The Global Consular Forum (GCF) 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. It presently counts some 25 countries as members.
The first GCF sponsored Forum of Senior Consular Officials was held at Wilton Park in 2013 with some 22 countries participating. Since then, under the leadership of an eight country Steering Committee (Australia, Canada, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Republic of Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom), the GCF has continued to foster exchange, innovation and cooperation through creation of a number of theme based working groups. Planning has also proceeded on staging of another general meeting of Senior Consular Officials.
The second Forum of Senior Consular Officials was held in Cuernavaca, Mexico and represented a unique opportunity to continue the process of examining and developing a greater collective understanding of the current issues and opportunities facing consular services. Participants considered creative ways of cross-border working through sharing of experiences, best practices and lessons learned. The meeting agenda was organised around seven broad themes with six of them being introduced by the Country Lead of a Working Group. Discussion papers were circulated prior to the meeting. The seventh theme, ‘Improving Consular Services’, provided space in the programme for countries to showcase their own innovations or best practices that may be of general interest.
- Emergency Management: UK, Netherlands
- Vulnerable Clients: Sweden
- International Legal framework: Australia
- Migrant Workers: Mexico & Turkey
- Family Services: Canada & Australia
- Safe Travel Culture: USA
- Improving Consular Services: Coordinated by Wilton Park
Key points from the meeting:
- The unique nature and importance of consular work presents a particular challenge at a time when demands on services are growing and resources are constrained. The profile of consular in ministries should reflect the high value of this work.
- Further partnerships with the private sector and non-governmental bodies could do much to expand the capacity of consular services in responding to the needs of citizens, maximising resources and building on expertise.
- There is scope to build on existing frameworks and conventions to further collaboration between governments and expand common platforms for joint working.
- Social media presents opportunities and challenges and more can be done to maximise its use, particularly in crisis and emergency response. There is no “one size fits all” and multiple forms of communication should continue to be deployed.
- Practical collaboration on eg information exchange, pooling of research findings and shared training will strengthen the capacity of individual countries in responding to the needs of citizens.
- Further research on some of the more complex areas identified in the body of this report would do much to enhance understanding of the issues and assist consular officials in responding to challenges.