The words diplomat, envoy, attaché, and ambassador are all connected with foreign relations, but in what capacity? This article explains.
Definition, Description, and Function of a Diplomat, Envoy, Attaché, and Ambassador
– A diplomat is sent to represent her/ his nation in a foreign country to further its interests. The word diplomat is said to have been derived from the Greek word diplomates, which means “holder of a diploma” or “letters of accreditation.” It is akin to the documentation that gives a diplomat the authority to do his/ her job.
The specific functions of a diplomat are as follows: to observe, determine, collect, and report information on how best to negotiate treaties and agreements; to create policies; to conduct trade; to maintain good relations between their home country and the host country to which they are assigned; to protect the interests of their home country; to protect and assist fellow citizens living in or visiting the host country, and to issue visas for host country citizens wanting to visit, study, work, or seek refuge in their home country. A diplomat may also manage embassy staff and/ or operations.
Diplomats must be of high moral character; prudent; honest; communicative; charismatic; friendly; love people, travel, cultures, and politics; speak more than one language; have keen and current knowledge about foreign lands, including the structure of government, policies, political and social climates; and the ability to handle stress and loneliness well. These characteristics and expertise are essential to garner the trust necessary to successfully perform their duties.
Diplomats interact with the host country’s dignitaries and regular folk by attending many meetings, conferences, parties, state dinners, and other events; some of which they arrange themselves. Length of a diplomat’s assignment in a country is usually one to three years.
– An envoy also acts as a representative, messenger, delegate, or emissary of his/ her government in a foreign country. The words envoy and diplomat are often interchanged, but an envoy is second in ranking to an ambassador (to be discussed later). The word envoy is derived from the French word envoye, which means “sent” or the verb envoyer, which means “to send.”
Since envoys are sent on special missions, their assignments are usually temporary. They may be assigned to negotiate a specific treaty, trade agreement, or peaceful relations. You might see the terms “Envoy Extraordinary” and “Minister Plenipotentiary” (having the full power or authority to represent your government) associated with envoys. You might hear them being addressed as “Minister” or “Her/ His Excellency.”
Envoys like diplomats must be of high moral character with prudence and integrity. They must also be communicative, friendly, and charismatic; love to travel and learn about other cultures, politics, and history; speak more than one language, and deal with stressful situations well. Envoys also host or attend similar functions as diplomats.
– An attaché is an official or specialist assigned by a government agency to a foreign embassy to promote a specific interest of her/ his country such as politics, economics, culture, or media. This official could be a diplomat or simply part of an embassy’s support staff. The word’s origin is French and means “attached.”
An attaché’s duties depend on her/ his specialty. They may lead an agricultural mission to promote trade with the host nation, which may involve the investigation, assessment, and management of a situation; meet with their host country’s counterparts; create schedules and programs, and write reports.
Obviously, they must be versed in their field of specialty as well as possess most of the other characteristics and line of study as the aforementioned diplomat and envoy. An attaché may be assigned for as long as five years.
– An ambassador, also called ambassador extraordinary and ambassador plenipotentiary, is the highest ranking diplomat appointed as a permanent representative of his/ her country on foreign soil. The word’s origin comes from Middle English ambassadour, the Old French ambassdeur, and Old High German ambaht servia, all of which means “messenger.”
Ambassadors live and work in their assigned countries for several years because it takes that long to become fully immersed in the host country’s culture and acquire the level of trust needed. They generally live in or near the embassy. Their functions could include negotiating treaties; procuring trade for their homeland; working for peace; promoting social justice; assisting in wars on terrorism or drugs, and protecting their homeland citizens. Ambassadors are usually addressed as “Mr. or Madam Ambassador” ( United States/ U.S.) or “Your Excellency.”
In some countries, formal studies or degrees are not required for an ambassadorship. Overall, the individual should have an understanding of home and host country’s governments, policies, political and social climates, and culture; an adaptability to change (since she/ he has to live abroad); strong leadership; resiliency in negotiations; effective management style, and of course, be of high moral character.
How is a Diplomat, Envoy, Attaché, and Ambassador Chosen or Assigned?
How a diplomat, envoy, attaché, or ambassador is assigned really depends on their home country, but certain generalizations apply.
– To become a diplomat one may have to undergo written, oral (as in U.S.), physical, and psychological testing, a background check, and interviews. The written exams will most likely be on local and international governmental affairs, politics, policies, and culture. Though a college or post-college degree in the areas of international relations, politics, or law is unnecessary, it is preferable.
Note all diplomats are not assigned abroad. Some, as in the case of the U.S., are assigned at the United Nations (U.N.) headquarters, in New York City or in Washington, D.C., the U.S. capitol.
– An envoy could be chosen on the basis of civil exams, and must undergo background checks and interviews.
– An attaché must have a bachelor’s or advanced degree in his/ her field of expertise: law, politics, commerce, etc. They go through an application process, and possible language testing.
– An ambassador is usually appointed by a country’s head of state such as a president or a prime minister. In the case of the U.S., an ambassador is nominated by the president and must be approved by the Senate. If that body is in recess, the president can then make what is termed a “recess appointment,” but this appointee has to serve until the end of the Senate’s session following the appointment, according to the article “What Does an Ambassador Do?” from the website http://work.www.chron.com. The ambassadorial appointee must also be approved by the host country.
Types of Diplomats, Envoys, Attachés, and Ambassadors
– Types of diplomats, envoys, attachés, and ambassadors depend on how they are classed by their home country and the embassy duties to which they are assigned. The United States’ diplomats are usually called Foreign Service Officers. Some may be Management Officers, Economic Officers, Political Officers, or Public Diplomacy Officers.
– A special envoy is someone appointed for a specific mission such as to resolve a human rights violation or trade conflict between home and the foreign nation. The appointee need not hold a diplomatic rank. A group of envoys working at a foreign embassy is termed a “diplomatic mission,” according to the article “What Is an Envoy?” from the website http://www.wisegeek.com.
– Attachés are defined by their field of expertise. For instance, there are legal attachés, media or press attachés, commercial attachés, military attachés, army attachés, naval attachés, and cultural attachés.
– A resident ambassador is usually appointed to one foreign country. An ambassador-at-large is appointed to serve in a particular region of the world or to serve a number of neighboring countries. They may also represent their country at a body such as the U.N. or European Union. An ambassador without a political agenda is called a goodwill ambassador. They are usually celebrities, activists, or well-known people appointed by non-government or non-profit organizations such as the United Nations International Emergency Children’s Fund better known as UNICEF. Examples of well-known recent UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors: actress Alyssa Milano, singer Katy Perry, and former British soccer star David Beckham. Goodwill ambassadors are also termed special envoys.
Historical Accounts and Other Pertinent Information about Diplomats, Envoys, Attachés, and Ambassadors
– Negotiations between various groups or communities of people have always existed. But we have the Italians to thank for our current forms of foreign relations, which they created in early 14th century.
– Under the edict of Congress of Vienna of 1815 and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, all embassy staff are issued special privileges, including diplomatic immunity, meaning they are protected and cannot be arrested or imprisoned while living and working in foreign countries.
So, if you were wondering what the difference was between a diplomat, envoy, attaché, and ambassador, now you know. These may be difficult jobs, but if you have what it takes, they could prove exciting. Besides, foreign relations officers or agents are a very necessary part of today’s world.
Karen S. Johnson, Demand Media, “What Does an Ambassador Do?” http://work.chron.com.
“What Is an Envoy?” http://www.wisegeek.com.