The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Response to Reports in Public Agenda Newspaper and FrontPageafrica

Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele
Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele
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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Response to Reports in Public Agenda Newspaper and FrontPageafrica.com

No Tension at Foreign Affairs over Deployment of Development Diplomats

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the process of implementing a major restructuring programme with support from UNDP intended to improve its capacity and delivery of service to its clients. This is in line with its new vision that blends the pursuit of development diplomacy and socio-economic development linked with a strong focus on consolidating peace and security in the sub-region and beyond. It stems from the desire to develop a corps of young people transforming them into agents of change, including promoting greater integration and economic co-operation in the sub-region and beyond. Grooming Development Diplomats arises from the Government of Liberia’s plans, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to fundamentally restructure the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and subsequently redefine the manner in which the Central Office engages with its foreign missions.

Capacity development Goal

The Development Diplomats Training Programme is an integral part of the National Capacity Development Program, a governmental-led initiative with support from UNDP that focuses both on the design and implementation of short-term capacity development interventions, as well as the elaboration of a long-term capacity-development strategy for the Government of Liberia.

I. Nature of Programme and Consideration for Selection
II. 
1) A “pilot” initiative introducing an innovative approach to bringing into the Foreign Service “entry-level” junior Diplomats. This means that by definition the entry level trainees as per the design of the programme, are first time and not currently employed by the Foreign Ministry.  The pilot is therefore an initiative to experiment as to  how one “Groom” and develop new entrants into, the Liberian Foreign Service, as “Development Diplomats”.

2) Participation in the FSI Post Graduate Diploma programme and or the training in Cairo, at the Egyptian Diplomatic Institute in November 2008.
3) Other factors governing the selection of the trainees were
a) Language capability (at least two needed to have fluency in French ;)
b) Professional Experience outside the Foreign Service that would both “add value” to their being trained in the new area of development diplomacy as well as enhance their making positive contributions to their attachments with Development related entities at their respective sites as they undergo their training.

III. Other Opportunities for current Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

4) Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just completed a Human Resource Audit conducted by Professor Joseph Sawyer, a Liberian who teaches at the Eastern Connecticut State University, intended to assess the level of our human resource capacity; the Quality of our staff and their training needs. The audit will form the basis for developing appropriate training for different levels of the Ministry’s staff. Three of the Development Diplomats trainees participated and assisted Professor Sawyer with the survey. Amongst the findings are that many staff are occupying positions for which they have no training while the level of education of a large proportion of the staff at the Ministry is in need of enhancement. 
5) At the same time, the Ministry’s brochure “Walking” the Vision for a Restructured & Reoriented FSI” identifies efforts undertaken thus far on capacity enhancement of current staff. There will also be a series of short term certificate courses for current staff to participate in, including some attachments, depending on level of competency and education. The basis for this will be the survey that is now available to assist the design of a Human Resources Development Programme.
6) At the same time, some of our current staff have already participated in the Training in Cairo, Egypt (Nov. 2008); in other training opportunities, e.g. Multi track Diplomacy, Protocol and Etiquette Training  and Development Diplomacy and Civilian peace Monitors/ Bridge Builders in November 2008. We expect to have a new Deputy Director of the Foreign Service Institute, in the new Fiscal year, who would work with the existing Coordinator of the FSI, and his team in order to design and structure various training programmes that respond to the needs of the different levels of staff.

Summary

1) Experience of the Pilot “Development Diplomats Trainees” will feed into the expected relaunched Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in September 2009, and will inform other trainings that will evolve. Aspects of the “Development Diplomats Trainees” will, in fact, also be incorporated in the evolving staff training opportunities.
2) The leadership of the staff association had been advised by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador William V.S. Bull, to call o n the office of the Minister for better understanding of the issues, involved, and plans underway for capacity building of current staff at the Ministry. He choose not to do so.