Nicole Dyer-Griffith writes a weekly column for the Business Day.
The concept of the political diplomatic appointee is nothing new. In fact, this has become a norm, where, with any incoming political party, such positions and postings are traditionally afforded to persons who are aligned to the party in office. Who remain untouched (usually), are those public servants whose role it is to serve the government and people, regardless of who may have assumed the political reigns. In Trinidad and Tobago, there is a most recent debate with the appointment of a representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
The discussion around this appointee seems to be over a few issues, including the age and the qualifications and experience, or lack thereof of the representative. The age of the holder seemed to be at the forefront of the discussion. While I myself have been the victim of ageism, I do appreciate why there would be some measure of anxiety. My experience transpired in similar fashion, where I was being considered for a high-level role in the diplomatic community, and while my credentials were in keeping with the requirements, my age was seen as a disadvantage, and as such, my consideration for the position was reversed.
My personal perspective is that the individual’s age should not deter him or her from assuming high office, particularly if he or she is appropriately qualified. After all, simply look at the trajectory of world leaders, including Emmanuel Macron, 39, President of France; Emil Dimitriev, 38, former interim Prime Minister of Macedonia; Sebastian Kurz, 31, who received the mandate to form a government following elections in Austria; Volodymyr Groysman, 39, Prime Minister of Ukraine; to name a few. While the theory of the correlation between age and maturity will undoubtedly have some weight, there must be individual consideration applied, where the person’s functional age is weighted against their chronological age: functional age, meaning the review of all factors including the chronological, physiological, mental and emotional ages, and chronological age meaning simply the number of years a person has lived.
In essence, I do not subscribe to the age debate, as long as the individual presents with a high level of suitable competence and maturity. Now, the issue of credentials, experience and qualifications for high level diplomatic postings is quite another issue. As a result of the requirements and role of such postings, particularly relating to the United Nations, the imperative becomes ensuring that a suitable candidate is adequately tooled to understand and appreciate their role including that of policy advocate, as well as the assumption of the role of government representative driving the agenda of the nation he or she is honoured to represent.
Of course, we can cite a considerable number of people who were considered and placed in these positions, simply because they were supportive of a particular political party in power, or because they may have ‘fallen out’ with their party while in power, and such postings used as either a means of ‘political gratitude’ or ‘political parting’ – either way, one wonders what usually goes into the consideration of such placements, and particularly, do we really appreciate the roles and responsibility of such representatives, and the manner in which we are represented and perceived. Remember, these representatives, when they speak, they do not speak on behalf of any particular political entity, but from a position of representing all of us. So, have your say, because after all, regardless of whether the powers that be (each administration) appreciate the potential resident in such postings, we will continue to engage in similar discussions each time we experience a change in political party. We seldom act on policy, and usually base our decisions on party and political patronage.