Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Govt abandons efforts to produce a foreign policy blueprint

The Government has shelved plans to develop Botswana’s Foreign Affairs Policy Framework that was initiated in 2011 citing what it calls conflict in global politics.

Botswana has in recent years come under criticism as it is accused of practicing what observers describe as roof-top diplomacy and knee-jerk foreign policy decisions.

This week the Minister of Foreign Affairs Pelonomi Venson told Parliament that in 2014 soon after being appointed Foreign Affairs Minister she had stated in Parliament then that her Ministry was in the process of finalizing a written Foreign Policy document.

She said since then, she had time to reflect and to consult further.

“The conclusion I have reached, and this has been endorsed by the present administration, is that given the  dynamic and turbulent nature of world politics today, as witnessed recently in Europe, the Americans and Asia, as well as the unprecedented shifts in government policies; all these call for an equally fluid foreign policy,” said the Minister.

Accordingly, government has chosen not to have a written Foreign Policy document, said Venson-Moitoi.

Instead the guiding principles as articulated by the first President, Sir Seretse Khama which he pronounced in March 1970 will continue.

She said the initial principles were:

  • Democracy;
  • Development;
  • Self-reliance;
  • Unity;
  • Good neighbourliness;
  • Peaceful resolution of conflicts;
  • Territorial integrity; and
  • Sovereignty of nations;

According to Venson-Moitoi, as Botswana’s engagement with the international community continued to increase, these principles were later expanded to include the:

  • Respect for international law and norms;
  • Respect for human rights;
  • Respect for the rule of law and good governance;
  • Commitment to regional integration and multilateralism; and
  • Promotion of a just and equitable international economic and political order.

She said these core principles or pillars have guided Botswana’s Foreign Policy and her interaction with the international community very well since her early years of independence.

“I hope you will all agree with me that these principles are still as valid today as they were when they were first conceived. Most importantly, they give us the necessary flexibility to respond to the ever changing, dynamic and complex environment of global politics,” said Venson-Moitoi.

She said while Botswana does not have a written foreign policy document, this should however, not be misconstrued to imply that Botswana does not have a foreign policy.

“… our Foreign Policy is an application of the country’s values and aspirations, and the principles I have enunciated will continue to guide us in managing
our relations with the international community and if Members (of Parliament) wish for me to sum those principles in any written document I will do so,” she said.

The Member of Parliament for Chobe,  Machana Shamkuni had wanted to know among others when the draft policy framework was first submitted to Cabinet for consideration and when it will be brought to Parliament for consideration.

According to the MP “some of the attitudes that we get from some of our peers in the region is somewhat negative.”

He added that “This perception at times compromises our chances whenever we try to seek elective office in some of these Inter-Parliamentary bodies because (they say) we are not Pan- Africanist enough.”

Gaborone Central MP Phenyo Butale also sought know if the government has  changed from going towards a codified foreign policy as was decided by the Government?

“There were efforts to codify our Foreign Policy. Are you saying you are now abandoning that, you are going back to the principle of being guided by some principles? Would you say the recent pronouncement that has been out of touch
and tune with our regional peers and at the continental level, would you think those were still informed by this pragmatic approach?,” asked Butale.

Replying, Venson-Moitoi said there has never been a Government decision to codify.

“There were efforts within my office to codify; administrative efforts which were pronounced. …I said I have looked at those administrative efforts and I decided, having looked at global developments that a fixed policy was not practical enough and I have decided administratively that we should stay guided by the principles that have always guided us. That is what I have said and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that,” said the minister.  

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper