Diplomatic Dictionary

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The procedure by which a nation becomes a party to an agreement already in force between other nations.
International agreements originally thought to be for lesser subjects than those covered by treaties, but now really treaties by a different name.
The chief of a diplomatic mission; the ranking official diplomatic representative of a country to the country to which s/he is appointed, and the personal representative of his/her own head of state to the head of state of the host country. Ambassador is capitalized when referring to a specific person (i.e., Ambassador Smith)
American Presence Posts (APP)
A special purpose overseas post with limited staffing and responsibilities, established as a consulate under the Vienna Convention. APPs are located cities outside the capital that are important but do not host a U.S. consulate. Typically these posts do not have any consular services on site, so the APP’s activities are limited or narrowly focused on priorities such as public outreach, business facilitation, and issue advocacy.  Examples of American Presence Posts include: Bordeaux, France; Winnipeg, Canada; Medan, Indonesia and Busan, Korea.
Arms control
Arms Control refers to controlling the amount or nature of weapons-such as the number of nuclear weapons or the nature of their delivery vehicles — a specific nation is allowed to have at a specific time.

An official assigned to a diplomatic mission or embassy. Usually, this person has advanced expertise in a specific field, such as agriculture, commerce, or the military.
To receive asylum is to receive protection from another nation, in some cases one’s own nation. This can occur by allowing individuals to find refuge within the grounds of an embassy (not generally done in American embassies); and when one state allows someone to live within its borders, out of reach of the authority of a second state from which the person seeks protection.

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A state of belligerency is a state of armed conflict. Belligerents are direct participants in the conflict.
Bilateral discussions, negotiations, or treaties are between a sovereign state and one other entity, either another sovereign state or an international organization. The relationship between two nations is referred to as a bilateral relationship.
Breaking Relations
The formal act of severing diplomatic relations with another nation to underscore disapproval of its actions or policies. It is only done under severe situations.

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The office space where the Chief of Mission and his staff work. This office is sometimes called the embassy, but, technically, the embassy refers to the diplomatic delegation itself.
Chargé d’affaires
Formerly, a chargé d’affaires was the title of a chief of mission, inferior in rank to an ambassador or a minister. It is still used as the title of the head of a US mission where the US and other nation do not have full diplomatic relations. Today with the a.i. (ad interim) added, it designates the senior officer taking charge for the interval when a chief of mission is absent from his/her post or the position is vacant.
Chief of Mission
Usually called an ambassador, this is the ranking officer in an embassy or permanent mission and the personal representative of the head of state of his/her nation.
A brief public summary statement issued following important bilateral or multilateral meetings.
An effort to achieve agreement and, it is hoped, increased goodwill between two opposed parties.
An agreement between two or more states, often concerning matters of common interest such as commerce.
Country Desk
The Department of State has an office for each country with whom the U.S. shares diplomatic relations. These offices are often called country desks, and if a large country is involved, the desk is likely to be staffed by a large number of officers. A smaller country may require a one-officer desk only.
Country Team
An interagency group made up of the heads of each State Department section in the embassy and the heads of the other U.S. government agencies represented at post.  The country team meeting represents a regular occasion for the sharing of information among sections and agencies, and an opportunity to coordinate activities.
The name for letters given to an ambassador by his/her chief of state, and addressed to the chief of state of the host country. They are delivered to the latter by the ambassador in a formal credentials ceremony, which generally takes place shortly after his/her arrival at a new post. Until this ceremony has taken place s/he is not formally recognized by the host country and cannot officially act as an ambassador. The letters are termed “letters of credence” because they request the receiving chief of state to give “full credence” to what the ambassador will say of behalf of his/her government.
An office that is part of an embassy or established by one nation in an important city of another nation for the purpose of supporting and protecting its citizens traveling or residing there. In addition, these offices are charged with performing other important duties such as issuing visas (where this is required) to host country nationals wishing to travel to the country the consulate represents. All consulates, whether located in the capital city or in other communities, are administratively under the ambassador and the embassy.
An assembly of persons who meet for a common purpose especially a meeting of delegates for the purpose of formulating a written agreement on specific issues. The word also refers to the written agreement itself.

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When an official gives up his or her allegiance to one state in preference for another, usually because of disagreement over government policy, often immigrating to or seeking asylum in the new state. Defecting generally indicates a desire to participate in opposition or political activity that is illegal or impossible in the original country, differentiating it from a simple change in citizenship.
Department of State
The oldest and head agency in the President’s cabinet. The Secretary of State leads the Department of State in carrying out the President’s foreign policies. The Department was initially founded as the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1781 and then renamed in 1789 in the Constitution as the Department of State.
The art and practice of conducting negotiations and maintaining relations between nations; skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility.
A diplomat is one employed or skilled in diplomacy.
Diplomatic Courier
A member of a diplomatic service entrusted with bearing messages is referred to as a diplomatic courier.
Diplomatic Immunity
The formal protection given to diplomats by their host country which shields them from prosecution or arrest. It also allows freedom of movement and is considered customary worldwide except in special circumstances.
Disarmament refers to the practice of removing or destroying already created weapons.

