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Consular and Public Diplomacies
As I mentioned in my previous post, “Focus on Women: Specialized Consular Assistance in the United States”, today I am writing about another example of a successful public-consular diplomacy effort implemented by Mexico in the United States: The development of specialized consular care protocols.
This initiative resulted in the publication of three protocols that provide detailed information to consular officials to offer specialized consular assistance to victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence, as well as migrant unaccompanied children and teens. These three issues usually have a more significant impact on women than men, so they focus on them.
The effort is quite interesting from different perspectives:
This post will cover the origins of specialized consular care and the three protocols created as part of this initiative.
2. Origins of specialized consular care
In the late part of the first decade of the new millennium, Mexico’s Congress assigned funding to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) to provide consular assistance to victims of mistreatment (maltrato) with particular emphasis on women, children, and senior citizens, and victims of human trafficking.[ii]
As part of the effort, the Department of Consular Assistance to Mexicans Abroad (DGPME, in Spanish) included in its regulations two new subprograms: Gender equality and Consular assistance to Mexican victims of human trafficking in 2012.[iii]
The congressional funding helped consulates to support consular cases and the establishment of new partnerships. All these activities promoted a better understanding of these vulnerable groups’ particularities and the need to have better tools to assist them, including training of consular officials and the community at large. Therefore, there was a need to work on new instruments to provide specialized assistance to vulnerable groups.
Besides, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a new consular care model using the “pro-persona” principle as a result of the Human Rights Constitutional amendment of 2011.[iv]
Since then, Consulates started cooperation pilot projects with different stakeholders, including the Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer or the “Initiative for the Comprehensive Care of Women” (VAIM) in Kansas City Missouri, in 2015. See post here.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, the DGPME began working on the creation of a protocol to attend unaccompanied children and adolescents (UCA) detained at the border by U.S. immigration officials.
3. Protocol for the consular care of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents
In 2014, the DGPME agreed with UNICEF Mexico´s office to develop a consular assistance protocol focusing on unaccompanied children and adolescents. This happened as the number of the detention of Central American unaccompanied minors soared in the Mexico-U.S. border due to a non-repatriation policy of non-Mexican UCA implemented by the Department of Homeland Security.
The protocol was a milestone in consular care, as it radically changed the way consular officials approached and interviewed Mexican unaccompanied children and adolescents. It was very revealing that the protocol investigators identify the consular interview as a critical moment for the children.[v]
The Minister of Foreign Affairs announced the Protocol in May 2015, together with the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection.[vi]
As part of its implementation, the Ministry undertook the broadest training program ever conducted. All personnel of the department of protection of 27 consulates participated in one of the six seminars that took place in three cities in the U.S.[vii] In total, 200 consular officials participated in this effort.[viii]
The training included children and adolescents’ psychology, so consular officials were better prepared to obtain as much information as possible in a friendly, non-threatening way. This, in turn, was very useful for their future family reunification, either in Mexico or the U.S.
“The Protocol has been structured based on the “inquire by informing” technique, which looks at building trust between the interviewer and the interviewed children and adolescents, so as not to depersonalize them. The Toolbox takes the same approach and is an instrument to apply the Protocol.”[ix] Thus, the Protocol’s toolkit (Caja de Herramientas) includes different items that assist the consul in interacting with UCA, such as playing cards with various images, colored pencils, and some toys.
Because the idea behind the protocol’s development was also to share it with other countries, an effort was made to translate it into English. For example, as part of the Regional Conference on Migration, Mexico shared the Protocol and its implementation experience.[x]
The launching of the protocol coincided with the negotiation of the renewal of the Mexico-U.S. Local Repatriation Agreements; therefore, there was an opportunity to agree with the DHS agencies on the facilitation of implementation of the protocol at the border.[xi]
An essential part of the protocol development, several specialized organizations reviewed it, so it was as comprehensive as possible.[xii] It was an innovative approach as it was the first time it was done.
