Foreign policy implementation is at the intersection and the political relationship of external/international and internal/domestic environments. It is the political relationships of domestic actors, capacities, instruments, decision making and interests and international actors and structures. Poorer countries’ capacities are domestically limited and highly dependent on the kindness of a rich and powerful country that they associate themselves with.
The domestic decision making environment is also clouded with the superpower’s frequent interference in the internal affairs of the poor countries. Ethiopia, though disadvantaged in terms of economics, is one of the diplomatically sophisticated nations in the world not to succumb to foreign influence to the extent other poor nations have. This may partly have explained in terms of the long standing political and territorial independence of the nation with high record of national pride.
The effect of globalisation with the producer-consumer and donor-aid recipient continuum of division of labour is inescapable. Ethiopia being one of the poorer countries in the world is at the aid recipient end of the global economic continuum. Its foreign policy is aimed at creating conducive environment for the economy which is facilitating graduation from aid reception. It is aimed at transforming the economy from aid recipient to producers. International actors, capacities, instruments, decision making environments and structures are indispensible for the foreign policy that creates the conducive for such graduation.
What is more, globalization is one of the bases of Ethiopia’s foreign policy (the other two being development and building a democratic system and national pride and prestige). The efforts to bring about rapid development, democracy and good governance cannot be seen outside the regional and global contexts, the policy stipulates.
Globalization as a daily cliché both in academia and praxis lacks precision. Robert G. Patman (2005) broadly defined globalization as the intensification of interconnections between societies, institutions, cultures, and individuals on a worldwide basis. It is interconnectedness of the world. It is the free flow of goods, services, information and people. Technologically driven revolutions in communications and production in the 1980s are often linked with the momentum of the globalisation process.
The relative free flow of information, goods and services, people from the outside world to Ethiopia and from Ethiopia to the rest of the world, it goes without saying, is becoming a daily phenomenon. It is influencing every day foreign policy decision making. In the interest of time and space this commentary would only like to share with you how citizen diplomacy which becomes dominant with the information revolution could influence foreign policy decision making in Ethiopia.
Citizen diplomacy also as known as track two diplomacy involves the trans-national flow of information and ideas through unofficial channels. Also through informal interaction of private individuals and groups with other countries’ private citizens and/or governments. The synthesis of citizen diplomacy as complement to track one/official diplomacy with the protection, representation, communication, promotion, negotiation function of diplomatic missions as venerably inscribed in the Vienna Convention on diplomatic missions. It gives rise to two dominant elements of citizen diplomacy; protection and participation.
One the one hand, diplomatic missions abroad have the responsibility to protect citizens of the sending state (at the host state) and reach out to citizens of the host state in promoting the policy of the sending state. Also directly reports to the sending state on issues of public concern of the host state when and wherever it is influential. This is particularly so in democratic states, where citizens, think-thanks, and interest groups are influential in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation.
The revolution of information technology provides citizens with easy access to foreign policy decision makers. The world is becoming a flat world, where information spreads to its entire attendant irrespective of political, social and economic status. For instance, Ethiopians are easily communicating with any foreign missions in Addis Ababa than ever before. Foreign diplomatic missions are also directly communicating with the citizens of Ethiopia.
A case in point is, the US embassy in Addis Abeba, which is very active in grassroots participation. It uses direct participation of citizens in trying to understand public concerns in the host state which is Ethiopia. Its exemplary role in directly communicating with Ethiopian citizens using social media is second to none. A casual visitor to the face -book page of the US Embassy in Addis Abeba could feel how the embassy and Ethiopian citizens anywhere in the world are really making use of citizen diplomacy.
Ethiopian citizens and foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin abroad also use the Ethiopian missions and the host states in conveying whatever message they have, thereby influencing the track one diplomacy of the host state has with Ethiopia. The large chunk of Ethiopian Diaspora communities in the US and Europe are vocal in sharing though with political and ethnic schism to make effective participation and protection role of citizen diplomacy, are vocal. They could have helped their country through meaningful citizen diplomacy.
