Diplomatic rank is a system of professional and social rank used in the world of diplomacy and international relations. A diplomat's rank determines many ceremonial details, such as the order of precedence at official processions, table seatings at state dinners, the person to whom diplomatic credentials should be presented, and the title by which the diplomat should be addressed.
RanksThe current system of diplomatic ranks was established by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. There are three top ranks, two of which remain in use:
- Ambassador. An Ambassador is a head of mission who is accredited to the receiving country's head of state. They head a diplomatic mission known as an embassy, headquartered in a chancery usually in the receiving state's capital.
- # A papal nuncio is considered to have Ambassadorial rank, and presides over a nunciature.
- # Commonwealth countries send a High Commissioner who presides over a High Commission and has the same diplomatic rank as an Ambassador.
- Minister. A Minister was a head of mission who was accredited to the receiving country's head of state. A Minister headed a legation rather than an embassy. After World War II, the embassy became the standard form of diplomatic mission, and the rank of Minister is now obsolete. Many countries use the title minister-counsellor to refer to the deputy head of a mission, but does not hold the rank of Minister.
- # An envoy or an internuncio is also considered to have the rank of Minister.
- Chargé d'affaires:
- # A chargé d'affaires en pied is a permanent head of mission who is accredited by their country's Foreign Minister to the receiving nation's Foreign Minister, in cases where the two governments have not reached an agreement to exchange ambassadors.
- # A chargé d'affaires ad interim is a diplomat who temporarily heads a diplomatic mission in the absence of an ambassador.
Historical ranks, 1815–1961The ranks established by the Vienna Convention modify a more elaborate system of ranks that was established by the Congress of Vienna :
- Ambassadors, Legates, and Nuncios were personal representatives of their sovereign.
- Envoys and Ministers represented their government, and were accredited to the receiving sovereign.
- Ministers resident formed an intermediate class, between ministers and chargés. This rank was created by the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle
- Chargés d'affaires were accredited by their Foreign Minister to the receiving Foreign Minister.
An Ambassador was regarded as the personal representative of his sovereign as well as his government. Only major monarchies would exchange Ambassadors with each other, while smaller monarchies and republics only sent Ministers. Because of diplomatic reciprocity, Great Powers would only send a Minister to a smaller monarchy or a republic. For example, in the waning years of the Second French Empire, the United Kingdom sent an Ambassador to Paris, while Sweden-Norway and the United States sent Ministers.
The rule that only monarchies could send Ambassadors was more honored in the breach than the observance. This had been true even before the Congress of Vienna, as England continued to appoint ambassadors after becoming a republic in 1649. Countries that overthrew their monarchs proved to be unwilling to accept the lower rank accorded to a republic. After the Franco-Prussian War, the French Third Republic continued to send and receive ambassadors. The rule became increasingly untenable as the United States grew into a Great Power. The United States followed the French precedent in 1893 and began to exchange ambassadors with other Great Powers.
Historically, the order of precedence had been a matter of great dispute. European powers agreed that the papal nuncio and Imperial Ambassador would have precedence, but could not agree on the relative precedence of the kingdoms and smaller countries. In 1768, the French and Russian ambassadors to Great Britain even fought a duel over who had the right to sit next to the Imperial Ambassador at a court ball. After several diplomatic incidents between their ambassadors, France and Spain agreed in 1761 to let the date of arrival determine their precedence. In 1760, Portugal attempted to apply seniority to all ambassadors, but the rule was rejected by the other European courts.
The Congress of Vienna finally put an end to these disputes over precedence. After an initial attempt to divide countries into three ranks faltered on the question of which country should be in each rank, the Congress instead decided to divide diplomats into three ranks. A fourth rank was added by the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. Each diplomatic rank had precedence over the lower ranks, and precedence within each rank was determined by the date that their credentials were presented. The papal nuncio could be given a different precedence than the other ambassadors. The Holy Roman Empire had ceased to exist in 1806, so the Austrian ambassador would accumulate seniority along with the other ambassadors.
Bilateral diplomacyIn modern diplomatic practice, there are a number of diplomatic ranks below Ambassador. Since most missions are now headed by an ambassador, these ranks now rarely indicate a mission's relative importance, but rather reflect the diplomat's individual seniority within their own nation's diplomatic career path and in the diplomatic corps in the host nation:
- Ambassador ; ambassador at large
- First Secretary
- Second Secretary
- Third Secretary
- Assistant Attaché
Multilateral diplomacyFurthermore, outside this traditional pattern of bilateral diplomacy, as a rule on a permanent residency basis, certain ranks and positions were created specifically for multilateral diplomacy:
- An ambassador-at-large is equivalent to an ambassador and assigned specific tasks or region in which he is assigned various assignments aimed at multi track diplomacy.
- A permanent representative is the equivalent of an ambassador, normally of that rank, but accredited to an international body, not to a head of state.
