Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, has outlined a greater role for honorary consuls in the building of stronger diaspora relations.
During a meeting last Wednesday with the Honorary Consular Corps of Barbados at the Ministry on Culloden Road, Senator McClean said with the biannual Diaspora Conference slated for next year, there was room for the Corps??? involvement in this regard. ???I am sure that you can assist us with identifying where Barbadians are. We have relied very heavily on our people who are our primary resource and we believe that there are several ways in which we can get Barbadians to support what we are doing.???
She pointed out that the Corps was ???an important link??? in the island???s pursuit of multilateral and bilateral relations.
The Foreign Minister also stressed that the Honorary Consular Corps, representing various countries in Barbados and the honorary consuls in several cities around the world, ???complement our formal appointment of resident Ambassadors and High Commissioners. In several cities in the USA and Canada for example, we have honorary consuls with whom we have been working very closely,??? she said.
Senator McClean also disclosed that government was undertaking a review of its foreign policy and intimated that completion of this strategic document was critical to government???s thrust in other areas.
???It is not only intended to inform what we do in the ministry, it will reinforce the fact that in the execution of our foreign policy, the Ministry is primarily a facilitator. We are facilitating in the first instance, the work of several government agencies, the interests of our citizens whether in their capacity as members of the private sector or as individual citizens. In this context, there is an important part for you [honorary consuls] because we will then interface with you as representatives of the several countries,??? Senator McClean underlined.
She also spoke of engaging the missions overseas and several government entities against the backdrop of government???s thrust towards a green economy and the implementation of alternative energy initiatives.
Dean of the Honorary Consuls Corps, Selwyn Smith, who is also the Honorary Consul for Bahamas, gave the Foreign Affairs Minister a synopsis of their work, which includes issuing passports, travel documents and visas to nationals travelling to the sending state.
???These tasks are important and really require a whole team that is trained in such matters that would allow them to carry out their functions effectively. It is clear that this cannot be achieved without the assistance of the receiving government Barbados and the various agencies, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,??? Mr. Smith said.
He also said that the meeting was designed to thrash out any problems the Corps had faced in recent years and to hear about Government???s programmes to strengthen its operations.
The Dean of the Corps pointed out that the meeting was also timely, given the increase in requests for representation and additional responsibilities, due largely in part to changes on the international stage.
???I think the question facing us is how can we strengthen the relationship between government and the corps that can further the development of the commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between member countries and Barbados, he said.