President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo yesterday inaugurated the newly established Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), with a call on the members to act not only as facilitators in improving policy-making and its execution but also as agents of social change.
He said if effectively positioned and focused, think tanks such as the CFR could strike a formidable partnership with state and non-state actors to set and deepen the agenda of public discourse, as well as shape national, regional, continental and global conversations.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony in Accra, President Akufo-Addo said the country needed a strong and reputable policy think tank to ensure that stakeholders were well informed to enable them to contribute meaningfully to the defence and promotion of the national interest.
“I expect CFR Ghana to assist us to keep our eyes on the ball in a manner that allows us to deal with critical challenges at home and on the continent and among multilateral institutions,” he said.
History of the council
The CFR Ghana, which is a think tank on the country’s foreign policy and international relations, is modelled on well-established think tanks such as the Council of Foreign Relations in the USA and the Chatham House in the United Kingdom.
It was started in 2008 during the tenure of Mr Kabral Blay Amihere as Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire when he floated the idea to a number of like-minded Ghanaians, and after months of consultations, the council was duly registered as a private company limited by guarantee on February 23, 2011.
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Its establishment is intended to enhance the advancement of the country’s foreign policy and its relations within the comity of nations.
President Akufo-Addo pledged his personal support and that of the government to the council, saying: “You have my full support and that of my government so don’t shy away from knocking on the doors of government should you require any assistance or any area of cooperation which government is in a position to grant.”
He also urged the members of the council to reach out to business people, economists, industrialists, technologists and academics in society to create an unrivalled intellectual and practical think tank whose programmes, projects, studies and settings would enable Ghana to address its challenges effectively.
“I trust that driven by the twin principles of excellence and solidarity, CFR Ghana will seek to become one of the leading think tanks not only in Ghana but also in the region, the continent and the world,” he said.
Touching on the aims and objectives of Ghana’s foreign policy, which he said was derived from the now entrenched values of attachment to democracy, respect for individual liberties and human rights, the rule of law and the principles of democratic accountability, President Akufo-Addo said: “Our overarching national goal is to develop rapidly within the democratic framework and modern industrialised economy which engages with the world on the basis of things we make and not on the export of raw materials.”
He said over the last two and a half decades, the country had been able to build an enviable reputation as a peaceful and stable country and a beacon of democracy on the continent and it was the collective responsibility of the people to preserve the hard-won reputation and attract the investment that would facilitate the structural transformation of the economy.
In her remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, said CFR Ghana had the potential to further enhance Ghana’s already admirable international standing.
That, she explained, was because the think tank offered the country the opportunity to deepen and strengthen its foreign policy through the contributions of a wide range of experts drawn from a vibrant and dynamic society.
For his part, the President of CFR Ghana, Ambassador D. K. Osei, expressed appreciation to President Akufo-Addo and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for their support to the council.
He said the spontaneous positive reaction of the country’s leaders lent credence to the relevance in setting up the council.
“CFR Ghana seeks to mobilise the rich and diverse pool of human resource in the country and beyond to improve the understanding of contemporary continental and global issues towards effective policy making and execution,” he said.
Ambassador Osei gave the hint that the council intended to publish a journal to be known as the Baobab CFR, Ghana Journal, the first edition of which, he said, would be in memory of the late UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan.
A retired diplomat, Mr Victor Gbeho, who chaired the function, paid tribute to those who worked to make the inauguration happen and indicated that Ghana’s foreign policy industry had been in need of a think tank such as CFR, Ghana for a long time and, therefore, its establishment was a dream come true.
He expressed the hope that the think tank would represent one of the dependable institutions of the continent and the world at large.