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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).

What benefits can a well-run foreign ministry offer the government?

What benefits can a well-run foreign ministry offer the government?

by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

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Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) are government agencies tasked to lead and conduct the foreign policy and diplomacy of their states in modern diplomacy.

Due to the forces of globalisation, new information technology, increased international trade, tourism, migration and development assistance,  and natural disasters, terrorist attacks and political crisis that affect their country’s citizens,  the functions of diplomats have enlarged. Despite these challenges to foreign ministries, they remain to be at the forefront of managing foreign policy.

A critical role of MFAs is coordinating the states’ foreign policy and international activity.  To remain relevant, MFAs need to adapt to the modern challenges of diplomacy either by outsourcing some of the functional expertise to other agencies of government or to develop its own expertise.  They also need to maximise the use of available information and communications technology in running their business. In addition, MFAs also need to be responsive to its citizens overseas.

These diplomatic challenges can be addressed by well-run foreign ministries. Well-managed MFAs offer wide-ranging benefits to government for the following reasons: First, they enable the effective and efficient pursuit of national interest; second, they can lead foreign policy coordination and management for a more effective and efficient policy implementation, and third, they can provide better delivery of services and timely responses to crisis situations.

Foreign Policy Enabler

A well- managed MFA enables the state to pursue its national interests and agenda.   By having a channel of communication and representation overseas, the government can promote its national objectives.  For political and economic purposes, the MFA can provide the overarching foreign policy direction.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, the State Department was tasked to implement its policy and was instrumental in coordinating the U.S. alliance with the United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea and the Philippines, among others, in its fight against terrorism.

In the area of public diplomacy, a well-run MFA can also provide direction and implement activities such as cultural promotion, people to people exchanges, that enables the government to pursue its national objectives.

Foreign Policy Coordination

Having a well-run MFA could provide effective and efficient foreign policy coordination in the home office as well as in country’s Foreign Service posts.

In the Philippine case,  before a bilateral or multilateral negotiations take place, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) calls for a policy coordination meeting to hear and take into consideration the inputs and concerns of various agencies of government. The coordination role of the DFA is beneficial to the government in terms of harmonising the voices of various agencies into a single tune during negotiations.

In the Foreign Service post, the Philippine Ambassador leads various agencies of government under a one county team in the Embassy.  Under such condition, there is unity of command and coordinated strategic efforts in an Embassy under the leadership of the Ambassador.

Efficient and Effective Delivery of Service and Quick Response to Crisis

Lastly, a well-run MFA provides better delivery of services and immediate response to crisis situations.  In the wake of the Middle East Crisis and the Queensland earthquake this month, one can view how a well-run MFA works to the benefit of government and its citizens.

By having a well-run Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard was able to respond in a timely and effective fashion in ensuring the safety of Australians in Queensland. The Australian government was able to issue statements and communicate with the public regarding its assistance to the victims and their families.  The Australian  government was also able to convey its condolences and provided unsolicited financial assistance to New Zealand. Such gesture promotes trust and closer bilateral relations.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was in Egypt to personally direct the evacuation of Australian citizens and members of the diplomatic corps out of Libya.  He  spoke on radio how the evacuation plan was being undertaken in a concerted fashion together with other countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) ran a story of how the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was slow in assisting the trapped nurses in the rubble in Queensland as well as in evacuating Filipino labourers in Libya.  The Philippine government said that despite its limited resources, it was trying its utmost in assisting distressed Filipinos in Libya.

In response to the mounting needs of Filipino workers  in Libya, newly appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, less than 48 hours after he assumed office,  personally traveled to Libya to lead the DFA team in executing the evacuation of some 440 Filipino workers  from Libya to Tunisia. The trucks picked up Filipino workers and travelled through a dangerous  desert route passing through a number of checkpoints both from pro and anti-government  armed groups.

A top diplomat cited that  “smile diplomacy” or the use of smiles and carefully worded diplomatic language,  helped the government bring out of harms way Filipinos in Libya.

The Philippine government  chartered a ship to transport around 5,000 Filipinos from the coastal city of Benghazi to Crete in Greece.

After Del Rosario returned to Manila, he defended the DFA from critics and said that: “The DFA is not without experience … We have a good working organization. We’re not saying it’s perfect, but we’re trying to do our best”.

