[in] focus

Prerequisites of Diplomacy

In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, in which four American diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were murdered, and as protests by factions of various publics against a privately made film continue to threaten the staffs of western embassies and consulates in numerous countries from Tunisia to Australia, it is important not to lose sight of the effects of these attacks and protests upon diplomacy itself. Responsibility to protect diplomatic personnel lies, and must lie, first and foremost with the government of the host country in which diplomats reside. The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which codified over three centuries of international norms of diplomatic practice, is unambiguous on this point. Article 22, Section 2 articulates the obligation of the host government: ‘The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.’ Article 29 links this obligation specifically to the protection of diplomatic personnel: ‘The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.’

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The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in South-South cooperation

Important developments are taking in regional affairs of Latin America and the Caribbean. The emergence last year December of a new regional body, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) promise to extend activism we have seen in Latin America over the years to Central America and the Caribbean, thus further complicating the geopolitics of North America-Americas relations.

The CELAC is set to become a considerable organisation in the mechanism of South-South cooperation. Not long ago, the organisation was courting the emerging Asian powers China and India with meetings that took place in August to build economic cooperation and infrastructural development, to explore climate change solutions and to understand the global economic situation and its effects on developing countries.

This article poses the question whether CELAC has a potential to deepen the South-South cooperation and strengthen regional cooperation in the region it covers.

CELAC was officially formed in December 2011 and described by its 33 member states as an ideal regional organisation to create political and economic integration and cooperation between Latin American and Caribbean states. As a regional organisation, CELAC is believed to set a significant foundation of mutual cooperation in the Southern hemisphere of the Americas outside the realm of the Organisation of American States (OAS). For many decades both American continents were united by the OAS under the influence USA.

What makes CELAC different from the OAS is the fact that it excludes the North American giants, US and Canada. The reason for this is that most Latin American and Caribbean states became disillusioned with OAS and influence of North America in it. They distaste USA hegemony for interfering with the domestic politics of Latin American and Caribbean States in particular.

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Zimbabwe’s New Draft Constitution in Limbo

The Zimbabwean democracy has been thrown into uncertainty again, following ZANU-PF’s rejection of the proposed draft constitution released on 19 July 2012. The much anticipated document was drafted by the Select Committee of Parliament on the New Constitution (COPAC) of Zimbabwe, a process that was delayed by three years and cost the taxpayer some US$50 million. The draft, if effective and implemented, will conclude the four year transitional Inclusive Government (IG) and hopefully pave way for smooth elections in 2013.

In brief, the IG, also known as the Government of Unity, was formed in 2008 following the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It is a government shared between the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Thus, the executive includes President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara. They had agreed to end violence, share power through a transitional government and accelerate economic restoration .In addition, the parties to the GPA pledged to restore the rule of law, draft a new constitution, pursue land reform and promote nation healing, while hoping that the West will remove sanctions. This brought an end to 38 years of single party rule by the ZANU-PF and gave the MDC factions an opportunity to gain experience in government.

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Advancing the African Agenda through Academic Diplomacy

As the dust settles in Addis Ababa after the fallout from the election of a new head of the African Union (AU) Commission, it is time for foreign policy drivers in South Africa to extract important lessons from the diplomatic showdown and formulate appropriate interventions. One area that begs for serious attention relates to the ingrained tensions on the continent around South Africa’s Africa policy, which seem to be nurtured by divergent diagnoses of Africa’s challenges and the corresponding difficulty by its leaders to articulate a shared vision of how to move the continent forward. As one of Africa’s de facto leaders, South Africa’s attempt to give direction to the continent by articulating and promoting an African Agenda would be better served if a conscious and well-targeted effort is made to complement traditional diplomatic processes with societal-level approaches that encourage constructive and sustained dialogue among critical stakeholders in the continent. This is where academic diplomacy, seen as an official diplomatic strategy that seeks to create understanding about a country or its policies through institutionalised academic cooperation, becomes relevant in addressing misperceptions about South Africa’s posture in Africa.

Contrary to what some observers would want us believe, South African policy makers’ reading of the current challenges confronting Africa, especially as they relate to the continent’s engagement with the outside world, does indeed resonate with the concerns of a substantial constituency in other quarters of the continent. In fact, one can argue that concerns about France’s continued neo-colonial influence in Africa, as well as the new scramble for the continent’s resources involving both established and emerging powers are stronger in other parts of Africa than is the case in South Africa. This is particularly true if we take into account the fact that it is the African people we are referring to and not just their leaders.

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Annan out; in Ibrahimi: African envoys in Syria and the power chess

The appointment of another African, the former Foreign Minister of Algeria, Al-Akhdar Al-Ibrahimi, as the new UN and Arab League special envoy on Syria comes after Kofi Annan announced his intention not to renew his contract when it expires at the end of August. Ibrahimi’s mission has been greeted with excitement only amongst those in favour of peace and with subtle disdain amongst those dead-set to bring about a regime change by military means.

For this reason, he has an unenviable job and he will most likely quit in exasperation, not because of lack of ability, but because there is no adequate appetite for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis amongst key UN Security Council members and other powerful states.

Kofi Annan was appointed in February this year as a joint UN-Arab League special envoy to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis when the conflict was already just about a year old. While some including those for whom a military solution was the way Annan’s mission came a little too late in Syria, while others thought the drawn-out military stalemate signified that the situation was actually ripe for a political solution. The appointment had the backing of the most democratically constituted organ of the UN, the 193-member General Assembly, through its resolution on 16 February where it called on the Syrian government and rebels to cease hostilities in order to give a UN-Arab League process a chance to lead them towards lasting peace.

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