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Frequently Asked Questions -- Office of International Affairs

Question:  What does the Office of International Affairs do?

Answer:     The Office of International Affairs (OPIA) is located within the Executive Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia (DC) and serves as the District government’s primary liaison with the diplomatic and international community for both substantive and ceremonial matters.

The OPIA maintains continuous communication with the Diplomatic Corps, one of the largest in the world. TheOffice formally welcomes the Ambassadors to DC, acknowledges the customs and current events of their countries,responds to all requests and concerns, and works with them regarding their issues and events. We strive todemonstrate the honor it is for the District of Columbia to be their host city. 

OPIA appreciates the embassies involvement in the educational, cultural, and economic development of the city and works collaboratively with the embassies regarding their involvement in our city. We vet and handle all communication between the executive branch and foreign government representatives; i.e. Ambassadors, Ministers, Mayors from capital cities of other countries, foreign delegations, international organizations and other officials from around the world.

The Office provides answers on appropriate protocol procedures on matters such as events, seating, meetings, presentation of gifts and/or placement of flags. OPIA also works with the Secretary on all aspects of the Sister City relationships, advises the Secretary on appropriate gifts for presentation to international dignitaries, and works in collaboration with other agencies or organizations on planning events involving the international/diplomatic community.  The Office of Protocol and International Affairsalso works with other offices in the Executive Office of the Mayor to prepare for diplomatic and trade missions to other countries and manages the Sister City relationships.

 

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 Sunderland, England, the ancestral home of George Washington. The District currently has a Sister City relationship with 15 cities; 

• Accra, Ghana

• Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

• Ankara, Turkey

• Athens, Greece

• Bangkok, Thailand

• Beijing Municipality, People’s Republic of China

• Brasilia, Brazil

• Brussels Capital Region, Belgium

• Dakar, Senegal

• Paris, France

• Rome, Italy

• San Salvador, El Salvador

 

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 International Affairs. Please send an email request to [email protected] 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 International Affairs will determine the feasibility of the request and makes arrangements, as appropriate.

 

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

Answer: The requestor, or that person’s designee, should ask for a meeting with the Office of 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 serious 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 important to follow include rules that state 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 Mayor of the District of Columbia cannot order the United States to be flown at half -staff unless a resident of the District of Columbia has fallen in battle.

For more information, see the DC Flag Protocol Manual [PDF].