Home » Structure of States » Diplomacy

So what is diplomacy, and what are its goals? The word has roots in ancient Greek. “Diplōma” means “an object folded in two.” That refers to the practice of an official folded document – a travel permit, license, and so on. The first to use the word was Irish philosopher Edmund Burke in 1796. However, the French used the word “diplomat” already before Burke.

Diplomacy is as old as civilization itself. The Ancient Greek city-state used it to communicate with each other, and so did all other societies before and after them. As time went by, new practices and systems emerged. Today, the machinery is much broader. Besides, institutions such as the United Nations, ASEAN, or the EU stand on diplomacy.

Diplomacy is an instrument of foreign policy. Hence, the two are not the same thing. The primary goal is to exchange information between two or more states. Diplomacy is not only a peaceful solution to solve a conflict. It is also an opportunity to build mutual respect and deeper relations. In summary, it is one of the most important aspects of sovereign states.

A peaceful solution, rather than a military conflict


Diplomacy has to have some structure. In 1961, states came to terms with a system with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It defines fundamental methods such as diplomatic immunity. That prevents a country from arresting a foreign diplomat o their territory.

In command of foreign policy is the minister of foreign affairs or equivalent (the Secretary of State in the USA). A state then has embassies around the world. An ambassador is in charge of the embassy. The state has many more diplomats besides the ambassador. 

Their primary goal is to represent their home country. And, the country that hosts them uses them to communicate with their home. For example, if a country wanted to warn another of some threat, they would invite the ambassador and inform them. The ambassador would then pass the information to his home.

An embassy is also the home of foreign intelligence agencies. The state usually disguises a spy as a diplomat. That may be an adverted face of diplomacy.

If you were to lose your passport abroad, you should visit your embassy to solve the problem! Hence, the embassy also serves as a office for its citizens abroad. And, on the other hand, it can also serve foreigners who wish to visit the respective country (or have other issues with them)!