My Colleague, Minister for Information,
Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration,
Deputy Minister for Information,
Chief Director and Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration,
Chief Director and Officials of the Ministry of Information,
Distinguished friends from the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning to brief you on relevant activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
By all accounts, the latter part of the year 2008 was a positive and eventful period for us all in Ghana. The period witnessed a further consolidation of the democratic culture in our country, when the people of Ghana went to the polls to elect a President and Members of Parliament to run the affairs of our country for the next four years. The elections were well patronized and closely contested and the outcome was largely peaceful and successful. This ensured a smooth transition of power from one Government to another in January, 2009. The vitality of civil society and the vigour of our media, coupled with the increasingly effective performance of the institutions of our State, contributed considerably in advancing the cause of good governance in Ghana.
Undoubtedly, too, this same period immediately preceding the coming into power of the NDC Government was one in which at the international level, we also faced an ever-increasing and uncontrollable rise in the price of oil and the food crisis, with their attendant negative effects on the economy of various countries. As if that was not enough, the worldwide financial crisis and its devastating effects brought enough deprivation and despair. As a nation, we have to face these global crises, even as we still have to contend with our development challenges, characterized by poverty, disease, illiteracy and conflict.
We are, however, thankful that in the midst of these challenges, the country has been blessed with an oil find in commercial quantities. This, if properly managed in an atmosphere of transparency and integrity, while eschewing corruption, will help us make tremendous strides in our efforts to stabilize our economy and further consolidate the foundation we have built for the attainment of accelerated and sustainable growth and development. We believe that we can rise to the occasion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is important to state that the overriding objective of President John Evans Atta Mills’ government is to accelerate the development of Ghana so that the country can be a better place for all its people. This is being pursued in the context of a functioning constitutional democracy underpinned by scrupulous respect for the rule of law, human rights, accountability and transparency as quintessential hallmarks of good governance. The nation’s foreign policy is equally driven by this overriding goal, the realization of which will mean a radical transformation in the lives of our people.
Dictates of the NDC Manifesto
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are aware, the NDC Government set the tone for its foreign relations by unequivocally providing in its Manifesto that the new administration’s foreign policy agenda will be shaped by:
• a more dynamic vision that empowers our citizens to engage in the shaping of a more people-centred foreign policy, in which ordinary citizens begin to see the social, economic and cultural benefits of foreign relations;
• a re-invigoration of the integration agenda of ECOWAS;
• enhanced opportunities for using foreign relations as a major catalyst for increased investments in expanding the economic, political, cultural and social relations of Ghana and the globalised world; and,
• a consolidation of Ghana’s excellence in international diplomacy and peace-keeping.
Within the context of the fore-going, a pledge was made by the NDC to continue to espouse our traditional foreign policy of positive neutrality, i.e. to be actively engaged and friendly with all countries without taking ideological sides while prioritizing our immediate geographical neighbours, countries of the West African sub-region (ECOWAS) and the member states of the African Union as critical in shaping and sustaining our foreign policy agenda.
We did also pledge in our Manifesto that an NDC government will work closely with the competent government agencies to strengthen existing institutions and protocols to ensure the achievement of the objectives of ECOWAS while working with member states to inspire a greater commitment to the integration process and pursue measures to fast track regional integration.
Yet again, we gave our word to cooperate with member countries of ECOWAS to establish regional projects in such sectors as water, energy and transportation.
Obviously, realizing that we would not achieve the ECOWAS objectives of economic integration and collective development in an atmosphere of instability, conflict and war in the sub-region, the Manifesto further spelt out the NDC’s plan to strengthen the symbiotic link between peace and development by investing some resources – both human and financial – in the search for sustainable peace and stability in West Africa through participating in peacekeeping missions as well as in negotiations and other initiatives for the maintenance of peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as early as it may yet be in the life of this young Government of ours, it is my firm belief that the promises made to our people in the Manifesto are gradually manifesting themselves in diverse ways and in a manner that should give Ghanaians a sense of optimism for an improved lifestyle in the days and years approaching.
