What is protocol?

Protocol is the set of rules and regulations of diplomatic and social discourse between officials, as internationally aligned at the Congress of Vienna (1815) and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961). The aim of protocol, in this respect, is the creation of a respectful climate and the minimisation of conflict.

Respect plays an important part in protocol; it determines the status of a person. Status is formalised in the so-called precedence: the rules concerning priority, arrangement, or the creation of a concrete hierarchy of functionaries in public positions according to public interest. Countries (and international or multilateral organisations) have formalised the hierarchy of all public positions in an official order of precedence. Generally, the higher one’s political mandate or the greater one’s managerial responsibility, the higher one’s position in the order of precedence.

A second important aspect of protocol is the application in various situations, such as seating arrangements, flag protocol, the order of arrival and greeting procedures. The application of the protocol is determined by the rank of the person: the more senior the person, the more personal attention will be given by the host upon arrival, at the table and so on. These are all meant to show respect for the status of the organisation the person represents.

Source: Protocol to Manage Relationships Today (Amsterdam University Press, 2020)