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What is an Envoy?

A passport for an envoy.
Envoys represent their countries, often on diplomatic missions.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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An envoy is a visiting representative sent from one nation to another. The term is generally used interchangeably with “diplomat.” The envoy acts as one deputy of a diplomatic mission to maintain cordial and productive relations between two nations. The duties and responsibilities of an envoy vary, depending on the parent nation, but as a general rule envoys can expect to work with representatives of the nations they visit to achieve commonly desired goals such as trade treaties or peaceful relations.

The concept of diplomacy is ancient. As long as humans have differentiated between nations, tribes, and other collective groups, specific individuals within one community have approached representatives of another to reach agreements. Historically, diplomats have been offered unique privileges which are not available to other people, such as diplomatic immunity. An envoy is usually regarded as a sacred messenger, and it is highly unusual for a visiting envoy to be killed or imprisoned, as long as he or she obeys international laws and treaties.

Different countries have different systems for choosing their envoys. As a general rule, an envoy is well educated and fluent in at least one additional language. The envoy acts as a representative of her or his nation while abroad, and as such the envoy must have a superb character. Once an envoy is hired, he or she is usually sent to a specific country, remaining there for the duration of a posting.

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Collectively, the group of envoys at a foreign embassy is usually called the “diplomatic mission.” The highest ranking envoy or diplomat is the ambassador, who works with an assortment of lower level envoys. The embassy negotiates issues with its host nation, and also hosts events and parties to promote good relations between the two countries. In addition, the embassy assists citizens of its parent nation, should they run into difficulties abroad.

Someone who is interested in being an envoy should start planning ahead early. Behaving irreproachably is an important step, because envoys usually undergo background checks. A prospective envoy should also study several languages, and become well versed in the politics and history of multiple nations. Many countries select their envoys through a civil service exam, which is periodically offered to all eligible citizens. Prospective envoys should register for and take this examination, after extensive study.

If a test take gets a sufficiently high score, he or will she will invited back for further interview and testing. Pending a background check, the envoy may be accepted for training and eventual deployment to a nation or region. People who are interested in diplomacy as a career should be aware that it can be dangerous, even with diplomatic immunity, and that they may be subject to sudden changes of residence or job position.

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