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Frequently Asked Questions -- Office of Protocol and International Affairs

Question:  What does the Office of Protocol and International Affairs do?

Answer:  The Office of Protocol and International Affairs is located within the Executive Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia and serves as the District government’s primary liaison with the diplomatic and international community for both substantive and ceremonial matters and handles issues regarding protocol, use of the DC seal and District of Columbia flag protocol. The office also manages the Sister City relationships and all communications between the executive branch and foreign government representatives, i.e. Ambassadors, Ministers, foreign delegations, embassies, international organizations and officials from other countries. It provides answers on appropriate protocol procedures to those needing advice on such matters regarding events, meetings, presentation of gifts and/or placement of flags.

Question:  Does Washington, DC have a formal partnership with other cities of the world? Who are the Sister Cities?

Answer:  As the capital of the United States of America, Washington, DC partners only with other national capitals in the world, with the only exception being the ancestral home of George Washington. The District currently has a Sister City relationship with 14 cities; Bangkok, Thailand; Dakar, Senegal; Beijing Municipality, People’s Republic of China; Brussels Capital Region, Belgium; Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa; Paris, France; Athens, Greece; Seoul Metropolitan Government, Republic of Korea; Accra, Ghana; Sunderland, United Kingdom; Rome, Italy; Ankara, Turkey; Brasilia, Brazil; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Question:  I have a delegation that wants to visit the District of Columbia government to learn best practices in a particular area.  How can I arrange meetings for the delegation?

Answer:  All requests for meetings from international entities must be sent to the Office of the Secretary, Office of Protocol and International Affairs. Please send an email request to secretary@dc.gov specifying the request, date and time of the meeting, name of the requestor, country of origin of the delegation and number of people in the delegation, a list of delegates and their positions along with contact information for a response. The Office of Protocol and International Affairs will determine the feasibility of the request and make arrangements, as appropriate.

Question:  What is the process for becoming a Sister City?

Answer:  If possible, the requestor should ask for a meeting with the Office of Protocol and International Affairs. In order to be placed on a list for serious consideration, the request should be made by an official of the capital city interested in such an arrangement. The meeting or email correspondence will determine the course of next steps.

Question:  What is the protocol for District and US flags?

Answer:  There are many protocol procedures to follow regarding the flying and placement of flags. Several guidelines are requisite to follow: nothing flies to the right of the flag of the United States, country flags are to the right of state flags that are to the right of city flags. The American flag always stands stage right of a speaker. There are also certain days of the year to fly flags at half-staff. The President or the Mayor of the District of Columbia each has a specific time when they can order the flags flown at half-staff.  For example, the Mayor is responsible to do so when a resident of the District of Columbia has fallen in battle and under other circumstances. For more information, see the DC Flag Protocol Manual [PDF].