Besides the initial training, UNICEF and the SRE agreed to do a “Train the trainer” program, so new consular officials were instructed as needed. Together with the Instituto Matías Romero (Mexico´s diplomatic academy), UNICEF created an online course about the Protocol to expand training capabilities further.[xiii] Nowadays, it is usually offered twice a year.
In 2015, “there were about 13,000 cases of consular protection for migrant children and the protocol and its innovative electronic registration platform helped improve monitoring and coordination with Mexican authorities such as the National Migration Institute and the National DIF.”[xiv]
4. Protocol for the Consular Care of Victims of Gender-Based Violence
While the first protocol was being rollout, the SRE started to work on the second specialized consular care protocol focused on victims of gender-based violence.[xv]
In November 2015, the Minister signed an agreement with Mexico’s UN Women Office to develop the Protocol for the Consular Care of Victims of Gender-Based Violence. The first draft was presented in July 2016.[xvi]
The protocol was finished in 2016 and published in 2017. The training was provided to officials in charge of the consular assistance departments in consulates across the U.S.
As in the previous protocol, a group of specialized organizations reviewed the protocol before its publication.[xvii]
The VAIM incorporated the Protocol’s practices and recommendations into the assistance to women, or men, who suffered from domestic violence to provide better consular care and offer all the consulate’s programs and initiative to take care of their needs.
The protocol helped consular officials identify local allies that could provide services to the victims, including housing, clothing, and assistance to find a job.
5. Protocol for the Consular Care of Mexican Victims of Human Trafficking Abroad
After overcoming some obstacles, in 2018, the SRE was finally able to create its third specialized protocol, which focused on Mexican victims of human trafficking abroad.
On March 6, 2018, the Undersecretary for North America and the Director of the International Organization for Migration Mexico’s Office signed an agreement to develop this protocol jointly.[xviii]
The International Organization for Migration was a perfect partner for its creation. Its Mexico office previously worked in the elaboration of at least two protocols regarding human trafficking victims. Besides, it was working on the subject in the framework of the Regional Conference on Migration.
One difference from the two previous protocols was that as part of the Mexico-U.S. collaboration, the Embassy of the United States in Mexico partially funded the protocol’s development.[xix] It is an example of working together to tackle a crime that is not limited by borders and where migrants are particularly vulnerable.
As in the previous two protocols, several specialized organizations participated in the review process.[xx] The SRE officially launched the protocol on November 22, 2018.[xxi]
Following the best practice of elaborating an online course to have a permanent training tool for new consular officials, in 2019, the DGPME and the Instituto Matías Romero put together a virtual module about the subject. It is now offered regularly.
Human trafficking, like gender-based violence, are topics that are a significant concern for law enforcement offices; therefore, they were gateways for collaboration, sometimes with authorities that did not like or care about migrants. Consulates participated in different ways, like becoming members of local task forces, establishing strategic alliances, and even signing MOUs.[xxii]
A great example of the collaboration that resulted from the greater emphasis on assisting human trafficking victims is the one developed with Polaris. This organization manages the national human trafficking hotline in the U.S. It has trained consular officials for several years now. Also, the consulates have participated in some Polaris outreach activities.[xxiii] Most importantly, they work together when they identify a Mexican victim of human trafficking.
In recognition of the assistance provided to Mexicans in the U.S., the Embassy of Mexico in Washington bestowed Polaris the Ohtli Award in September 2020.
The combination of better knowledge about the needs of the Mexican migrants in the U.S. and the new focus on the person propelled the consular network to provide specialized consular care to vulnerable groups. To achieve this goal, the SRE enlisted three international partners' assistance to develop the protocols of consular care of UAC and victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence.
The development and implementation of the consular care protocols changed the mindset of consular officials. Besides, the Mexican consulates actively searched for and expanded partnerships to elevate the services provided to these vulnerable groups.
An important reason behind the collaboration with UN specialized organisms in elaborating the three protocols was their expertise and the opportunity to incorporate international standards, not only to the document but also to its implementation.
