CARICOM official sees urgent need to train foreign policy experts

In CARICOM with one of the highest rates of emigration of skilled persons in the world, there is an exceptionally  urgent need to train and retrain the region’s foreign policy experts, says CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite.

Lolita Applewhaite
Lolita Applewhaite

The urgent need for such training comes against the background of a number of challenges which have stretched the existing capacities of the region’s diplomatic service to the fullest, Ambassador Applewhaite noted Monday in remarks at the opening in Georgetown of the two-day High-Level Regional Consultations on Diplomatic Training in the Caribbean, according to a press release from the CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen.

According to the Deputy Secretary-General these challenges include the region’s ineligibility for concessionary financing to support development needs, coupled with a rapidly growing debt burden; additional demands and compliance costs associated with global efforts to combat terrorism; climate change and its concomitant challenges of food security, energy security and water security; and rising levels of brain drain from outward migration.

The CARICOM official also pointed to  the increasing levels of poverty; crime and violence, the trafficking of illicit drugs and arms and the necessary divergence of funds to fight these scourges; and the faster-than-anticipated erosion of preferential trade access arrangements.

Diplomatic training

Meanwhile Applewhaite disclosed that several CARICOM member states had made requests to the CARICOM  Secretariat as well as the Commonwealth Secretariat to redouble efforts to organise diplomatic training at the regional level.

Considering the limited human resources in most of the foreign ministries around the region, she said, and in view of the increased range and importance of diplomatic engagement in today’s world, the CARICOM Secretariat had joined with the Commonwealth Secretariat to explore the real needs of the Community’s foreign ministries and to “devise a sustainable plan of action towards meeting those needs swiftly and comprehensively.”

Ambassador Applewhaite contended that in today’s knowledge-based society, development is dependent on the capacity of knowledgeable practitioners in any given field to mobilise their skill, creativity, vision and passion to engineer change and progress, and the field of diplomacy and international relations is no different. The need for knowledgeable practitioners in that field is no less urgent, she added.

“Indeed in a region with one of the highest rates of emigration of skilled persons in the world, the need to train and retrain our foreign policy experts is perhaps exceptionally urgent,” the Deputy Secretary-General argued.

She observed also that the small territories of the Caribbean in their comparatively short existence as sovereign territories have  produced some of the world’s most respected intellectuals and diplomats. The continuation of this tradition of excellence in the field of international relations is critical to the survival and further development of the region, she declared, but to maintain and improve it the region must provide effective and relevant training for its professionals.

These high-level regional consultations on diplomatic training in the Caribbean, Applewhaite explained, seek to define and deliver training programmes that will adequately address the capacity building needs of the twenty-first century Caribbean diplomat. “This is no small undertaking for in a century marked by developments and challenges unparalleled in humankind’s history, the efficacious diplomat requires unprecedented levels of skill and knowledge. And yet though this century boasts increasingly abundant and accessible knowledge, it is marked also by elitist and unjust conditions that disadvantage the poor in resources but wealthy in potential,” Applewhaite said.

She pointed out that the “immense creativity and potential of our small Caribbean’s big diplomatic minds and requirements will be partly met by the relevant programmes that are conceptualised by our experienced Foreign Service officials and delivered under this CARICOM-Commonwealth Partnership for Diplomatic Training.”

Spare no tool

And she urged that “no tool or technique should be spared in delivering relevant, adapted and effective training.” The format and substance of the diplomatic training to be delivered should be dynamic, varied, intensive and results-oriented, Applewhaite added, from e-learning to the physical classroom to hybrid internships and from consular functions to conflict resolution.

The CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General in noting that the event was organized to identify the diplomatic capacity-building needs of the Caribbean Community expressed gratitude to the Commonwealth Secretariat for its continued support to the capacity-building needs of the countries of the region. He also acknowledged the support of the Malta-Common-wealth Third Country Training Programme in facilitating the participation of the Commonwealth members of the Caribbean Community.

Among those attending the session were representative of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr. Deryck Brown, Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Technical Cooperation and Strategic Response Group for the Governance and Institutional Development Division; Abassador Kishan Rana, Senior Fellow, Diplofoundation, Malta and Geneva and Professor Emeritus, Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi; representatives from CARICOM member states; representatives of the Institute of International Relations and the University of the West Indies; and members of staff of the CARICOM Secretariat.

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