As I continue to explore the three main concepts of the blog, it is the turn for Consular Diplomacy.
As a diplomat, one thing that strikes me about the idea of Consular Diplomacy is that it has been part of the “traditional” Diplomacy for a long time. For most of history, most countries’ first foreign posts where consulates and not embassies.[i] Consular officials existed before the arrival of permanent representatives and ambassadors. In many states, such as Mexico, a joint diplomatic and consular corps forms its Foreign Service, not one or the other.
So why now we have Consular Diplomacy? Is it not part of traditional Diplomacy?
Maaike Okano-Heijmans, a scholar of the Clingendael Institute, published the paper “Change in Consular Assistance and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy” in February 2010. In it, she defines Consular Diplomacy as “international negotiation on a consular (legal) framework and individual consular cases that attract substantial attention from the media, public and politicians.”[ii]
She argues that this is a new development, starting at the end of the 1990s. It is not something that happened before, or that has always occurred.[iii] These changes came as a result of the increase of globalization, the growing power of the media, and heightened expectations by nationals who travel overseas.[iv]
Okano-Heijmans describes the changes that occurred, so “the government´s responsibility to protect its citizens (abroad) is no longer just a consular matter, but increasingly a diplomatic concern.”[v] Then she presents a theoretical background to better explain the existence of Consular Diplomacy as a new field of study as well as the relevance of negotiations of consular issues at the bilateral and multilateral levels.
In general terms, she presents two forms of Consular Diplomacy:
Later, I will review additional forms of Consular Diplomacy.
A significant development in Consular Diplomacy was the establishment of the Global Consular Forum in September 2013, after a meeting in Wilton Park, Great Britain. A report of the meeting was published. Like-minded countries decided that the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs of 1963 was lagging behind the consular practice in the 21st century; therefore, they agree to create this Forum.
Since then, there have been two more meetings in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in May 2015 (report) and Seoul, Korea, in October 2016 (summary). And the work of the Forum has continued since then.
The Forum in itself is a significant development toward the consolidation of Consular Diplomacy as a new area of study, as foreign ministries from all continents, in an informal multilateral platform, gather to
If these actions are not Consular Diplomacy, I do not know then what would be it.
An exciting development is the existence of the course Consular and Diaspora Diplomacy that the DiploFoundation offers as part of its curricula.
In the next post, I will discuss about Consular Diplomacy during the COVID-19 pandemic, further proof of its existence.
You can also read additional posts about consular diplomacy, such as:
[i] For a brief overview of the confluence of consular affairs and diplomacy see Jestin, Mathieu, “The Affirmation of “Consular Diplomacy” during the modern period”, in Encyclopédie pour un histoire nouvelle de l´Europe, online, November 10, 2017.
[ii] Okano-Heijmans, Maaike, “Change in Consular Assistance and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy”, Netherlands Institute of International Relations ´Clingendael´, February 2010, p.1 .
[iv] Idem, p. 2.
[v] Idem, p. 8.
[vi] Idem, p. 23.
[viii] Global Consular Forum, “Mission and Overview”
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.