A diplomat is a person appointed by a State or national government to conduct diplomatic activities with a foreign State or government, or with foreign entities such as international organizations. Diplomats are often public officers commissioned by the Government to supervise and conduct affairs in the name of the Government in foreign countries. The diplomat is also charged with the power to represent their country on the international scene, to conduct official negotiations and political, economic and social relations with other countries. Diplomats also enjoy diplomatic immunity, in the same way as Foreign Affair Ministries and ministerial offices. The highest diplomatic rank is the one of Ambassador, and all other diplomats are a part of the diplomatic corps and form a collective body.

The principal missions of diplomats are the representation and protection of the State’s interests, the negotiation and conclusion of strategic deals related to Treaties and International Conventions, and the facilitation of the commercial exchanges. The rules framing the profession of diplomats are governed by Diplomatic Law.

A distinction is made between bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy. On the one hand, bilateral diplomacy concerns the relations between one State and another State, whereas multilateral diplomacy is oftentimes organized within international organizations such as the United Nations or the European Union. Multilateral diplomacy sets a frame for States to negotiate on matters in which all participating States have an interest. Finally, diplomacy is also part of the consular field, which concerns civil status and the protection of citizens living abroad, alongside rules of visa attributions to foreigners.

The rules regulating the profession of diplomats vary by country. In the U.S., the high functions relating to diplomacy are open to non-diplomats. In the U.S. 30-40% of the ambassadors are not career-diplomats but are members that have a close political relation to the President. Other countries like France, for example, diplomats have historically attended specialized schools like the ENA (National School of Administration), from which the Foreign Affairs Advisors graduate.

 [Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]