- A resident representative is also a member of the diplomatic corps, but is below the rank of ambassador. A representative is accredited by an international organization to a country's government. The resident representative typically heads the country office of that international organization within that country.
- A special ambassador or honorary ambassador is a government's specialist diplomat in a particular field, not posted in residence, but often traveling around the globe.
- The U.S. Trade Representative is an ambassador of Cabinet rank, in charge of U.S. delegations in multilateral trade negotiations. The USTR's Special Agricultural Negotiator also typically holds an ambassadorial appointment.
- Belgium: In 2005, former cabinet member Pierre Chevalier served as Special Envoy of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe presidency to mediate in the Gazprom natural gas-pipeline crisis involving Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union. In addition, Princess Astrid of Belgium has served as Special Envoy of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or Ottawa Treaty, to promote the formal prohibition of landmines and the rights of the survivors of said weapons.
- India: During the 2006 democracy movement in Nepal, India sent on April 18 Karan Singh, who is related to royalty in both predominantly Hindu countries, as Special Envoy to neighbouring Nepal where increasingly violent opposition started its successful challenge of the king's autocratic rule. Another instance was during the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit, India appointed senior diplomat Shyam Saran as a special envoy to coordinate the negotiating position of the BASIC countries.
- United Kingdom: appointed special envoys from time to time.
- European Union: appointed various special representatives ; e.g., in 2005—as a response to events in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan—the Council of the EU appointed Jan Kubis as its "Special Representative for Central Asia".
- Pakistan: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Appointed Ambassador Javed Malik as Pakistan's Special Envoy for Trade & Investment based in the GCC Gulf region with a diplomatic rank of an Ambassador
- United States: appointed numerous special envoys including a Special Envoy for Northern Ireland with the diplomatic rank of ambassador to help with the Northern Ireland peace process. Special Envoys have also been appointed for Sudan, Syria, Middle East Peace, Eurasian Energy, Climate Change, and Human Rights in North Korea. Other posts include Special Representative, Special Advisor, and Special Coordinator.
- The Secretary-General of the United Nations personally mandates special envoys for a particular field, including:
- *United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa
- *United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change
- *United Nations Special Envoy for Kosovo
- *United Nations Special Envoy for Darfur
- *United Nations Special Envoy for Refugees
- The Director-General of UNESCO appoints special envoys who can use their talents and renown to further the organization's ideals and action. Envoys include:
- * Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education: Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned of Qatar
- * Special Envoy for Water: Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud
- * Special Envoy on Literacy for Development: Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands
- A sui generis case is the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains a variety of special interest ambassador and envoy positions including the Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism and the Ambassador for the Environment.
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and TradeOfficers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are graded into four broad bands, with the Senior Executive Service following above.
Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consuls-General usually come from the Senior Executive Service, although in smaller posts the head of mission may be a BB4 officer. Generally speaking, Counsellors are represented by BB4 officers; Consuls and First and Second Secretaries are BB3 officers and Third Secretaries and Vice Consuls are BB2 officers. DFAT only posts a limited number of low-level BB1 staff abroad. In large Australian missions an SES officer who is not the head of mission could be posted with the rank of Minister.
Brazilian Diplomatic ServiceThere are six ranks in the Brazilian Ministry of External Affairs :
- Ministro de Segunda Classe
- Ministro de Primeira Classe
British Diplomatic Servicedifferentiates between officers in the "Senior Management Structure" and those in the "delegated grades".
SMS officers are classified into four pay-bands, and will serve in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London as Permanent Under-Secretary, Directors-General, Directors, and Heads of Department or Deputy Directors.
Overseas Ambassadors and High Commissioners are generally drawn from all four SMS bands depending on the size and importance of the mission, as are Consuls-General, Deputy Heads of Mission, and Counsellors in larger posts.
In the "delegated grades", officers are graded by number from 1 to 7; the grades are grouped into bands lettered A‑D.
Overseas, A2 grade officers hold the title of Attache; B3‑grade officers are Third Secretaries; C4s are Second Secretaries; and C5s and D6s are First Secretaries. D7 officers are usually Counsellors in larger posts, Deputy Heads of Mission in medium-sized posts, or Heads of Mission in small posts.
