Historic FICAC African Regional Conference A huge success

Twelve African countries participated.
Excellent representation from Europe, Asia, Latin America, USA and Caribbean

President Arnold Foote in his opening address at the conference said: I am deeply honoured to be here with you today at the first FICAC African Regional Consular Conference. This is the first time that my wife and I are visiting your beautiful country and we are very impressed with its beauty and with the excellent hospitality that we have received.

I would like to say a special thank you to the Vice President of the World Federation of Consuls who is also Dean of the Honorary Consular Corps of Ghana, Hon. Amarkai Amarteifio, Hon. Dimitri Avraam and the Organizing Committee who have done such a marvelous job in making this historic event a reality. I would like to say a special word of welcome also to all Deans and Consuls from the region and overseas for making the special effort to attend this historic event.

The World Federation of Consuls was established in Copenhagen on 2nd October 1982 to bring together Consular Associations and Corps to share experiences and co-ordinate efforts to enhance the effectiveness and the status of the Consul, the oldest institution serving international bilateral relations.

It was the Consul General of Monaco in Denmark, Hon. Vagn Jespersen who took the initiative of forming the Federation and was ably assisted by Consul of Luxembourg, Hon. Ole Olsen and Vice President Consul General of Bolivia Hon. Poul Akerlund.

Countries present and first signatories of the Resolution were: Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Hon. Consul General Vagn Jespersen served as President of the World Federation of Consuls for 13 years from the formation of the Federation in 1982 until 1995.

In 1995 the new President of FICAC was Consul General Andreas Mavrommatis. Five years later, in the year 2000 Consul General Peter Gad Naschitz of Israel was elected President. In 2003 at the World Congress in Athens, Consul General Roland Dahlman of Sweden was elected President.

In my acceptance speech as President of the World Federation of Consuls in 2006, I said then, that within FICAC, it is time to change the centres of influence to be more inclusive towards Asia, Africa and the Americas as well as Europe. Even the FICAC Constitution speaks about ‘equitable geographic representation’ as being a desirable goal.

I am therefore very pleased to stand before you today, proud and happy and privileged to be part of the very 1st FICAC African Regional Consular Conference.

The formation of the FICAC African Regional Consular Committee concludes our programme for establishing our Federation in every region of the world. This reaffirms that the aim of the Federation is to achieve greater communication, understanding and unity between its members in order to secure, improve and consolidate the position of Consuls, so that the ideals and principles of the members will be promoted and protected.

We must be conscious of our responsibility as Consuls as well as the principles of the superior aims and objectives that unite us. We should preserve, protect and develop the established and well-functioning Consular system, operating and acting for the benefit of the Sending and Receiving States.

Mutual respect and adherence to the principles recognized in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, should continue to be used to promote Consular cooperation in each member country.

We must learn from each other, cooperate with each other, and function as one well-established and strong system from which both the Sending and Receiving States can benefit.

I take this opportunity to urge our members to become responsible for spreading pertinent information about the Federation which can easily be obtained from our website and from the FICAC News. All Ministries of Foreign Affairs must become more aware of the valuable resources and possibilities available to them through their Consuls who have intimate knowledge of local conditions and international knowledge through their membership in the Federation.

There is no doubt that there is worldwide recognition of the need to enhance the protection and safety of Consular representation.

The changes of personnel in Ministries of Foreign Affairs worldwide are frequent, resulting in breaks in communication between the Consuls and Ministries. It is therefore important for us to maintain continuous contacts with the Ministries and reemphasize the duty of States to take all appropriate steps as required by international law; to protect the premises of Consular Missions, to prevent any attacks on Consular representatives, to apprehend the offenders and to bring them to justice.

The  protection and the   improvements  of security, safety and immunity and working conditions for Consuls as laid down in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations are of vital importance to us. We have formed a committee of knowledgeable and experienced Consuls to research and further develop this programme.

