Consular diplomacy's first challenge: Communicating assistance to nationals abroad
Jan Melissen, Senior Fellow International Relations and Diplomacy at ISGA, researched the topic of consular diplomacy in a digital age. Specifically: the communicative challenge.
- Jan Melissen
- 21 April 2020
Providing information and assistance to nationals abroad is a major challenge, and governments are well advised to go about this activity in a more citizen‐centric fashion. It is therefore important for ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) and their consular divisions to acquire a deeper understanding of their nationals' communicative behaviour. Creativity from a new generation of tech‐savvy diplomats is going a long way in applying digital tools to consular challenges, but greater control across communication channels, and therefore management capacity, is required. Getting through to citizens in a fragmented communication environment in the 2020s implies the strategic coordination of various forms of offline and online communication. Framing consular services in market terms and identifying citizens as customers would, however, go against the MFAs' own interests. Governments would do well to view consular assistance as part of their growing diplomatic engagement with domestic society. Analysis of consular policy and practice also suggests that there are good reasons for MFAs to articulate existing links between consular assistance and wider foreign and security policy, rather than seeing ‘consular’ as a self‐contained activity.
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