Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Namibia’s alleged non-compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korea

The purpose of this article is to analyse the alleged non-compliance of Namibia with the United Nations Security Council sanction resolutions against North Korea using the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia as the framework.
It is also to suggest conditions that should exist for Namibia to manage similar future occurrences in an intelligent manner. Events in global affairs are dynamic and sometimes fluid, hence the need for states, especially in the era of advancements in information and communication technologies to timely analyse, describe and predict their implications.

The objective is not to be found wanting, as it seems to have been the case with the alleged non-compliance. The United Nations Security Council has passed +- 24 resolutions against North Korea since the 1950s. Most of these resolutions focus on maintenance of international peace and security. The expected outcome in most instances is to urge North Korea to denuclearise and thus refrain from further nuclear and missile tests. The analysis is not about the moral consistency of the UN Security Council in applying sanctions being conscious of global power relations and state interests. It is about whether the Namibian Government could have managed the response to the alleged non-compliance in a more sophisticated manner.

The main question that arises is: What is the implication of the allegation and the way in which it was handled on Namibia’s reputation, moral and ethical standing among the Nations of the world?  In attempting to answer this question, it is important to be conscious that the Namibian State is founded upon the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice for all. In my view, a state founded upon the principle of the rule of law should not be constantly found to be inconsistent in its national and international practices regarding this fundamental principle. Secondly, the Namibian Constitution under principles of State Policy, and with particular reference to foreign relations obliges the State to endeavour to promote international cooperation, peace and security, and to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations. It will be inconsistent with these principles, if it would be evidently established that Namibia has not complied with UN Security Council resolutions. It is important to recall that sanctions against North Korea are not new. The UN Security Council in October 2006 under S/RES/1874 for example, expressed concern over North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test.

The Council therefore, imposed sanctions and set up the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea and a Panel of Experts to support the Committee. Against this background, it is a reasonable expectation that staff members at the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation who are trained to analyse, describe and anticipate global events ought to have alerted policymakers about what is coming to enable them to respond intelligently. The explanation that we seem to rely on that Namibia has terminated its contracts with Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation and Mansudae Overseas Projects is not good enough.

The use of the term ‘’terminated’’ suggests that the State has entered into these contracts. The question is when those contracts were entered into and whether background checks have been done before concluding them. The other fundamental question is whether it was evidently established at that time that no Namibian company can do the job. One of the contradictions is that Africa wants to stop illicit financial capital outflows, but at the same time facilitates it by giving major projects that could be done by nationals to international companies. There are three main lessons that we should learn from the alleged non-compliance.

Firstly, it is the need to professionalise the public sector. Secondly, the importance of a culture of coordination and proactive communication in government. Thirdly, the realisation that we are managing a modern state, and knowledge application, especially in the era of information and communication technologies are enablers. Staff members in ministries of foreign affairs are trained to daily follow global events with the view to interpret and predict their implications on their national interests.

This is one of the reasons why desk officers are assigned to manage bilateral and multilateral relations. The alleged non-compliance seems to suggest that our staff members are not doing what they ought to do, hence the need to professionalise the public sector in terms of knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and behaviour. Coordination and coherent communication in the Namibian Government have been and remain areas of great concern. We continue to operate in compartments when collaboration and teamwork are the future functional values. As a result, government is reactive and continue to speak inconsistently in matters that require thought through responses. In this case, it is obvious that the Ministry of Defence and other ministries have not been talking to each other.

The Ministry of International Relations has to manage the after effects, but should have advised properly, if involved at the early stages. Finally, we are in the information and communication revolution era. The implication is that information is at our fingertips. You do not need to travel to obtain the information. The assertion that we have invited the Committee of Experts to visit Namibia is a Stone Age argument, as they do not need to be physically present to obtain the information.

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