Constitutional Mandate of the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration
The 1992 Constitution identifies the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration as the lead Institution for coordinating the implementation of Ghana’s foreign policy objectives. The Constitution provides in its Chapter Six (Directive Principles of State Policy), that:
“In its dealings with other nations, the Government shall-
(a) promote and protect the interest of Ghana;
(b) seek the establishment of a just and equitable international economic and social order;
(c) promote respect for international law, treaty obligations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means;
(d) adhere to the principles enshrined in, or as the case may be, the aims and ideals of –
i. the Charter of the United Nations;
ii. the Charter of the African Union
iii. the Commonwealth
iv. the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States; and
v. any other international organization of which Ghana is a member.”
The Ministry is also enjoined by the provisions of Articles 73 – 75 of the 1992 Constitution, broadly relating to international relations, to assist Government, usually personified in the President, to:
(a) conduct Ghana’s international affairs in consonance with the accepted principles of public international law and diplomacy in a manner consistent with her national interest;
(b) appoint representatives of Ghana abroad and receive envoys accredited to Ghana; and
(c) execute treaties, agreements or conventions in the name of Ghana.
Structural Units of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration
The operations of the Ministry at headquarters are carried out through the Offices of the Minister and Deputy Minister through the instrumentality of 7 Departments and 20 subsidiary Bureaux, including the Passport Office. The Ministry has fifty-one (51) Diplomatic Missions abroad. These are made up of 49 High Commissions and Embassies and 2 Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Geneva and New York. There are twenty-three (23) of these Missions in Africa; 14 in Europe; 8 in Asia; 1 in Australia and 5 in the Americas. The work of these resident missions are supplemented by a total of 61 Honorary Consulates which assist in protecting and promoting the interests of Ghana globally.
Currently, the Ministry has a manpower strength of 650 spread across all our operational units.
Objectives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration
The following are the six core objectives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration:
• To promote and protect the interests of Ghana and its citizens abroad, and enhance Ghana’s security and prosperity;
• To provide efficient and effective consular and legal services within and outside Ghana;
• To seek market access for Ghana’s exports and promote favourable conditions for Ghana’s trade and tourism; attract foreign investments for Ghana and promote scientific, technological and cultural cooperation with other countries and institutions;
• To promote fruitful political and economic relations with all countries especially Ghana’s neighbouring countries in the interest of peace, stability and development;
• To play a positive and creative role in international organisations to which Ghana belongs; and
• To upgrade the Ministry’s human and institutional capacity for the efficient execution of Ghana’s foreign policy objectives
What we refer to as economic diplomacy will continue to occupy a pre-eminent place in Ghana’s foreign policy. It requires us to pay greater attention to the promotion of trade, investment and tourism. It also requires us to facilitate investment flows into Ghana, particularly into key sectors such as energy, agriculture, agro-processing, ICT, infrastructural development and the hospitality industry.
The pursuit of multilateral cooperation is no less important for Ghana as a responsible member of the international community. As you are all aware, multilateral institutions provide a forum for dialogue on global issues that require coordinated action at the international level. By her membership of some of these Multilateral Institutions, Ghana has had the opportunity to influence global decisions that affect her interest as well as those of West Africa, Africa and the developing world at large. We remain committed to multilateralism.
The pursuit of peace and security will continue to be given high priority in the conduct of Ghana’s foreign policy as they are essential for growth and prosperity. It is our conviction that Ghana’s internal peace, security and development remain inseparable from sub-regional peace and stability. As you may all recall, the Government’s policy of deepening good neighbourliness and engagement in the promotion of regional peace and security have resulted in the containment of deadly conflicts in our sub-region and the restoration of hope and calm to war-torn areas. Ghana is confident that given the current level of political will, vision and sense of commitment, the region will continue to enjoy peace and security to allow for development and progress.
