The Oxford Dictionary defines diplomacy as the profession, activity or skill of managing international relations or tact in dealing with people. Diplomacy briefly, revolves around the management of political, economic and social relations of states by the appointed representatives in receiving state or states.
It is important to emphasize that diplomacy, similar to concepts such as state security, and from state to human security, has evolved over time.
As a profession, diplomats need to have the requisite qualifications, skills and experiences required to manage complex interstate relations in bilateral and multilateral settings. The urgent need to professionalize the diplomatic service in Namibia, including through lifelong learning opportunities, cannot be overemphasized.
Against this background, diplomats appointed by states to be their representatives, and to conduct negotiations and maintain political, economic and social relations should be the best minds that states poses, and should exhibit the right value dispositions/ inherent qualities.
Three reasons will suffice why selected and appointed diplomats ought to be the best that countries could offer. Firstly, the international relations environment is dynamic, fluid, competitive and complex, hence the need for state representatives to respond beyond the box and authoritatively on global issues. Secondly, there is no room for errors in international engagements. Wrong judgements and actions cause irreparable damage to the appointing authority, the sending state and interstate relations.
Thirdly, international relations is about national interests, and states compete in advancing their self- interests and influence on global affairs. It is common sense that only the best wins in fair competitions, hence the need for selecting the best when appointing diplomats.
We cannot continue to expect results when our conscious tells us that the individual being appointing is not capable of producing expected results. Mediocre diplomatic appointments are costs to states, as appointees will fail to clearly articulate issues in international engagements. Subsequently, it will result in diminished image of the sending state’s credibility in interstate competition for power and influence in the global arena.
Namibia has solid national instruments to advance our national interests internationally. These include the values and principles of the Namibian Constitution, our developmental aspirations and plans such as Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans (NDPs) and other strategic documents. It is important to recall that Namibia has a new policy on International Relations and Cooperation.
The Policy defines Namibia’s foreign policy amongst others, as to promote Namibia’s economic growth and development, foster international peace, build a positive image of Namibia abroad, and protect and assist Namibians in the diaspora, including students and other nationals living or visiting other countries for business, leisure or any other purpose.
It is common knowledge that many of our embassies fail to pay attention to rendering services to nationals. I have travelled widely, and as the norm, I have attempted to pay courtesy visits on our embassies. In most instances, the staff who ought to know better will be wondering about the purpose of such calls. As a result, I have stopped informing or visiting most of our embassies.
The Namibian International Relations Policy has also identified key economic sectors that our diplomats should focus on when advancing the national development agenda of eradicating poverty and underdevelopment, and contributing to a prosperous Namibia. Some areas are agriculture, trade and investment, technological advancement, tourism, infrastructural development, education, mining, energy, water and marine resources.
The Policy has also undertaken to professionalize the Namibian diplomatic service. One of the tests with the eminent appointment of ambassadors and high commissioners will be the extent to which the selection and appointment would speak to the Policy in terms of professionalization of the Namibian diplomatic service based on merit. Analysts will clearly watch who is appointed where based on understanding of international and global affairs, and ability to drive the implementation of the approved International Relations Policy.
One cannot for example, appoint anyone to New York, Addis Ababa or Paris where real politics and complex multilateral negotiations at the UN, AU and UNESCO are daily preoccupations.
One of the shortcomings in the Namibian public policy formulation and implementation has been the inconsistencies between policy intentions and practice. As a result, we have policy legitimacy problems, as the practices do not reflect policy intentions.
It is my sincere hope that moving forward, the appointment of diplomats would lean towards meritocracy and ability to function in dynamic and fluid global contexts, and not patronage.