Our FICAC Consular Protection Committee will work with our members in developing this important communication with their Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

I am pleased to report that our FICACWORLD Website and FICAC News publication have received positive comments internationally.  The Pod casting on our Website has received many hits from all over the world and has become very popular.  The hits on the website and the readership of the FICAC News is so strong at this time that we are seriously considering the selling of advertising space as part of our effort to raise funds for financing the operations of the Federation.

Our Website is designed to carry news of Consular activities from every country in the world.  I take this opportunity to urge all our members to send news releases, with or without photographs to:  secretariat@ficacworld.org.

Our website is a critical tool in the development of our Federation.  Please use it and contribute to it regularly.

In 2006 at the General Assembly of the 8th World Congress of Consuls, where I had the honour to be elected president, I made a pledge of outreach and expansion of membership.  In keeping with this pledge we have:

  • We have formed the FICAC East Asia Regional Committee, under the Chairmanship of Hon. Dr. Virachai Techavijit.
  • We have formed the FICAC South Asia Regional Committee, underthe Chairmanship of Hon. Kartar Bhalla.
  • We have formed the FICAC Latin America Regional Committee, under the Chairmanship of Hon. Lamartine Hollanda Jr.
  • We have formed the FICAC Central America and Caribbean Regional Committee under the Chairmanship of Hon. Facundo Bacardi of Panama.
  • We have formed the FICAC East European Regional Committee under the Chairmanship of Hon. Petr Vodvarka.
  • We have formed the FICAC Middle East Regional Committee under the Chairmanship of Hon. Khaled Miqdadi.
  • Last but not least, we have formed the FICAC Africa Regional Committee, under the Chairmanship of Vice President Hon. Amarkai Amarteifio.
  • We have developed the FICAC/UNICEF Programme to raise funds to benefit underprivileged children with HIV/AIDS.
  • We have started discussions with the European Union on developing a partnership which will implement Trade Agreements and create real business opportunities.
  • We have organized trade promotional programmes which achieved huge success with the World Consular Fair in Bangkok and International Trade Expo in Jamaica.
  • We have successfully negotiated special discounts with British Airways for members of the World Federation of Consuls. If you are not aware of how to access these discounts, please contact our Secretariat for further and better particulars.

Consular operations can no longer be confined to the issuance of travel documents and attention to the welfare of the Nationals of the countries that we represent, as globalization has altered the framework for bilateral and multilateral cooperation.  Several Countries worldwide are closing their Embassies for budgetary reasons and are appointing Honorary Consuls to serve instead.  Developing countries are appointing more Honorary Consuls to represent their countries.

Today, therefore, I would like to share some perspectives with you, on these key international developments.

  • The role of the Honorary Consul must be expanded to encompass the full range of economic, political and diplomatic relations.
  • This expanded role is particularly important for developing countries and small States who cannot afford global deployment of their Foreign Service.
  • It is in this context that Consular representatives must constantly update the theory and practice of the craft, as we must become more relevant to the global struggle for peace, security and sustainable development.

A critically important component of the foundation of peace, democracy and development is economic growth.

In today’s world economy, which is being transformed by a comprehensive process of advanced globalization, international trade is the engine of economic growth, and has assumed an increasingly prominent role in State to State relations.

The development of trade and its promotion is one of the main functions of the Consul, and is also an integral part of the objectives of this Administration. The World Federation of Consuls is potentially ideally suited to participate positively in trade promotion activity.

Indeed Consular Corps have a comparative advantage in undertaking trade promotion because Consular Corps have a much broader geographic deployment and can therefore provide more extensive coverage than the Diplomatic Corps. This is particularly so for developing countries who are unable to afford diplomatic representation in all the locations where they have important economic interests.

The Consular Corps has a presence in all major cities, in the centres of business and commerce, whereas the Diplomatic Corps is concentrated in capital cities which, in several cases, are political rather than economic centres.

The Consular Corps include a high proportion of persons with considerable business expertise, and they are therefore ideally suited to trade promotion.

The members of the Consular Corps are more immersed in communities in ways in which Ambassadors cannot be, and their knowledge of local conditions and local products can be useful in identifying niche markets, distribution networks and new tradeable goods and services.

