Diplomatic protocol

Written by kelsey mowatt
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Diplomatic protocol
Following diplomatic protocol is key to maintaining understanding between nations. (Group of business people working together in the office.. image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com)

Diplomatic protocol dictates how politicians and representatives of various nations should behave during their official interactions, as a means to promote civility and convey their respect. Specific rules of protocol may differ somewhat depending on the nation or culture; however, there are certain acts, such as referring to a leader by a formal title, which are universally understood to be part of maintaining good international relations. In the U.S., diplomatic protocol is overseen by the Office of the Chief of Protocol; a department that was created in 1928.

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The term "protocol" comes from the Greek words that mean "the first glue." The first time protocol was applied by the newly independent United States occurred in 1778, when the government appointed a committee to ensure that the French minister Gerard de Rayneval would be properly received in the U.S.


There are various written and unwritten rules of diplomatic protocol, ranging from performing proper greetings, like shaking hands or bowing at formal meetings, to making sure that seating arrangements reflect the official hierarchy at social gatherings. Some other examples of diplomatic etiquette include ensuring that a nation's flag is properly presented and handled, and that correct names, pronunciations, and titles are always used.

Diplomatic Insults

Tensions between nations can result when diplomatic protocol has been intentionally or unintentionally breached. Sometimes diplomatic protocol is ignored when one nation wishes to show its displeasure with another. Diplomats may refrain from shaking hands with their counterparts in the other nation, or they may cancel or postpone meetings indefinitely, or even walk out during formal occasions or negotiations.

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