In a context of globalization, open markets and communications revolution, more and more people are choosing to visit, work or live outside their country of origin. The concept of “global citizen” is becoming a reality and the complexity of this trend brings more pressures and new challenges for foreign affairs departments around the world. Since the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) came into being in 1963, national consular services have had to adapt and innovate, developing new business lines, practices and responses to meet contemporary challenges.
In September 2013, senior consular officials from 22 countries, representatives of the European Commission, and academia met at Wilton Park (United Kingdom) to discuss contemporary consular issues. At the conclusion of that meeting, all participants agreed that a continuing forum to discuss current issues in consular affairs, regularly exchange experiences and practices, and encourage greater international cooperation and sharing, is essential in an era of rapid and constant change.
The Global Consular Forum (GCF) was hence born as an initiative aimed at fostering increased international engagement and understanding of current consular policy and practice issues.
The goals of the Forum are:
• To exchange experiences, tools, best practices and lessons-learned in consular services, emergency management and crisis response.
• To promote and deepen a common understanding of consular issues and challenges.
• To find solutions to various international issues that can negatively impact consular service delivery, access, safe travel and protection of nationals in foreign countries.
• To explore new ways and opportunities to improve cross-border consular work and cooperation, including the development of various collaboration initiatives.
• To facilitate networking with consular decision-makers across of all participating governments.
• To encourage regional cooperation.
• To drive forward the international consular agenda, increase the profile of consular affairs globally and improve conditions for safe travel and delivery of consular services.
• To engage with other consular actors, such as the travel industry, in order to achieve the goals and mission of the Forum.
The second Senior Consular Officials meeting of the GCF in Cuernavaca, Mexico, May 26-28, 2015 attracted 25 countries and the EU and focused on seven themes/discussion topics, ranging from Emergency Management to Safe Travel Culture.
The second GCF reflected the spirit which has shaped this initiative since the start. We are problem solvers. We are pragmatists. We are a community of practice focused on delivering consular services effectively and efficiently. We want the GCF to be broadly representative of our world – diverse, drawing from all continents. We operate on a voluntary basis. Some may choose to collaborate in selected areas of our work, others may not. We are now a growing community of 38 members working with many partners – within governments, and with external stakeholders, including in the tourism and travel industry, as well as international organizations.
The next Senior Consular Officials meeting of the GCF will take place in October 25-27, 2016 in Seoul, Republic of Korea. There is now a desire for on-going sharing of ideas, best practices and innovations, collaboration in areas such as crisis response, training and possibly some joint activities and research to advance the legal and policy framework that supports consular relations. It is expected that 50-60 countries may attend, and that selected members form the private sector, international organizations and NGOs participate in panels at a day-long side-event.
We know that what the GCF is today and what it can become in the years ahead depends on what we each put into it and what it gives back in return. Given the diversity of our participation, we can expect that the calculus of value received will vary. The unique rights and responsibilities entrusted in us for the conduct of consular relations – built on the foundation of customary international law and the VCCR – are the inspiration for our continued collaboration. We intend that the GCF will develop as an important vehicle for that collaboration.
This website provides a focal point for interaction and exchange between members, and a key tool for advancing the objectives of the Global Consular Forum. It also provides information on trends and issues in the consular field. While the website is operated by the Secretariat, we invite all members to contribute to the relevance and utility of the website by contributing to its Working Groups research projects and policy discussions, by posting upcoming events, flagging relevant publications, offering and responding to requests for cooperation, showcasing your latest technologies or sharing lessons learned reports, advertising training opportunities or posting webinars, inviting other to join public/private partnership initiatives, inter alia. Certainly, your input, ideas and leadership, as general members, participants in Working Groups, or members of the Steering Committee, are essential to ensure the vitality and sustained value of this unique international initiative dedicated to consular affairs.
We look forward to receiving your comments, suggestions and support as we chart the course for enhanced engagement, exchange and cooperation across the full range of contemporary consular issues.
The Steering Committee