Berridge G. R. (1995), Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, Prentice Hall, London


“Representation, that often overlooked or naively minimised function of diplomacy, is cheifly concerned with prestige, certainly can be conducted by ministers, officials in direct contact with their foreign opposites.”

The trouble is that it is not possible to be in all places at once.

“Permanent embassies – centrally located and impressively housed – are a permanent reminder of the importance and traditions of a state, as well as a symbol of the understanding that diplomacy is a continuous rather than episodic process”.

“When government leaders or important officials go abroad on representative duties, it is generally indispensible for the security of their communications (and sometimes for their health) that they should enjoy the support of a local embassy. It is worth adding, too, that the existence of a permanent embassy broadens a state's representative options and thus its repertoire of non-verbal signals…

There are also, of course, many other ceremonial occasions when for either practical or political reasons it is simply more convenient to be represented by a resident ambassador rather than a special envoy. Resident missions are generally of special importance to the prestige of new states and of established one in declining circumstances.”

Promoting Friendly Relations

“In considering the idea that a function of the resident embassy should be to promote friendly relations between sending and receiving states, as noted by the Vienna Convention, it first has to be established that this is a function of diplomacy as such.”

Alan James (1980 p.937-8) questions this “The first duty of an embassy, or any diplomatic agency for that matter.. is to promote its country's policy – and this might require a diplomat to behave in an unfriendly manner”. But observes that “if the ambassador can acheive the respect of the local decision-makers and get along well with them (emphasis added by Berridge) the interests of the state will be well served” (p.940)

James, Alan (1980), Diplomacy and International Society, International Relations, vol. 6, no. 06.

“a well 'networked' embassy will obviously find it easier to gain influence and gather information; it will also be better placed to handle a crisis in relations should one subsequently develop. It is for this reason, as well as others, that a good embassy will honour local customs (provided they are not flagrantly at odds with the values of its own country), mark important events in the annual calendar of the country in question, and engage in extensive social contact; in other words, representation is concerned with promoting friendly relations as well as prestige”

“An ambassador in good standing, an ambassador properly appraised of conventional procedures, and an ambassador sensitive to the nuances of local prejudice – in short, a professional – is more likely to achieve this than anyone else.. Of course friendly relations can be cultivated by other means but the resident embassy has the greatest opportunities and is likely to have the most appropriate knowledge and skills.”


“Like it or not.. ambassadors sometimes have to be permitted to play a leading role in important negotiations if only because their political masters cannot be everywhere, or in sustained and informed telephone conversation with everyone, at the same time.”

Clarifying Intentions

“When embassies engage in negotiation they may (they also may not) seek to clarify the intentions of their political masters on the subjects concerned… Governments often need also to communicate with each other on subjects which either directly affect their bilateral relationship but are currently non-negotiable or are altogether beyond the agenda of any current or possible bilateral negotiation (James, 1980, p.141). One of the most important reasons why they may need to be able to do this is to make sure that the other party knows enough in order to behave conventiently. Depending on the situation, another government may, need to be reassured, alarmed, encouraged, or deterred.”

Information gathering / political reporting

“Gathering information on the local scene and reporting it home has long been recognised as one of the most important functions of the resident embassy. The state of the economy, foreign policy, the moral of the armed forces, scientific research with military implications, the health of the leader, the balance of power within the government, the likely result of any forthcoming election, the strength of the opposition, and so on, have been the staple of ambassadorial dispatches.”

“Immersed in the local scene – scouring the media, mixing with the population in a variety of social and regional settings, routinely contacting government officials and military officers, swapping information with othe members of the diplomatic corps, and in some cases regularly encountering government leaders themselves – embassy staff are ideally suited to provide their political masters with informative reports.”


Policy advice

“The tradition of listening to, if not necessarily accepting, the advice of ambasssadors has perhaps also been reinforced, as least in the West, by the fact that the persons sent to important postings have often been eminant in their own right – and cogent in the expression of their views”

Consular services

“Nationals of one state touring, studying in, resident in, or doing busines with another have varying interests which may be usefully supported by a resident mission. A tourist charged with a criminal offence will need moral support and legal advice; a visiting businessman may need contacts and guidance in local procedures; and almost all nationals will expect reassurance, advice and an escape route in the event of political upheaval and a serious collapse in public order. As states have become more directly involved in economical life, and as foreign travel has become easier and cheaper, this kind of work – traditionally described as consular – has generally become more important in resident missions or at satelitte outposts, throught the balance within it between protecting distressed citizens and commercial work has probably changed in favour of the latter.”

“It is, however, the commercial side of consular work which has really gained in prominance in recent decades. This is particularly true of those trading nations such as Britain which since the early 1960s have been increasngly worried about their diminishing share of total world exports. Indeed, the resident missions of some of these nations are now justified principally by the useful contribution which they are believed capable of making to export promotion(.)”

“As well as protecting the interests of individual citizens abroad, consular services also embrace the processing of categories of potential travellers to the home country who are legally subject to entry control, notably those seeking permanent settlement.”

“it is enormous and increasing significance in the bilateral relationships”

“There is great variation on this emphasis given to this work between embassies of the same service located in different countries.” For example British Embassy in Dehli it is high, but low in British Embassy in Switzerland.

“Although expensive, it reduces delays at ports of entry, facilitates investigation of the applicant's circumstances, and minimises the inconvenience especially in the event that entry is refused”

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