Ghana must do better in International Negotiations – S.K.B Asante

Nana S.K.B. Asante, Omanhene of Asokore Mampong and a celebrated Ghanaian International Civil Servant has noted that the State of Ghana must improve the process and structure within which it conducts international negotiations.

Speaking at the 2022 edition of the annual Ghana Association of Former International Civil Servants (GAFICS) lecture, at the GIMPA Law School, Nana Asante indicate that the evidence of bad negotiations is clear in the high volume of judgment debts and deleterious conditions placed on the state as an outcome of performance on some of these deals.

He said, “this situation is not peculiar to Ghana, as many developing countries, faced with economic challenges can be forgiven for not paying particular attention to negotiation. However, in my view, Ghana should be an exception to this as we have the capacity and expertise from several successful high-level negotiations that have been concluded positively and have added value. It is imperative that we go back as a country to learn what has worked and not worked, and tap into the huge depth of capacity in talent pools like GAFICS, to put together a structure that allows for a centralized view of all negotiations. This structure must also be able to train, retain and direct a core team of experts that are mandated to be part of any negotiation as existed up until 1992, where luminaries like Madam Chinery Hesse served as Principal Secretary for External Aid of the Public Agreement Review Committee”.

The Ghana Association of Former International Civil Servants (GAFICS) was established on the 14th of October, 2000 as a society of retired international civil servants, predominantly from the United Nations system, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank Group. The annual lecture is an initiative of the group, with lectures delivered by a renowned figure in a chosen field which is the subject for the theme of the year in question.

“The topic this year resonates, in the light of current events. As a group we settled on this as many of us have been part of high-level negotiations and are often not pleased with the posture and capacity of negotiating teams from developing countries like Ghana;” said Ing. Kwaku Osei-Bonsu, President of GAFICS.

The event was held in conjunction with the Ghana Institute for Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and supported by the Institute of International Affairs, Ghana.

The Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) was established in 1961 as a joint Ghana Government/United Nations (UN) special fund project.

The GhIIA.org is a not-for-profit, Independent think-tank based in Accra focused on projecting an African/ Ghanaian voice in the narrative of Global Affairs and International Relations.  It is fashioned along the lines of Chatham House and the South African Institute of International Affairs.

In his remarks, the Rector of GIMPA, Samuel Kwaku Bonsu said “The topic this year resonates, in the light of current events. As a group, we settled on this as many of us have been part of high-level negotiations and are often not pleased with the posture and capacity of negotiating teams from developing countries like Ghana.”

The event was book-ended by a powerful panel discussion by Hon. Diana Asonaba Dapaah the Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Tawia Akyea, a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for International Affairs, Ghana and Ambassador R. D. Hayford, the Ghanaian High Commissioner to South Africa who served as High Commissioner to South Africa from 1997 to 1999 as well as a senior staffer of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Deputy Attorney General, in her remarks and in answering questions from the audience said, “It is important to note that the current leadership at the Attorney-General’s Department is keenly in-tune with the need for sustainable, multi-generational capacity for the state. This is why the Ministries of Government now have core teams that handle negotiations. The Attorney-General is keen on increasing capacity in the department on International Negotiations, and indeed I just returned from a World Bank-sponsored session. However, I hasten to add that that is a process and not an event, and we still have considerable headroom to institutionalize some of the key developments we have discussed here.”

In further remarks, the Deputy Attorney-General noted the key role of dynamic legal education in this process. She said, “I am proud to have been one of the pioneers in pushing for the mainstreaming of ADR in legal practice in Ghana and I think the same path must be explored in mainstreaming International Negotiations in legal education. This will ensure a pipeline of trained lawyers, entering the market, trained ab initio in the rudiments of international negotiations.”

Mr. Tawia Akyea, in his remarks, outlined his experience in International Negotiations during the successful VRA/ VALCO Negotiations from 1982 to 1985. He said; “we need to be serious about negotiations as a country, and we need to consider how to address this issue in a sustainable manner. The point is, no country can survive on its own and has to necessarily engage with other countries. Under the rules-based order and given the current global framework, Ghana can only win advantage through the power of negotiation and not by might.” Mr. Akyea further underscored the need for lawyers to be at the fore of such negotiations, as most negotiations by the government or other parastatals result in a legal contract. He also noted that the arbitration of any disagreements on said contracts often happens in a legal setting, thus the need to involve lawyers in the multi-disciplinary teams early.

In response to a question on transmitting inter-generational knowledge on negotiations, Mr. Akyea said, “it’s a pity that we have not to do  ne well to tap into the knowledge and capacity that was built in high-level international negotiations like the Valco / VRA negotiations of the ’80s. Luminaries like Prof. Akilakpa Sawyerr, Mr. Kwame Asante, and Mr. Fui Tsikita are thankfully still around, and we should tap into their depth of knowledge into a body of work for instruction for  upcoming technocrats.”

In his comments, His Excellency Amb R. D. Hayford said, “timing and individuals are critical in the realm of International Relations and Negotiations. In the case of the VALCO Negotiations, Ghana was fortunate to have Dr. Asante as head of the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations. This was fortuitous as Dr. Asante, along with other patriots like Dr. Kofi Asante, Mr. Allotey Oduntun worked hard to provide capacity for the negotiating team and supplied very useful information about the practice of negotiating with trans-national corporations like Kaiser Aluminium.”

Overall, the lecture concluded on a joint call and agreement for GIMPA to establish a center for the teaching of International Negotiations, which should be named after Nana S.K.B. Asante himself. It also called on GAFICS, the GhIIA.org and GIMPA to prepare an advisory note to deliver to the government of Ghana at the earliest opportunity, with a focus on transferring capacity to the upcoming generation on International Negotiations Best Practices.

A play-back of the event can be accessed at this link.

To learn more about GAFICS , visit https://www.gafics.org

To learn more the GhIIA.org, visit https://ghiia.org

To learn more about GIMPA, visit https://www.gimpa.edu.gh

To watch a playback of the event, use this link, https://tinyurl.com/55rwbxz4

 

 Source: Kweku Apraku Agyepong

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