Office of the Secretary: Protocol and International Affairs
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Protocol and International Affairs

The Office of Protocol and International Affairs (OPIA) is located within the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia. The office is the District government's primary liaison with the diplomatic and international community for both ceremonial and substantive matters.

The District of Columbia has a thriving international presence and is home to over 170 embassies. The Office of Protocol and International Affairs has numerous responsibilities, including diplomatic receptions, courtesy visits, meetings with foreign officials, educational exchanges with foreign student groups, special events, and proclamations and letters honoring embassies' national days. Aside from the office's ceremonial functions, the Office of Protocol and International Affairs advises the Mayor on international issues. Working with the US State Department's Office of Foreign Missions, the office helps to provide a wide range of municipal services to our local embassies and members of the District's international community.

The Office of Protocol and International Affairs performs a variety of functions:

Courtesy Visits

An important ceremonial duty required by the Mayor and other District government officials is to receive foreign dignitaries, officials, and ambassadors. The Office of Protocol and International Affairs organizes and/or staffs these courtesy visits and meetings with foreign visitors.

During the first 6 months of his term, Mayor Fenty has met with the Queen of England, Ambassadors from countries as diverse as Azerbaijan, Italy, China, Great Britain, and Mauritius, and the Mayors of Zagreb, Prague, and Milan.  The Office of Protocol and International Affairs receives many requests and we work with the Mayor’s scheduling team to respond to all.


International Conferences and Events

The Office of Protocol and International Affairs plans and organizes special events for the Mayor, such as the Ambassador's Reception hosted by Meridian International House in June 2007. The office also supports international events, conferences, and activities within the District of Columbia that are sponsored by other organizations and agencies.


Sister City Agreements

As the Capital of the United States of America, Washington, DC is in a unique position to partner with National Capitals throughout the world. Each nation’s capital has its own culture, character, history, challenges, and priorities, which it brings to the table through Sister City Agreements and Protocols of Friendship. These partnerships create opportunities for the partners to learn from each other in the areas of government administration, economic development, education, and cultural exchange.

The District of Columbia has signed Sister City Agreements or Protocols of Friendship with: 

Washington, DC enters into Sister City relationships after conducting a thorough process that ensures the availability of resources to make the relationship meaningful to both parties. Determining the viability of a potential relationship requires two elements:

  1. A steering committee* of at least 20 members of the community (including DC residents, business owners, and former residents of the proposed sister city) who are committed to dedicating the time to ensure that this relationship will conduct projects or programs that will benefit the citizens of the District of Columbia; and
  2. A request letter from the Mayor of a country’s Capital City declaring that city’s desire to partner with Washington, DC.

If the two elements are in place, we will consider requests from the Capital City of any country to enter into a Sister City relationship or a Protocol of Friendship. Once the request letter has been received and the steering committee is assembled, the request is brought to Mayor Adrian Fenty for a decision.


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