According to the tradition, today the Ministry of Foreign Affair is holding the 28th Diplomatic Conference, themed “Proactive and active diplomacy in international integration”. This is an opportunity for the Diplomatic Service to review and assess the implementation of external strategy of international integration as mapped out in the first half of the 11th Party Congress’s term, so as to take comprehensive and effective measures to successfully realize the Congress’ external strategy in the coming years.
The Conference is honored to warmly welcome Comrade Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Party to attend and chair the Conference. The presence of Comrade Secretary-General is a major inspiration to all the working staffs of the Diplomatic Service, which shows the profound interest and the Leadership of the Party to the external field. We also warmly welcome other high-ranking leaders of the Party, the State, the National Assembly and the Government, distinguished guests representing central ministries, branches, departments and provinces, as well as more than seven hundred Heads of the Vietnamese Diplomatic Missions overseas, diplomatic officials, officials representing local foreign affairs’ offices, members of the press, mass media and a number of economic groups to the Conference. We are also glad to welcome former Ministers and leaders of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as senior members of the Vietnamese Diplomatic Service, who have closely followed the foreign affairs, generating great inspirations to the next generations of our Diplomatic Service.
The 28th Diplomatic Conference is held at a time where many important changes are taking place both domestically and internationally.
Domestically, our country has entered a pivotal period regarding the execution of the Ten-year Socio-Economic Development Strategy of 2011-2020, the realization of the goal of industrialization and modernization by 2020 and the promotion of economic restructure being accompanied by the renovation of our growth model.
Against the backdrop of slow world economy recovery, ongoing financial and public debt crises all over the world, fierce competition among great powers in the region that have made a negative impacts on our country’s socio-economic situations, our country has attained important socio-economic achievements, stabilized the macro-economy, maintained reasonable growth, curbed inflation and ensured social security. However, our economy is still faced with many difficulties and challenges.
Globally, peace and cooperation for development continue to be a major trend, yet prominent problems still persist in an ever more complicated direction. Armed conflicts; disputes over resources, national territory, seas and islands; ethnic and religion-fueled conflicts; interventions, coups, secessions and terrorism; all are on the rise. A multipolar world is now emerging prominently. Major powers are engaged in cooperation, competition with one another, with the Asia-Pacific being the dominant region.
In addition, unconventional security challenges, especially natural disasters and internet security have increased in intensity. Multilateral politico-security challenges are directly affecting on the security and development of our country.
Achievements attained by the Diplomatic Service since the 27th Diplomatic Conference
In the last two years since the 27th Diplomatic Conference, we have actively and comprehensively carried out the 11th Party Congress’ external strategy and attained important achievements.
Political Diplomacy has been actively conducted, bringing our relations with important partners to substance, making them effective and stable and for the first time we have established relation frameworks with all important partners. In 2013 we have established five Strategic Partnerships and two Comprehensive Partnerships, bringing the total number of the former to 13 and the latter to 11, including those with the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations; with important partners worldwide like Japan, India, Germany, the Republic of Korea; with the core members of the ASEAN like Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand; while our relations with traditional friends in Africa and Latin America have been strengthened and expanded.
In the international integration, we persistenly hold high the “national interest is the highest” principle, engaging in both cooperation and struggle. The Diplomatic Service has contributed to maintaining a peaceful, stable environment, playing an important part in building a favorable international environment for national development.
Economic Diplomacy has effectively supported the execution of the Ten-Year Socio-Economic Development Strategy of 2011-2020 and the Five-Year Plan of 2011-2015; proactively forecasting major development trends as well as learning experiences from other countries so as to recommend to the Government sound steps in managing and stabilizing the macroeconomy and restructuring the economy. We have also promoted the politico-diplomatic lobbying to facilitate the negotiations on important Free Trade Agreements, the recognition of Viet Nam as a market economy and the attraction of ODA and FDI. Over the last two years we have managed to persuade 14 more countries to recognize Viet Nam as a market economy, bringing the total number of the recognizers to 43, including eight countries in G-20. At present, we are negotiating six Free Trade Agreements with important partners in bilateral and multilateral frameworks, including such largest economies in the world as the United States, China, Japan and the EU. Apart from cooperation, we have also timely struggled against protectionism and discrimination in trade relations, partly protecting our main export products in the law suits regarding anti dumping duties and countervailing duties.
