By John S.M. Yormie, Jr.
The glorious land of Liberty, it is for sure. Freedom reigns in movements and speeches but how indicative are the elements of being glorious when considering economic prosperity, social welfare and infrastructural development which are all essential to sustainable development and human security?
In an attempt to focus on the significance of Human Security, the paper gives a dual view on the need to align domestic and foreign policies, to ensure the achievement of better living for a defined population; Liberians in this case.
Born out of free slaves from the United States of America (USA), formerly referred to as the Pepper Coast because of its greenery, the Republic of Liberia officially joined the comity of nations on July 26, 1847 with three original counties (Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Sinoe) (Guannu, J; 2010).
At the moment the defined territory of Liberia covers 15 political subdivisions/counties with a population estimated at over 4 million according to recent World Bank report. It is bounded on the west by Sierra Leone, south by the Atlantic Ocean, east by the Ivory Coast and north the Republic of Guinea. The country can be widely remembered for its role in ensuring an independent Africa with particular support to end the civil war in Nigeria (Biafran war) and apartheid in South Africa.
Today, both countries account for twice the biggest economies in Africa by GDP measure with the former at$594.257 billion and the latter 341.216 as of recent estimates. (Available at https://naijaquest.com/largest-economies-in-africa, retrieved May12, 2018). Liberia’s foreign policy is firmly rooted in its political ideology of liberalism, democracy and capitalism. This foundation is copied after the pattern adopted by the USA from where the founding fathers of Liberia had come as ex-slaves and free men of color.
Generally speaking, the guiding principles of Liberia’s foreign policy has been the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, in addition to the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and unity in the international community based on the virtue of liberal democracy.
Liberia’s survival as a state in the face of difficult challenges posed by colonial powers like Great Britain and France have been the skills and maturity with which its leaders conducted foreign policy and foreign relations. Thus, the mastery of the act of diplomacy has remained the hallmark, and one of the most credible achievements of Liberia in the comity of nations. (Available at www.emansion.gov.lr retrieved August 15, 2016).
Human Security is a paradigm linked to understanding global vulnerabilities that challenge the notion of only national security with an argument that proper reference for security should be the individual rather than the state. The idea revolves around insuring that “freedom from want “and “freedom from fear” for all persons is the best path to tackle problem of global security. (UNDP Report, 1994).
A nation’s foreign policy also called foreign relations or foreign affairs -policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve goals within its international relations milieu (Morgenthau, H. J.; 1967).
Functionally, foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy which is an embodiment of a country’s national interest. Domestic policy is cradled on administrative decisions that are directly related to all issues and activity within a nation’s borders. (ibid).
Therefore, the foreign policy formulation, and implementation must align with a country’s (Liberia) vital national interests reflective of the needs of the average citizenry (education, health, electricity, water and roads etc). Meanwhile, its alignments with powerful countries, development of bilateral relations must be based on bargaining not mere recipient of good will which many times than not amount to unexpressed exploitation which are only realized after a long period of time. The fundamental thrust of Liberia’s foreign policy objective before the Tubman era was predominantly the maintenance of national independence. Since the Tubman administration to date, the foreign policy objective of the country, in addition to the maintenance of national independence, has been the devotion to economic, social and political development. It was further advanced to development diplomacy under Madam Sirleaf.
Considering the changing natures and shifting dynamics, seeking for trade partnerships other than just aid must be a path to tread. It is based on the ideological construct that aid subjects the recipient and reduces the choices of the aid dependent.
These are viewed from the constraints of aid conditionality and limitation of the receiving state to tailor project based on needs but the adherence patterns from the donors. The proponent reverse is when a country identifies its potential to attract investment and secure trade partners. These will depend on preconditions of principal negotiators and actors of the foreign policy agenda to mirror the country’s image of rule of law, the protection of intellectual properties, ease of doing business and plausible determinants of growth engines (roads, electricity, water, etc).
The role of government relations with the media is very important to spur public diplomacy in this regard. When a nation’s foreign policy is built on these, results of Fulbright Scholarships, exchange of professors, joint research projects in addition to existing security sector support will increase with the USA, Chinese multinational firms will invest more in agriculture, railways, solar energy and reduction in barriers to trade in the Mano River Union (MRU) region will suffice just to mention a few. These will stimulate the necessary conditions that promote human security with the drive of elevating the social welfare of the average citizens. Considering the relationship between the domestic and foreign policies, the national interest can be parallel to the vital interest expressed in the formulation and conduct of foreign policy. Thus, it is important to provide a safe guide here that national security is not being ignored here but rather looked at from a different way that by focusing human security is even a foundation for national security. One key aspect of human security is health.
Of the many challenges faced by Liberia, the health sector is among the most appalling. This strand is critical and invariable to the survival of a functioning society. But it can be argued that, not much has been engendered in advancing health issues in Liberia’s foreign policy. It has been asserted that for human security to challenge global inequalities there has to be cooperation between a country’s foreign policy and its approach to global health. (Spiegel, J.M. and Huish, R.; 2009). .
The concept of developing variables of human security are still centered on aid dependency and signifies a void of a national will to stimulate negotiations, trade agreements that will accelerate growth and development, which have positive marriages not only to increasing government revenues but also individual living conditions that reflect human security.
Under the Reducing Emission Deforestation and Degradation of Forest (REDD plus) program for developing countries, having stock of carbon is an attractive value. Liberia contains in forest areas approximately 585million metric tons of carbon in living biomass (available at https://rainforests.mongabay.com/deforestation/2000/Liberia.htm). .
Having such abundant stock of carbon positions the country high on the discussion table. But it can be argued that the bargaining skills and assess to require knowledge has not yielded the surmountable dividends in negotiating internationally and the poor country is yet to reap significant programs that will transcend to the average poor aimed at addressing concerns of human security through that program.
Conclusion and recommendations
This paper has streamlined the complementary of foreign and domestic polices, centrally asserting that, elements of the former must be aligned with the latter where by the national interest must be the core of its formulation and implementation.
It identifies the validity of national security but asserts that when much attention is paid only to national security, the void of human security deepens and thereby have adverse effects causing fragility to national security.
Thus, with the continued collaborations especially in the Mano River Union region, and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) evident to the existing ECOWAS passport, West African power pool project and increased joint commissions which focus exchange of knowledge, agriculture development etc, and the threat of external aggression can be considered unlikely despite possibilities of insurgence and terrorist activities.
Therefore, while achieving these, programs which cover safety nets for the poor must be looked at in addition to the provision of low income housing, improving health facilities etc. with consistency in domestic and foreign policy agendas.
The author is the Coordinator/ OIC , Gabriel L. Dennis, Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Liberia.