By focusing on issues that heavily affect migrant women, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is moving forward to gender equality in the consular services it provides to the Mexican community in the United States. And by doing these has significantly expanded the reach of its public-consular diplomacy.
[i] Okano-Heijmans, Maaike, “Change in Consular Assistance and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy”, Netherlands Institute of International Relations ´Clingendael´, February 2010.
[ii] Márquez Lartigue, Rodrigo, “Focus on Women: Specialized Consular Assistance in the United States”, Consular and Public Diplomacies Blog, March 8, 2021.
[iii] In 2017, the program and subprograms were updated to its current name: Normas para la Ejecución del Programa de Protección Consular a Personas Mexicanas en el Exterior, SRE, May 2017.
[iv] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, “Diplomacia Consular y acercamiento con socios estratégicos” of the book La Diplomacia Consular Mexicana en tiempos de Trump, 2018, p. 206.
[v] Gallo, Karla, “En el camino hacia la protección integral de la niñez migrante”, UNICEF México Blog, August 21, 2019.
[vi] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, 3er Informe de Labores de la SRE 2014-2015, 2015, p. 195.
[vii] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, 3er Informe de Labores de la SRE 2014-2015, 2015, p. 191.
[viii] Gallo, Karla, 2019.
[ix] SRE-UNICEF, Toolbox Pedagogical Basis, 2015, p. 3.
[x] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, “The Foreign Ministry enhances its consular diplomacy and protection for Mexicans abroad”, Press Bulletin, December 29, 2015.
[xi] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, 4o Informe de Labores de la SRE 2015-2016, 2016, p. 191
[xii] To see the list of organizations that participated in the review process, view page 64 of the Protocol.
[xiii] Gallo, Karla, 2019.
[xiv] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, “The Foreign Ministry enhances its consular diplomacy and protection for Mexicans abroad”, Press Bulletin, December 29, 2015.
[xv] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, “The Foreign Ministry enhances its consular diplomacy and protection for Mexicans abroad”, Press Bulletin, December 29, 2015.
[xvi] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, 4o Informe de Labores de la SRE 2015-2016, 2016, p. 200.
[xvii] To see the list of organizations that participated in the review process, view page 96 of the Protocol.
[xviii] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Desarrollaran la SRE y la Organizacion Internacional para las Migraciones un protocolo de atención a víctimas de trata”, Press Bulletin, March 6, 2018.
[xix] Protocolo p. 101
[xx] To see the list of organizations that participated in the review process, view page 101 of the Protocol.
[xxi] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “La Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores presenta el ´Protocolo de Atención Consular para Víctimas Mexicanas de Trata de Personas´”, Press Bulletin, November 22, 2018.
[xxii] See for example the collaboration mechanism described in the Protocol, pp. 87-88.
[xxiii] Polaris Organization, “Engaging Consulates in the Fight Against Sex Trafficking from Mexico”, Polaris Blog, May 22, 2017.
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.
As part of the celebration of International Women´s Day, I will write about a topic that is not well known but very relevant: specialized consular assistance for Mexican women in the United States. It is one of the many examples of the successful implementation of public consular diplomacy by Mexico.
The conclusion is that this initiative forced the Mexican Consular network in the U.S. to seek new partnerships with local organizations that further expanded the reach of Mexico´s public consular diplomacy.
1. Origins of a specialized consular care
In the late part of the first decade of the new millennium, Mexico’s Congress assigned funding to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) to provide consular assistance to victims of mistreatment (maltrato) with particular emphasis on women, children, and senior citizens.
Later on, in 2011, due to the Human Rights Constitutional amendment that adopted the “pro-persona” principle, the SRE established a new consular care model emphasizing specialized assistance to vulnerable groups.[i]
Mexico´s consulate began engaging with local and state authorities, NGOs, and the Mexican community to enhance the consular assistance to these groups. As part of these efforts, they strengthened their collaboration with traditional partners and expanded cooperation with new organizations. Some consulates established strategic alliances and designed new initiatives. An example of these partnerships was promoting the “Violentrometro” or the violence against women measuring ruler.