Multilateral Diplomacy has effectively implemented the international integration policy, switching from the simple participation to pro-active participation, making suggestions and contributions with responsibility to common regional and global security and development issues, thus promoting the country’s standing in the region and the world.
In the region, as a responsible member to we have contributed to promoting the building of the ASEAN Community, consolidating regional solidarity and strengthening the central role of ASEAN in regional matters, promoting the execution of the Declaration of Conduct and the joint consultation between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea.
At the international level, our decision to take part in the United Nations Peacekeeping activities, our being elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council with the highest number of votes and as the president of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and for the first time our being elected to the Intergovernmental Committee on the 1972 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritages, have all promoted the image and the standing of our country in the world. In the long-term, we have step-by-step been building a general plan for the hosting of the APEC Summit in 2017 and a candidacy for the election into the United Nations Security Council in the 2020-2021 term.
Cultural Diplomacy has played an important part in popularizing and strengthening the national image and the standing of Viet Nam in the world, lobbying the UNESCO for the recognition of many Vietnamese material and non-material cultural heritages as world cultural heritages.
Territorial and Border work has been carried out effectively, contributing to protecting national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country as well as to defending our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the East Sea.
Overseas Vietnamese work has been carried out to support and protect legitimate rights of overseas Vietnamese in difficulty and encourage them to maintain and promote national customs and identities and contribute to building the homeland. Resolution No 36 of the Party Politburo has been implemented with concrete methods and policies to facilitate overseas Vietnamese to return to the homeland to do business, visit relatives, so as to contribute to the construction of the homeland.
Citizen protection work has received much more attention as our country has implemented open door policy and continued to integrate in-depth into the world. We have timely protected our citizens in international hot spots and natural disaster regions. We have also actively combined cooperation and struggle to protect our citizens, fishermen and laborers’ legitimate rights overseas.
Foreign information work has seen many innovations, partly creating social consensus on complicated matters, sending accurate messages to help the international community understand and support the Party and the Government’s strategy and policy while strongly opposing the violations of our maritime sovereign rights and slanderous allegations regarding democracy, human rights and religious matters.
These achievements would be impossible without the extremely important contribution of the work of Diplomatic Service building. Following the 27th Diplomatic Conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affair has focused on the building and training work in compliance with Comrade Secretary-General’s request in the 27th Diplomatic Conference that our army of working staffs must have “sufficient strength of will, capability and morality standards on a par with their new mission, loyalty to the national interest”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affair has implemented many programs and methods for training and retraining working staffs to provide our country with officials who are genuinely professional with high competence and firm political strength, meeting external tasks in the international integration period in an increasingly competent manner.
These achievements in external relations and international integration are attributed first of all to the sound foreign policy of the Party, the close instruction and direct participation of the Party Politburo and high-ranking leaders of the Party, the State, the National Assembly and the Government, the close and timely cooperation among the agencies working on Forreign Affairs, among State diplomacy, and Party, and Parliamentary diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy, among the foreign service-security-defense sectors, among foreign service and external activites of ministries, branches and departments at the central levels and local governments at the provincial level all over the country, forming an united front to bring into play the combined national strength.
These achievements have been very important, yet the road ahead is full of difficulties and challenges, which demand the Diplomatic Service to continue making greater efforts on a par with the new standing of the country.
In the coming years, the international and regional picture will be changing more dramatically, creating for us both great opportunities and challenges. However, we have a very basic strength in our patriotism, a stable socio-political background, and the fact that after nearly 30 years of Doi Moi our national strength and standing have been much improved. The recent years’ external achievements have created new advantages; it can be said that never before in the history of the modern Viet Nam have we had such favorable conditions in our relationship with other countries in the world as nowadays.
Issues to be discussed in depth in the 28th Diplomatic Conference
In order to continue to accomplish successfully the policies of the 11th Congress, the 28th Diplomatic Conference themed “Proactive and active diplomacy in international intgration” will concentrate on the following points:
First, concerning the regional and global situation, forecasting accurately development trends in the short term and within the next five to ten years; improving further research and consultative quality, more assessing and forecasting policy adjustments of neighboring countries and major powers and their impacts on our security and development environment.
Second, concerning political diplomacy, on the basis of partnership framework networks, we need to identify priorities and key methods to bring our relationships with key partners into depth, substance and efficiency.
