27 April 2022, Juba South Sudan
73 young South Sudanese entered into the world of diplomacy after completing a three-month graduate programme as the first merit-based recruited cohort for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. This started with public announcement for application, verification of the authenticated certificates, shortlisting for those qualified for written examination and face-to-face interview, selection of best applicants who scored highly, reporting to the ministry for orientation, deployment to the offices and the departments, and training in the Institute of Diplomatic Studies. 240 submissions were screened to shortlist the graduates who will now represent South Sudan internationally among the 193 member states. This approach was initiated to enhance the reforms in the key public institutions through the Governance and Economic Management Support (GEMS) project under UNDP to stream competency-base recruitment with mentorship and coaching from Special Skills Expert (SSE) deployed in the MFA&IC in 2020.
“As part of our institutional reforms, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recruited candidates fairly and transparently based on public service rules and regulations for the first time,” says Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hon. Mayiik Ayii Deng
“We purposefully organized the training to make friends, learn about each other and work together as a team. Our intention is to create a forum of the most senior and junior diplomats to discuss issues related to diplomacy,” says Ambassador Kuol Nyok, Director-General of Institute of Diplomatic Studies “This is evidence that our country can select a good pool of diplomats and cadre for South Sudan,” he noted.
The conflict in South Sudan, especially over the past three decades has displaced many South Sudanese to find protection across the African continent and abroad in Europe, the United States, South-East Asia and Australia as well as the MENA region. Many of the graduates have decided to come back to South Sudan due to relative stability, which resulted from the 2018 revitalized peace agreement. As a result, the graduates bring back to South Sudan a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and global perspectives from regions where they fled to or where their parents migrated to. Among the many similarities shared about their upbringing and background reflect being a third-culture kid.
“I always felt like I was an international citizen. I was here (South Sudan) in then Sudan, then moved to the United States and Kenya. After independence I decided to come back home… I think this graduate programme is a wonderful start. It is a mix of talented and highly professional people from all other South Sudan. Everyone here is for the specialized qualification and not based on tribal or bias,” says Aduot Ayieny, first cohort of diplomats.
“When I went to school, it was under a tree where we were taught how to read and write. When the conflict happen, I fled to Uganda and realized how far behind I was in my education. My interest to international relations is to see how we can change the system to pave a way forward with diplomacy,” says James.
The new diplomatic cadre triggers a fresh cohort that is thoroughly inducted and prepped to understand the ins and out of protocol, ceremonies, public relations, negations, security, trade, international charters, neighborliness, bilateralism and multilateralism. The training and lectures presented by ambassadors, senior diplomats and veteran technocrats emphasized that the art of diplomacy requires stringent practices in the established traditions of international relations.
“The world has become more complicated, and your duties will be more complex as you will be dealing with politics, culture, trade and climate change,” says Christian Badder, EU Ambassador to South Sudan
UNDP South Sudan Resident Representative, Samuel Doe, echoed that global diplomacy is development diplomacy. “Global Diplomacy is development diplomacy. The purpose of your training is to advance global solidarity and peaceful coexistence and we hope you carry that on in your career,” he underscored in his remarks during the graduation.
Building public service values to attract the brightest and committed
Graduates from the first cohort are a prime example to take the recruitment model into other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). As a key fulfilment of the R-ARCSS and ministries to deliver their mandate, UNDP has superseded Change Agents and Special Skills Experts to support capacity building of the MDAs in South Sudan.
Advocacy and word of mouth were how most graduates knew about the programme, going as far to attract South Sudanese living abroad. An evaluation and learning assessment are planned to identify lessons learned. Overall, graduates have expressed how inclusive the cohort is to be a cadre in the start of the journey in the diplomatic career. This shows a light of South Sudanese that have fled their country and now bring international experience to build it better, using professional diplomacy as the best method.
“National-building is the responsibility of all, and as diplomats, that responsibility is slightly heavier on yoru shoudlers. You learned of history, the evolution of South Sudan’s political thought, how we relate to our neighbors and distant countries, and much more. This knowledge equips you for your part in building South Sudan,” says Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hon. Mayiik Ayii Deng.
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