Home > Essays in Diplomacy, Essays on Migration and Consular Diplomacy, International Migration > Globalization and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy

Globalization and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy

Globalization and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy

by Juan  “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

In the context of globalization,  the following observations on  international migration can be made:

  • First, international migration as determined by economic and non-economic factors has become institutionalized;
  • Second, international migration is relevant to to development and security concerns; and
  • Third,  international migration has  increased the linkage between diplomacy and society particularly on  consular services and assistance provided by governments.

Migration has emerged on top of the global political agenda. However, managing migration remains as a big challenge among  origin, transit, and destination countries.  Some of the issues of mutual concern include the protection of migrant workers and how to jointly deal with with forced  and irregular migration.  In the current  environment, international migration is restrictive.

Based on figures from the United Nations (UN), an estimated 214 million people or three percent of the world’s population live outside their countries of birth. This phenomenon has become more prevalent due to the forces of globalization.   It is not surprising that the UN has recognized international migration as a top political agenda of governments.

The implications of international migration to  foreign affairs are two-fold: one is the necessity for greater international migration cooperation and second,  the enhanced role of consular affairs.

The global cooperation in international migration has taken several forms.  For example, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is an emerging platform to discuss migration issues.  The GFMD, however is only a forum among governments and non-state actors to manage international migration.  In  the absence of global governance on migration, countries have undertaken bilateral labour agreements to manage migration and to protect their migrant workers.

Emergence of Consular Diplomacy

In diplomatic scholarship, consular affairs have received little attention from students and academics. They regard consular affairs as dealing with the delivery of public service to citizens rather than management of international relations.

In view of the evolution of the diplomatic and consular practice, scholars like Maiike Okano-Heijmans and Kevin Stringer have noted the emergence of ‘consular diplomacy’.  In their view,  consular function is increasingly becoming a core task of Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The changing patterns of tourism, trans-boundary crime, terrorism, and natural disasters have increased demand for consular assistance .  For instance, consular function of MFAs were put to the test when Ministries had to deal with the protection of their citizens who were in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in the  recent political crisis in the region. Natural disasters such as the recent tsunami that hit Japan also required consular action from governments to locate missing pers0ns and to bring their citizens home safely.

Iver Neumann asserts that “consular work has exploded and the potential tasks are literally infinite.”[1] The benefits of migration to both sending and host countries have prompted governments to increasingly tap labour migrants a for its development and economic aims.

Media has  played a key role in bringing consular assistance to a higher level of attention.  Media  covers cases of distressed citizens and the quality of government assistance to them. The promotion of rights of migrant workers and empowerment of migrant workers have increase their political leverage resulting in higher demands for proactive consular assistance. As a result, higher expectations of citizens for consular services are shaping the way diplomats and consular staff work.

The international landscape has wider implication on the practice of diplomacy and requires governments to adapt. In this respect, embassies and consulates are becoming extensions of ‘city halls’ that provide services to its citizen’s abroad.


[1]Iver Neumann, “Globalisation and Diplomacy,” Working Paper 724(2007).

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  1. March 21, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Pedro Bernaldez commented on your post (via Facebook).
    Pedro wrote: “What the DFA people have been doing in assisting OFWs at risk throughout the globe is exemplary of “consular “diplomacy at times of crises.”

  2. Melvin
    March 22, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Nice piece, Sir Jed! It’s made me prouder of being part of OUMWA.

    I hope our local audience appreciate that, despite constraints, the Dept is delivering incomparable services!

  1. March 22, 2011 at 4:38 am

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