Third, concerning international integration and multilateral diplomacy, we need to find sound methods and ways to better bring into play our current standing among nations as well as mechanisms and forums to serve the country’s security and development goals; we are not just participating actively but also contributing to the building of mechanisms and frameworks in regional and international organizations in which we have stakes, with the goal of further improving the country’s standing both regionally and internationally.
While we have seven more years to realize the goals of industrialization and modernization and two years to build the ASEAN Community by 2015, economic diplomacy needs to become deeply involved in aspects vital to the country’s development demands, supporting effectively the implementation of the goals of the Socio-Economic Development Strategy until 2020.
Fourth, we need to continue researching and suggesting methods to promote comprehensive, uniform deployment of external activities on the fields of culture, information-propaganda, overseas Vietnamese works, citizen protection works; strengthening close cooperation among foreign-defense-security services to successfully realize the main goal of maintaining peace, stability and development.
Equally important is the building of the Diplomatic Service. The Conference needs to devote due time to review the deployment of professional staff-building activities; there must be breakthrough solutions to improve the training of staff, so as after graduation, officials have been not only endowed with professional, multi-faceted skills but also possessing the ability to cooperate and work in an inter-professional environment in the backdrop of our deep international integration into the world, meeting increasingly high requirements of the building and defending of the motherland and improving our national standing.
It is not easy to come to actual, comprehensive assessment and pivotal solutions to the aforementioned problems within the span of one week. Yet with a deep awareness about the Diplomatic Service’s task in this most important period for the nation, with our high responsibility and dedication, the 28th Diplomatic Conference will successfully complete the agenda, according to the spirit of “Proactive and active diplomacy in international integration”.
I hereby declare the commencement of the 28th Diplomatic Conference. May I wish Comrade Secretary-General, leaders of the Party and the State and all delegates good health and many achievements in the upcoming period.
Posting granted exclusively for the Modern Diplomacy
(*)Speech delivered by HE Mr. Pham Binh Minh, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the 28th Diplomatic Conference (from the 16th to 20th December 2013). The title is named by the Journal of International Studies.
The role of social media in authoritarian leaders’ nation branding and public diplomacy strategies
How can Erdogan’s Facebook posts of him holding a baby or shaking hands enhance Turkey diplomatic relations? Why Chechnya strongman Ramzan Kadyrov constantly share photos on Instagram while cuddling animals or working out? Scholarly literature has thoroughly addressed the democratic potential of digital diplomacy as a tool both for citizens to streamline social protest and for national diplomatic services to mediate and multiply the messages to reach the wider masses. Nonetheless, a vacuum still exists on the examination of how digital diplomacy – as Aronczyk suggests – can provide authoritarian leaders with a new tool for engaging foreign public in a “communication strategy […that] allows governments to better manage and control the image they project to the world.”(‘Nation branding’)
We will see – complementing the debate on how social media may serve as a tool of autocratic stability- how digital diplomacy may be an important tool in furthering a nation’s foreign policy”especially for non-democratic regimes by enabling direct interaction and engagement with foreign publics.
As Hanson argued, the technologic changes involving public diplomacy gave politicians and national diplomatic services (NDS) “the opportunity to influence and speak directly and more frequently to large audiences”.Nevertheless, such ability, alongside the capability to segment audiences may be a double-edged sword since it could boost ‘Digital Bonapartism’– a populist rhetoric aimed at marginalizing the opposition and manipulate public opinion in a subtler manner – of authoritarian leaders.Hence, resorting also to empirical data provided by social media analytics, we will provide a snapshot of authoritarian governments’ engagement and assertiveness in digital diplomacy.
Finally, it is worth recalling that the size and emotional preference of international online public determines to a good share the digital diplomatic strategies of non-democratic regimes.
Digital Diplomacy and Nation Branding
As Hocking and Melissen emphasized in their seminal work, “the propensity towards ‘hype’ in responding to technological change” alongside the tendency to resort to vague and amorphous conceptualizations provides little help in analysing ‘diplomacy in the digital age’.
Accordingly, to shed light on the concept,we will define ‘digital diplomacy’ as “solving foreign policy problems using the internet”, id est, as “conventional diplomacy through a different medium”.On the one hand, some critics held that ‘digital diplomacy’ is not diplomacy but ‘listening and dissemination’.Digital diplomacy is indeed a pivotal element of public diplomacy and traditional diplomacy latusensu, sharing with the latter mechanisms, networks and, most importantly, the task of promoting the States’ interests at the international level.