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The diplomatic delegation from one country to another. Embassy is often used to refer to the chancery – containing the office of the chief of mission, or ambassador – and other buildings for the offices of diplomatic staff.
An embargo is an order of a government prohibiting the departure of commercial ships and other vehicles from its ports. It is a legal prohibition on commerce.
Emergency Action Plan
Every Foreign Service post is required to have an operative Emergency Action Plan (EAP) with procedures in place to respond to emergencies such as natural disaster, civil unrest, a pandemic or mass casualties. The post EAP is a living document, updated on a continuous basis, and comprehensively reviewed once a year. Diplomatic missions are also required to run mock emergency training drills (usually, an intense two day session every two years) to test their capabilities and the relevance of their EAPs.
In the past a diplomatic minister who was accredited to a foreign government and who ranked between an ambassador and a resident minister was also called “envoy extraordinary”. Today, the term is generally synonymous with diplomat, or in the case of a Special Envoy, a person sent to deal with a specific issue.
The collection of classified or secret information by a foreign individual for his or her native government or governmental agency.
The legal process by which an accused or confirmed criminal is transferred from one country to another. Generally, treaties signed between governments determine the precise requirements, rules, and exemptions for transferring suspected criminals from one sovereign legal authority to another.
The formal deportation of a diplomat, often as a form of protest against the diplomat’s home country or as a result of actions by the diplomat, such as espionage.

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Foreign Aid
Assistance (often in the form of economic aid) provided by one nation to another.
Foreign Affairs
The relations among states within the international system, including the roles of states and international organizations; can also include the roles of non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations.
Foreign Policy
In the United States, the plan or strategy that the President and senior policymakers define and establish to achieve national objectives and interests.
Formal diplomacy
This is government-to-government diplomacy – also called Track I Diplomacy – that goes through formal, traditional channels of communication to communicate with foreign governments (written documents, meetings, summits, diplomatic visits, etc). This type of diplomacy is conducted by diplomats of one nation with diplomats and other officials of another nation or international organization.

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Informal diplomacy
Informal diplomacy includes Public Diplomacy which involves government-to-people diplomacy and reaching out to non-executive branch officials and the broader public, particularly opinion-shapers, in foreign countries, explaining both foreign policy and the national context out of which that policy arises. Public Diplomacy is carried out by both diplomats and, under their programs and auspices, non-officials such as academic scholars, journalists, experts in various fields, members of non-governmental organizations, public figures such as state and local government officials, and social activists.
International Organizations
An organization with an international membership, mission, or presence. There are two main types: International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) are nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that operate internationally, such as the International Olympic Committee or the International Committee of the Red Cross. Intergovernmental organizations, also known as international governmental organizations (IGOs), the type of organization most closely associated with the term “international organization” are organizations that are made up primarily of sovereign states (referred to as member states). Examples include the United Nations; NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization); OAS (Organization of American States); APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation); ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations); and the WTO (World Trade Organization).

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Locally Employed Staff
Staff that work at a Foreign Service post (Embassy/Consulate/Mission) abroad. The overwhelming majority are citizens of the country the post is located in, but some are American citizens living in the country and family members of Foreign Service Officers and other full time USG employees who are assigned to a post. More than 53,000 Locally Employed Staff work at U.S. Missions around the world. They provide local expertise, language skills, continuity and contacts within the host country. They are indispensible full-fledged members of our American missions abroad.

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A diplomatic representation to an international organization. Mission is also used to refer to an embassy.
A formally arranged meeting of ministers of various states, such as the Defense or Foreign Ministers of the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Involving more than two nations (which would be bilateral). International organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are multilateral in nature.

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Discussion between the representatives of two or more parties intended to reach a compromise on a disputed topic of interest. Governmental negotiations can be bilateral (between two states or between a state and a non-state entity, such as an International Organization or Non-Governmental Organization) or multilateral.
Non-Governmental Organization
A private institution that is independent of the government.

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Operations Center
The Operations Center (Ops Center) is the Secretary’s and the Department’s communications and crisis management center. Working 24 hours a day, the Operations Center monitors world events, prepares briefings for the Secretary and other Department principals, and facilitates communication between the Department and the rest of the world. The Operations Center also coordinates the Department’s response to crises and supports task forces, monitoring groups, and other crisis-related activities.

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A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify United States passports.
Persona non grata
A Latin phrase meaning “unwelcome person.” As a legal term, it refers to the practice of a state prohibiting a diplomat from entering the country as a diplomat, or censuring a diplomat already resident in the country for conduct unbecoming of the status of a diplomat.
Refers to the ceremonial side of diplomacy, including matters of diplomatic courtesy and precedence.

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To approve and sanction formally, as with a treaty.
Commonly used in connection with the recognition by one state of the existence of another state (for example when a new one is formed), or the existence of a government which is in effective control of a state.

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A form of hard power, these are coercive measures taken by one or more states to protest another state’s actions and to force a change of behavior. Although sanctions may technically include military action, they usually refer to measures taken by diplomats in lieu of military action. Diplomatically, sanctions may include the breaking of formal relations or the removal of a country’s embassy. Other forms include economic sanctions to ban certain types of trade, and sports sanctions to prevent a country’s people and teams from competing in international events.
Smart Power
The flexible and combined use of hard power – military force or economic sanctions – and soft power – diplomatic and cultural influence – to overcome a foreign policy challenge.
A formally arranged meeting of heads of governments.

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An agreement or arrangement made by negotiation; a contract in writing between two or more political authorities such as sovereign states, formally signed by authorized representatives, and usually approved by the legislature of the state.


A document issued by a country giving an individual permission to formally request entrance to the country during a given period of time and for certain purposes and usually stamped or glued inside a passport, or sometimes issued as separate pieces of paper.


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