In the search for peace, security and stability on the continent, Ghana will continue to be active in the efforts of the AU to find lasting solutions to conflicts in Africa. Posterity will hold us to account, if we fail in this noble ideal. Accordingly, let me state that currently, some Ghanaian security personnel are part of the AU and UN Missions in Darfur, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ghana will persevere in attaching great importance to the maintenance of international peace and security. We will continue to work for this goal together with other member-countries through the United Nations, which remains the most viable forum in our time for the pursuit of multilateral diplomacy that would benefit all the 192 member-countries of the organization.
The Sogakope Retreat
Ladies and Gentlemen, it may please you to know that on assumption of office, I organized a Retreat for my Directorate at Sokagope from 4th to 7th June 2009 the objective of which was to conduct a SWOT analysis of issues of critical importance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The exercise afforded the Ministry the opportunity to take stock of its activities in an effort to determine the requisite measures for enhancing its performance and making its activities more relevant to national development.
I used the medium of this forum to remind Foreign Service Officers of the Foreign Policy objectives of the new Administration and urged them to carefully examine the existing structure and functions of the Ministry with a view to determining whether these facilitated the effective execution of the Ministry’s functions.
Foreign Service Officers were also reminded of the need to be guided by the national interest in the discharge of their duties. They were further reminded that economic diplomacy, which was one of the main tools that was employed by Government to achieve its foreign policy objectives, was about re-directing our diplomatic activities to reap economic benefits that would impact positively on the lives of ordinary Ghanaians.
Concrete decisions were reached at Sogakope the implementation of which has began in earnest, and which will serve to streamline positively, both our internal and external operations from which the nation stands poised to derive maximum benefits.
PRIORITY ISSUES OF GHANA’S FOREIGN POLICY
Ghana’s foreign policy continues to be propelled, primarily, by our desire to promote and protect the national interest. Within this context, the Ministry seeks to position strategically, Ghana’s excellent credentials within a two fold approach. In the first instance, it will employ the Government’s achievement in the area of Good Governance and democratic practice to enhance the image of the country abroad. Secondly, it will articulate Government’s progressive economic policies to engage the interest of major economic and political players to support the national development agenda of a better Ghana for all. Accordingly, during the year, a number of activities will be undertaken to facilitate the exchange of high-level visits between Ghana and its development partners, as well as the convening of Joint Commissions between Ghana and other countries.
Ghana’s Regional Policies
I would like now to take you through Ghana’s regional policies relating to Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, Europe, as well as the Middle East and Asia, and finally brief you on Government’s position as it relates to our multilateral obligations, and consular matters.
The African continent continues to be at the centre stage of Ghana’s diplomatic efforts, both at the bilateral and regional levels.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The NDC administration, under the able leadership of President John Evans Atta Mills, believes in good neighbourliness and will continue to place high premium on relations with ECOWAS and African States, while furthering our desire to promote friendly relations with all other countries, and especially with our development partners.
Through the concept of Good Neighbourliness, so ably elucidated by H.E. President John Evans Atta Mills on assumption of office in 2009, Ghana proactively seeks to foster an adequate level of relationship with all of its African neighbours, particularly, her most proximate neighbours, i.e. Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, and the other countries in the West African sub-region. Relations between Ghana and other African countries remain brotherly and cordial. This situation has manifested positively in the sustained peace and security we enjoy in Ghana, as well as in the existing arrangements for bilateral cooperation with African countries in diverse areas, including security, transportation and energy.
Africa continues to be confronted with a number of problems including famine, poverty, environmental degradation, debilitating diseases and conflict situations. Since Ghana’s own development aspirations are linked intractably to those of the African continent, one of the Ministry’s objectives is to ensure that our regional policy addresses the developmental challenges that confront the region. As a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, Ghana played an active role in the activities of the organization and was instrumental in the rejuvenation and transformation of the Pan African body into the African Union (AU) and the African Commission. Ghana is an active member of several of its key organs, including the Peace and Security Council. Ghana is also an active partner in the implementation of the programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which seeks to address the challenges of Africa’s development, particularly the key issues of peace, security, good governance, poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Beyond the broader regional policy on Africa, Ghana’s policy towards the sub-region of West Africa is another critical area of our foreign policy direction. Ghana remains actively committed to the enhancement of the viability of ECOWAS as an instrument for the promotion of sub-regional peace, security, stability and economic development. This commitment flows from our appreciation of the relevance of the West African region to Ghana’s own fortunes. In respect of peace and security in West Africa, Ghana’s objectives for the successful resolution of conflicts are pursued in concert with other ECOWAS countries to ensure a consistent and effective approach. As a result of these efforts, today, West Africa is transiting into a region of peace and stability.
