Saturday, July 20, 2024



By Josephus M. Gray, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, University of Liberia

Precisely a month ago, Liberia was the focused of global attention, not just the focus of world, but was captured on the front pages of an influential international newspapers and in the headlines of leading global television and radio stations across the world when power on January 22, 2024 peacefully shifted from former President George Manneh Weah to another democratically elected leader, President Joseph N. Boakai. But what are the attended dividends and impacts that come with the shift in leadership with emphasis on international outcomes resulting from the nation’s foreign policy and international relations regarding Liberia’s socio-economic development and the rescue mission agenda formed the epic center?

The transferred of power comes with an inherited task including  jobs creation, provision  of a socio-economic development,  removal of greater (abject) number of poverty-stricken masses from such scourge? The accessibility of electricity and safe-drinking water across the various communities in the 15 counties; the construction of  paved roads throughout country coupled with the provision of economic practicability and empowerment of the poor, increase civil servant’s monthly salary including the reduction of the high prices of basic commodities and merchandises are cardinal on the radar.

This article analyzed development diplomacy and its impact on President Boakai’s socio-economic development, categorizing all aspects of development diplomacy, Liberia’s international relations and foreign policy. It also describes development diplomacy as a conveyor-platform with considerable attraction to accrue economic, social, cultural and political impact, particularly the dividends and influence on the domestic fronts. However, let it be succinctly noted that development diplomacy has played an important role in nation’s building and will continue to serve as the unwavering fulcrum and driving force that fast-tracked the government’s social and economic development agenda. The objective of this article is to exhaustively examine the extent to which development diplomacy could impact the Boakia’s government’s developmental objectives and needs across the world, and to offer candid recommendations to the torch-bearer of state leadership, his excellency President Joseph N. Boakai’s administration to effectively take advantage of the booming development diplomacy now spurting economic, social, environmental and political dividends.

But through extraordinary display of diplomatic modus operandi backed by development diplomacy, Liberia has benefited from the volume of aid flows and the number of development projects and technical assistance including debt forgiveness in 2006 under the World Bank/IMF HIPC initiative.  According to Paris based OECD, Liberia received united states millions of dollars in official development assistance from the World Bank and IMF while other countries and institutions also provided Liberia with aid dollars. Through effective diplomacy Liberia, has benefited from many other donors such as the People’s Republic of China, European Union, Federal Republic of Germany, ECOWAS, African Union, the Governments of France, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden  featuring the Arab League, United Nations, IMF, WTO, ILO and Kuwaiti assistance.

It can be recalled that in his inaugural address, President Boakai used the historic occasion to set forth his administration’s foreign relations and domestic agenda constructively as he reached out to friendly countries and Liberia’s international partners especially to Washington, Beijing, European Union, ECOWAS, African Union, United Nations, World Bank International Monetary Fund and Arab League countries.  The up-led government also stands the chance to receive the worldwide benevolence and foreign aid assistance if plays unequivocally to the politics of the global powers and influential financial and development institutions and organizations and   effectively embark on development diplomacy instead of traditional diplomacy.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the astute and dynamic leadership of his Excellency Madam Sara Beysolow Nyanti has a task to rebrand the nation’s image globally and attract huge foreign investment by consistently and persistently knocking on the doors of Liberia’s development partners and friendly nations, but such an overwhelming task cannot squarely be the responsibility of the new minister of Foreign Affairs. Although Minister Beysolow Nyanti brings exposure and enormous connections in wider circles due to the previous posts occupied that rendered her vast experiences, considering her previous roles as the united nations resident coordinator in south Sudan and Humanitarian Coordinator in the East Africa, she needs to be assisted by other knowledgeable and ell meaning players in international relations and foreign relations. Since President Boakai or Minister Beysolow Nyanti cannot be present everywhere at once to project the nation’s images and encourage foreign investors to invest in the country.

