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Diplomatic Protocols and Privileges Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019


Barston (2006) defines diplomacy as the administration of interstate interactions. Other variables that may affect any of the states are also included in the interaction. A diplomat therefore promotes their country’s national interests by representing the country in negotiations and doing tasks that promote national interest.

The ministry of Foreign affairs in most cases has a department that trains and equips the diplomatic employees. It is also concerned with their welfare as they conduct missions abroad. Consequently, diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges have been designed in pursuit of their good conduct and their welfare (Berridge 2002 p. 201).

The diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges apply to both the diplomats and the supporting staff working in the embassy. The top ranking diplomats enjoy more privileges than the supporting staff. Their families who accompany them also enjoy such privileges.

The diplomacy contributes to the states’ implementation of foreign policy. The diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges vary from one state to another and vary in the way it applies (Melissen 1999, p. 12) This paper will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges.

The advantages and disadvantages of diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges


In accordance with Berridge (2002 p. 10), diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges ensure that diplomats are catered for in their social lives. There are provisions for the diplomat where the family is catered for. The diplomat is allowed to live with members of his family.

There are situations where there are severe hard ships. These provisions enable the diplomat to perform his duties better than they would without such support. For instance, diplomats send abroad are send with their families where they live. They are provided for housing and are taken care of in case of emergency. The ministry of finance where they belong must give adequate support.

The United States ministry of finance has to offer maximum security to its diplomats in foreign states. This is as a result of past attacks on American embassies. Whenever there is a security threat, there are arrangements made to protect them. In some cases, in warring countries, they are flown back to home country as soon as possible (Hamilton & Langhorne, 2010).

Diplomatic protocol and privileges add on to the envoy’s security (Gore-Booth, 1979 p6). Security is given to the envoy from externalities like robbery among other criminal activities. When security personnel are assigned, then the diplomat can perform the duties assigned to them by the country. Failure to protect the envoy leads to a stalemate of agreements done between the two states. They may withdraw treaties that they had made with each other.

Hamilton & Langhorne (2010) identify that the protection can be further articulated by providing escort. Thus the diplomat receives maximum security irrespective of whether the message is positive or negative. The significance of giving security is to enable the diplomat performs his duties without any destruction and deliver the home country’s message. It is argued that a diplomat must engage in his duties without any coercion that may hinder them from moving freely while delivering.

Diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges enable states and international actors to enter into beneficial interstate relations as Anderson (1993 p. 3) points out. For this reason, ambassadors are given such benefits so that the states can have successful agreements. They represent their countries which in most cases have specific interest. For instance, trade agreements lead to increased trade which may result to an increase in the GDP of a state.

A diplomat is protected from prosecution by the host country. They are assigned tasks that they must perform as assigned by their state. Individually, they may differ with what their countrymen send them to do. Moreover, the kind of assignment given to them may require them to lie.

Their country must protect them from any prosecution. The host on the other hand cannot prosecute them; they are protected from such since they are only messengers. Most often, ambassadors have broken the law in the receiving country so that they deliver their duty. In such a case the diplomat needs protection.

Melissen (1999 p. 12) argues that the fact that communication between the ambassadors and their home country should not be intruded offers confidentiality. Therefore they can communicate and make necessary arrangements for negotiations and other plans.

Anderson (1993 p. 3) emphasizes that their documents are also well secured in their embassies as the host country is not allowed to enter the premise without any permission. This must be observed even if the host country is suspicious of criminal acts. The provision that gives them the right not to be searched extends to the family members of the diplomat and their residence.

A diplomat must remain loyal to their home country. They are not allowed to change their nationality to that of the host country. The advantage of this protocol is to prevent any coercion into changing nationality which may compromise the mission of the home state (Hamilton & Langhorne 2010).

In order to pay their employees higher wages, Marshall (1999) indicates that the state with an embassy oversees is exempted from taxes. This is because it has to support its diplomats and the support staff together with their families. Besides paying them their salary, there are other costs that the receiving country is believed to incur.

Moreover, the receiving state is prevented from interfering with the embassy when they are not allowed to implement income tax on the envoys. This protects them from possible exploitation through taxation by receiving state.

The venue that is selected for settling international disputes is most often an advantage to the host state Melissen (1999 p. 12). This is because it is expected that the chair belongs to the host state. The host can use this opportunity to exercise some form of control. Likewise, they may use the time to promote their national interest.

On the contrary, the control may have some negative implication and compromise the diplomatic mission. A neutral ground whose host can not affect the agenda of the meeting can be chosen. Geneva for instance has been used as a neutral venue for diplomatic meeting owing to its neutrality in political agenda. Disputes that involved France or Germany or the United States have been resolved in Geneva.

Diplomatic protocol will enable the international system to adapt to acceptable norms across border. Heads of states have ignored to cooperate with other heads of state due to diversity in style of leadership and personality. Those who are thought to be tyrants differ with leaders who advocate for democracy. For this reason they deliberately pay no heed to diplomatic efforts (Marshall 1999).

