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EDITORIAL: Lessons from diplomatic postings

mialisafenty, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Lessons from diplomatic postings

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Barbados can learn quite a lot from an exchange between two former American ambassadors.
“Diplomacy is easy on the brain but hell on the feet,” was the way Charles G. Dawes, a former top United States diplomat in London, once put it.
Henry Fletcher, an envoy in Italy, shot back: “It depends on which you use,” meaning the brain or the feet.
Sadly, far too many diplomats the world over prefer to use their feet instead of their brains. They often ignore a cardinal principle in the conduct of international relations: a country’s foreign policy is an extension of its domestic policy, and educational and trade opportunities which could benefit their countries and young people go abegging. Our Government will soon have a chance to review its appoointments, and can enhance the benefits already accruing to our country by some suggested adjustments to its embassies and consulates.
Our High Commission in London doesn’t have a head of mission and Ottawa will soon lose its top diplomat, Evelyn Greaves, who performed well but wants to retire. If diplomatic sources are accurate, our embassy in Geneva may soon require an ambassador to replace Dr Marion Williams, a former Central Bank Governor.
Next is our United Nations mission which may lose Permanent Representative Joseph Goddard, possibly by the end of August when his tour of duty ends. What should be done? We must begin at home. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should dramatically improve its communication with its missions and the public at home.
The Government recently scored something of a coup when Dr Chelston Brathwaite, a former director general of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, agreed to serve as Ambassador to China. However, we might have been better served if he had been sent to the UN given his vast knowledge of international institutions.
That brings us to Sir Roy Trotman, rumoured to be in line for a diplomatic posting when he retires from the Barbados Workers’ Union. If the reports prove accurate, Geneva would appear to be ideal given he once sat on the councils of the International Labour Organisation in that city.
In choosing Greaves’ replacement in Ottawa, Barbados should appoint someone who knows the intricacies of our offshore financial services sector and the importance of Canada to the sector.
The Government should also consider reassigning John Beale, our ambassador in Washington, to Brazil where he can use his intimate knowledge of that country to establish new business ties.
In filling diplomatic vacancies, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart should appoint officers who understand our country’s economic and financial needs. They must also know how to align them in our relations with other countries.