Let it be noted that diplomacy goes far beyond sparkling red and white wines, champagne, ceremonial dinner and soliciting financial glory for personal enrichment, instead, it needs to undertake an extraordinary display of diplomatic modus operandi to enable the government to receive the worldwide benevolence.   The Sino-Liberia and U.S. Liberia ties rapprochement will definitely help to create the unique conditions that led to the limited apprehensions but contributed and move the existing relations to another level of exceptionality.  The Boakai’s regime needs to balance its diplomatic ties with America and China, perhaps most importantly, it will be a great help in strengthening the administration will also crave to balance its equation on domestic sources of national control in several vital areas particularly the quality education, job creation, improved health delivery system, paved leading and feeder roads, technological advancement, industrialization and economic growth.

Other areas of concern include quality and affordable education and health delivery system, improvement in the monthly incomes for civil servants, teachers, professors, medical doctors, foreign service officers, promote reconciliation to heal the wounds, respect for societal norms, values, rule of law, justice, and te elimination of all forms of corruptions from public sector, among other pressing (national) trials and tribulations. Keeping a balance with Washington and Beijing will reinforce Liberia’s domestic capacity, policies and programs that will ensure the fortification of the bedrock of prosperity and stability which in turn will also enhance domestic control and its influence at home whereby overcoming the primarily economic vulnerability that the government, state and people of Liberia are being confronted with.

The Boakai’s regime needs to sensibly exercise what one may termed as “diplomatic equilibrium” in dealing with the two rival world blocs to avoid being seemed as weighing heavily towards one bloc. In this case, the government should move faster and put its diplomats to work, should define China and USA interests and use the country’s bilateral ties to the advantage of the government.   The Boakai’s regime should solemnly understand the new level of diplomatic maneuverings across the globe as relative Beijing and Washington on one hand and EU, AU, ECOWAS and araba league on the other hand. The diplomatic equilibrium can only be achieved if the rightful individuals assigned at Liberia’s Embassies and diplomatic missions abroad are demanded to perform a national duty; everything should not be squarely left with president or the minister of foreign affairs. while those in our diplomatic missions need to understanding that in the contemporary world diplomacy goes far beyond sparkling red and white wines, champagne and ceremonial dinner.

Globally, the Liberian state between the epochs of 1989 to 2005 was viewed in the international domain by global players and international actors, and non-state actors as a failed state. During the periods, the repute of the state and its people were tainted internationally while those who were in possession of the nation’s traveling documents, especially passports, were subjected to inhumane treatments at various ports of entrance. the state was portrayed very negatively with various descriptions, for some, Liberia was the epicenter of cannibalism, fertile place for war, failed state, rebel’s paradise, scoundrels, and criminals sanctuary fully captured by gangsterism, just to name a few. There were increasing calls in the international sphere for the country to be placed under the United Nations’ trusteeship, on grounds that Liberians would no longer govern the state and protect their people.

Other nationals and foreign capitalists with criminal propose, took advantage of the nation’s ugly dark and difficult past to perpetrate distasteful acts, as a result of these ugly practices, countless number of innocent Liberians became victimized, to the extent that some are deceased or sentenced. While others’ locations still continued to be a mystery, the country’s riches were abused by so-called foreign investors, companies and other states with former warring factions committing carnage against the innocent population and enriched themelves.  The country was no longer a beacon of hope and was no longer being judged by the world as the pioneer of democracy on the African continent, despite Liberia being the first to hold a democratic election in Africa on 21 September 1847 when joseph Jenkins Roberts was elected the first president upon independence in 1847.

Moreover, conditions became to change for the better due to foreign intervention especially ECOWAS and the UN’s mediation, along with the role of the former president of the United States of America, George W. Bush. Since then, Liberia has to some degree; regain its status among the comity of nations, and gradually playing its role in various international bodies. equally, nowadays, Liberia’s international stature and standing among the comity of nations have improved immensely from the failed and pariah state to a responsible and well-respected member of the international system due ex-president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s extraordinary display of diplomatic modus operandi.

The concept and evolution of development diplomacy is accredited to the former minister of foreign affairs of Liberia, Mrs. Olubanke King-Akerele who formulated the idea how to attract donors support towards post-war nations’ development. Nowadays, the approach is wildly being practice by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Foreign Service officers including ambassadors’.

