3. Purpose of the diplomatic corps

22 Oct

Purpose of the Diplomatic Corps

1. The institutions that diplomacy has created through its history require them to be properly known and to be useful so that the State may obtain the objectives pursued through its foreign policy, while giving the clearest respect for the rights that are due to all other members of the international community.

2. In this context it should be noted that under modern diplomatic law, a host government may have joint meetings with the entire diplomatic staff accredited by other countries to that particular state in the pursuance of bilateral diplomatic work.

3. The origin of the term “diplomatic corps” dates from 1754, when the Imperial Court of Vienna so designated the meeting of all diplomats accredited to it at that time. The term “diplomatic corps” should not be confused with persons involved in a “diplomatic career” in countries that have it a special corps of diplomatic officials. Strictly speaking, the term “diplomatic corps” refers to all heads of missions of various countries accredited to a State. It should be noted, however, that the expression formerly had another specific less diplomatic meaning which led to some confusion in its meaning since it referred also to all persons employed in the foreign service or diplomatic service.

4. In this regard, the foreign service is the permanent organ of state that is entrusted with the mission to represent and execute the foreign policy of its country according to firm guidelines and instructions. The foreign service is usually composed of diplomatic agents and also by consular officers of the state itself.

5. The renowned German jurist, L. F. Oppenheim, regarded as the father of international law, believed that “the diplomatic corps is not a legally constituted entity and performing functions not legally regulated, but is of great importance as it safeguards the privileges (and immunities) and honours due to diplomatic envoys.”

6. In the Latin American countries, the role of dean of diplomatic corps is assumed by the “Apostolic Nuncio of His Holiness”, as ex officio dean, following the custom established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, particularly in traditionally Catholic countries. However, in other countries, the dean is the head of mission that occupies first place in seniority among all resident Heads of Mission.

7. Generally, the Dean is assisted in his duties by a vice-dean (chief resident mission next in order of precedence) who also replaces him during his temporary absence. In addition, he is general advised usually by three or four ambassadors (preferably in different geographical areas) for various activities or actions.

8. The Dean of the diplomatic corps has the authority to take the floor during meetings called by the host government to express opinions related to issues that affect diplomatic privileges or involving a serious violation of international law. The Dean’s interventions are usually preceded by a meeting of the Heads of Mission where various matters would be aired followed by discussion on steps to be taken to resolve pressing issues.

9. The Dean also guides newly arrived Heads of Mission to various aspects related to their functions in the receiving State. He also organises a farewell event for each departing Head of Mission.

© by Odeen Ishmael

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