The Office of International Affairs is located within the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia and is the District government’s primary liaison with the diplomatic and international community for both substantive and ceremonial matters. Washington, DC hosts one of the largest diplomatic communities in the world as well as many international agencies. This office serves as the primary link to the 186 embassies and two special interest sections located in the District of Columbia.
The Office of International Affairs has numerous responsibilities:
- Working with Ambassadors and their staff to facilitate municipal services and special requests.
- Meeting with foreign officials.
- Sharing best practices and planning sessions for international delegations.
- Arranging educational exchanges for students.
- Attending National Day celebrations and other special events.
- Coordinating projects between citizen groups and the diplomatic/international community.
- Providing venues where information can be shared among the different communities.
- Arranging mayoral visits.
- Advising the Mayor on international issues.
- Working closely with the US Department of State and other internal and government offices on relevant issues.
- Managing Sister City relationships.
- Representing the Mayor at international conferences and events.
- Providing assistance and advice to government officials on international travel and correspondence.
The international community’s embassies and residences are located in several Washington, DC neighborhoods. We are pleased that District residents have excellent relations with the embassies in their particular neighborhoods, but occasionally there can be issues between neighbors and embassy staff on construction and other projects being conducted by the District government. The Office of International Affairs is responsible for facilitating communications among the US State Department, the diplomatic/international community, neighbors and other government agencies for the exchange of information, providing assistance, or resolving situations. When residents of the community have projects in areas where embassies are located, we act as the liaison between the community and the embassies.
The Office of International Affairs plans and organizes special events for the Mayor and supports international events and activities within the District of Columbia that are sponsored by organizations and agencies. The office assists the international community in understanding the District requirements for permits and other issues relating to the execution of Embassy-sponsored events.
The Office of International Affairs hosts approximately 300 international visiting delegations per year. These requests usually come from the State Department International Visitor Program, an international organization, the embassy, or an overseas government. The office coordinates with other government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector partners to provide informative sessions and best practices for delegates.
As the host city to one of the largest diplomatic communities in the world, the Office of International Affairs strives to welcome ambassadors to Washington, DC. Upon their arrival, new ambassadors are sent welcome packets about the city and the District government. New ambassadors are extended a courtesy visit with the Mayor, which serves as an official welcome. The office also offers assistance to international communities with request during their tenure, responds to inquiries and/or suggestions for cooperative ventures and projects.
The Protocol Coordinator of International Affairs provides advice on numerous issues including: the display of flags; use of the seal of the District of Columbia; and order of speakers in programs. The Coordinator may select appropriate gifts to present to international visitors, records the gifts given to each government official. On an annual basis reports to the State Department gifts, and approves initial steps for international travel. He/she also provides other advice on matters of protocol (such as forms of address) when travel is involved.
Corporate Seal of the District of Columbia
The Secretary is the official custodian of the Corporate Seal of the District of Columbia. The Seal consists of a circular design with the words “DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA” stretched across the top inside portion in an arc. The Seal includes two human figures which are the likeness of George Washington and a blindfolded female figure holding a wreath in her right hand and a stone tablet with the word ‘CONSTITUTION,” in her left hand. The Seal also contains a depiction of the United States Capitol, several agricultural products, an eagle in a war stance, a train locomotive crossing the Potomac River, emblazoned by a radiating sun and trailed by several rail cars.
Use of the Seal
It is the policy of the District of Columbia government that the use of the Corporate Seal of the District of Columbia is prohibited, except by permission obtained from the Secretary of the District of Columbia. The display or use of the District of Columbia Seal is restricted to an official purpose as approved by the Secretary. All requests for permission to use or reproduce the Seal of the District of Columbia must be submitted in writing to the Secretary prior to its use by an agency head for any purpose. Determinations about the use of the Seal are solely within the discretion of the Secretary of the District of Columbia.
For additional information about the restrictions on the use of the Seal, contact the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia or review Mayor’s Memorandum 89-47.
- Frequently Asked Questions - Office of International Affairs
- Frequently Asked Questions - Sister Cities, Flag Protocol and Diplomatic Ranking