Cote d’Ivoire continues to engage our active attention. As you may know, Ghana is a member of the International Working Group on Cote d’Ivoire which has been mandated by the UN Security Council (Resolution 1633) to draw up a road map in consultation with all Ivorian parties, with a view to holding free, fair and credible elections. In that capacity, Ghana, through the Ministry, continues to contribute to the international efforts to bring lasting peace to that country.
Even as our region is becoming increasingly more peaceful and stable, Ghana is eager to re-focus attention towards the economic imperatives of the ECOWAS project, particularly for the development of:
i. a functioning trade liberalization scheme;
ii. mechanisms for the application of a common external tariff and a revenue-generating community levy; and
iii. a common monetary Union through the strategy of a Second Monetary Zone.
Aside ECOWAS, Ghana is also a full member of the Community of Saharan and Sahel Countries (CEN-SAD). CEN-SAD was established in 1998 and has a membership of 28 countries. Being a major player in the region, Ghana could not shy away from the organization which has her neighbours as members. Ghana stands to derive financial and economic benefits therefrom, especially through the Sahel-Saharan Investment and Trade Bank which has been established by member countries to facilitate trade and development.
Still in the Sub-region, Government has associated itself with attempts to fast track the integration process with the Co-Prosperity Alliance Zone (COPAZ) initiative. The alliance which comprises Benin, Ghana, Togo and Nigeria seeks to foster cooperation amongst member countries through the acceleration and coordinator of social, economic and political development.
At the 3rd Summit of COPAZ held in Kara, Togo on 21st July, 2009, the leaders urged Ghana to endeavor to improve power supply to Benin and Togo to meet their electricity requirements as soon as gas in delivered to the Takoradi plant. Nigeria was also entreated to make an effort to satisfy the immediate additional demand of 100 million cubic feet per day of gas. It was also agreed to establish the solidarity and Support Fund of COPAZ for the promotion of integration activities as well as the prevention and management of natural disasters.
We will continue to dialogue with our neighbours, work together in tandem and solidarity, to harness the rich resources of our countries, so that the people can prosper together, and make COPAZ the accelerator in the integration process in the Sub-region.
On the larger continental horizon, Ghana has actively championed the consensus decision reached at the 13th AU Summit in Sirte, Libya, to transform the AU Commission into an Authority. The proposed Authority would be an inter-governmental body, which would exercise its functions on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity with Member States and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
It shall consist of a President, a Vice President and Nine (9) Secretaries. The Assembly took note of the fact that the transformation of the Commission into an Authority will operate within the overall framework of existing AU organizations and institutions. It was further noted that the transformation would entail amendments to the Constitutive Act in accordance with Article 32 of the said Act. It may also involve consequential amendments to other Protocols and Rules of Procedure.
It is our conviction that, in the long-term, by transforming the Commission into an Authority and establishing the necessary structures, the African Union’s movement towards the ultimate realization of a Continental Union Government would be accelerated.
Ghana continues to be revered as a torchbearer in Africa’s march towards liberation and eventual unification of the continent. The history of Africa’s emancipation will be incomplete without reference to the giant vision and outstanding contribution of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He was a pioneering advocate of Pan-Africanism who played a vital role in the establishment of the OAU, the precursor of the AU. It is in recognition of this truism that His Excellency President John Evans Atta Mills called on all AU Member States to join Ghana in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Nkrumah on 21st September, 2009. This call was unanimously endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government meeting in Sirte, Libya. My Ministry is liaising with the AU Commission in Addis Ababa on the implementation of this Decision of the Assembly. We are also liaising with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the implementation of all the other Decisions taken by the Assembly.