Firstly, the growing usage of social media is instrumental for countries to achieve foreign policy goals while proactively managing their image and reputation abroad. Furthermore – enlarging Szondi’s analysis of the relationship between public diplomacy and nation branding – we emphasize how digital diplomacy may also prove a useful tool in nation-branding without necessarily accounting for the full range of State’s activities to further its image abroad. Nation branding activities through social media involve an effort to develop and spread “a national discourse for global context”.Therefore, digital diplomacy may be deeply interweaved with ‘public diplomacy’: social media may be serve as the medium to convey messages to international audience, enhance a country’s international image in a broader public diplomacy discourse.In fact, as Fouts argued, “for social media, virtual world and physical interactions […] are part of a broader tapestry of interactions that a country should employ to manage its brand”.
Despite the capability of social media to disrupt the top-down political communication and their potential in harnessing countries’ exposure to nation brand-damaging event,their use in diplomacy could bolster the legitimacy of authoritarian regime by framing the discourse and winning credibility among foreign public.
Authoritarian digital narratives: Liars and Outliers?
Unlike the Juan Linz’s authoritarianism Idealtypus, modern ‘competitive authoritarian regimes’ resort to more subtle mechanisms of repression than their counterparts in authoritarian regimes: the engagement of foreign public through social media fits in a broader strategy aimed at winning credibility on the international stage, mainstreaming ‘digital bonapartism’.
Therefore, framing the foreign policy discourse may help authoritarian regimes’ credibility and boost relationships with third countries in the long run.Whereas several studies have underscored that leaders in democratic countries are more likely to adopt social media, nonetheless no further research has been carried out on the features of autocrats’ use of social media to attain foreign policy purposes.
Moreover,the increasing involvement of Head of States’ in digital diplomacy further shrinks the role of foreign ministries as gatekeepers for other government actors.
This phenomenon is particularly evident when contrasting the digital audiences of the most followed authoritarian leaders with that of the respective MFAs. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)While MFAs are more prolific in delivering messages, their effectiveness in achieving visibility is limited. The claim that the “stimulus to centralization in foreign policy making […] is not evident in the case of digitization” may be revaluated when tackling authoritarian regimes. In this form of government strong leaders may rely on their pivotal position to convey narratives aimed at offering the international public partisan explanation of complex events.
Twitter, thanks to its brevity and its intuitive interface quickly imposed has the most widely communication tool for diplomacy, allowing world leaders to broadcast short, poignant messages to millions of followers.These inherent features of social medias give leaders an edge: being the digital realm an ‘emotional space’, the rising prominence of emotional expression may clash with the diplomatic tradition with an international public increasing demand for emotional and visual connections.
Furthermore, as clearly shown in Table 1, the ‘digital audience’ of most-followed authoritarian leaders in every region is mainly located abroad, thus increasingly the value of Twitter as a tool for convey foreign policy messages and signals.
The data gathered clearly display a massive divide in terms of the number of followers among leaders –communicating through personal accounts – and their respective MFAs.
Furthermore, through social platforms leaders may tailor messages matching contrasting narratives to target different foreign constituencies: the sheer size of messages delivered by MFA accounts -acting as simple sounding boards – may be instrumental in amplifying the leaders’ messages spreading the ‘official’ narrative set up by the Head of State/Government. Faced with the need for addressing different audiences at different levels, authoritarian leaders are enhancing their effectiveness in delivering through different social platform, resulting more effective where the message is framed in an epigrammatic or visual manner (Twitter and Instagram, respectively) than the more ‘discursive’ Facebook posts.
Conclusion: Emotional Digital Diplomacy?
Digital modes of communication provide a new dimension and challenge to ‘framing’ issues”. As Manor emphasizes, narratives may be particularly important in digital diplomacy since they offer a clear explanation of complex events.
We argued that the very issue of authoritarian leaders’ engagement in social media concerns digital diplomacy’s values as a powerful tool to expand soft power reach in public diplomacy”.
Moreover, digital diplomacy offer a whole new device to convey narratives. The centralization trend allows leaders to play a crucial role in nation branding, in which the authoritarian structure enabling– as Surowiec has illustrated in his case-study – a “commitment to unification and synergy of collective identity projection [that] is hardly viable in any democratic political field”.
