Key skills for the five main diplomatic functions (2022)

Diplomats represent their governments in fulfilling a number of professional tasks that can be best performed if they possess or are trained to develop key sets of skills corresponding to the five recognised functions of diplomats:

Representation, protection of national interests, negotiation, reporting, and promotion of friendly relations. Such skills can also be of interest for non-diplomats engaged in professional activities involving contacts with foreign people or cultures.

(Video) Diplomatic Tools of Foreign Policy

The 1961Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relationscodifies centuries of practice and standards applied to relations between states. Once diplomatic relations are established between two nation-states, they can decide to exchange diplomatic missions or embassies led by a Head of Mission or an Ambassador; vis-à-vis each other, they become both a ‘sending State’ and a ‘receiving State’. One important article of the Convention describes the functions of diplomats to be exercised within the diplomatic mission. There are five recognized ones, which call for some specific skills required from the diplomats.

1)Representing the sending State in the receiving State”: this task of official representation means that the Ambassador is the personal envoy of his/her Head of State to the Head of State of the host country. Similarly, diplomats working in the host country under the leadership of the Head of Mission are considered as representatives of their governments at all times. This means that they cannot interfere in the host country’s domestic affairs (for instance by making public political statements); they cannot carry out commercial activities; they have a duty of discretion. In order to be protected from local pressures, they enjoy inviolability (of the diplomat, his/her premises and vehicle), immunity of jurisdiction, and tax exemption. However this does not mean impunity in case they break the local law: they can be recalled by their governments and prosecuted in their home countries or they can be declared ‘personae non gratae’ and expelled. In sum, the skills required here arerestraint, integrity, dignity, professionalism.

2)Protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law”: this means that the main purpose of the diplomats’ activity is to promote national interests whether diplomatic, economic, commercial, cultural, etc. This includes catering to the needs of one’s nationals living or travelling in the host country, which is also the main activity of the Consulate or Consular section of the Embassy. Diplomats working to serve their countries should therefore display qualities ofpatriotism,loyalty,national pride, and agood knowledge of their national policies.

(Video) How To Be More Diplomatic & Polite - Business English

3)Negotiating with the Government of the receiving State”: negotiation is an essential part of diplomatic activity. In a bilateral context, between two governments, irrespective of the scope of the negotiation (from a protocol arrangement for an official visit to a wide-ranging trade agreement), negotiation skills require:good knowledgeof the topic (or reliance on experts);flexibilityand readiness forcompromise(at the proper moment and not without compensation); and a sense ofwin-win outcome. In a multilateral context, with potentially multiple partners and adversaries, negotiation is more complex but requires the same skills, and, in addition, a sense ofinitiativeandcoalition building. Let’s above all remember the wise words of Hans Blix, the former Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): “It is underestimated how important dignity is between people and how important it is not to humiliate.”2

Related article:

Five ways to remain diplomatic without shaking hands. Read now.

(Video) Working in Diplomacy: Careers with the U.S. State Department (September 24, 2021)

4)Ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State”: this is about the traditional and standard work of diplomats: observing (via lawful means, i.e. excluding espionage) and reporting. This calls for skills that can be acquired and developed on the job:prior knowledgeof the situation and willingness tounderstandit better; goodcontacts and interactionwith all sectors of society, from officials to civil society;agilityin writing timely, clear, and concise reports to the right echelon, with the added value ofanalysiscompared to information available from other sources (mainly media, including social media).

5)Promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State,and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations”: finally, the tasks of diplomats include the promotion of good relations between their countries in all spheres. This requires active contacts with all sectors of the local population, not only the officials and the elites. Diplomats are expected toentertainguests on a regular basis, hence the need for them to have good knowledge of both universal and localprotocol rulesand a good practice ofcross-cultural communication.

[1]Former French diplomat (1977-2016), Senior Advisor, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP).

(Video) What Do Diplomats Do? What are the roles of a diplomat? How do you become a diplomat?

[2]European Leadership Network, “Interview with Hans Blix: ‘The most important lesson in diplomacy is not to humiliate’”, 23 January 2019 (

Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions expressed in the written publications are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those shared by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy or its employees. The GCSP is not responsible for and may not always verify the accuracy of the information contained in the written publications submitted by a writer.


Key skills for the five main diplomatic functions? ›

Representation, protection of national interests, negotiation, reporting, and promotion of friendly relations.