The Americas and the Caribbean
During the past year, Ghana stepped up its diplomatic relations with a number of countries in the Americas and the Caribbean, particularly Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Jamaica and the United States of America. This, Ladies and Gentlemen culminated in the recent successful high level visit of the first African-American President of the United States of America to Ghana.
The historic Obama visit to Ghana from 10 – 11 July, 2009 tells a whole story. Ghana’s democratic credentials and rule of law pedigree which have become the envy of many countries, forcefully emphasizes the increasing attention and recognition being given to the country by the international community. It is an official endorsement of the country’s political and socio-economic progress by the US Government and conveys a positive message to the international community, particularly the business world, with regard to investing in Ghana. In fact, the massive international spotlight put on Ghana during the visit (at no cost to the nation) is one that the country is poised to benefit from.
The visit of President Obama merely goes to reinforce an already positive image this country has undoubtedly created for herself through the years, and one which successive Governments have striven to build upon.
Relations with Cuba remain very cordial and, through the arrangement of the Ghana-Cuba Permanent Joint Commission for Cooperation, have thrived well, particularly in the health sector where the Cuban Medical Brigade renders dedicated services in all the 10 regions of Ghana. Currently there are 228 Cuban Doctors in the country to help improve health care delivery. Ghana also benefits from the generosity of the Cuban people in the form of scholarships for foreign students as well as through scientific and technical cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Our relations with Brazil are governed by close diplomatic interaction and our desire to sustain mutually-beneficial interactions. This has resulted in the following bilateral agreements geared towards the socio-economic advancement of Ghana:
a. a memorandum of understanding signed on 2nd October, 2008 to commit the Government of Brazil to provide a credit line of US$500million for the construction of two hydro electric power plants at Juale and Pwalugu in the Northern Region to generate 90 and 50 megawatts of power, respectively;
b. a credit facility of US$260million for the development of a 30,000-hectare sugarcane plantation and the installation of an ethanol production plant in the East Gonja district of Northern Ghana to produce 150 million litres of ethanol per year for export to Sweden;
c. a partnership arrangement established between a Brazilian investor and the Ghana National Association of Farmers for the cultivation of 6000 acres of rice in Ghana. The total sum involved is US$9million.
The Brazilian Government annually awards scholarships to Ghanaians to study in Brazilian institutions of higher learning in consonance with a cultural agreement signed in 1972.
Relations between Ghana and Canada are excellent and cordial. Ghana has benefitted from a number of Canadian assistance programmes which includes the following:
a. provision of Canadian International Development Agency assistance averaging US$15million annually, to Ghana. Canada is also providing Food and Agriculture Budgetary support of US$85million over a 5-year period to Ghana.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ghana’s relationship with Europe has expanded over the years and continues to be significant to our development process. As the bastion of international capital critical to financing Ghana’s economic programmes, relations with the countries of Europe are geared towards seeking development assistance, attracting their capital into our economy and gaining access to their markets for our exports.
In addition to debt relief, bilateral assistance was received from almost all European countries, particularly Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. The assistance has been directed towards several sectors of the economy, including health, education, water and sanitation, infrastructural development, peacekeeping training, environmental protection and land administration.
Our political relations are further demonstrated in the exchange of high level visits which take our relations to a higher and sustainable level. During such visits, bilateral discussions which are of mutual benefit to the parties are held and this promotes and plays major roles in Ghana’s relations with the European Union. Reference can be made to the recent high level visit by President John Evans Atta Mills to the United Kingdom which brought economic returns to the country. Again, Ghana recently participated in crucial meetings with the EU during which EU-Africa relations and EU assistance to Africa were discussed. These meetings also examined ways of tackling global challenges such as climate change, the economic and political crises, democracy, human rights, peace and good governance.