Consuls can be important conduits for information which can inform international trade negotiations and enhance the awareness and involvement of the public. We can make a meaningful contribution to the promotion of trade in this area, and I ask you all to give this matter serious consideration. The future lies in the development of fair trade in this region and in the world.

It is of critical importance for you to know that we abstain from all religious or political activities and from the practice of any discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, colour, religion or other such grounds.

Participating in programmes developed by the World Federation of Consuls will bring members added benefits. Programmes such as;

  • Education We have excellent contacts with the Centre d’Etudes Diplomatique et Strategique in Paris, a similar operation in London and Florida. Members who require particular educational programmes or background information can write to our Secretariat requesting such programme and material and a lecturer who is an expert in that particular field will be made available to them.
  • Trade The development of trade is one of the most important functions of the Consul. Members can network effectively in this area. International Trade Fairs and Expos have been organized by members successfully in the countries in which they have the honour to serve and working documents on these projects are available on request. The countries that are doing this on an annual basis have seen the image and status of the consuls and consular Corps involved grow considerably. They have earned the respect of the Government of the country and in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
  • Cultural Exchange Programmes International cultural events have brought similar results to Consular Corps who organize them. Working documents for these projects are also available at our Secretariat. Member countries can assist each other in organizing cultural event.
  • Negotiations Members of FICAC have benefited from assistance with disputes and other irregularities between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Consular Corps. We have successfully negotiated CC license plates and other benefits on behalf of members of the World Federation of Consuls.
  • Travel Benefits The British Airways deal has been successfully negotiated by FICAC and several Consuls have benefited and are benefiting from the British Airways Deal. Discussions are taking place with the Hilton Hotel chain which hopefully will bring positive results soon as that chain is very interested in working out a deal with us.
  • Information and Networking Information on member countries can easily be obtained either through their colleagues in that country or through our Secretariat. Sourcing of goods and services is one of the more frequent requests from members.
  • Lobbying The fact that our membership has increased considerably, makes the Federation a very important organization in this area and shows that FICAC has become a strong source of influence worldwide.
  • FICAC/UNICEF – Our Humanitarian Outreach Programme. Working Documents are available at our Secretariat (Either in Jamaica our in Brussels). This programme’s Slogan is “Consuls turning Caring into Action” The programme involves the Consular Corps organizing a formal fundraising banquet and inviting all the Consuls, Dignitaries, Diplomats, Ministers of Government and Business Leaders to attend. The price per ticket would naturally be larger than normal in order to be able to make a reasonable profit which would be handed over to UNICEF in that particular country. This Black Tie affair will become a great social event and the publicity for FICAC and UNICEF will be extremely strong and positive. This programme was successfully launched in Jamaica and Bangkok, Thailand. Other members are in the process of organizing similar programmes.

Being a member of FICAC lifts the status of the Consul by itself and I think that each Consul should promote the Federation by wearing a FICAC lapel pin when going to official functions.    

I would like before closing, to say a few words about our Board of Directors.  The Team that I have the honour to lead and to serve are exceptional gentlemen who have dedicated their time, energy and resources to the development of the World Federation of Consuls.  We have had more meetings in 1 year than other Administrations have had in their 3-year term of Office.  They are working very hard and making an excellent contribution to the development of your Federation.

Please give them a big round of applause.

I would like to say how pleased I am that this African Regional Consular Conference is now a reality, as this has been part of the initial major policy thrust of my Administration, as President, to reach out to the African region and to strengthen the Consular movements in this part of the world.

Our work in this modern world has taken on new and significant dimensions.  Despite Emails, Web Cameras and Video Conferencing, there is no substitute for meeting someone face to face, making personal acquaintances, building on the networks and friendships that we already have and making new friends and contacts.

That process can only increase our effectiveness in the roles that we are called upon to play.  That is one of the opportunities that we have here in Accra at this Conference.

And so, I welcome you.

I thank you for coming

I know you will find it worth your while and look forward to a productive and successful Conference.

Thank you very much.