What is diplomacy? Foreign Affairs in understandable language | ministries

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Blog Posts | 07-06-2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Diplomacy is important for world peace, security, human rights and prosperity. But what exactly is diplomacy? What does a diplomat do? And why are diplomats inviolable? We explain.

Ambassador Elsbeth Akkerman on a working visit to an asparagus grower in Vietnam.

What does diplomacy mean?

Diplomacy is the consultation between representatives of countries to achieve a particular goal. You can quickly think about preventing or resolving conflicts. But diplomacy is also about increasing cooperation between countries. For together we are stronger. By consulting and concluding agreements, the Netherlands cooperates with other countries on issues such as climate, security, human rights and development aid.

The Netherlands wants to reach a goal – but does it also help another country? Or the other way around: another country has a proposal, but does it fit into our Dutch values ​​and interests? The art of diplomacy is to find answers to such questions together. And to ensure that both countries make progress. And it is a profession in itself.

Why is diplomacy necessary?

The Netherlands is very dependent on the rest of the world. This is due to our foreign trade, but also because there are challenges that we cannot handle on our own. Think of climate change, refugee flows or the corona. Our security also often starts outside the border. Such as terrorism or cyber attacks. By cooperating and making agreements with other countries, diplomacy contributes to a better and more stable world. And therefore also a safer and more prosperous Netherlands.

Diplomats are available worldwide through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For Holland and Holland. But what exactly do they do?

Diplomat in South Sudan
Joost Klarenbeek (Special Envoy for Migration) in Juba, South Sudan. In conversation with, among others, Deputy Foreign Minister Deng Dau Den Malek. On migration between the EU and the Horn of Africa (Khartoum Process).

What does a diplomat do?

Diplomats build ties with other countries. Think of an ambassador’s job (read also: what does an ambassador do?) Or a consul general (read also: what is the difference between an embassy and a consulate?). For the Netherlands, diplomats are also eyes, ears and voice abroad. They are in close contact with the municipalities, organizations and citizens and know what is going on in the country. In this way, the Netherlands can respond to what is happening outside our borders.

The Netherlands has 150 embassies, consulates and representations worldwide: small pieces of the Netherlands abroad. For example, they also help Dutch people abroad and issue visas to people who want to come to the Netherlands.

Diplomacy in action

Each country has different rules, interests and a different culture. A diplomat is trained and educated to take this into account. But of course a diplomat also wants to achieve something. Some examples of diplomats in action:

Ambassador Margriet Vonno in Singapore
Ambassador Margriet Vonno is visiting a project in Singapore.

What is diplomatic immunity?

Diplomatic immunity means that diplomats must not be threatened or prosecuted. This is agreed internationally in the Vienna Convention. Countries are even obliged to protect each other’s diplomats. It’s the only way to stay in touch – even when the tension is high.

Diplomats must, of course, comply with the laws of the country in which they are located. Do they not? Then that country can hold the diplomats accountable, or even send them back. This happened, for example, during the Ukraine crisis. The Netherlands then expelled 17 Russian intelligence officers who worked under a diplomatic cover.

Why is a diplomat inviolable?

Diplomats work for the interests of their own government and compatriots. Think of an ambassador who helps Dutch people when they get into trouble. Or a permanent representative of the United Nations (UN) who is running for the Netherlands. Diplomats should not take risks for things they do or say on behalf of their own country. For only without coercion or intimidation can one reach fair solutions.

How to become a diplomat?

You can become a diplomat in different ways. The most common is through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (or another ministry). The ministry has its own work and development process International Policy Officer Foreign Affairs (IBBZ)† Every year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeks people with different backgrounds and fields of study. From sinologists to Arabs, from experts in food security or climate to astronomers and everything in between.

At Working for the Netherlands, you can read stories from the practices of international political officials.

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