Flag protocol: the correct ordering of flags

Flags are a symbolic way to show appreciation for the visit of a country, an institute, an organisation or an individual, and let guests know that they are welcome.

Flag protocol is a reflection of precedence or rank of the officials attending the event or meeting. Flags hang in the same order.

The basics of flag protocol are simple:

  • Determine the precedence or rank of the poles.
  • Determine the precedence or rank of the flags.
  • Place flag 1 on flagpole 1, flag 2 on flagpole 2 and so on.

Determining the order of the flagpoles

In order to determine the order of the flagpoles that stand in front of a building, one stands with their back to the building.

Determining the order of the flags

A general overview of the order of the most common flags as used in most countries:

  1. National flag of the country.
  2. Foreign national flags (in alphabetical order in case of multiple countries).
  3. Flags of international or multilateral organisations (UN, EU, NATO, etc.).
  4. Flag of the state or province (in protocol order in case of multiple states/provinces).
  5. City flag.
  6. Organisation or company flag.
  7. Other flags (e.g. Olympic flag or LGBTQ+ flag).

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

Want to know more about flag protocol?

Follow our online self-guided course on the basics of flag protocol