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FOREIGN AFFAIRS – A LOCAL PERSPECTIVE

THE international community of nations is one of the most colourful assemblies of human development and achievement. It is not a community of equals; neither is it an assembly of the upright.

It is a union of intention born of what we as a community of people hope to become. It is a place of competing principles and ideas about mutual respect for the collective human community of nations, regardless of their geographic size or location, religion, culture, race or ethnicity. 

Historically, national boundaries and the geographic locations of nations have been born out of settlements and encouraged trade, peace or war. That each country has a border and people to protect reinforces part of the inequality and suspicion that exists among nations. 

In fact, geography and boundaries foster what is called geopolitics, which is the complex politics of sovereignty. Put simply, it is the very politics of national survival. 

With the onset of industrialisation, geopolitics further anchored what is called the North-South divide, wherein the rich nations are placed north of the world political map, while the so-called poor are placed south of that map. 

Generally, the North refers to Canada, the United States of America, most of Europe, Japan and Russia, in some cases. This is a bracket of nations that are considered economically advanced. 

According to this political map, the South is most of Africa, parts of Asia and some of South America. Australia, which is at the furthest southern tip of the global map is not considered part of the South. 

This is because the North-South divide is a political map that engenders an idea of international dominance and influence, not one of geographic accuracy. 

This political map also gives credence to another philosophical divide between the West and the East. Both these ideas are from the North. The West is known to be capitalist or liberal and encourages ideas like globalisation and free trade, free enterprise, individual property ownership and accumulation. 

Western ideas have been the foundation for such global organisations as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to name just two. Such organisations as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations (UN) mostly embrace western ideas of economic, social and economic liberalism (or freedoms), to an extent. 

The East embraces a socialist and/ or communist agenda which entails more government and less (or manageable) private sector activity. Economic growth is based on productive community organisations or institutions that can advance a collective agenda. 

The East are not strong proponents of global multilateral organisations but have largely preferred a more personal (or bilateral) approach to the South especially. 

China, Russia and Cuba have a blueprint in most of Africa with vast projects and long-term aid which saw either the independence of Africa or the training and education of citizens. 

For example, China singularly outlaid US$50 billion direct loans to support various projects in Africa. 

While the global balance of power firmly holds to the North-South divide, the competition for influence between East and West depends on the interests of the international community in that particular country. 

These interest have the power to shift the domestic pendulum of a given country from East to West and vice-versa. This phenomena became entrenched after the Second World War and Cold War. 

For instance, the Eastern ideology was more pronounced in Zambia between 1972 and 1990 during the one-party state. However, Zambia did not necessarily shun the West or its aid, but simply identified with eastern philosophy of socialism at home. Zambia actually built a respectable reputation abroad as a stalwart of peace during this time. 

The return to democracy in 1991 generally shifted Zambia’s national identity to align more with western tenets of economic independence. Despite the domestic shift, Zambia once again maintained strong diplomatic ties with the East so that the first Bank of China in Africa was opened in Zambia in 1997. Indeed, the international reputation of the country remained stellar, as a diplomat of peace and democracy. 

Zambia has over the years established diplomatic relations with countries that have exemplary judicial systems that readily introspect their own systems in national interest. They do so to avoid the notion that governments can be used to undermine other electable offices or allow cartels to foster within the bureaucracy. Others, such as Rwanda expose qualities of national resilience and ability to rise in the midst of social catastrophes. 

By way of conclusion, I wonder, from a foreigner’s perspective what principles modern Zambia is said to represent, if judicial impartiality and respect for all; if equal access to economic opportunity, unity or social resilience?

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