevail and set the perimeters for India-Africa relations with bilateral and multilateral protocols translating what the forums define.
According to him, non-governments remain on the margins in this policy-making, making it difficult for the people to be fully involved in what concerns and affects them.
Further explaining in an exclusive interview, Dr. Dunn said he was not confronting government in an argument, but he believes that for all to feel a part of decision making and work together in achieving a goal, inclusive policy has to be drafted with the participations of both government and the people.
Citing an instance on the current crisis in the European nation of Ukraine, Dr. Dunn indicated that before the United States government can take any decision, it will require consulting stakeholders including private institutions and former government officials to share ideas and embark on the one they think necessary.
In terms of Indian-Africa policies on economy and trade, the Liberian policy analyst is of the view that involving key stakeholders including people of the private sector is very essential to the growth and development of the economy and successful implementation of such policies since the people feel a part of it.
Reflecting on former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Anan’s Africa’s Panel Report on natural resources in 2013, which raised alarm on huge resources leaving Africa while its people live in abject poverty, Dr. Dunn wondered whether amid huge resources and business potential in Africa, its people can continue to be out of policy-making and live in abject poverty.
“For what is at stake here is too important to be left to governments alone. Our times demand a robust interaction between governmental authorities and all manner of free association of peoples, both within, and across national borders,” he noted.
Unlike Indian-Africa relations, Dr. Dunn intoned that the model of Africa-China relations reveals the gradual emergence of civil society organizations and a host of other non-government entities that seem to be joining the fray.
He cautioned that there is need for a more robust and enhanced Africa-wide network to develop common frameworks for responding to human rights and governance issues arising from India’s renewed engagement with Africa.
This approach, according to him, has the propensity to vest the relationship with genuine mutuality of interests and render it more healthy and sustainable.
“History has imposed the relationship between India and Africa. The norms of our times and the interests of the concerned peoples must now determine the shape and character, indeed the contours of the relationship. Too much space has been ceded to governments. The people must be brought back in for they are both subjects and objects of any such relationship,” Dr. Dunn stressed.
The Liberian policy analyst acknowledged that the people have to be brought back in to address the knowledge and information gap among civil society organizations in India and Africa, and the role of academics in providing a more informed perspective through research, studies policy analyses, and reforms.
He warned that in the absence of alternative perspectives informed by research and analysis, Indian-Africa relations risk sustaining an unbalanced relationship especially in the domains of democratic governance and business.
“The heart of my message then, is that we not leave this all-important matter of Africa-India relations to governments alone. Non-government entities must be capacitated to insert themselves in the process and offer alternative perspectives. This has the potential to enrich the engagement and lead to a more meaningful, mutually beneficial relationship,” Dr. Dunn concluded.