As part of these collaborations, the Consulate of Mexico in Kansas began a pilot program offering comprehensive services for Mexican women that visited its office or participated in their events.
Besides, at the Ministry´s headquarters, the Department of Consular Assistance to Mexicans Abroad (DGPME, in Spanish) spearheaded with UNICEF Mexico an effort to create a tool to improve consular assistance to unaccompanied Mexican children detained at the border.
In the next section, I will detail one of the most important specialized consular assistance programs that focus on women: the Initiative for Comprehensive Care of Women (Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer -VAIM-).
In a different post, I will write about the other program: the consular care protocols focused on unaccompanied children, gender-based violence, and human trafficking.
2. Initiative for Comprehensive Care of Women (Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer -VAIM-)
As mentioned, the Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer or the “Initiative for the Comprehensive Care of Women” (VAIM) began as a pilot program in Kansas City in May 2015.[ii]
Its objective is to interconnect all areas of the consulate to offer specialized assistant to Mexican women. Besides, it promotes training and sensibilization about their challenges and creating a resources and a services directory.[iii] Its ultimate goal is to empower women in all aspects of their lives.[iv]
“In the framework of Consular Diplomacy, the VAIM boosted actions to provide consular assistance [to women] through the establishment of an important network of strategic alliances. [The Consulate in Kansas] signed 18 memoranda of understanding that resulted in a wide range of benefits to the women that requested assistance.”[v]
Besides, there was a great effort to train law enforcement officers about the consular functions, collaboration mechanisms, and consular notification.[vi]
As part of the 2016 International Women´s Day celebration, the SRE announced the expansion of the VAIM to all the consulates in the United States.[vii]
It was an important milestone as it was a whole-of-consulate approach. Mexico´s consulate had to be proactive in developing and strengthening alliances with new and old stakeholders. “The creation of a strategic support structure allows increasing resources, early detection of potential cases, providing better consular care and expanding additional outreach channels.”[viii]
From March 2016 to June 2018, the Mexican consular network organized 5,088 VAIM outreach events with a total participation of 387,980 persons and consular assistance provided to 10,627 cases.[ix]
The establishment of VIAM highlights the versatility of Mexico´s public consular diplomacy. As many Mexican women and children migrated north, the community's needs changed; therefore, the consular care offered by the consular network had to change too.
There were efforts focus on assisting women, but the VAIM was a milestone as it was comprehensive consular care, not focused on one issue, but searching to offer as many consular services as needed.
I believe that the most important result of the VAIM was a change in the mindset of not only consular officials but also the Mexican community at large and local allies about the need to provide specialized consular care to Mexican women. It was a significant change as in the past, most consular assistance was provided to men, as they were the majority of migrants to the U.S.
Besides, it opened the door for a whole new set of allies and strategic partnerships that enhance the consular care given to Mexican women, which opened the doors for empowering them.
Vanessa Calva Ruiz explains that “the establishment of partnerships not only takes care of urgent needs of the Mexican community but also assist them in integrating to the host society by linking them with local actors that offer resources.”[x]
[i] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, “Diplomacia Consular y acercamiento con socios estratégicos” of the book La Diplomacia Consular Mexicana en tiempos de Trump, 2018, p. 206.
[ii] Gómez Maganda, Guadalupe and Kerber Palma, Alicia, “Atención con perspectiva de género para las comunidades mexicanas en el exterior” in Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, No. 107, May-August 2016, p. 197.
[iii] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, 2018, pp. 208-209.
[iv] Gómez Maganda, Guadalupe and Kerber Palma, Alicia, 2016, p. 197.
[vi] Gómez Maganda, Guadalupe and Kerber Palma, Alicia, 2016., pp. 197-198
[vii] Government of México, 4º Informe de Labores SRE· 2015-2016, 2016, pp. 189, 201.
[viii] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, 2018, pp. 209-210.
[ix] Government of México, 6º Informe de Gobierno 2017-2018, 2018, p. 681.
[x] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, 2018, pp.213-214.
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.