Ethiopia could have used those voices to influence the foreign policy of the host state, had it managed to get the vocal ones on board to the extent required. To the dismay of the Ethiopian government, the contribution of Ethiopian Diaspora communities is highly skewed to remittance. The Diaspora engagement policy of the government is in recognition of the vital role citizen diplomacy can play to complement official diplomacy. The possibility to meaningfully utilize the potential of the Diaspora is a far cry from the official assertion, calling for judicious Diaspora policy implementation strategy.
The Diaspora policy is aimed at preserving the rights and interests of the Diaspora, broadening Diaspora participation on image building, encouraging philanthropic and development association, advancing Diaspora participation in good governance and democracy. As well promoting cultural values and promoting image building, encouraging foreign currency inflows and strengthening Diaspora participation, enhancing knowledge and technology transfer and improving Diaspora engagement in investment, trade and tourism.
These are the goals of the Diaspora policy. The full utilization of the Diaspora to achieve the above goals is a long way away. The government should use a coordinated effort to make the best use of the Diaspora in favour of the vital national interest of the nation. But this is only an aspect of citizen diplomacy. The other side of the coin is the use of citizens of other countries who are visiting, investing, working, and living in Ethiopia in favour of our national interest.
Ethiopia is gaining international importance in being an important tourist attraction and foreign direct investment destination, and hosts significant number of citizens from the four corners of the planet. All of them need protection of all kinds. The embassy as one of its diplomatic function has the responsibility to protect them through institutions of the host state. Some of them use bilateral agreements; others use periodic consultation and communication.
They gather information of public concern that may endanger their citizens and report back to the sending state. Equally, Ethiopia and Ethiopians can create a positive impression of Ethiopia on tourists who visit Ethiopia and investors who invest in the country so that they get back to their home with a good image. These are people who can be sources of information to their fellow countrymen and their government.
The increase in the number of investors in Ethiopia creates economic interdependence. The economic interdependence in turn creates interdependence in information sharing which would be vital in influencing foreign policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. The investor by virtue of his investment in the host state takes a way some sovereignty in return for the capital he brought to the host state and give it to his country by virtue of his citizenship to a particular country to negotiate with the host state on his behalf in case of dispute and disagreement.
Countries begin to be concerned about issues and decision making environments of the state where they have their citizens, where they have part of their gross national product (GNP), and where they have their investment. If they have any concern, then the possibility of influencing policies to their favour would be high. That is part of what it takes to influence foreign policy decision making. That means with globalization and free flow of people/citizen diplomacy states give away a degree of their sovereignty.
Ethiopia is not exception to this generalization. Therefore, Ethiopia should be careful on the one hand not to give away its vital national interests. This is due to foreign influence and on the other should make use of the best of what it can to use citizen diplomacy to influence foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in favour of Ethiopia’s national interest. The best ways to so doing is implementing the Diaspora policy and improve its public diplomacy and communication strategies to the state-of-the art level.
The concerns of all less-developed countries about economic globalization are, of course, headed by fears of loss of control. This is which in political economy terms can translate into domination by the large trans-national corporations, and loss of economic sovereignty and control over economic planning and cycles.
Ethiopia is hosting multinational corporations whose presence not just tests the economic sovereignty, control over the economic planning and cycles of the Ethiopia but also the increasing influence of the country where the corporation originates on Ethiopia’s policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. Ethiopia should heed that its policy autonomy is not in any way compromised. A compromise in policy space and autonomy results in compromise in the vital national interests of the nation.
Many of these fears are well founded, given the inter-dependencies that already exist between separate economic units (states and corporations) and the level of penetration of foreign capital. This is in the most vibrant economic nation of the world as citizen diplomacy is the best way to fill in institutional, structural, legal and political gaps of globalization. It is indispensable in complementing official diplomacy that is designed to reduce the constraint of globalization, to fully exploit opportunities of globalization. This is for it to become active participants in the process of globalization to economically emerging nations such ours.
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