ST. AUGUSTINE, Trinidad and Tobago. Wednesday 16 June 2021 — On June 10th, 33 mostly Consular and Foreign Service Officers successfully completed a four-day online training module conducted by The UWI’s Diplomatic Academy of the Caribbean (DAOC), titled Advances in Consular Affairs in the Modern Diplomatic Mission: A Caribbean Perspective. An UWI first, this training was designed to strengthen the capacity of the consular corps of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. Representatives of nine CARICOM Member States took part in this training, with some based in capital and others posted in Port-au-Prince, Havana, London, Miami, New Jersey, New York, Ottawa, Toronto and Washington, D.C.
A comprehensive review of the legal framework within which the consular professional operates anchored the module, with focus also placed on international migration treaties. The module sought to provide participants with state-of-the-art and state of the practice training in consular affairs, taking a fresh look from a Caribbean perspective at: (i) migration issues and the diaspora; and (ii) salient issues at play in the age of the COVID-19 crisis and its consequential impact on the consular function.
“This inaugural module is emblematic of the DAOC’s commitment to moving ahead with curricular innovations, having regard to its strategic direction,” said DAOC Manager, Dr. Nand C. Bardouille. He underscored that: “In the wider context of the COVID-19 moment’s far-reaching effects, which have also negatively impacted the ability of CARICOM countries’ consulates to manage risks and expectations, this module is yet another timely, relevant and top-notch training deliverable that is intended to meet professional development needs germane to the field of diplomatic studies.”
The module’s lead facilitator, Ms. Gail P. Guy, a retired diplomat and protocol consultant, underlined that the module met its objectives. She highlighted the “historic nature” of the module, contending that, “it is unique in its orientation, adopting a Caribbean viewpoint and approach to training a cross-section of practitioners, who likely have not previously had exposure to this course of study here in the Caribbean.” The module’s co-facilitator, Dr. Natalie Dietrich Jones, who is a Research Fellow of SALISES at The UWI Mona Campus specializing in migration governance, observed that the training lent itself to debates on the nexus between migration studies and consular affairs.
The Minister Counsellor of the Barbados High Commission to the United Kingdom, Ms. Natalie Cox, hailed the teaching team’s knowledge and expertise. Other participants also conveyed these sentiments. Ms. Andria Narinesingh, Consul General (Ag.) at the Consulate General of Trinidad and Tobago in Miami said the module’s facilitators “brought a wealth of professional experience, practical advice and personal insights to bear, effectively blending theory and practice.” Consul General (Ag.) Narinesingh also remarked that, “the experience of this training module has greatly enhanced my perspective on my role as a consular officer and my professional skill-set.”
Speaking on behalf of the inaugural cohort of participants in this module, H.E. Verna Mills, Ambassador of Saint Kitts and Nevis to Cuba emphasized that the module exceeded expectations.
Ms. Earla Dyer, a member of staff in the St. Kitts and Nevis High Commission to the United Kingdom, noted that, “this comprehensive module is invaluable, and it should be a critical part of the on-boarding process for new Consular Officers, as well as a refresher course for seasoned Consular Officers.”
Still other participants provided positive feedback on the course content, presentation and delivery, expressing satisfaction with the teaching methodology, which incorporated peer-topeer learning. Participants characterized this dimension of the teaching as “having greatly enriched their learning experience.”
The Director of the Institute of International Relations (IIR), Professor Jessica Byron, stated that the consular training module had been in the making for some time now. Professor Byron recalled that the management of both the IIR and the DAOC had perceived the need to develop a module on the expanding scope of consular work and updated consular practices that would serve the needs of Caribbean consular and diplomatic personnel.
A roundtable capped the training, featuring two panellists. The Director of the Consular Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, Mrs. Ariel Bowen, was among the panellists on hand, providing best practice-oriented perspectives on key elements of module-related learning, including on diaspora policies/strategies and relations. This roundtable emerged because of a collaborative arrangement arrived at between the DAOC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica.
In addition to the course manual, the DAOC also made additional learning resources available to participants. This includes a pre-recorded, Zoom web conference facilitated interview held between the Head of the Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Mr. Olaf Fontenelle, and DAOC staff / teaching team, focusing on one of several diaspora population groups that were under discussion in the module: farm workers.
Mr. Tyson K. McKenzie, Foreign Service Officer & Case Manager (Citizenship, Permanent Residency & Overseas Missions) in the Department of Immigration of the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration of The Bahamas, noted “[m]y participation in this online module was very rewarding.” The Minister Counsellor of the Saint Kitts and Nevis High Commission to the United Kingdom, Ms. Elsa Wilkin-Armbrister, indicated that she would “recommend the module to other diplomats.”
The DAOC will build on the success of its in-demand module Advances in Consular Affairs in the Modern Diplomatic Mission: A Caribbean Perspective, conferred as a certificate, by offering a second iteration of it in the 2021/2022 academic year also in a virtual format. This online teaching modality forms an integral part of efforts to further internationalize the DAOC, which aims to make its expansive diplomatic training agenda even more accessible to a wider range of constituencies within and beyond the Caribbean.