Finally, the narrative storytelling framework of social media – characterised by ‘the predominance of emotional content’ – enables non-democratic leaders to resort to a full range of emotional solutions offered, exploiting the tailoring and timing of the communication.
In a radical overturn of social media promise of a more enlightened politics, as accurate information and effortless communication,digital tools represent nowadays a powerful device for spreading biased narratives and influencing the foreign public appealing to the emotional sphere. Therefore, digitally-empowered autocrats are increasingly carving themselves a niche in the ‘attention economy’ of international arena imitating and learning from digital diplomacy strategies of their democratic peers.
How national diplomatic missions are adapting to a fast-changing environment
Diplomacy at a crossroads
The impact of technology in diplomacy cannot be overstated. If “twenty years ago, telegrams from embassies would arrive in paper form”, in the past years an avalanche of technological breakthroughs forced diplomatic representations to adapt. Embassies are increasingly making use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, even if that embrace is still made with reluctance by practitioners. Moreover, the phenomenon of big data suggests that the role of diplomatic missions as ‘gatherers’ of information will be enhanced, provided national diplomatic systems make good use of the ever increasing amount of data available.
Even if it is still looked with suspicion by diplomats, the role of digital diplomacy paves the way for another important shift in diplomacy, which is the rise of non-state actors that “present a formidable challenge to state primacy in the diplomatic world”. These new digital platforms give non-state actors a much easier way to reach and influence bothlocal and global audiences. Indeed, as Shaun Riordan puts it, “the sheer range of new actors – governmental and non-governmental – in international relations is truly staggering, as is their exponential growth”.
All this comes at a time when domestic circumstances are also undergoing deep change. MFAs are increasinglypressuredto cut expenditure as many countries, particularly across Europe, seek to balance their public budgets. This has led to a rationalisation of costs where possible, often with allied countries deciding to pool their resources together. This has in turn set the scene for the rise of commercial diplomacy. Increasingly “governments encourage home firms to trade, as well as seeking to make their countries an attractive destination for foreign direct investment (FDI), research and development (R&D) and knowledge”.
One example that seems to have attempted to meet all these new challenges was the period that Tom Fletcher spent as British Ambassador to Lebanon. The Ambassador chose to adopt a direct and informal communication style to reach out to his host country that included tweeting and blogging frequently. During his tenure, Mr Fletcher actively promoted trade between the United Kingdom and Lebanon by sponsoring several trade fairs and showcases of British products, while facilitating defence trade deals between the UK and Lebanon.
The impact seems to be have been highly positive. UK-Lebanon business doubled in the space of three years and the “Lebanese Armed Forces are now using British-supplied vehicles and a string of British-built watchtowers”. The period of Mr Fletcher as UK Ambassador seems to suggest a new way of diplomacy-making, with added roles for the Ambassador: perhaps more informal in style, but undoubtedly with greater public exposure and a vocal promoter of the country on cultural and commercial terms.
“The news of my death have been greatly exaggerated”: Diplomacy lives on
Despite all the changes and the lively discussion around the changes-in-waiting in the diplomatic world, it is worth pondering whether the excitement over the future of diplomatic missions is not without some hyperbole. After all, many of the novelties discussed are but means to the primary goals diplomatic missions have since time immemorial served: the advancement of a country’s interests and the protection of its citizens abroad.
Moreover, as ‘digital’ as diplomatic representations may eventually become, the role of the embassy as a building is and will remain a potentially key instrument of a country’s foreign policy. Here, the exile of Julius Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 provides a clear – if unlikely – example. After being accused of crimes of sexual nature in Sweden and declaring himself a political prisoner, Mr Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador. As at the time he was in London, he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which he has not left since. Even if this is an admittedly unusual example, it nonetheless shows that embassies remain irreplaceable; indeed, diplomacy can never be fully uploaded onto a ‘cloud’. When Tom Fletcher writes that the model diplomat in 2025 will not “see the embassy as a building, but as an idea”, that idea cannot in any case be disassociated from the building itself.
Embassies will remain essential assets of a country’s national diplomatic system. They retain replaceable function in terms of a country’s power projection worldwide and in protecting its citizens abroad in emergency situations.