Following up on my previous blog post about the surge of “new” diplomacies and the discussion of whether these initiatives a real diplomatic instruments or just imposters, today I will analyze the case of Consular Diplomacy.
The conclusion is that while Consular Diplomacy meets all the qualifications to be considered a real diplomatic tool to attain a foreign policy goal, the lack of studies seriously hinders its development. Therefore, it is finally leaving Cinderella's status but is not yet considered a princess, like Public or Cultural Diplomacies.
Note: The reference to consular affairs as “Cinderella” was made by D.C.M. Platt in his book The Cinderella Service: British Consuls since 1825. Maaike Okano-Heijmans and Jan Melissen used the term in their paper Foreign Ministries and the Rising Challenge of Consular Affairs: Cinderella in the Limelight.
1. Previous post summary “New” Diplomatic Tools: Imposter Diplomacy or the Real Deal?
Shaun Riordan and Katharina E. Höne have expressed their concern about the tendency to incorporate into the diplomatic realm all sorts of activities, which carries the risk of losing the meaning of Diplomacy.[i]
To uncover Imposter Diplomacy and confirm the realness of new diplomatic tools, Höne proposes that “rather than a categorical rejection [of the new diplomacies], the proper response is to sharpen our intellectual tools and get to work [and] to tell the imposter from the innovator, we need to look closely at diplomacy as a practice, its relation to the state, and the purposes of these new diplomacies.”[ii]
In the previous post, I already analyzed Public and Gastronomic Diplomacies. I conclude that the former could be categorized as a new diplomatic tool, while the latter is still too early, despite investments made by various governments.[iii]
2. Consular Diplomacy rising
Despite being older than traditional Diplomacy and at one point much more widespread, the consular function has always been relegated. Only now, in the 21st Century, consular services have received greater attention by not only public officials, including diplomats, but also by politicians, regular citizens, and the media.
In the paper, Foreign Ministries and the Rising Challenge of Consular Affairs: Cinderella in the Limelight, Maaike Okano-Heijmans and Jan Melissen explain why consular affairs changed from being the Cinderella of diplomacy to be a high priority for the ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs), the general public, the media, and politicians worldwide.
However critical the increasing number of terrorist attacks, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2010-11 Arab Spring, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, Okano-Heijmans and Melissen indicate that the greater interest in consular issues did not develop with the arrival of the internet or social media. It arose during the intra-war years and resulted in the integration of diplomatic and consular services.[iv] and later, with the changes in communications, technology, and transportation.
One reason why consular issues are just now rising into prominence in the diplomatic world is that the amalgamation of the consular and diplomatic services is relatively recent, from a historical perspective. In 2022 and 2024 will be the 100th anniversary of the two branches' fusion in Norway and the US, respectively. However, it is a lot more recently for other countries like Great Britain (1943) and Italy (1952).[v]
I think that the merging of both services has not been totally completed. The view from inside and outside the Foreign Ministries about the two divisions remains separated. For example, there are two different Vienna Conventions, one specific for Diplomatic Relations and the other regarding Consular Relations. This came about when the combination of the two services already happened in many countries.
All this is a bit ironic because, as Jan Melissen states in “Introduction The Consular Dimension of Diplomacy” for most ordinary people, the Ministry's face is not a diplomat seating in an embassy, but a consular official either providing documentary services or consular assistance or promoting trade and better relationships with local and state authorities and civil societies.[vi]
It is relevant to know that consular services are more in-tuned with the new realities of 21st Century Diplomacy, such as its focus on strengthening performance thru a service-oriented perspective, the familiarity of intermestic issues, and greater collaboration with new partners.[vii] The consular function's qualities help consular affairs be more visible inside and outside the MFA, ascending to a new level.
3. Is Consular Diplomacy a new diplomatic tool?
I will now follow Höne´s recommendation of evaluating the new tools by looking at Diplomacy as a practice, its relation to the state, and its purpose.