In 2008, the EU gave Ghana €600,000 for emergency operations in the Northern Region through the World Food Programme. The amount gave relief to 185,000 flood victims in the three regions in the North. Also, in December 2008, the EU sent election observers to monitor the general elections in Ghana. This was in addition to providing financial and material support to ensure the success of the elections. Recently, in a meeting with Ghanaians resident in the UK, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr. Nick Westcott, made known the decision of the British Government to invest one billion dollars in the development of the Jubilee Oilfields in Ghana as a means of helping Ghana in its oil prospecting. Ghana also received technical and financial support from the German Government to help improve the economy. In addition, the Germans cancelled Ghana’s debt of 275 million Euros. Among other benefits, the German government has executed projects geared towards poverty alleviation, improvement in health services delivery, sanitation and the provision of potable water.
Middle East and Asia
Ladies and Gentlemen
The recent accelerated growth in India and China has had far-reaching consequences for the global economy, a situation which has also impacted positively on our economic interaction with these two major countries and afforded us the opportunity to foster even closer economic cooperation.
Relations between Ghana and India are very cordial and excellent. Ghana has benefitted from a number of Indian assistance programmes which include the following:
a) a grant/loan of US$60million for the construction of a new Presidential complex and the expansion of the rural electrification programme;
b) cooperation in the area of capacity development and collaboration in information and communication technology.
China continues to support Ghana in many areas, including the equipping of the Metro-Mass transport system, the reconstruction of roads, the construction of new office complexes for the Ministry of Defence and the Kumasi Youth Centre, and the building of three new stadiums, which enabled Ghana to host the African Cup of Nations in 2008. Other visible signs of Ghana’s beneficial relations with China in 2009 included the latter’s support to our economy with an interest-free loan of US$2.47 million, and the on-going construction of the Bui dam to serve as an additional energy source for the national grid.
Japan also continues to support Ghana in its developmental efforts. A few weeks ago Ghana and Japan signed a Grant Agreement in respect of the Government of Japan’s assistance to the Government of Ghana for the rehabilitation of the National Trunk Road Number 8 stretching sixty (60) kilometres from Anwiankwata to Yamoransa. The total amount involved for the detailed design of the project and the total cost for the rehabilitation of the 60 kilometers trunk road was Ninety Million USD (US$90,000,000.00).
At the bilateral level, the Ministry in the last quarter of 2008 re-opened the Ghana Embassy in Teheran (Iran) to strengthen our relations with that country and to enhance our country’s prospects for trade, tourism and investment.
Multilateral institutions provide a forum for dialogue on global issues that require coordinated action at the international level, usually on the basis of the sovereign equality of States. By her membership of some of these multilateral institutions, Ghana has had the opportunity to influence global decisions that affect her interests, as well as those of West Africa, Africa and the developing world at large. Ghana is therefore committed firmly to multilateralism.
Information on Ghana’s activities within the United Nations cannot be complete without mentioning its peacekeeping role. Since July 1960 when Ghana first contributed troops to the United Nations Operation in the Congo, we have, as a country, contributed to almost every peacekeeping mission under the auspices of the United Nations, in demonstration of our commitment to international peace and security.
This Ministry, on 12th May, 2008, facilitated the process that led to the election of Ghana to the United Nations Human Rights Council with a very high number of votes. Again the Ministry also facilitated the process that led to the election of Mrs. Justice Sophia Adinyira as a judge at the UN Appeals Tribunal in March 2009 for a 7-year term.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like, at this point, to turn to an area which has traditionally been aligned with diplomacy – consular matters.
The contribution of Ghanaians abroad to the national economy is one area that Government recognizes as very important, and which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeks to facilitate and encourage, particularly through private remittances, for purposes of supporting monetary stability and engendering economic growth.
In this respect, and within the context of the concerns of host countries regarding illegal migrants and security threats such as terrorism and trans-national organized crimes, the Ministry always seeks to address the legitimate concerns of our compatriots abroad. The Ministry has been engaged in consultative processes with those countries where concerns about resident Ghanaians have come up, with the specific view of negotiating special amnesty arrangements for those who may be qualified, and the repatriation of assets, without prejudice, of those who do not qualify for the grant of such amnesty.
