2nd FICAC South Asia Regional Conference
Colombo, Sri Lanka, 12th August, 2013

  • H. E. Hon. D. M. Jayaratne MP, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
  • Ministers and other officials of the Government of Sri Lanka
  • Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps
  • President and members of the Association of Consuls in Sri Lanka, our superb hosts
  • Directors of the World Federation of Consuls
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen

I stand before you today, pleased and privileged to be part of this 2nd FICAC South Asia Regional Consular Conference.

I am humbled and deeply appreciative that H. E. Hon. D. M. Jayaratne, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka,has discerned the importance of the occasion and taken the time to add his presence to declare our 2nd South Asia Consular Conference officially open. What a great honour this is for us. Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister.

I cannot say enough about the graciousness and the hospitality that we have all received from we arrived here in beautiful Sri Lanka. Thank you very much.

The Association of Consuls in Sri Lanka, the host of this event, is a very important member of our Federation and they have done a marvelous job in organizing the 2nd FICAC Regional Consular Conference.

I would like to congratulate and thank the President of the Association of Consuls in Sri Lanka, Hon. Daya Weththasinghe, the Secretary, Hon. Maahen Kariyawasan, the members of the Organizing Committee and last but not least, Hon. Kartar Bhalla, Chairman of the FICAC South Asia Region.

I would like to thank you all for the excellent work that you have done in making this event possible.

When I look at the conference room, I have to make mention of the preparation, the beautiful setting, the wonderful atmosphere and the excellent attendance. Thank you again gentlemen. You have done our Federation proud.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of our Federation and tomorrow night, we will be honouring several Consuls in this region who have contributed greatly to their Consular Corps and to their country.

The World Federation of Consuls was established in Copenhagen in October 1982. Our Federation was born out of the necessity to bring together Consular Corps and Consular Associations to share experiences and coordinate efforts to enhance the effectiveness and status of the Consul.

Our Federation is incorporated in Belgium by Royal Decree as a non-profit international organization with its Permanent Secretariat located in Brussels.

The Federation’s business is conducted through several committees, each operating with clearly defined portfolios and terms of reference.

Our Board of Directors meets quarterly to evaluate action by the committees and take decisions on their recommendations.

Our Federation enjoys United Nations recognition as an NGO with ECOSOC status. We have similar recognition at the European Union and we are also recognized by the Organization of American States.

The World Federation of Consuls has achieved international credibility, recognition and influence.

Today, our Federation has over 90 country members, Associations and affiliated members with several thousand individual Consul members Our membership is a network of highly experienced well-connected individuals, whose determined focus, combined expertise and resources can be used to impact the world for good.

The practice of mutual respect and adherence to the principles recognized in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 will continue to guide the promotion of consular cooperation in each member country.

On 24th April, 2013, the World Federation of Consuls congratulated the United Nations on the 50th Anniversary of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. We celebrated the occasion in New York with a cocktail reception at which over 100 country representatives were present.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, unfortunately could not attend, but sent a message to our Federation which has been circulated to our membership worldwide.

The President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Vuk Jeremic, led the guest list of diplomats representing nations from all over the world.

It was an historic occasion, as our Federation is the only organization to have congratulated the United Nations on the 50th Anniversary of its Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

In the dynamic international arena of our times, the key to growth and development is partnership within and between nations.

FICAC provides an appropriate forum for consultation and networking as we build partnerships for the effective performance of our duties in a rapidly changing world.

Today the role of the State is vastly different from that which it played for most of the 20th century. New powerful actors have swept onto the international stage. Transnational corporations, aided by the forces of globalization, wield a vast influence on international decision making.

Non-governmental organizations and civil society rightly demand their space on the global stage.

The original concept of sovereignty gradually loses relevance in a world where states have declared a commitment to the charters of international organizations, to bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions, and to the growing body of international law and jurisprudence affecting every sphere of life.

It is in this context that diplomatic and consular representatives must constantly update the theory and practice of their craft, if they are to remain relevant to the global struggle for peace, security and sustainable development.

Consular operations can no longer be confined to the issuance of travel documents and attention to the welfare of nationals of the countries that we represent, as globalization has altered the framework of bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Several countries worldwide are closing their embassies for budgetary reasons and are appointing more honorary consuls to serve in countries where they have business interests.

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 which cannot afford global deployment of their foreign service.

A critically important component of the foundation of peace, democracy and development, is economic growth. In todays 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 is one of the main functions of the Consul, and its promotion is integral to my administration.

The purpose of the FICAC Trade Development Committee is to promote cross border business, trade development and networking among members. Its operation is to organize and host trade expos and trade missions.

The members of our Federation are ideally suited to participate positively in trade promotion activities. 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 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 commerce and industry, whereas the Diplomatic Corps is concentrated in capital cities, which in several cases are political rather than economic centres.

The Consular Corps include a very high proportion of Consuls with considerable business expertise and they are ideally suited for developing trade.

The members of our Federation are immersed in communities in ways in which diplomats cannot be, and their knowledge of local conditions and local products can be useful in identifying niche markets, distribution networks and new tradable 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.

International trade expos and trade fairs have been successfully organized by our members. The member corps that have done this, have seen their image and status grow considerably.

They have earned the respect of the Goverment of the country, and in particular the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the private sector and the public.

This programme will also develop better relations between the Diplomatic Corps and the Consular Corps, as the Diplomatic Corps involvement in the FICAC International Trade Expo is vital to its success.

This programme is unique. It is the only trade promotional programme worldwide that promotes trade directly between the sending and receiving states.

The FICAC International Trade Expo offers countries an opportunity to do business without having to deal with large budgets and large participation costs. It is an event which provides the right environment for bilateral and multilateral trade and information.

Our participation in the promotion of commercial links between member countries is of vital importance to us.

Sponsorship from the private sector is easily available because of the importance of this programme at national and international levels.

The future lies in the development of fair trade in this region and the rest of the world.

Our work in this modern world has taken on new and significant dimensions. Despite e-mails, 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 we are called upon to play. That is one of the opportunities that we have here in Colombo, Sri Lanka, over the next two days.

We look forward to insightful presentations and a productive exchange of views, to the end that the declaration to be issued by this conference will long be the compass for our endeavours.

And so I welcome you, I thank you for coming, I know that you will find this conference worth your while.

Thank you very much.