Some basics of foreign affairs: Embassies and orders of merit

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

Part 1
WITH globalization and upcoming mobility–especially among our learners, either for exchange, further studies, cross-border attachments (on-the-job training), or leisure–some learning on foreign affairs may be considered worthwhile and necessary to add to the curriculum of general education. Basic knowledge of standard practices on how nations come together and work together and in a broader context, for the pursuit of the common goals of world peace and prosperity, may give students some understanding of the major role of embassies. Such knowledge would make students unhesitatingly refer to our embassies abroad especially where the embassy’s help is needed. Information on the major role that foreign embassies assume in their respective host countries which is to promote “their own home culture, economy and science,” will help drive internationalization in their respective institutions by linking with these embassies. Embassies will welcome such opportunities to lecture, hold a forum, a symposium on a variety of subject matter. To a certain extent, such invitations are on the budget of the embassy.

What then is an embassy? An embassy is the “official residence or offices of a country in the capital of another country where the ambassador (representative) of the home country works and it is where most of the communication (talk) between the two governments happen.”Our source identifies theambassador as “the highest ranking diplomatwho represents a state and is usually accredited to anothersovereignstate, or to an international organizationas the resident representative of their own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment. “The host country typically allows the ambassador “control of specific territory (that is, the embassy), whose territory, staff, and vehicles are generally afforded diplomatic immunity in the host country.” Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations , an ambassador has the highest diplomatic rank. (An ambassador retains the rank as such, even in retirement.) Countries may choose to maintain diplomatic relations at a lower level by appointing a chargé d’affaires in place of an ambassador.

The “ambassadors” of the Holy See are known as Papal or Apostolic Nuncios. The equivalent to an ambassador assigned to a member of the Commonwealth of Nations is known as High Commissioners.<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassador.>The Commonwealth of Nations is“a voluntary association of 52 independent and sovereign states.” Each state has an equal say – regardless of size or economic stature. Even the smallest member country is assured “a voice in shaping the Commonwealth” and “no one government exercises power over the others as is the case in a political union.” Most are former British colonies or dependencies of these colonies. Commonwealth member countries in Asia areBangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore andSri Lanka.” See more at. http://thecommonwealth.org/member-countries# sthash.LMCpLBBS.dpuf

Diplomatic accreditation, our source says, is the process in which an ambassadoris certified as one country’s official representative to another. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_accreditation A new ambassador presents to the host country’s head of state the “letters of credence.”These are “diplomatic credentials” signed by the ambassador’s own head of state, which “confirm that the ambassador is authorized to represent his or her country, and ask that the host country respect this fact.” The new ambassador presents the letters of credence to the head of state, usually in an elaborate ceremony, serving as an official welcome to the new ambassador. Only after diplomatic accreditation can the ambassadors perform their official functions as such.For security and practical reasons, residences of foreign ambassadors, similar to those of our own ambassadors assigned abroad, usually provide enough setting for social/diplomatic functions such as expanded gardens, patios suitable for diplomatic ceremonies, etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_accreditation


A bestowal of an order of merit is an example of a function at an ambassador’s residence. But first, let us recall what an order of merit is. Giving recognition to individuals or organizations that have outstandingly helped achieve shared goals is a practice among states. One such practice of recognizing individual merit is what is termed as “an order.” (Latin: Ordi). “This is a visible honor awarded by a sovereign state, monarch, dynasty, royal house, or organization to a recipient, typically in recognition of individual merit.” The term refers also to “modernnational orders and orders of merit developed in the 19th century, emerging out of the culture of chivalric orders of the Middle Ages” and which may constitute the highest distinction conferred by the respective state authority. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_merit

There are countries that have some form of orders of merit or national decorations that have existed in the past such as “Thailand’sOrder of the White ElephantandJapan’sOrder of the Rising Sun” whichare over 100 years old. “Modern orders are usually open to all citizens of a particular country, regardless of status, sex, race or creed.” Depending on the country, either government officials or private citizens make the nominations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order (distinction)

The Philippines has orders, a number of decorations and medals for the military and for civilians in specific fields of achievement–such as the following: Order of National Artists, of National Scientists, of National Social Scientists, Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan, Order of Lakandula – Special Class of Champion for Life. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders,_decora tions,_and_medals_ of_the_Philippines>

Bestowal on the recipient of orders, decorations and medals vary in solemnity but follows more or less similar program features. We shall have examples in Part 2 next week.

The author, one of the country’s most accomplished institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She attended topmost universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is journal copy editor of, and Graduate Studies professorial lecturer at, the Liceo de Cagayan University. Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany(Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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