But even as we seek to assist the legitimate aspirations of our compatriots abroad, we have had to receive a large number of our nationals who were deported back home as a result of many factors related to their immigration status. We had deportations from such countries as Libya, where 540 Ghanaian were deported home recently, Morocco, Algeria, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
At this point, let me reiterate the advice that while migration is a necessary phenomenon in the era of globalization, it is important that Ghanaian travellers going abroad ensure that they obtain the requisite entry documentation of their intended destinations and comply with the visa requirements including their return, when due. It is also important to highlight that Ghanaians abroad, who are qualified to extend their stays or seek long term residency, should ensure that they make the necessary application before the expiration of their visas, in order not to be on the wrong side of the local laws. We take the protection of Ghanaians abroad seriously and to the extent that we can advise or intervene in legitimate cases, our Consular sections abroad have been directed to assist. However, we must recognize also the prerogative of countries to fashion out their own immigration procedures just as we in Ghana are at liberty to establish our own immigration laws.
In March 2009, the Ministry facilitated the visit to Ghana of the UN-ECOWAS International Panel investigating the killings and disappearances of about forty-four (44) of our nationals in The Gambia in 2005. The panel completed its investigations and presented a report which was discussed extensively by the parties involved. Subsequently, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was concluded by which Ghana and The Gambia committed themselves to measures to bring relief and succour to the bereaved families. The two countries have agreed in principle to set up a Joint Committee to address the modalities of implementing the MOU. It is expected that Ghana and The Gambia would then begin the process of restoring the cordial relations that existed between them before this unfortunate incident.
The Ministry has also facilitated the repatriation of about eleven (11) Ghanaian nationals who had illegally travelled to Cameroon and were stranded in that country. Furthermore, the Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, successfully secured the release of about fifty (50) Ghanaian articulator truck drivers who were detained in Niamey, Niger, because they were unable to pay penalties imposed on them for using the wrong axel loads.
With the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration and the European Union, the Ministry embarked on a number of educational campaigns in some regions, notably the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti Regions, aimed at dissuading our youth from embarking on illegal journeys, most of which usually ended tragically, but to rather travel through legal means. The project, called the “Aeneas Project,” has proved tremendously successful and is still ongoing.
The Ministry in collaboration with the Ghana National Continental Shelf Delineation Project, successfully prepared Ghana’s submission for a claim to the extended continental shelf. Ghana’s Submission is currently before the United Nations and there is a lot of optimism that it would be accepted without any reservations. The submission, when approved, would allow Ghana to further explore for more resources especially oil, beyond her exclusive economic zone, and this should bring enormous economic benefits to the country.
The Ministry has also been engaged in providing consular assistance to Ghanaians pursuing claims against foreign Missions in Ghana and also against foreign persons in the countries where we have diplomatic relations.
The Ministry is committed to improving the delivery of its consular and legal services in an efficient and effective manner. To this end, the Ministry shall seek to achieve a set of results-oriented goals, including the provision of timely, customer-friendly and high quality services in the visa and passport processing area, the provision of timely travel advisory services, and an active engagement with Ghanaians resident abroad to facilitate their greater participation in the domestic economy. Indeed, the Ministry is currently in the process of introducing biometric passports, in line with international requirements and to help improve the security of Ghana passports and overall service delivery in the sector.
Within the constraints of our budgetary allocation, a number of activities shall be undertaken, such as the phased provision of computerized document processing facilities, the initiation of online application procedures and travel advisory, the modernization of consular receptive facilities of Ghana’s Missions abroad, the gradual registration of Ghanaian nationals abroad under clear privacy protection rules, the activation of umbrella National Association abroad and the enhancement of interactions between such Associations and Ghana’s missions abroad.
Before concluding on consular matters, I wish to state that as a result of the consular services the Ministry provides abroad, it is able to generate for government each year, an average of US$5million from consular fees and other consular charges.
Developing human and institutional capacity
Without any doubt, as a service-oriented organization, the performance of the Ministry will improve only if adequate attention is given to its human and institutional requirements.
