The Role of a Diplomat for International Relations

Rajaratnam diplomacy

Dr. Telli C Rajaratnam

Diplomats do a very important job for their countries. Almost every country in existence has  diplomats who are sent out to various countries for the purposes of negotiating and mediating relations between the two governments.

The main meeting place for diplomats is at the United Nations building in New York City, but they occur in embassies all over the world, and between most nations. It is good for people to understand foreign policy, because very often it can play an important role in the news.

A diplomat lives in the country that he is trying to communicate with. They are placed in strategic locations that are close to many local government buildings, allowing all diplomats to quickly establish contact and begin their jobs of speaking with the foreign rulers. They are also granted something called diplomatic immunity to protect them while in a foreign country, and to allow them to do their job well.

Usually a diplomat’s main goal is to simply maintain good relations with the country in question. By speaking with the leaders and establishing a friendly relationship, a diplomat not only establishes himself as a trustworthy person, but also builds trust in his own country. This could even be for the ultimate goal of establishing a treaty or becoming allies. Usually much of the communication will cover issues such as foreign aid, and what exactly watch country expects of the other. If done correctly, diplomacy is a great way for countries to get every single issue out on the table and establish a great relationship.

Unfortunately few career Diplomats are selected go overseas. Political appointments have seldom proved successful due to lack of expertise. In most countries a non career diplomat is given basic training on the etiquette of diplomacy and international relations. One should take a class on foreign policy. Some people find this boring, but if one is interested in how countries interact with each other it will surely find the classes on foreign policy to be intriguing. With the proper education, one could probably become a diplomat  and get involved with one of the most important aspects of the government.

Duties of a Diplomat

Diplomats maintain good relations with host country while advancing their home country’s foreign policy.

  • Diplomats represent their home country and maintain good relations with the host country, or the country in which they work, which is normally located in the host country’s capital. “Diplomat” is the general term used to describe everyone in the foreign service from the ambassador to his entourage of assistants. To protect them while they are in a foreign country, they are granted diplomatic immunity, or freedom from prosecution, by the host country

Promoting Friendly Relations

    • Diplomats are responsible for developing commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the host country and the home country. They negotiate with the government of the host country and discuss issues such as foreign aid or treaties.

Protecting Interests of Home Country

    • Diplomats protect the interests of their home country and its citizens by providing updates about political and economic developments in their host country. They help their citizens who are traveling abroad and they also evacuate refugees. They explain and defend the foreign policy of their home country in a diplomatic way.

Providing Consular Services

    • Diplomats issue passports, travel documents and visas. They also give financial assistance to the citizens of their home country who become destitute in the host country. They visit their citizens who have been arrested and provide appropriate assistance. They help the relatives of citizens who died abroad.

Acting as Spokesperson

    • Diplomats hold press conferences in the host country on issues related to their home country. They answer questions from the local and foreign media assigned in their host country on matters that involve their home country and its citizens.

What Are Diplomatic Roles?

Some country’s diplomats take on many roles within the Foreign Service.

Diplomats in the Foreign Service perform multiple duties on behalf of their respective countries while serving abroad. The Foreign Service separates its officers into five separate career subjects, called cones. Officers choose their cone at the beginning of their career and cannot shift to another. Each cone has specific responsibilities abroad, from helping their respective country’s citizens to working with foreign governments to managing embassies and consulates.


    • The consular cone focuses on aiding their respective citizens abroad as well as processing visa applications from foreigners. Consular officers ensure  their respective country’s citizens to have access to legal counsel abroad, evacuate their respective country’s citizens in security situations, facilitate adoptions and help their respective country’s citizens abroad with important travel information. They also review all visa applications from foreign nationals and are the first line of defense against terrorists attempting to enter the country.


    • Foreign service political officers work directly with foreign government officials and spend the most time attempting to influence policy decisions of foreign countries. Political officers spend considerable time learning the details of the country in which they are stationed and become experts in the culture, policies and personalities of the country.