(Read: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110302-322981/DFA-chief-says-hes-not-happy-to-be-back-home)

The coordinated action of the DFA was crucial in the success of the evacuation mission.  Filipino diplomats took the lead in the evacuation plan. Embassies in Spain, Egypt, and Greece were tasked to receive the evacuees from Libya. Earlier, a similar team was dispatched to Cairo and the work of the Embassy in Egypt was critical in repatriating Filipinos back home.

Well-run MFAs are beneficial to the government in enabling them to pursue their national interest, in policy coordination and in responding to crisis and assistance to its citizens overseas.

However, governments must see to it that they provide the necessary support, attention, and resources to MFAs so that they could adapt to the challenges of its expanding role, in the use of information and communication technology, and  in their readiness to provide quality public service and  respond  to crisis situations.

Weaknesses of Traditional Definition of Diplomacy

January 24, 2011 1 comment
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Weaknesses of Traditional Definition of Diplomacy

by Juan E. Dayang, Jr.

Among the various arguments laid out by “nascent school” against the “traditional school” of diplomatic studies are the following: (a) erosion of the dominance of nation-state in diplomacy due to the increase in the number and activities of non-state actors in international affairs, (b)  information revolution has changed the landscape of information gathering and has added a new dimension to the role of diplomats, and (c) the primacy of the foreign ministry as a sole entity for conducting foreign relations has eroded with the importance attached to economic diplomacy and, hence, the increased role given to experts from other government agencies in the areas of environment, trade, and labour migration.[1]

Rise of Non-state Actors

The argument against the traditional notion of diplomacy is that it is outdated and does not reflect present realities. Diplomacy is not only played out by states and diplomats.  Non-state actors are able to practice “faster, cheaper, and more effective unofficial diplomacy.”[2] Traditional diplomacy does not account to the unofficial diplomacy conducted by international organizations, by humanitarian and human rights groups such as the International Red Cross, by global markets in capital, stocks and currencies, and by the collective action of associations of states such as the EU and  Asean.     Multinational corporations such as Microsoft, Philips, Sony, Mitsubishi, and General Motors intervene in international affairs to protect their investments.[3] The “democratization” of diplomacy has also made nation-states consult NGOs and citizen’s groups and even engage them in Track II diplomacy.

The Information Revolution and Media have Created a Different Setting in which Diplomats Operate

The widespread use of communication media such as the internet and mobile phone devices makes the flow of information more dynamic. Critics argue that traditional reporting lines are no longer relevant as information transfer is almost instantaneous. For instance, the Foreign Ministry can be aware of developments in one part of the country simultaneously with, or even ahead of, the diplomat stationed in an embassy.  It may be argued that the diplomat’s role in information gathering and analysis has been changed by media outlets such as the CNN and BBC which provide timely information and analysis. The diplomat is therefore tasked with a different kind of information gathering, which involves not only filtering noise from relevant information but also identifying alternative sources of information that the media might not be privy to.

Eroding Primacy of States and Foreign Ministries

Hedley Bull advocated applying the term diplomacy to the “official relations not only of states but also of other political entities with standing in world politics”.[4] With this, he meant the bodies like the UN; other international organisations such as the ILO and WTO; and regional organisations such as the EU and Asean. Bull also included non-state actors such as political groups, i.e. PLO, which is recognised as a political actor in the world stage.

Langhorne predicts the “end of the diplomatic primacy of states” and concluded that the continuing “role of both foreign ministries and overseas missions” is threatened. He argued that the “profile of heads of government and other parts of the government machine domestically” will increase.[5] For instance, experts from ministries of environment, labour, and trade are given roles in international negotiations, a role dominated by professional diplomats in the past. Foreign Service personnel are no longer confined to the traditional notion of diplomacy. A diplomat’s job, for instance, covers such issues as trade promotion, assistance to nationals in distress, and identification of potential areas for economic cooperation, among others.

to be continued…


[1] Richard Langhorne, “The Diplomacy of Non-State Actors,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 16, no. 2 (2005).

[2] Stuart Murray, “Consolidating the Gains Made in Diplomacy Studies: A Taxonomy,” International Studies Perspectives 9(2008).

[3] See Langhorne, “The Diplomacy of Non-State Actors.”; Brian Hocking, “Privatizing Diplomacy?,” International Studies Perspectives 5(2004).

[4] Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (Macmillan, 1977).

[5] Langhorne, “The Diplomacy of Non-State Actors.”

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