Diplomatic protocol makes diplomats be responsible of their own actions. This is because in some situations the diplomats who are reported by the receiving state to their home country to have diplomatic misconduct can be recalled. Such protocols encourage cooperative behavior in the host country.


Some diplomats may assume to be more powerful and excessively use their diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges. They may have excessive demands and fail to recognize that they are being hosted. Such behavior is evident from envoys that come from developed countries and are assigned to work in an underdeveloped state. Other diplomats may embarrass their states by committing offenses that do not befit their status (Marshall 1999, p. 3).

The protection of envoys may become abused. According to Sharp (2009) some envoys may be attacked by criminals or their family members abducted so that they can be manipulated. This can be done if their child is kidnapped and they are forced to adhere to some conditions.

The host country can deny association with the criminals and bring strained relations. On the other hand they may commit crimes and not be jailed. This is because they cannot be prosecuted of any criminal acts by the host country. Such misconduct may cause tension between the two countries as the host country may not accommodate misconduct from the diplomat.

Anderson (1993) indicates that the diplomats and the supporting staff may use their exemptions to promote impunity. Since they are exempted from prosecution, they continue to be involved in criminal activities in the host country.

If for instance they engage in unlawful trade, they continue to gain profits without being prosecuted. This is a form of impunity. This culture of impunity may in the end have an implication on his duties and compromise his mission. Absolute immunity may be reduced to ensure that the mission is accomplished.

The diplomats are exempted from the receiving country so that their bags are not searched. Additionally, their purchase of some items is not taxed. They are also excused from custom duty. These exemptions have been thoroughly abused where some diplomats have smuggled drugs and committed other related offenses unnoticed (Hamilton & Langhorne2010).

Sharp (2009) note that disputes may arise due to outright violation of diplomatic protocols and diplomatic privileges. One of the states may perceive that they are being undermined and choose to become uncooperative. Consequently, they may have to make use of the international courts to settle cross border disputes. Such cases include misunderstanding and misinterpretations of agreements.

According to Cooper, Hocking, & Maley (2008) the privileges given to the envoys in essence create a class of people with special privileges. They are accused of petty offenses such as over speeding. Others fail to comply with simple rules like littering. They may choose to remain arrogant as they cannot be arrested and nor do they pay taxes. A common accusation is that of parking in the wrong place and get away free after creating some inconvenience to others.

Exemption from tax was supposed to benefit the embassy although it benefits the individual. Feltham (1998 p. 6) reveals that the embassy is given the burden of meeting high wages of its employees as the envoys enjoy. Melissen (1998) further argues that there is no equal pay for envoys and other government employees although have the same employer. This is because envoys never pay income tax while the others do.

A state can impose sanctions if the diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges are not observed. Watson (1982) mentions that the sanctions cripple implementation of a state’s foreign policy. They may affect the economy of a country when importation and exportation of goods is no more. Some sanctions may stimulate aggressive behavior posing danger to the population. The normal functioning of a state may be affected and thus the service delivery will be affected.


Foreign policy implication is an essential part of diplomacy that cannot be neglected. The diplomats who perform the delegated tasks follow certain diplomatic protocols and enjoy certain diplomatic privileges. They apply differently depending on the state and whether an envoy or a supporting staff. The family members who accompany them enjoy similar privilege (Marshall 1999, p. 3).

There are advantages of diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges. The envoys are given protection that range from premise of work to place of residence and escort. They are exempted from taxes are not prosecuted by the host country for offenses.

Information that the embassy has is protected as well as communication with the home country. Furthermore, the protocols encourage good conduct among the different states and other international actors. Moreover, the host country may promote own agenda while hosting a diplomatic meeting. The envoys cannot change nationality during his assignment thus they remain loyal to home country.

Among the disadvantages of diplomatic protocol and diplomatic privileges is the sanctions that states may impose on each other causing economic constrains and withdrawal of important treaties.

The hosts have promoted own agenda in diplomatic meetings hence compromising the mission. Unlawful acts like smuggling drugs and dangerous driving have been committed by diplomats in the host country. A class of special people is formed and not being prosecuted encourages impunity.

Reference List

Anderson, M.S., 1993.The Rise of Modern Diplomacy. Longman: London.

Barston, R. P., 2006. Modern Diplomacy, 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson.

Berridge, G.R., 2002. Diplomacy: Theory and Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave

Cooper, A. F., Hocking, B & Maley, W., 2008. Global Governance and Diplomacy: world apart? Basingstoke: Palgrave, Macmillan

Feltham, R.G., 1998. Diplomatic Handbook, 7th Ed. Harlow: Longman Gore-Booth, L., 1979. Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice 5th ed. London: Longman.

Hamilton, K. & Langhorne, R., 2010. Practice of Diplomacy; its Evolution, Theory and Practice. London: Routledge

Marshall, P., 1999. Positive Diplomacy. Basingstoke: Palgrave

Melissen, J., 1999. Innovation in Diplomatic Practice. London: Routledge

Sharp, P., 2009. Diplomatic Theory of International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Watson, A., 1982. Diplomacy: The Dialogue Between States. London: Methuen & Co

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