SPEECH DELIVERED BY HON. AUGUSTINE KPEHE NGAFUAN, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
ON THE OCCASION MARKING THE INSTALLATION OF OFFICERS-ELECT OF THE GABRIEL L. DENNIS FOREIGN SERVICE INSTITUTE HELD ON MARCH 9, 2012 AT 11:00 AM
IN THE C. CECIL DENNIS AUDITORIUM,
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
DELIVERED BY HON. AUGUSTINE KPEHE NGAFUAN,
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Permit me at the outset to greet you in the name, and to address you on behalf of H.E. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia who is unable to be here due to a very demanding schedule.
It warms my heart to see young men and women like you offer yourselves to your country in true display of love for country and service to countrymen. That astute Liberian statesman, Gabriel L. Dennis, whose stellar record of diplomacy inspired the establishment of this institute over 50 years ago, and in whose shadows you aspire to outstanding diplomatic service, must have felt the same passion which today drives your achievements within this Institute. I congratulate you on work accomplished, and on your elections as leaders!
Today, we are called to deploy diplomacy in pursuit of national development. To understand the urgency of Liberia’s new diplomatic mindset –instrumentalizing diplomacy in the service of development which President Sirleaf has repeatedly echoed since she became President - is to also appreciate the true motivations of Government’s “Lift Liberians” agenda. As a government, we have achieved much in “lifting Liberia” through the near total revamp of our image abroad, through macro-economic progress in debt waivers, and steady economic growth; and through government’s various poverty reduction initiatives, including our recent Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). What remains, however, more than ever, is a real and practical strategy to “Lift Liberians” more and more out of poverty. This goal is worth all our sacrifice.
What this means then is a sharing of responsibilities between the government, the private sector and civil society. For government, it means a fair go-around of the heavy lifting across various Ministries and functionaries, especially those having mandates for development. For us at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and within our renewed mandate to utilize the tools and sphere of diplomacy to achieve developmental goals, the task is even more pressing. This, going forward, will be our singular preoccupation, while at the same time, fulfilling our traditional responsibilities to promote peaceful relationships with the rest of the world.
Mr. President and officers-elect of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Student Government, in your invitation to H. E. Madam Sirleaf, you requested Her Excellency to speak on the topic Regional Integration and Cooperation in Modern Day Diplomacy – one of the most important issues facing our global community, and indeed continental and regional Africa. I will now endeavor to address this important issue.
The history of regional integration dates back centuries ago; and in fact, has been an enduring part of the strategy for self-empowerment and economic transformation in post-colonial Africa. This century-old strategy, accelerated in the last four decades, gained prominence with the set-up of the Southern African Customs Union in 1910, which was supplanted later in 1949 by the Southern Rhodesia Custom Union involving South Africa and present-day Zimbabwe. The Ghana-Upper Volta Trade Agreement between Ghana and Upper-Volta (now Burkina Faso) took off in 1962, the same year the African Common Market was set up, linking Algeria, United Arab Republic (now Egypt), Ghana, Chad, Congo, and Gabon. Five years later, in 1967, the East African Community, comprising Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania was formed and proved itself to be the most far-reaching of these early attempts at integration.
All of the above integrations have focused on customs, trade and commerce, suggesting perhaps, that these were the most crucial drivers of integration in times past. It is clear from these early examples that countries have begun to realize their own interdependency and the need to work well with their neighbors in order to prosper. Though these early examples may not have persisted to this day, they nonetheless laid the foundation for those of the modern age, like the Organization of African Unity (OAU, now the African Union), bringing our country closer to immediate and further afield economic and political partners.
Regional integration, in Africa and further afield, has taken many forms, from a currency union allowing members to more freely practice trade, to a political union where two or more countries join entirely as one. However, any and all forms of regional cooperation have the potential to significantly benefit the countries they involve: they strengthen trade integration, allowing a wider choice of goods within each country; they make it easier for the private sector to develop across national boundaries, increasing production; and they increase cooperation on infrastructure development, allowing countries easier access to each other’s markets. Aside from the obvious economic benefits of regional integration are the political and cultural benefits, first of which is naturally its contribution to peace and security. When people are trading with each other and mutually benefitting from cooperation, they are more inclined to get along! In addition to benefits of regional integration are the possibilities of increased cooperation on environmental issues, deeper social cohesion within the region and better governance in each individual country of the region.
