Strengthening crisis management skills of Georgian consular staff abroad

At the end of October, MIEUX+ organised a simulation exercise for the staff of the General Consulate of Georgia in Bari, Italy, to improve their knowledge of crisis management response and disaster preparedness.

After the success of the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) project through the Consular Crisis Management Training (CCMT) initiative between 2016-2018, the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia  requested further assistance to guarantee an effective and coordinated assistance and protection of migrants in times of crises.

This is the third Action in Georgia and one of the first opportunities for the MIEUX+ team to develop training sessions for consular staff in the country. Since the beginning of the new phase in April 2020, there has been an increasing interest by governmental authorities in different regions for this specific capacity building activity, as exemplified by the ongoing Action in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Protecting nationals abroad through enhanced practical knowledge

The ongoing Action aims to strengthen the crisis planning and response capacities of consular staff and diplomats for improved assistance to Georgian migrants abroad. With 23% of nationals living abroad, many of them in the European Union this topic is highly relevant for the authorities and fitting for an exchange of knowledge and practices between experts from European Member States and Georgian public officials.

In the face of growing numbers of crises and intensifying human mobility over the past decades, greater research into the impact of crises on migrants, an increased understanding of various actors’ roles and responsibilities in emergency management, as well as clear guidelines can be vital to better equip relevant actors in Georgia on crisis preparedness, emergency response and post-crisis action.

The European Commission and different European countries had assessed positively Georgia’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak in spring 2020. Indeed, the suitable crisis preparedness and early preventive measures by the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions played a crucial role in ensuring effective assistance to fellow nationals and mitigation of the negative consequences. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to further enhance these measures with specific training sessions for consular staff.

The Georgia III Action began with an initial assessment of Georgian consular crisis management policies and training capacities in protecting nationals abroad to take into account past, current and possible crisis scenarios and build on the experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial review included action-oriented recommendations to respond to future health emergencies. Based on the assessment report and situation analysis, the project foresees an update of relevant policies and training curricula developed under the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) project by including health emergencies into the list of crises to be prepared for.

MIEUX+ experts from Slovenia and Austria conducted a knowledge exchange workshop with seven different embassies in Georgia earlier this year with participation from France, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and consular officials shared their best practices during the Covid-19 crisis. These activities will be further complemented with the development of training guidelines and materials to enhance the capacities of consular assistance during crisis situations.

Training the staff of the Georgian Consulate in Bari

One of the first training sessions and simulation exercises for consular staff and diplomats of Georgia has just been delivered in Bari. Those are extremely practical sessions where the consular staff is asked to act quickly and efficiently. In this case, the exercise consisted in the simulation of an earthquake. The experts recreated a real-life scenario with phone calls from citizens, media inquiries and nationals queuing outside the consulate.

Updates from the local hospitals and police were provided regularly during the session. The exercise proved to be greatly challenging and tested the stress-management skills of the participants. The session in Bari was welcomed highly positively by the consular staff.

Next steps

MIEUX+ will keep on conducting simulation exercises in different embassies and related training guidelines and materials will be reviewed based on the feedback received from participants. On this basis, the MIEUX+ team and experts will support the partner institution to plan the replication of these sessions with other staff to ensure sustainability.