3.1 The practice of Consular Diplomacy
As mentioned before, consular posts predate permanent embassies in Europe for a couple of hundred years. While in the beginning, consuls were not public officials, sometimes performed duties as authorities. In the hey-days of consular affairs, during the 19th Century, consular officials were also involved in diplomatic activities, even if they were not recognized.[viii]
From a comparative standpoint, consular affairs is a lot older than almost all diplomatic tools, such as Public, Cultural, and Multilateral Diplomacies. Its problem is that it is considered a technical function, not as crucial as any diplomatic activity. The countries´ little interest in consular affairs is demonstrated by the fact that the first and only international convention on the subject was negotiated in the 1960s.
From a practical perspective, I can understand the different visions between diplomats and consuls. The question of representation and what it entails in terms of protocol, image, and status is enormous among the two.
It is totally dissimilar to work in the halls of palaces, presidential offices, and the MFAs than in ports, jails, and other local venues. The distinction is a heavy-weight on consuls' images, and even today, when they are no longer seen as Cinderellas, consular officials have not yet arrived at palaces, presidential offices, or foreign ministers´ desks.
Consular affairs is an established responsibility of MFAs that date back centuries, and it has developed into a profession and a practice. There are no doubts about Consular Diplomacy's existence and heritage; however, it has not yet reached a point to be recognized as a useful foreign policy instrument, with a few exceptions. The fact that almost none country utilizes the term regularly is a perfect example that still is underrecognized, even if MFAs undertake actions that could fall into its category.
3.2 Relation to the state
Despite the growing outsourcing of certain consular functions and the greater collaboration between consulates and authorities, civil society, and their diaspora, it is evident that it is a government´s responsibility to provide consular services to its citizens abroad and other groups.
Consular officials in their corresponding districts are the only ones to execute activities such as visiting prisons and jails, issuing passports and birth certificates, and promoting the country´s image in the host nation. It is a non-delegable function restricted to government officials. Therefore, I can attest that Consular Diplomacy fulfills the requirement to be considered a diplomatic tool rather than an imposter. It can only be performed by the government and its representatives.
3.3 Pursuing Foreign Policy goals
There is no doubt that consular affairs are a vital function of the ministry of foreign affairs. However, it is a bit more challenging to attest whether these activities help achieve its Foreign Policy (FP) goals.
For countries with relatively low immigration and limited travel opportunities for their citizens, consular affairs might be just a public policy that happens to be offered overseas.
In contrast, states with significant diaspora communities and extensive traveling communities might incorporate some FP goals into the management of their consular affairs, such as providing efficient consular services to their nationals and foreign citizens or enhancing consular collaboration with other countries.
In many cases, the MFA´s primary concern is the domestic dimension rather than an actual foreign policy objective; however, consular cases' reputational impact is quite high and is the main reason for its recent upgrade.[ix]
For both types of countries, a high visibility consular case can turn into a diplomatic situation affecting bilateral relations, even making decisions against their national interests.[x]
3.4 Consular Diplomacy´s missing dimension: studies
As I did in the Public and Gastronomic Diplomacies cases, I am also reviewing the Consular Diplomacy´s study field. Sadly, in this area, this new diplomatic tool is still in its infancy.
The only known course about the topic “Consular and Diaspora Diplomacy” is offered by the DiploFoundation. However, it has not being offered for the last few years, perhaps demonstrating the lack of interest in the subject.
As Okano-Heijmans and Melissen indicate, “consular affairs [do not] appeal sufficiently to students of diplomacy to merit much study and reflection;”[xi] therefore, there is a severe absence of studies about this matter.
Regarding scholarly work, the only book about the issue is the 2011 Consular Affairs and Diplomacy, edited by Jan Melissen and Ana Mar Fernández. Astonishingly, the book is ten years old, and since then, no new scholarly book about the subject has appeared.
There is the book The Duty of Care in International Relations: Protecting Citizens Beyond the Border published in June 2019. Also, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy dedicated the issue #2, Vol. 13, March 2018, to the topic and was titled “Diplomacy and the Duty of Care.” I am not sure if both discuss Consular Diplomacy, as I have not read them yet.
