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How Is A United Nations Ambassadors Chosen?

Posted on  in Turtle Bay

Have you ever wondered what processes are used to choose an Ambassador to the United Nations? Each country selects its Ambassadors to the United Nations through its own process, which can vary widely.

In 1961, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was created. The document provides the framework for diplomatic relations between countries. Specifically, it defines the diplomatic mission and the bounds of diplomatic immunity for ambassadors. Diplomatic mission is a privilege granted that allows diplomats to work without harassment by their host country. Diplomatic immunity ensures safe passage for the diplomat and safeguards the diplomat from prosecution by the host country. Ambassadors to the United Nations fall under the Convention, just as Ambassadors to a specific country.

First, it’s important to know what the job of an Ambassador to the United Nations entails. An ambassador formally represents the views of their respective state or non-state body. The UN Ambassador from the United States’ most important job is to represent the United States’ interests on the Security Council. Since not all countries sit on the Security Council at one time, the most important job for each state differs. Each ambassador will also report back to their respective government about the discussions they are having and hearing at the United Nations. 

There are two main processes to choose an Ambassador to the United Nations. There is the appointment of career diplomatic professionals which is what France and many other countries use. The other process is to appoint either a non-career  or career professional similar to the process in the United States of American and Nigeria.

In the United States of America, the Ambassador to the United Nations is chosen by the president and then confirmed by the Senate. As a Presidential appointment, there is no term limit, but the Ambassador can be removed by the President at any time and is expected to tender a resignation letter at the end of a Presidency. Traditionally, the ambassador has been a member of the Cabinet as they advise the President and Secretary of State. However, that is not always the case and is not a job requirement. There have been a number of ambassadors who have not been Cabinet members and in fact, the current ambassador is not a member. The current United States Ambassador to the United Nations is Kelly Craft. Craft, previously the Ambassador to Canada, was nominated by President Trump 22 February 2019 and confirmed by the Senate 31 July 2019. Craft was sworn into office 10 September 2019.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria has similar ways of choosing Ambassadors to the United Nations. In Nigeria, all ambassadors are appointed by the President with no confirmation vote. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande is the current Nigerian representative to the United Nations. On 4 June 2019, Muhammad-Bande was elected as the 74th President of the General Assembly. His presidency will begin in September 2020.

In France, ambassadors are career members of the diplomatic service, and are chosen in a different manner. Since 2010, any potential nominee must have received training and an education from the Diplomatic and Consular Institute. The Minister of Foreign Affairs nominates a candidate, and the French president will appoint the ambassador in a meeting of the Council of Ministers. The current Ambassador to the United Nations is Nicolas de Rivière. Rivière was appointed ambassador on 8 July 2019.

If an ambassador was to be an ambassador to a foreign country instead of the United Nations, there is an extra step involved. After being nominated, the potential ambassador must gain the approval of the country to which they assigned. This process is called agrément and is also defined in the Vienna Conference of 1961. Agrément can be denied for any reason by the receiving country. The ambassador is labeled persona non grata (unwelcome or unacceptable person) and is forced to depart the country to return to their home state. If the foreign official does not leave the host state within an acceptable amount of time, the ambassador can lose their diplomatic immunity and could potentially be arrested.

Since ambassadors advise their respective governments and interact with other diplomats, it’s important to be careful when choosing potential ambassadors. It would be imperative to choose an ambassador who is diplomatically courteous, able to maintain global communications, has strong public speaking skills, and wants to see the world change for good.

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