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“Homo diplomaticus”, that lesser-known species

Anne Chounet-Cambas - Quai d’Orsay, Paris, France - 22 août 2014

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As you will have understood by now, the French Foreign Ministry’s blog is designed to shed a little light on diplomacy. This is due to a simple observation on our part : the French know what teachers, doctors and firefighters do, but not really what the business of diplomats is.

What are diplomats for ?

Diplomacy covers a number of professions. In short, they can be divided into four key, comprehensive areas : representing France, defending and promoting the interests of one’s country in all areas (through economic diplomacy in particular) ; working for peace, security and human rights in the world ; helping organize globalization with a view to sustainable and balanced development ; and managing and protecting French nationals abroad (what is known as "consular functions").

More briefly still, the ultimate goal of diplomacy is to help resolve crises and, if possible, to prevent conflicts, through constant dialogue with other countries.

Needless to say, this is a complicated exercise which often lays us open to intense criticism from civil society. As our man in Washington Gérard Araud put it :

“Misunderstanding between a diplomat and a citizen : the former seeks a solution, even if it means talking to the devil ; the latter puts the blame on the devil.”

Not to mention that it makes us somewhat schizo, as Gérard Araud also tweeted (did I tell you that I’m part of his fan club ?).

"All diplomats have to be schizophrenic. On the one hand, they feel indignation, on the other they must not allow emotions to cloud their judgement"

In any event, it’s a very time-consuming job. And according to Thierry Vallat, one of the blog’s contributors, we all do it out of passion.

Diplomacy is of course, to a great extent, a question of holding dialogues in specialized forums and, moreover, a matter of field work : diplomats are also involved in scientific, technical and cultural cooperation. Those who have never seen an ambassador in shirtsleeves should take a look at our web documentaries (in French only) : as you’ll see, some of them actually put in some pretty hard work ! Our videos “Confidences d’ambassadeurs”(in French only) also provide further insight into what is involved in being an ambassador in the field.

Spotlighting French diplomats

As it is difficult to give a brief, definitive description of a diplomat’s job and its endless variants, some years ago we introduced a programme for opening up diplomacy to the public, on the French Foreign Ministry’s website and “live”, known as Le Quai d’Orsay Hors les Murs (Beyond the walls) and consisting of public lectures cum debates, mostly in regional France.

And this year, we’ve put a new item on the agenda : just before the Conference of Ambassadors which takes place yearly at the end of the summer, we have organized a“Meet the Ambassadors” session open to all on 25 August over a half-day of debates and exchanges on various issues, as a further opportunity to get rid of some clichés…

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