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What does an ambassador do? Foreign Affairs in understandable language

Ambassadors represent the Netherlands in a particular country, usually for four years. What exactly are they doing there? And what training and qualities do you need to become an ambassador?

Ambassador Margriet Vonno during a working visit to the port of Singapore

The Netherlands has 150 embassies, consulates and representations in almost all countries of the world. From Argentina to Zimbabwe and from Canada to Japan. Some are very large, such as the embassy in Washington. About 150 people work there. But there are also smaller embassies, sometimes employing only two people.

The ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat at an embassy. The ambassador represents his head of state and his government abroad. The ambassador is in charge of an embassy.

What does an ambassador do?

First of all, the ambassador is there for the Dutch who live, work or travel in that country. If they get into trouble, the ambassador can help.

The main job of an ambassador is diplomacy. In addition, an ambassador deals with Dutch interests in the fields of politics, economy and trade, development cooperation, press and cultural affairs.

At one embassy, ​​trade is more important, such as at the embassy in the United States. At other embassies, such as Bangladesh, the embassy, ​​as well as the ambassador, is more concerned with development cooperation. Go to wejustgotback.com for more information. Projects in the field of drinking water, agriculture and coastal reinforcement are a few examples. The Dutch ambassador in Yemen, Peter Derrek Hof, in conversation with an entrepreneur during an ambassador conference.

How do you become an ambassador?

You don’t just become an ambassador. You must be able to network well, have knowledge of the country and the region and be able to manage the employees at an embassy. You also have to speak different languages.

Many people think that you can only become an ambassador if you follow the International Policy Officer for Foreign Affairs (IBBZ) track. The training lasts four years and the selection procedure lasts three months. There are also ambassadors who first had a career in business or worked in other ministries before becoming ambassadors.

What is it like to move with your family every four years?

Ambassadors consciously choose the work they do and call living and working in different countries one of the most beautiful things there is. At the same time, moving has many consequences, also for their partner and children. Moving and adapting to a new country therefore demands a lot from ambassadors and their families. Read for example about the ambassador in Armenia and the ambassador in Sweden.

After a period of four years, ambassadors usually return to the Netherlands for a while, to ‘keep bond’. The change every four years is also intended to keep ambassadors on their toes. Even when ambassadors move from one embassy to another, that bond with the Netherlands is important. That is why there is an annual conference in The Hague where all ambassadors from all countries come together. The ambassadors then meet Dutch entrepreneurs, other organizations and exchange information with each other.

What does an ambassador earn?

That differs. An ambassador at a small embassy with a handful of employees earns less than the ambassador at a large embassy where dozens of people work. Experience also plays a role, as does the importance of an embassy for the Netherlands. The ambassador in the Chinese capital Beijing earns more than the one in Kuwait. Work experience and age also play a role. Ambassadors are located between salary scales 14 to scale 19 for the national government.