A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...
to conduct diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...
with another state or international organization
An intergovernmental organization, sometimes rendered as an international governmental organization and both abbreviated as IGO, is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states , or of other intergovernmental organizations...
. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and friendly relations.
Diplomats are the oldest form of any of the foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...
institutions of the state, predating by centuries foreign ministries, foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...
s and ministerial offices.
The ranks of diplomats— ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....
Envoy may refer to:*an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary*a Special Envoy*a diplomat in general*Envoy , the British Vauxhall cars for Canadian market in 1960-'70*Envoy , a document reader and document file format...
A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....
s, and chargé d’affaires — are determined by international law, namely the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries. It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or...
Diplomats can be contrasted with consuls
The political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries...
, attachés, who represent their state in a number of administrative ways, but who don’t have the diplomat’s political functions.
Diplomats in posts collect and report information that could affect national interests, often with advice about how the home country government should respond.