However, the tectonic shifts we are witnessing will force the structure of embassies to change radically. There is a multiplication of available information due to issues such as big data and the emergence of new digital platforms and social media networks. Thus, embassies are likely to be, in the words of Tom Fletcher, “managers” instead of “creators” of information when communicating with their national Foreign Offices.
Naturally, this is not a model that will necessarily fit the realities of all states in the world. First of all, there is a high degree of agency in the diplomacy envisioned by Mr Fletcher. Not all diplomats are or will ever be “authentic, flexible, connected and influential”. Moreover, the economic, social and cultural particularities of each country will always define the priorities it sets out for its diplomatic representations to achieve. It thus follows that national diplomatic systems were always highly asymmetric among each other and will undoubtedly remain so – in number, size and scope. For instance, the United Kingdom has 226 diplomatic missions abroad; Estonia, at 45, has far less. Nevertheless, both countries have issues they will want their diplomatic missions to tackle, and both have political, economic and cultural agendas they will seek to project abroad. Those topics will often interact: Portugal’s economy diplomacy agency AICEP’s work in projecting the country as being at the forefront of digital innovation was certainly a key factor in convincing Egypt to buy Portugal’s public administration innovation technologies. In this kind of synergies lies the key to overcoming the challenges diplomatic representation will face in the future.
Kofi Annan: A Humane Diplomat
I was deeply shocked whenever I heard that Kofi Annan is no more. A noble peace laureate, a visionary leader, an intellectual and scholar, a ‘global statesman’who led the United Nations two times as Secretary General will never be forgotten by the world. Especially, I cannot forget him. When I taught the United Nations to my students, his works always motivated me. I was a great fan of him. I regularly followed his write-ups, published in LinkedIn. I deeply admired his thoughts for the voiceless, marginalized people in theworld. Today, tens of thousands voiceless, powerless people in the world lost their ambassador.Its an irreparable loss to the world, particularly to the poor.In fact, there are very few people in the world, who talks, thinks about the poor. Annan is well known as a UN Secretary-General. I will not focus his works as Secretary General. RatherI intend to remember him through his writingsand speeches delivered around the world for a better, peaceful world.
Towards A Fairer, Peaceful World
If one goes through the writings of Kofi Annan, he always wrote and spoke for a fairer, for a more peaceful world. According to him, there are three pillars of a fairer, more peaceful world, i.e. sustainable development, peace and human rights. He contends that ‘these pillars are interconnected and interdependent, for there can be no long-term security without development, and there can be no long-term development without security. And no society can long remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights’ (Annan, May 13, 2015).He believed that if everyone comes forward in one way or another, then this fairer and peaceful world is possible to establish for everyone. In this regard, in a speech at Columbia University in 2015, Annan urged that ‘I encourage each and every one of you, in your own way, to join our struggle for a fairer and more peaceful world’.He believed in cooperation rather than competition, believed in engagement rather than separation. He writes that ‘My long experience has taught me that, whatever our background, what unites us is far greater than what divides us’.
Writings for the Poor, Voiceless People& Their Everyday Challenges
The last article that Annan published in LinkedIn was about Snakebiteon June 28, 2018. Annan urged that snakebites need to be addressed seriously by the world community as a public health crisis which is highly neglected in the world arena. He mentioned that it is poor people who become affected by snakebites and thus it is still neglected by the world community. But in terms of significance, in the piece, he mentions that ‘snakebite kills between 81,000 and 138,000 people globally every year, with many more suffering lasting mental and physical impairments. By comparison, the mosquito-borne Dengue fever claims roughly 20,000 lives annually worldwide. Despite its huge impact, snakebite is the biggest public health crisis you have likely never heard of. To date, it has been largely overlooked’. He concludes his piece by urging that ‘By working together to tackle snakebite, we can save the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow human beings in some of the poorest and most marginalised parts of our world’.
He strongly raised his voice against the genocide of Rohingyas. Notably, if the Myanmar government would follow the suggestions given by the Kofi Annan commission led by him, then, the world would not witness today’s Rohingya genocide. To resolve the global refugee crisis, Annan questioned that why are only poor countries taking refugees? Why not the developed one? He identifies that ‘Yet the sad truth is that for many, especially in the prosperous Global North, refugees have slipped from the minds of citizens. When they do appear, it’s often because of irresponsible political rhetoric designed to stoke fears rather than foster genuine debate. Quasi-populist politicians have all too often exploited these fears — when what is needed is responsible leadership shaped by facts, principles and values’ (Annan, June 27, 2017).