Development diplomacy has played an importance role in nation’s building and will continue to serve as the unwavering fulcrum and driving force that fast-tracked the government’s social and economic development agenda. At the sometime, research has shown that development diplomacy has turned-out to be the driving force of Liberia’s foreign policy formulation and diplomatic practices, even though there is no tangible document released by the appropriate agency of government, as far as this research is concerned. Development diplomacy, in order to function in practice as a part of new public diplomacy, should preferably be assisted by other public diplomacy instruments. The foreign policy initiatives of Liberia have seen a major boost as Africa’s first independent country continues to pick up the pieces from war to peace.

Let us not forget that diplomacy nowadays takes place among multiple states of authority, power, and influence; at its essence is the conduct of relationships, using peaceful means, by and among international actors, at least one of whom is usually governmental. The typical international actors are states and the bulk of diplomacy involves relations between states directly, or spreads between states, international organizations, and other international actors. The issue of maintenance of closer and stronger ties, friendship and economic partnership with traditional allies and friends, as well as the opening of new avenues of engagements and mutual solidarity with other states, and earmark on diplomatic balance with sisterly republic and development partners, are the vehicles for development diplomacy.

The global shift in the distribution of economic, political and social power towards the global south has begun to enable actors based in the developing world to collaborate in such a way to make diplomatic negotiation(s) more likely to yield outcomes that involve mutual gain.

Development diplomacy, if it is to be sustainable, must be founded on the expectation of mutual gain for all participants. To be sustainable, development diplomacy needs not yield a result or deal at a particular time if all sides do not perceive gain from development diplomacy, in order to function in practice as a part of new public diplomacy, should preferably be assisted by other public diplomacy instruments.

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright in her esteemed publication: New American Diplomacy (2000) pinpointed that  diplomacy is the art and practice of negotiation between nations, conducted mostly through private conversations and the exchange of confidential documents, while former American Secretary of State, the late Dr. Henry Kissinger in his thoughtful publication: new order: explains that new actors on the international scene are increasingly using practices employed by states to foster national interests in the international arena. But a leading twentieth-century figure in the study of international politics, Hans Morgenthau disclosed that diplomacy will naturally decline with the onset of modern communication technologies such as the telephone, telegraph, cable and communication satellite.

According to Pigman, 2014, development diplomacy refers to the repurposing of aid in such a way that it claims to service public diplomacy ambitions and aspirations while simultaneously achieving development goals. While Alonso (2014) discloses that development diplomacy aims to cultivate goodwill and political capital between Liberia and its bilateral donors. While Ociepka (2013) defines development diplomacy as the process of building of a positive image abroad, bilateral relations and international role and position on the basis of aid transfers aimed at promoting development and wellbeing of developing countries.

Firstly, it endeavors to define the concept of development diplomacy (that is, diplomacy done through development aid) as a part of public diplomacy that realizes its aims, thanks to soft power re-sources. terms or phrases such as ‘win–win’, ‘partnership’, ‘strategic’ and ‘special’ are frequently invoked in development assistance committee (DAC) donor strategies and policies to suggest and acknowledge parity in their relations.

Over the last 15 years, 35 low-income countries, home to around five billion people and producing a third of global gross domestic product, have achieved mic status.  Pigman in his 2014 publication, explained that emerging markets represent attractive investment, trading and commercial opportunities and offer traditional donors the prospect of cultivating vital new allies. In contexts such as these, the rationale, modes and partnerships of traditional aid donors are in considerable evolution according to Morgenthau, realist theories in international relations have long proposed that foreign aid is an instrument enabling the pursuit, promotion and defense of donor national interests. Unlike the tools of ‘hard’ military or economic power, realists view aid as a softer mechanism for framing agendas, and persuading and eliciting good will towards the donor. During the cold war, western aid lubricated strategic military and political alliances with a view to containing communism and promoting liberal democracies (Alesina and dollar, 2000).

Half a century after its inception, development cooperation is today integral to finding solutions for global, regional, and national problems and to implementing the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. It influences diplomatic agendas in many areas including security, the environment, trade, health, and migration (Wiseman,1987). The last two decades have transformed our understanding of what it takes to achieve development, and the surest path to creating more prosperous societies would require indigenous political will, responsive, effective, accountable, and transparent governance, and broad-based and inclusive economic growth.

