The post Ebola epoch presents an challenge for the three most affected countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to refocus their diplomacy and put their diplomats to work, as these countries especially Liberia seeks international partners as the country emerges from an idle and desperate economic situation which has been paralyzed due to the scourge. Liberia would not have received the worldwide benevolence it got if not for apt diplomatic initiatives and had serious negotiations not taken place sometimes long hours into the night, as perceptively as possible with grinding efforts, employing the tools of diplomacy for national advancement.
That is why those tasked with economic and political activities at embassies must be sharp, cognizant of global prevailing dynamics and the dealings meant to shape policy and bring about the desired results; keep check of the financial and political movers and shakers, be well-schooled and knowledgeable of the subtleties of economic and commercial diplomacy which encourages greater cooperation and relations that protects investment and bilateral ties between two states or among multinational conglomerates.
A diplomat, according to customary norms, should be acknowledgeable of other states, regions, and of the mechanisms and procedures of international intercourses which involves knowledge of the world network of diplomatic missions and consular posts, their functions, their practices and structures. As an added advantage, a diplomat should be verse in crisis management and damage control and, as far as possible as well must be rounded in his duties.
The former Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dr. Henry Kissinger, have written in detailed, that in the formulation of foreign policy, it is obvious that the economic and trade diplomacy are inseparable elements of conventional diplomacy, particularly in its professional management. Dr. Kissinger’s experiences and works are certainly recommended readings for foreign policy students.
The Liberian experience cannot be discounted in these narratives. Astute diplomacy for example was needed and still continues to in the post Ebola and war Western African country. In relations to what has already been said; that after the Liberian civil war, as warlord turned president, Charles Taylor had balkanized and ran the country into the ground, and more so diplomatically, given his mischievous political and military adventurism especially in the sub region. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her foreign relations team acted quickly and were able to, since 2005, use the international order to rebrand Liberia’s image, both economically and tactfully to garner foreign and international goodwill and investments, hence pivoting the country on the international stage as Liberia transitioned from war to peace. In a true sagacity, President Sirleaf and her youthful Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, and his team should be lauded.
Undoubtedly, economic, trade and commercial diplomacy should be paramount to Liberia’s project and that requires a strong background of diplomacy from a multidisciplinary perspective. Professional diplomacy is an appropriate instrument to perform this synthesis, to the extent that it can use its persuasive techniques in favor of businesses and investments and, simultaneously, prove to be politically and economically profitable to the state.
However, it is clear that economic and commercial interests, particularly those related to investment, exports, protection and assistance could be essential aspects of the diplomatic activities of a considerable number of countries especially Liberia. Actually, economic and trade diplomacy involves joint and just efforts through cooperation between governments and the private and public business sectors with respect to external actions to achieving economic goals linked to the national interests.
Another fascinated field of diplomacy especially for underdeveloped countries such as Liberia is economic, trade and commercial diplomacy. In contemporary diplomacy, the issues of economic interests, trade, protection of nationals, and security have all become much more difficult, with major challenges affecting the practices of diplomacy being influenced by major actors and powerful states, and sometimes at the continued loss of global, continental and regional groupings. Other factors such as bad political decisions in domestic politics, economic growth, and technological development, corruption among others have greatly affected African diplomacy in time past, even so now today!
Vividly, I can remember the famous words of my professor during my studies in Paris, France when he stressed that diplomats should be fully aware of the new insightful changes in international relations and be able to partner major institutions and influential businesses [companies] in the host countries to enhance economic growth, trade and investment back home.
A diplomat should also possess specialist qualities such as: political awareness, economic and trade knowledge, personal acceptability, education, intellectual curiosity and flexibility, and not just sit and wait to be tele-guided. A diplomat should level up fully to the new trends of diplomatic behaviors and challenges, taking into consideration the contemporary complexities of the international system, in which multiplicity of major actors operate, which stresses new approaches and solutions for a new demanding world order.
In order for a Foreign Service officer including ambassadors to gain respect on the global stage also, there must be a taste and desire to seek new knowledge by reading and conducting research about the host country to which he is assigned; he must also be aware that contemporary diplomacy goes beyond mere curtails and red wine. Hence, diplomacy must not be seen as money making venture to enrich oneself and family against the greater good of society.
Diplomacy has brought development to other nations for example as already enumerated and economic and trade values as seen in varied negotiations with bilateral and multilateral bodies, as the Liberian case illustrates, as well as increased economic and commercial activity. As part of the State’s foreign policy, economic diplomacy and trade are now being given greater priority; these areas are now key factors in the development of contemporary international politics.
It is also essential to ensure greater consistency in the identification of sustained national economic interests abroad and, through careful analysis, developed a model that can effectively ensure a safety pin to guide economic diplomacy in carrying out external economic relations by appointing people who are intellectually efficient and knowledgeable in the field of their calling, hence, diplomats should be appointed to assignments or missions where they can be operatively successful, as they serve the interest efficiently of their respective countries.