    • Officers in the economic cone represent the economic interests of their respective country’s citizens abroad. They have similar duties as political cone officers but focus specifically on the economic conditions of their country assignment. They may negotiate free-trade agreements or bilateral investment treaties with foreign governments. Economic cone officers also work with their respective country’s companies operating in foreign markets, helping them with contract bidding and other bureaucratic issues.

Pubic Diplomacy

    • Public diplomacy officers in the Foreign Service interact the most with citizens of foreign countries. These officers speak with foreign journalists, act as embassy spokespeople and organize cultural exchanges.


    • Management officers handle the administrative needs of embassies and consulates abroad. They arrange housing and transportation for embassy workers, coordinate visits from high-ranking oficials and maintain embassy buildings. Almost all aspects of the actual running of an embassy fall under the portfolio of the management cone.

The duties of a UN Diplomat

A diplomat at the U.N. has a multi-faceted role. The diplomat’s duties include:

  • Working out mutually agreeable solutions with other diplomats in a complex multinational arena.
  • Finding the best possible means of achieving the instructions of their foreign ministries and presenting the foreign policy of their governments.
  • Keeping their foreign ministry abreast of important developments at the United Nations and submitting recommendations and suggestions for initiatives or changes in policies or positions when circumstances suggest such initiatives and changes are both expedient and necessary.
  • Promoting understanding and stability among the members of the international community in spite of tensions and constant political change.

U.N. diplomats perform their duties at the U.N. through intense communication and regular contact with other delegates. The exchange of information allows diplomats to parade their interests in the hope of finding endorsement by others. Cliques abound and caucuses emerge as the political landscape at the United Nations changes in response to international political events. Information and knowledge are the most important tools of a diplomat. The most influential diplomats are recognized for their particular talents in communications, analysis and judgement.

Information gathering constitutes an important part of a diplomat’s daily routine. All diplomats analyze the atmosphere at the U.N. where they frequently encounter new trends and developments in the multilateral sphere. They provide their foreign ministries with information that facilitates the formulation of foreign policy, and in turn utilize this same information to pursue new opportunities in their efforts to achieve national objectives. Accurately analyzing, interpreting, and predicting trends requires expertise in the substance of the issues at the United Nations, as well as a certain amount of intuition. However, even the most intuitive diplomats must have some ability to judge the political implications of their analysis. Also, they should have exceptional knowledge of the institutions and fora of the U.N. as well as the political realities outside of the United Nations, to be successful.

Effective diplomats spend considerable time preparing for the arduous work they face at the United Nations. The milieu of a U.N. diplomat involves a complex mixture of issues and personalities and involves constant adjustment to the fast pace of the U.N. diplomatic scene. Diplomats need to know who are the important players on an issue, and how to find opportunities to influence or become involved with those “calling the shots“.

When a diplomat’s government decides to take the initiative or assume leadership on an issue, he or she us expected to know where contentions lie and with whom to discuss the matter. Of course, the most important people to negotiate with are individuals who can deliver votes or exert influence on a given resolution or issue. Networking is thus an essential part of a U.N. diplomat’s professional life. If a diplomat lacks the skills to build networks and relationships, he or she will find it difficult, perhaps even impossible, to effectively realize his or her government’s instructions and foreign policy objectives.

Obviously, no one can be everywhere and do everything at once, so knowing where and when to sacrifice attention is essential. An experienced diplomat compensates by structuring relationships within the missions, the delegations, or the caucus groups so that other can fill any gaps. Yet it is difficult and time-consuming to develop these relationships unless one has a good insight into human nature and considerable international experience to know what works and what does not. Many countries have a small diplomats staff in their missions. This adds to the already heavy workload of the men and women representing these countries at the U.N. In the case of the smaller missions, the diplomats are forced to carefully select the issues and meetings they will deal with. It is common not to have enough personnel to make individual assignments to an issue or committee, but instead to have each staff member cover several issues at the same time.