I am, in this context, committed to enhancing the human resource capacity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enable it deliver on the targets and goals necessary to help realize the development agenda of Ghana and the aspirations of our countrymen and women. During the year, we shall devote priority attention to the development of the necessary ICT infrastructure to support the computerization of the business process of the Ministry. Infrastructural development would also be undertaken, including arrangements to source financing for the construction of a new office building complex as well as the renovation of several properties owned by Ghana abroad, where as a result of many years of maintenance neglect, we are under pressure to comply with the local building codes of our host countries and to maintain the investment values of these properties.
To enable it carry out its operations for 2009, Parliament by the 2009 Appropriation Act, allocated GH¢73,108,536.00 to the Ministry for personnel emoluments, administrative expenses, services expenditure and investment activities. As a result of our outlays abroad, this amount is woefully inadequate to undertake critical high-yielding activities that can actually bring more benefits to Ghana from her relationship with the rest of the world. In spite of this, we shall endeavour to achieve our goals.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also financially responsible for two subvented organizations, namely the Legon Centre for International Affairs and the All Africa Students Union. We shall continue to meet our obligations to these two organizations to enable them meet their respective mandates and objectives during the year.
E-Administration and E-Consul Projects
The Ministry has for sometime now been implementing a programme to make ICT a functional tool of its operations while providing officers with the relevant training to enable them perform administrative functions online (E-Administration project). The new system, when fully operational, will allow the Ministry to communicate with all its Missions abroad via the internet and make it possible for visas and other consular functions to be processed or done online (E-Consul).
Appointment of High Commissioners and Ambassadors
As you are aware, the President has appointed some eminent citizens as High Commissioners and Ambassadors. Very soon an induction seminar will be organized for them to help sharpen their skills in Diplomacy before they leave for their respective countries of accreditation.
There is no gainsaying the fact that funds are the oil that keeps a big engine like the administration of the Foreign Ministry running. This Ministry, like any other Foreign Ministry, requires a lot of funds to run. We however hardly receive enough to enable us operate optimally.
The Ministry’s budget estimates for 2009 were based on its most realistic requirements formulated in accordance with the policy guidelines issued by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. The dire implications of the extremely low sums approved by Government yearly for the conduct of our affairs therefore cannot be over emphasized.
It is worth noting that due to the Ministry’s extremely low budgetary ceiling, most of our Missions have been unable to carry out their programmed activities. Many of our Missions, for instance, have for protracted periods been indebted to landlords and face threats of ejection for non-payment of rent. Our Missions in Dakar and Luanda, among others, face such a plight, and embarrassingly so.
It is pertinent to explain at this point that a contributory factor to our predicament is the fluctuating conversion rate of the cedi vis-à-vis other currencies as well as charges imposed by banks on transfers to our Missions abroad. The foreign exchange component of our operations at the time of preparing the Ministry’s current budget was pegged at the rate of GH¢1 to US$1. But as I speak now, the rate is US$1 to GH¢1.5. This has had serious implications for the implementation of our Missions’ budgets and seriously affects the meeting of statutory and non-discretionary expenditure, including the payment of local staff salaries. This situation creates a lot of embarrassment to the Missions, and to Ghana as a whole.
I dare say, however, that when one takes into consideration the unique services provided by this Ministry and its Missions abroad, it becomes rather more than imperative that Government should take a second look at our essential requirements with a view to approving a workable budget for our operations, especially in this era when we are expected to utilize the important tool of economic diplomacy as a catalyst for national development.
I am nonetheless committed to helping re-shape the financial fortunes of the Ministry through appropriate engagement with the relevant authorities so as to enable this very important institution of Government perform its assigned tasks effectively and efficiently in aid of national development.
Before concluding, let me state categorically that as a result of our good credentials at home and abroad, Ghana has become an acceptable host and a welcome destination to all, hence the enhanced incidence of visits of high level dignitaries to our dear country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the face of Ghana abroad, is relentless in discharging its traditional duties effectively and efficiently through the deployment of all the diplomatic tools in its arsenal towards projecting the positive image of the country, and in a manner that would enable this lovely country of ours keep its national development activities on track.
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