Style Observer

Cocktails With— Marsha Coore Lobban

Sunday, April 07, 2019

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Marsha Coore Lobban
Acting Director, Caribbean and Americas Department

Cheers From The Spanish Court Hotel, Kingston!

What are you drinking?

A glass of Merlot.

Home is…

St Andrew, Jamaica.

My most memorable posting was... I am somewhat torn between DC and Brazil. Brazil was a short stint, about three to four months, as I was sent there specifically to formally set up our first diplomatic mission in that country. As such for me, unlike regular diplomatic assignments overseas, this was historic and still has somewhat of a nostalgic feel whenever I think back. The whole process involved undergoing a Portuguese immersion for about four months in advance of travel and having to use what was learnt, with support of course, to assist in negotiating and preparing official correspondence to facilitate the formal establishment of the embassy (which includes identifying and securing a Chancery; as well as putting in place other administrative and financial arrangements). Though it was an intense, and very hectic, three plus months, the City of Brasilia and all the persons with whom we had to interact, made it quite an interesting and memorable posting.

My most recent posting, which was in DC, was equally memorable. It was like the Mecca for diplomatic relations (outside of the United Nations in New York). With two missions housed in the same location (the Embassy and the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the Organization of American States), I was fortunate to serve at both and as such was able to further develop my skills and expertise across all the major areas that a foreign service officer could serve her country.

What's in your diplomatic pouch... hard work and commitment — being actively involved in the day-to-day operations, reading widely and having a full appreciation and in-depth knowledge of the areas I cover; not being afraid to roll up one's sleeves and get fully engulfed in the various mandates which fall under my portfolio.

Being a team player... recognising that you need all hands on deck to achieve what needs to be done, and respecting the role of each person under your supervision.

Confidence... coupled with humility and patience.

A strong... spiritual faith.

Bus, taxi or tube? Definitely the tube – it's like being at the airport and watching persons from all walks of life go by and observing their idiosyncrasies. It also allows me, once I get a seat, to catch up on my reading or simply have some down time.

If you could buy any building in Kingston, Jamaica and live there, which would it be? The Crowne Plaza or the new 20 South. Either would be a perfect pick.

What makes someone a Kingstonian?

For me, the benchmark is being born and raised under the clock. But it also includes those who have lived in Kingston for most of their lives and have become acclimatised to the social norms of the city.

Where do you go to unwind?

The Deck or the beach.

Who is your diplomatic heroine?

I would say, Ambassador Madge Barrett. She was my first director on joining the service, nearly 23 years ago, and I have learnt so much from her. The training I received under her tutelage has definitely made me into a more well-rounded diplomatic officer, and for that I will always be grateful.

Last country you lived in?

The United States of America.

What was your experience?

It was a great experience. Outside of what I have already mentioned, this was my first overseas posting that really strengthened and widened my policy skills across the spectrum of areas covered by the foreign service, all in two postings in one location. At the OAS there were constant developments taking place within the hemisphere which required thorough legal analysis and long hours of negotiations to try and find consensus among the member states, all of which have varying interests. On the bilateral side, it was learning how Washington works and honing the art of networking and advocacy to ensure Jamaica's interests were taken into account by lawmakers at the federal and at the state levels; as well as among the international financial institutions (IFIs). As head of chancery, it was ensuring that the Government's assets were properly managed and protected, and all other administrative matters were properly addressed; and being there to represent the Government/Head of Mission at various events and engagements organised by the Diaspora and other social groupings. It was monitoring Jamaica's interests in states where we only have an honorary consul or no diplomatic representation at all.

While juggling all those responsibilities, I had to find a balance between work and my personal life, which included my two young children, hubby and my mother. Overall, the DMV (DC, and the surrounding states, Maryland and Virginia) was like a melting pot of cultures, offering a wide array of rich social and culinary experiences in close proximity. The demography consisted mainly of professionals and diplomats from across the globe making the experience and exposure a memorable one.

What are you up to at the moment for work?

I am currently the acting director for the Caribbean and Americas Department, which covers Jamaica's relations with our regional and hemispheric partners and bodies, including Caricom; the Organization of American States (OAS); the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean; and the Association of Caribbean States. As you are aware, much has been going on within the ambit of the OAS and Caricom in recent years which keeps us quite busy. The department also covers Jamaica's bilateral relations with other Caribbean countries, including Cuba, the DR and Haiti; as well as our engagement with third-countries at the regional/hemispheric level, for example Caricom-UK; Caricom-USA; China-CELAC and CELAC-EU Relations.

What's the one iconic Jamaican food that you miss when posted overseas?

Jerk pork! Even though jerk pork was available, the authentic Jamaican taste was just never there.

What five words best describe you?

Dedicated, meticulous, astute, caring, and humble.

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