What purpose do ambassadors serve? In an age of summit diplomacy and diversification of information sources, the diplomatic institution is seen as a vestige of a golden past. In a world where the power of States grows weaker, ambassadors have to face the competition of other players more recently appeared on the iternational scene.
After a historical retrospective beginning in the Third Republic, the author shows that in spite of all these changes, the profession of ambassador has conserved its specificity and its usefulness. Ambassadors act on behalf of the States they symbolize and represent. It is they who can, as a last resort, achieve a compromise between opposing interests, indispensable to the conservation of international equilibrium.
Marie-Christine Kessler is a CNRS research director, at the CERSA (Centre d'études et de recherches de sciences administratives et politiques).