What are the diplomatic skills? ›

Examples of diplomatic skills
  • Communication. Communication skills are one of the most important skill sets that make up your diplomatic skills. ...
  • Empathy and compassion. ...
  • Conflict resolution. ...
  • Problem-solving. ...
  • Critical thinking. ...
  • Analytical skills. ...
  • Customer service. ...
  • Develop strong soft skills.
Mar 2, 2021

What skills should a diplomat have? ›

Diplomats need strong analytical, organizational, and leadership skills. They must have good judgment and high integrity. In addition, they must be able to communicate effectively, both in writing and orally. They must be able to learn at least one foreign language, often several, during their careers.

What are the five types of diplomacy? ›

Thus, starting from ad-hoc diplomacy, then classical diplomacy and then multilateral diplomacy, we identified the following types of diplomacy: cultural, parliamentary, economic, public, and military.

What are the major functions of diplomatic mission? ›

According to the Vienna Convention, the functions of a diplomatic mission include (1) the representation of the sending state in the host state at a level beyond the merely social and ceremonial; (2) the protection within the host state of the interests of the sending state and its nationals, including their property ...

How could you use diplomatic skills in your everyday life? ›

Having confidence and patience, the ability to listen, the openness of mind and heart to compromise and the drive to complete the work demanded, are all everyday diplomacy skills, that are elements of your power to thrive in work and life.

What are the soft skills? ›

Soft skills include attributes and personality traits that help employees interact with others and succeed in the workplace. Examples of soft skills include the ability to communicate with prospective clients, mentor your coworkers, lead a team, negotiate a contract, follow instructions, and get a job done on time.

What are the key characteristics of a good diplomat? ›

Ideal Qualities of a Successful Diplomat
  • Possess an abiding interest in and passion for the art and craft of diplomacy and international relations. ...
  • Demonstrate an analytical temperament. ...
  • Write well and quickly. ...
  • Be verbally fluent and concise. ...
  • Ensure meticulous attention to detail. ...
  • Be a tough and effective negotiator.

What are the negotiating skills that modern diplomat should have? ›

Negotiation Examples, Tips and Techniques for International Diplomacy
  • Great Business Negotiators Negotiate Continually. ...
  • Great Business Negotiators Seek to Harmonize Interests. ...
  • Great Business Negotiators Have the Patience of a Clockmaker. ...
  • Great Business Negotiators Saturate Your Mind.
Apr 21, 2022

What is diplomatic behavior? ›

The definition of diplomatic is someone who can be sensitive in dealing with others and who can achieve peaceful resolutions or facilitate discussion. A person who doesn't take sides in a fight but who instead helps others to resolve their differences is an example of someone who is diplomatic. adjective.

What are the tools of diplomacy? ›

Tools of Foreign Policy
  • Economic Sanctions. ...
  • Economic Statecraft: Foreign Assistance. ...
  • Trade Policy. ...
  • Armed Force. ...
  • Deterrence. ...
  • Arms Control. ...
  • Peacekeeping. ...
  • Intelligence: Covert Action.
Feb 7, 2022

What are 3 types of diplomacy? ›

In this article, we'll discuss the main functions of diplomacy, the role of a diplomat, and diplomatic immunity before thinking about some of the main types of diplomacy, including public, economic and cultural diplomacy.

What are the concepts of diplomacy? ›

Diplomacy is the art and science of maintaining peaceful relationships between nations, groups, or individuals. Often, diplomacy refers to representatives of different groups discussing such issues as conflict, trade, the environment, technology, or security. People who practice diplomacy are called diplomats.


1. 6/7 Diplomatic training for new skills and tools [The future of (multilateral) diplomacy]
2. International career change challenges and top skills needed to overcome global career obstacles
(United Career Coalition)
3. [WebDebate #16] Digital diplomacy as a ‘new diplomacy’ - key lessons and skills (2017)
4. How to Kickstart your Global Career with Diplomatic Skills
(United Career Coalition)
5. Diplomatic Careers Panel Event
6. Webinar: Essential E-tools for Diplomats (2013)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Amb. Frankie Simonis

Last Updated: 11/25/2022

Views: 6104

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Amb. Frankie Simonis

Birthday: 1998-02-19

Address: 64841 Delmar Isle, North Wiley, OR 74073

Phone: +17844167847676

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: LARPing, Kitesurfing, Sewing, Digital arts, Sand art, Gardening, Dance

Introduction: My name is Amb. Frankie Simonis, I am a hilarious, enchanting, energetic, cooperative, innocent, cute, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.