Between 1973 and 1975, three important economic integration blocs were formed in West Africa: the Community of West African States (formed in 1973, it later became the West African Economic and Monetary Union), the Mano River Union (1974), and the Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS in 1975. ECOWAS, as many are aware, has distinguished itself as one of the most influential on the continent in its achievements over customs and trade barriers, providing free movement of people across borders, supporting agriculture and food security, infrastructure development, macro-economic convergence, and also importantly, exercising a robust peace and security mechanism which over the last decade alone witnessed very successful peacekeeping interventions, via ECOMOG, in Liberia (between 1990 -1998), in Sierra Leone between 1997-2000, and in Guinea-Buissau between 1998 – 1999.
While the driving force of many integration arrangements past and present have centered primarily on economic integration and cooperation, states are quickly realizing that the threats of conflict and wars (inter and intra) and cross-border crimes are endangering economic integration and cooperation. Such threats, facilitated by the very character of globalization would require more political and security tools in our toolkit. In fact, trade and commerce have been only a part of broader political and security considerations historically dictating the pan-Africanist ideals of unity and solidarity; and today, the growing need for peaceful cooperation and trade.
At the heart of Liberia’s story of integration and cooperation is the story of ECOWAS and ECOMOG. In August 1990, ECOWAS invoked its peace enforcement powers and intervened in Liberia to secure Monrovia, provide security for an interim government of national unity (IGNU) soon to come; and worked to brokering agreeable terms of successive peace agreements over the course of Liberia’s conflict, including steering Liberia to internationally organized elections in 1997 in which former president Charles Taylor was winner. Our West African brothers and sisters demonstrated a superlative degree of self-less neighborliness at enormous cost to their respective government coffers, and to thousands of lives of their countrymen. For this Li beria and Liberians are forever grateful.
Certainly, the debate about the advantages and disadvantages of integration persists, as it has historically. What cannot be denied, however, as evidenced by ECOWAS’ continuous engagement in Liberia over the last 2 decades, is how West Africa has reduced barriers to trade, freed movements of our peoples and goods, and, in Liberia, helped restore political stability internally, and along our borders after decades of violence and civil wars. Such gains are however not automatic; and member states will need to demonstrate renewed commitments to sharing economic gains equitably, or risk transforming integration itself into a cause for regional tension.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in the last century, mankind entered the era of globalization which connects the world in ways that were hitherto unimaginable. But while we extol the virtues of regional integration (which I believe is only a snapshot of globalization regionalized), we must not blind ourselves to the challenges it poses. Till now, states still struggle to understand and come to terms with globalization’s true characteristics. But the struggle by states to overcome the learning curve has not been sufficient to prevent the rapidly emerging cocktail of shady non-state actors from setting in motion stateless and decentralized criminal networks that move freely, quickly, and stealthily to engage in crime and other illicit activities across our borders, often pitting weak governments in the sub-region against obscure, internationally connected, and well resourced networks of highly dedicated and efficient individuals. And herein lies the critical challenge: how do we win the intense battle against illicit cross-border trade in drugs, arms trafficking, smuggling of people, and more importantly, money laundering?
The illegal trade in these materials and human commodities share several fundamental characteristics: they are driven and intensified by technological improvements and more relaxed border controls which have pried open new markets. Greater integration has also opened up both the geographic reach and profit opportunities for criminal networks; and many governments around the world, including within West Africa, may be losing the fight to stop them. Some concrete steps have already been taken within the ECOWAS framework. But more is needed. More bold actions are needed on information sharing, improved surveillance and monitoring, effective patrols and policing of our borders, and a robust regime of enforcement, if the sub-region is likely to forestall the rapid advance of these cross-border warriors.
Hence, whilst it is important that regional integration in West Africa be pursued from the point of view of trade, commerce, agriculture, power and many other areas, it is of equal importance to note that the challenges of a more globalized environment and the threats posed by such can also be counteracted by stronger regional integration of a different kind: cooperating on security and policing issues.
Liberia as a country can look forward to a bright future of cooperation with the countries around her, working with ECOWAS for stronger economic and security cooperation, with the West African Power Pool for the provision of least costly power, and with the Mano River Union for the efficient use of regional resources. And I look to you, our future Development Diplomats, to push regional integration and cooperation forward, and to bring us ever closer to that bright future.
In closing, I again congratulate you officers and the entire FSI class of 2012 on your successful elections and induction today, and urge you to work individually and collectively for the advancement of Liberia’s development. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs under my administration will work with you in achieving our collective vision of transforming the Foreign Service Institute into one of Africa’s premier diplomatic training institutions where future diplomats from the far-flung corners of the African continent will be adequately prepared to contribute more meaningfully to the forward march of the Continent.