Chinese diplomatic corpsThe ranks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China are defined by the Law on Diplomatic Personnel Stationed Abroad, passed in 2009 by the National People's Congress:
- Third Secretary
- Second Secretary
- First Secretary
Egyptian diplomatic service
- Diplomatic Attaché
- Third Secretary
- Second Secretary
- First Secretary
- Minister Plenipotentiary
French">France">French Diplomatic Service
- Secrétaire de chancellerie
- Secrétaire des affaires étrangères
- Conseiller des affaires étrangères
- Ministre plénipotentiaire, the most common rank for heads of mission, but it also applies to some ministers-counsellors in important embassies
- Ambassadeur de France, an honorary dignity
- Secrétaire des systèmes d'information et de communication
- Attaché des systèmes d'information et de communication
Hungarian">Hungary">Hungarian Foreign Service
- Segédattasé - Assistant Attaché
- Attasé - Attaché
- III. osztályú titkár- Third Secretary
- II. osztályú titkár - Second Secretary
- I. osztályú titkár - First Secretary
- II. osztály tanácsos - Second Counsellor
- I. osztályú tanácsos - First Counsellor
- Rendkívüli követ és meghatalmazott miniszter - Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
Italian diplomatic career
- Segretario di legazione in prova : 9-month training period at the beginning of the career
- Segretario di legazione : second secretary at an embassy, head of vice-consulate, vice-consul
- Consigliere di legazione : counsellor at an embassy, consul
- Consigliere d'ambasciata : first counsellor at an embassy, consul
- Ministro plenipotenziario : ambassador, minister-counsellor at an embassy, head of a Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ambasciatore : ambassador, General Secretary or head of a Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Spanish">Spain">Spanish Diplomatic CorpsAfter the merger of the Consular and Diplomatic Corps, the current eight grades of Spanish career diplomats are :
- Funcionario en prácticas : title held during the one-year training program at the Diplomatic School.
- Secretario de Embajada de tercera clase or Secretary.
- Secretario de Embajada de segunda clase
- Secretario de Embajada de primera clase.
- Consejero or Concillor, lowest grade to be appointed Consul-General.
- Ministro Plenipotenciario de tercera clase commonly known as Minister, lowest grade to be appointed Ambassador.
- Ministro Plenipotenciario de segunda clase.
- Ministro Plenipotenciario de primera clase.
- Embajador de España : not all Spanish Ambassadors hold this grade, which is limited by law to 3% of the total Corps.
Mexican diplomatic career
- Agregado Diplomático : title held during the one-year training program at the Diplomatic School and an internship in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Tercer Secretario.
- Segundo Secretario.
- Primer Secretario.
|SFS rank||Equivalent military rank||Notes|
|Career Ambassador||Four-star rank||Awarded to career diplomats with extensive and distinguished service|
|Career Minister||Three-star rank||The highest regular senior rank|
|Minister Counselor||Two-star rank|
Members of the Foreign Service consist of five groups, including Foreign Service Officers and Foreign Service Specialists. Like officers in the U.S. military, Foreign Service Officers are members of the Foreign Service who are commissioned by the President. As with Warrant Officers in the U.S. military, Foreign Service Specialists are technical leaders and experts, commissioned not by the President but by the Secretary of State. Ranks descend from the highest, FS‑1, equivalent to a full Colonel in the military, to FS‑9, the lowest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service personnel system. Personal rank is distinct from and should not be confused with the diplomatic or consular rank assigned at the time of appointment to a particular diplomatic or consular mission.
In a large mission, several Senior Diplomats may serve under the Ambassador as Minister-Counselors, Counselors, and First Secretaries; in a small mission, a diplomat may serve as the lone Counselor of Embassy.
Consular counterpartFormally the consular career forms a separate hierarchy. Many countries do not internally have a separate consular path or stream, and the meaning of "consular" responsibilities and functions will differ from country to country. Other titles, including "vice consul-general", have existed in the past. Consular titles may be used concurrently with diplomatic titles if the individual is assigned to an embassy. Diplomatic immunity is more limited for consular officials without other diplomatic accreditation, and broadly limited to immunity with respect to their official duties.
At a separate consular post, the official will have only a consular title. Officials at consular posts may therefore have consular titles, but not be involved in traditional consular activities, and actually be responsible for trade, cultural, or other matters.
Consular officers, being nominally more distant from the politically sensitive aspects of diplomacy, can more easily render a wide range of services to private citizens, enterprises, et cetera. They may be more numerous since diplomatic missions are posted only in a nation's capital, while consular officials are stationed in various other cities as well. However, it is not uncommon for individuals to be transferred from one hierarchy to the other, and for consular officials to serve in a capital carrying out strictly consular duties within the "consular section" of a diplomatic post, e.g., within an embassy. Some countries routinely provide their embassy officials with consular commissions, including those without formal consular responsibilities, since a consular commission allows the individual to legalize documents, sign certain documents, and undertake certain other necessary functions.
Depending on the practice of the individual country, "consular services" may be limited to services provided for citizens or residents of the sending country, or extended to include, for example, visa services for nationals of the host country.
Sending nations may also designate incumbents of certain positions as holding consulary authority by virtue of their office, while lacking individual accreditation, immunity and inviolability. For example, 10 U.S.C. §§ 936 and 1044a identify various U.S. military officers who hold general authority as a notary and consul of the United States for, respectively, purposes of military administration and those entitled to military legal assistance. A nation may also declare that its senior merchant sea captain in a given foreign port—or its merchant sea captains generally—has consulary authority for merchant seamen.