In Mexico, a special issue (#101) of the Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior about the subject was published in 2014. Additionally, the book La Diplomacia Consular Mexicana en Tiempos de Trump, written from a practitioner's perspective, came out in 2018.
I just learned that Brazil´s MFA issued in 2012 a report titled Diplomacia Consular 2007 a 2012. A few countries, like Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands, have sponsor studies about consular affairs, but none of them use the term Consular Diplomacy often.
I don´t understand why there is minimal production of scholarly works and practitioners' essays about this matter. Around the world, there are more consular officers than diplomats performing other duties. As mentioned above, consular agents are the faces of the MFAs to citizens overseas and domestic audiences.
One reason might be that consular officials are always too busy solving the newest crisis and a high-level consular assistance case or issuing consular documents to write about their experiences. Privacy limitations are also an obstacle for more research, but I am sure they can be overcome to have more studies about consular affairs.
Another cause might be the scarcity of funding, if there is money at all, for research in the field; thus, there are no incentives for up-and-coming scholars, universities, and think tanks to tackle the issue.
As the Global Consular Forum[xii] has demonstrated, many countries are interested in expanding the collaboration in consular affairs and are willing to exchange best practices; thus, there is no lack of interest in many MFAs about the subject.
With consular services’ new visibility and the need to improve them, I believe that Consular Diplomacy research will grow, but it needs a boost.
4. Conclusions: Does Consular Diplomacy is an imposter or the real deal?
For a citizen, the consular function does not carry the significance of the “glamour” of diplomatic life, negotiating a world-changing agreement in New York or Geneva's halls. However, in time of need, very few public officials have the preparation, ability, and ingenuity to solve their problems. Consuls are like the police or the fire department; you just call them in an emergency, but they can change your life.
There is an enormous need for more consular studies, but not just to evaluate its performance but to contribute to the surge of a real Consular Diplomacy one day. Ironically, Consular Diplomacy fulfills all the qualifications of a “new” diplomatic tool; however, there is such a tiny body of work that it is hard to confirm its realness.
Consular Diplomacy as a “new” diplomatic tool is finally out of its Cinderella´s reference; however, there is still a long way to reach the status of a princess.
[i] Riordan, Shaun, “Stop Inventing New Diplomacies”, Center on Public Diplomacy Blog, June 21, 2017 and Höne, Katharina E., “Would the Real Diplomacy Please Stand Up!”, DiploFoundation Blog, June 30, 2017.
[ii] Höne, Katharina E., 2017.
[iii] Márquez Lartigue, Rodrigo, ““New” Diplomatic Tools: Imposter Diplomacy or the Real Deal?” In Consular and Public Diplomacies Blog, February 22, 2021.
[iv] Heijmans, Maaike and Melissen, Jan, in Foreign Ministries and the Rising Challenge of Consular Affairs: Cinderella in the Limelight, Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, June 7, 2006, p. 5.
[v] Berrigde, G.R., Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 5th ed., 2015, p. 136.
[vi] Melissen, Jan, “Introduction The Consular Dimension of Diplomacy” in Consular Affairs and Diplomacy, 2011, p. 3.
[vii] Melissen, Jan, 2011, pp. 4-6.
[viii] Heijmans, Maaike and Melissen, Jan, in Foreign Ministries and the Rising Challenge of Consular Affairs: Cinderella in the Limelight, Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, June 7, 2006, pp. 3-4.
[ix] Heijmans, Maaike and Melissen, Jan, 2006, pp. 6-7.
[x] Okano-Heijmans, Maaike, “Changes in Consular Assistance and the emergence of Consular Diplomacy” in in Consular Affairs and Diplomacy, 2011, pp. 24-26.
[xi] Heijmans, Maaike and Melissen, Jan, 2006, p. 1.
[xii] The Global Consular Forum is “an informal, grouping of countries, from all regions of the world fostering international dialogue and cooperation on the common challenges and opportunities that all countries face today in delivery of consular services.” Wilton Park, “Global Consular Forum 2015 (WP1381)”.
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.