In a speech given on 25 June 2018 at the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, Annan talks about the water challenge that the world faces and its solutions. Annan points out that ‘Water scarcity currently affects more than 40% of the global population, and this figure is projected to rise. Millions of people, most of them children, die every year from diseases linked to poor hygiene and unsafe water. Climate change is adding to these pressures: in water-scarce regions, the increasing and competing demands for water are leading to instability, forced migration and conflict’. Against this backdrop, he urges the worldto take effective actions immediately. In the speech, he emphasizes that ‘Water is critical for human health, food security, the environment, stability and prosperity; we therefore have to put water at the core of all of our peace and development efforts’ (Annan, June 25, 2018).
Dreaming for poverty, hunger and malnutrition free world
Kofi Annan dreamed for a hunger-free world. Notably, he significantly contributed to the UN Millennium Development Goals, consisting of eight ambitious goals. He writes that ‘[t]he first goal — to cut extreme poverty and hunger in half by 2015 — was especially important to me, because it was crucial to achieving all the others. Talk led to action, and action to results. Between 2000 and 2015, nearly every African country improved childhood nutrition, especially in reducing stunted growth caused by malnutrition’ (Annan, March 20, 2018).
Annan links stability and peace with food security. He writes that ‘we need to recognise that stability and peace are necessary conditions for agricultural development, food security and the long-term sustainability of food systems.In parts of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, millions of people are at risk of starvation due to violent conflict, radical extremism and insecurity’ (Annan, April 20, 2018). Thus, he reiterates on peace and stability in the world to achieve sustainable food security for all.In addition, Annan focuses on the nutritional aspects of food security which is very often overlooked by the policy world. According to him, ‘Nutrition is one of the best drivers of development: it sparks a virtuous cycle of socio-economic improvements, such as increasing access to education and employment. Eradicating malnutrition is crucial to delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals’ promise of “leaving no one behind” (Annan, March 20, 2018).
On January 29, 2018 he published an article on malnutrition in Africa in LinkedIn, titled ‘Five Steps to End Malnutrition in Africa’.These steps are: ‘both the public and private sector need to champion nutrition and mobilise more financial commitments on nutrition to deliver socio-economic and health returns; governments have to adopt a nutrition-sensitive lens to new policies; need to create new partnerships and promote solutions that come from all sectors – governments, the private sector, and civil society; need to make sure that we put in place a nutrition accountability mechanism; and finally a focus on data is critical to helping countries reduce malnutrition. Timely, relevant, and reliable data are essential to defining problems, diagnosing root causes, and making informed policy decisions’ (Annan, January 29, 2018).In fact, he is quite optimistic to end malnutrition if ‘sustained and bold leadership from every sector can be ensured’.
Annan emphasized the transformation of our food systems through delivering healthy diets in all communities and countries across the world (November 6, 2017). He warns to the world that ‘Famines are the most visible signs of today’s global nutrition emergency, but child stunting is an even bigger – and hidden – crisis that will stunt entire societies in the long term if not addressed’ (November 6, 2017).
Creating positive changes in the world
Kofi Annan believed that it is possible to bring positive changes in the world though there are complex challenges like climate change, growing inequalities. For a positive change in the world, he makes three recommendations, i.e. to make sure that business does not forget the poorest; to build alliances and partnerships to increase equitable growth and opportunity for all; businesses need to ensure the decisions they make will deliver sustainable and ethical development (Annan, November 10, 2017). In this context, Annan writes: ‘There are many challenges to overcome, but I am confident that through leadership, partnership, and vision, positive change is possible. So let us all start living up to this responsibility today and lay the foundation for a brighter tomorrow’ (Annan, November 10, 2017).
Finally, it can be said that from politicians to practitioners, teachers to students, writers to journalists, businessman to general masses, all need to study Kofi Annan and his philosophy to make a fairer and a more peaceful world.In fact, a humane world is a crying need which needs to be realized by all stakeholders and materialized. And for the materialization, leadership crisis needs to be addressed as Annan has argued ‘the world has a leadership crisis, not a knowledge crisis’. There is in fact, enough food for thought for the world.
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