The clearest hints yet into how Namibia’s new international relations policy would look like surfaced yesterday, with President Hage Geingob giving clues towards diplomacy that is anchored around adaptation to emerging patterns of practice.
The looming policy, it seems, would be crafted with consideration of the complexities of the 21st century, the manner by which its core ingredients should speak to a myriad of contextual factors globally.
A full army of Namibian diplomats, the who’s who of Namibian diplomatic circles and foreign diplomats working in Namibia, formed part of an entourage that seems determined to fine-tune the existing policy and give it a modern facelift.
It was clear as daylight yesterday that with the revised policy Namibia tries to stay clear of diplomacy of exceptionalism and, instead, produce a document that compels Namibia to compete and interact at a higher level, and with greater technical orientation, with any nation where Namibia stands to benefit politically or economically.
If President Geingob’s speech is anything to go by, the refined policy would require diplomats to be engaged in an expanding range of functions – from negotiation, communication, consular to representation, trade and public relations.
“The countries these days use diplomacy as a tool to carry out and execute their political and economic agendas,” he said.
“If we should redefine our international relations policy, it would be that it is an extension of our domestic policy. Therefore, our policy on international relations must serve our domestic interests.”
Geingob has been drumming up the Pan-African chorus in recent months and used yesterday’s occasion to reiterate the need for such ideology, hinting that the revised policy might permit African passport holders to come to Namibia without exhaustive bureaucratic headaches.
“As pan-Africanists, it goes without saying that our African brothers and sisters will always be welcome in Namibia.”
“As a first step we have recently abolished visa requirements into Namibia for diplomatic and official African passport holders. We are committed to extend this privilege to all-African passport holders by initially issuing visas on arrival and eventually abolishing visa requirements,” the head of state said.
The policy would also be renamed from foreign policy to international relations policy, with Geingob saying in a world currently seen as a global village, the word ‘foreign’ contradicts the status quo of how nations are supposed to deal with each other.
“We live in a globalised world where we need to hold hands across countries and continents to ensure the ecological survival of our planet and of human kind.”
“We may speak different languages, have different religions, and different colours, but at the end of the day, we are all human beings. We, therefore, no longer speak of foreign affairs, but of international relationships, cooperation and partnerships in charting common developmental paths,” Geingob emphasised.
“Consistent with that change I will, henceforth, refer to the exercise to be undertaken this week as a review of Namibia’s Policy on International Relations and Cooperation and not foreign policy review.”
Geingob said the new international relations policy would be an extension of the country’s domestic policy – and even said the spirit of Harambee, around which his prosperity plan is anchored, should be global and not just Namibian.
The president, a war veteran, also hammered home the need for a policy that speaks in favour of nations’ self-determination, drawing lessons from Namibia’s own experience of fighting for independence.
The policy would also put diplomacy ahead of war in conflict situations, Geingob hinted.
The head of state – who is one of the few people of his generation active on social media – also emphasised that information and communication technology would be central to the revised foreign relations policy.
“In today’s world of social media and twenty-four hour news cycles, diplomats are expected to be up to date and technology savvy to ensure that any information he/she generates has relevant context,” he said.