According to Pigman, without this enabling environment, sustained development progress often remains out of reach.  but development, which along with diplomacy and defense is essential to America’s national security, requires an updated engagement model. Traditional development approaches need to be broadened to produce a strategy of influence, engagement, and reform mobilization. In relation to beneficiary countries, traditional information campaigns can be of help, however they have to be carried out very carefully, in order to avoid propaganda and to build trust, rather than undermine the image of a “disinterested” donor.

For instance, since the inception of development diplomacy across the globe, the modern ‘development’ exertion has been an instrument of public diplomacy and soft power. It contains opportunity and risk factors, but generally used effectively to developed states especially the poorest ones or under-developed nations. From one generation to another, Liberia has undergone collective sweeping political, economic and social change.

The Liberia’s population has gradually been a healthier and developing one and overall material standards of living have improved. Sizeable part of the world’s population has gained access to basic human rights and basic economic needs such as food, water and shelter. Liberia is a useful case study for evaluating the prospects for sustainable development diplomacy for several reasons. a relatively small population is failing to make a transition from being primarily a recipient of foreign aid to becoming an aid donor or independent in self-suitability. But Liberia has taken a leading role in continental and regional organizations from African union to ECOWAS. Development diplomacy thus cuts across ‘swathes of governmental business spread across many different departments’ (cooper, 2013). As the range of government actors with development engagements expand, so too do the risks of duplication and incoherence grow (Gulrajani and SWISS, 2019).

According to cooper (2013), putting development diplomacy into practice relies on a mix of financial and non-financial instruments. The shift away from concessional grants to soft loans, for example, underpins a move away from direct poverty reduction investments towards a public-private investment strategy focused on infrastructure and productive sectors where loans can be more easily serviced.

Donors usually channel this investment through their development finance institutions, with growth in this particular funding stream one of the fastest growing components. Donors also have non-financial instruments at their disposal to practice development diplomacy. Knowledge-based technical assistance is commonly used to lubricate bilateral cooperation and showcase national expertise and can take multiple forms. This gives all states the possibility of engagement in development diplomacy, generating the risk of over-supply tied to a provider’s consultants.

While triangular cooperation provides a related vehicle for bilateral development diplomacy. Here, a state can mine their own knowledge and experience with a view to sharing these with a southern partner to support a third party beneficiary (Farias, 2014). Development diplomacy, if it is to be sustainable, must reflect the reality that the distribution of power in the international system and global political economy has changed. Diplomatic actors public and private, governmental and non-state, in developing and industrialized countries alike must also recognize that development diplomacy no longer follows a traditional north-south pattern.

Before 2006, Liberia was faced with a staggering us$4.9 billion debt, this was more than seven times our national income and almost 20 times what we received as aid from the international community, but through the efforts of former administration’s foreign policy formulation and implementation, the country is virtually debt-free. Practically, the nation has won back its reputation, and regained its financial independence (Foreign Ministry, 2006). There are several initiatives including examples of development diplomacy that exemplify international new approach. For instance, Liberia’s ties with dozens of states and organizations across the globe; presently, the state is visible at international conferences, and is benefiting from foreign aid from sisterly republics and multilateral institutions and international organizations.

These helps are directly driving development diplomacy since investments based on rigorous analysis and broad-based economic growth. for example, the nation’s development partners and sisterly countries have been undertaking needed projects across the country in several aspects, while others have engaged into visible projects.

The nation’s foreign policy continues to play a major role in the focus of the nation’s foreign policy and international relations and the benefits which include massive debts waiver, international goodwill, developmental programs, construction of public facilities across the country and the presence of diplomatic missions in the country catalogued a unique political attitude, essentially directed to a foreign policy affinity with freedom of fears’ torch-bearers. Another tangible of development diplomacy the U.S. cancellation of 100 percent of its debt relief for Liberia under HIPC. It can be recalled that prior to the election of Madam Johnson–Sirleaf, Liberia’s debt equals us$3.7 billion, but the full amount including the more than us$1.5 billion of that debt that was in arrears to the international financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, and the African development bank) was waived.

