The UK has 255 honorary consuls working across the nation representing 110 countries, so what does this exclusive diplomatic network do exactly?
International Public Relations Specialist, Kevin Kelway, investigates and talks exclusively to the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Belarus Michael Rye, who is also the President of the Consular Association in Wales.
84-year-old Michael Rye, was born in Lower Compton, Plymouth, and is not only one of the longest-serving honorary consuls for the Republic of Belarus, but is still very busy during the coronavirus shutdowns, working extremely hard to foster UK and Belarusian business and cultural links from his home in Wales, online.
Mr Rye, says: “I was formally approached for the role 17 years ago, but I’ve been working with partners in Belarus for the past 26 years. My appointment needed to be approved by the British and Belarusian Governments before I could start,“
“Not all honorary consuls are based in grand buildings with flags flying outside and I work out of my home. My job is to encourage commercial opportunities, and forge business links, academic, sporting, and cultural activities between the UK and Belarus.“
“Every one of the 255 honorary consuls as a different remit in their roles in the UK, and it’s not a privilege, but an honour to be an honorary consul. My job is to augment Belarus’s diplomatic mission across the home countries, but crucially in bringing benefits to both our countries’ trading relationships,” he added.
“We are now in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and so much of my work is now online and virtual, but it’s very important to keep fostering our links through these challenging times.“
“Following Brexit, we will be facing fresh challenges in the diplomatic world and these new challenges require new negotiating solutions. Provided by fresh insight from new ways of communications that we are already seeing in 2020 I already see many companies in the UK and Belarus taking into account these new trading patterns.“
“With all these challenging times ahead, the role of Honorary Consuls is more important than ever in leading actors of change in attracting business, culture, education, environmental exchanges.“
“As consuls, our priorities are defined by our embassies and sending countries. I believe we are the key through which access to Ambassadors and government connections can foster relations. We bridge the gap, we help build goodwill through political avenues, develop alliance in all sectors from Chambers of Commerce, education, tourism, and cultural associations,” said Mr Rye.
“Honorary consuls are on the frontline and working very hard to create opportunities for businesses to work together during this coronavirus pandemic, and whatever the political situation in Belarus, the fundamentals are still the same in fostering two-way links between our countries,”
“What I love about the people of Belarus is their work ethic, and always a positive outlook whatever the problems. It is a neat and tidy country, and progressing at a massive rate and especially public transport and electric buses.”
“All nations are ambitious and without that, they end up at the mercy of greater powers. The 21st century global economy offers both opportunities and challenges. It will be important to position the UK optimally amidst these changes and craft policies that will generate benefits across the country and our represented countries”
If you have an interest in building relationships with Belarus, or indeed any other consulate activities, do get in touch!