The world of diplomacy is formal and bound by rules. Only those well versed in these social niceties make effective diplomats. Ambassadors are the top political representatives of one country in another country, and have a broad set of social and political responsibilities. Their duties vary dramatically based on the relationship between the two countries. Nations with long-standing alliances and trade partnerships tend to have active ambassadors who participate in many social and cultural events, whereas ambassadors in countries with troubled diplomatic relationships tend to have more limited, administratively focused duties.
Powers of an Ambassador
Ambassadors have different powers based on the current relationship between the two nations. A new ambassador presents his credentials to the foreign government. The credentials spell out the legal powers granted to this specific ambassadorship. Basic powers include the responsibility to initiate or continue political negotiations. Others might include the right to commit the U.S. to provide financial or other forms of aid in natural disasters or other circumstances.
Negotiations and Legal Proceedings
One of the primary responsibilities of an ambassador is to represent the political interests of her country in the host nation. Representing the interests of a country can obviously mean a lot of things, including communicating how her government feels about important issues of relevance to both countries. An ambassador is responsible for initiating legal proceedings on behalf of her country in the court system of the host country, as well as defending against any legal challenges.
Ambassadors typically have a number of social obligations, especially in countries having close ties to the United States. Attendance at all sorts of social gatherings, from weddings to holiday parties to inaugurations to funerals, is nearly mandatory, as not attending could be considered a slight. The culture of the host country and the personalities of the host government leaders as well as the ambassadors all play into which events are mandatory and which are optional. Ambassadors from large countries such as the U.S. also typically host several social functions a year.
Managing Embassy Operations
While ambassadors always have experienced Foreign Service officers and staff, including a chief of staff or charge d'affaires to help them run the operations of the embassy, they are much like the CEO of a business, in that ultimately the buck stops with them. An ambassador might be more closely involved in day-to-day operations in smaller embassies, but ambassadors in larger embassies typically leave daily operations to the consuls and their staff. A consul is a high-ranking diplomat charged with protecting the business interests of a nation and its citizens in another country. Most embassies have a consul attached.
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.