However, vast majority of the arrears were eliminated using internal resources at these institutions (treasury department, 2007). in accordance with the enhanced hipc initiative and the multilateral debt relief initiative, the completion point brought the debt cancellation of an estimated us$2.7 billion in debt from the Paris Club, the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank and other creditors (treasury department, 2010). Another visible impact of development diplomacy can also be attributed to worth of projects in Liberia including the “Chinese building” university of Liberia Fendell campuses, the Capitol Building Annex, rehabilitation of the new Health Ministry and The Samuel K. Doe Spoke Complex in Paynesville,  installation of traffic lights in Monrovia and its environs,  the extension of MVTC, EJS Ministerial Complex,  rehabilitations and refurbishing of roads and bridges, awarding fellowships to public and private sectors, and support to the national army and security apparatus.

The waived Liberia’s debt by China and the ongoing of the rehabilitation of major roads and feeder roads including the Mount Barclay-Ganta Highway, Ganta-Ivory Coast board road, Harper-Fish Town Road, Cotton Tress-Buchanan Highway Tubman Boulevard, 14 Military Hospital, the Somalia-Japanese Freeway, the Red-Light-ELWA Junction Highway, construction of the Waterside Bridge, tuition waiver for public universities and colleges, payments of WAEC’s fees, Gbarnga-Salayea Highway, construction of Ul Academic Complex in Fendall, Renovation of UL Capitol Hill Campus, provision of international scholarships, international supports towards health delivery system, quality education, rule and law and justice, and budgetary supports, are all tangibles of development diplomacy.

Few years back, what was termed “the hopeless country or failed state”, during the dark period of the nation’s history, no longer existed, Liberia has since transcended from war to peace, and conflict to stability and it has become the country of optimism and prospects, with high expectations. Interestingly this unique history of Liberia’s diplomacy started in the ‘60s when the nation produced the second female president of the United Nations General Assembly, a distinguished and esteemed diplomat, Mrs. Angie Brooks Randall. Before the U.S. could waived Liberia’s us$4.9 billion debt, former secretary Paulson (2007) said: I applaud these reform efforts and we will work with the international community to find ways to eliminate Liberia’s debt burden, which will allow Liberia to normalize its relations with the multilateral donor community, gain greater access to desperately needed development assistance, and put its finances on a more sound footing.

Besides, the U.S. government has also provided more than us$500 million of development assistance to Liberia over the past three years from 2005 to 2007, accounting for more than half of total bilateral development assistance received by Liberia during that time while in the fiscal year 2007 and 2008 budgets, the u. s. government requested more than us$200 million for Liberia.

According to the OECD, in 2012, Liberia received us$571 million dollars in official development assistance from the World Bank and IMF. In the same year, the United States provided Liberia with $181 million aid dollars. As a result, Liberia received three-times more aid than the Sub-saharan countries.  Liberia has benefited from many other donors such as the Republic Of China, European Union, Federal Republic of Germany, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union (Au), France, Norway, Danish, Swiss, And Sweden Governments, Arab League, United Nations, IMF, WTO, And ILO.  Liberia also became entitled to generous debt forgiveness in 2006 under the World Bank/IMF HIPC initiative (World Bank, 2014).

During the administration of ex-president Johnson-Sirleaf, the country has received massive aids in the form of loan and grant form international institutions representing a greater part of Liberia’s socio-economic development; the volume of aid flows and number of development projects and technical assistance have increased tremendously. Liberia would not have received the worldwide benevolence it got during the last 18 years, if not for apt diplomatic initiatives by the foreign ministry, and had serious negotiations not taken place sometimes long hours into the night, as perceptively as possible with grinding efforts, employing the tools of diplomacy for national advancement.

Studies have shown that development diplomacy goes far beyond sparkling red and white wines, champagne, ceremonial dinners and soliciting financial assistance for personal enrichment, instead, diplomacy requires need to enable the government to receive the worldwide benevolence.  Fortunately, development diplomacy has turned-out to be the driving force of Liberia’s foreign policy formulation and diplomatic practices, even though there is no tangible document released by the appropriate agency of government, as far as this research is concerned. the Sirleaf’s diplomacy was focused on development diplomacy which was aimed at securing the nation’s role among the civilized world and helped to reestablish the country’s presence internationally.

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