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Promotion Methods in Foreign Ministries (Briefing Paper #4)

Author: Kishan Rana
Date: 2017
He introduces the distinction between merit-based, seniority-based, and ad-hoc promotions, and highlights the different exam methods in foreign ministries. He makes three recommendations:
  1. Often, countries that do not have a promotion system are also countries that appoint a large proportion of political ambassadors; this demoralises their career diplomatic personnel, and undermines professionalism. It is thus useful to establish a proper method for promotion.
  2. Seniority is a poor basis for promotion because it neither takes into account performance, nor rewards merit. Countries that rely on seniority often tend not to have a mechanism to monitor performance. While assessment of merit may have flaws, it is vital to shift to performance-based promotions, again to strengthen professionalism.
  3. Promotion methods are rooted in the tradition and ethos of each country. Despite this, it is useful for countries to identify best practices, and to look to the experience of other foreign ministries. About a dozen-odd major Western countries hold annual meetings of their heads of human resources management, to share their experiences. It is useful for developing countries to consider such a method. This can also be attempted on a regional basis.

Related resources

Inside Diplomacy

10 Aug, 2000

The Foreign Office

11 Aug, 1955