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A protocol is a rule which describes how an activity should be performed, especially in the field of diplomacy. In diplomatic services and governmental fields of endeavor protocols are often unwritten guidelines. Protocols specify the proper and generally accepted behavior in matters of state and diplomacy, such as showing appropriate respect to a head of state, ranking diplomats in chronological order of their accreditation at court, and so on. One definition is:
Protocol is commonly described as a set of international courtesy rules. These well-established and time-honored rules have made it easier for nations and people to live and work together. Part of protocol has always been the acknowledgment of the hierarchical standing of all present. Protocol rules are based on the principles of civility.—Dr. P.M. Forni on behalf of the International Association of Protocol Consultants and Officers.
There are two meanings of the word "protocol". In the legal sense, it is defined as an international agreement that supplements or amends a treaty. In the diplomatic sense, the term refers to the set of rules, procedures, conventions and ceremonies that relate to relations between states. In general, protocol represents the recognized and generally accepted system of international courtesy.
The term protocol is derived, via French and Medieval Latin, from the Greek word πρωτόκολλον protokollon "first glued sheet of or onto a papyrus-roll". This comes from the act of gluing a sheet of paper to the front of a document to preserve it when it was sealed, which imparted additional authenticity to it. In the beginning, the term protocol related to the various forms of interaction observed in official correspondence between states, which were often elaborate in nature. In course of time, however, it has come to cover a much wider range of international relations.
- Chief of Protocol — an official in many national governments
- Gilbert Monod de Froideville & Mark Verheul. An Expert's Guide to International Protocol, Amsterdam University Press, ISBN 978-9462981058
- Serres, Jean, Practical Handbook of Protocol, 2010 Edition, Editions de la Bièvre, 3 avenue Pasteur - 92400 Courbevoie, France. ISBN 978-2-905955-04-3
- Serres, Jean, Manuel Pratique de Protocol, XIe Edition, Editions de la Bièvre, 3 avenue Pasteur - 92400 Courbevoie, France. ISBN 2-905955-03-1
- Forni, P.M. Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin Edition, October 2003. ISBN 0-312-28118-8.
- McCaffree, Mary Jane, Pauline Innis, and Richard M. Sand, Esquire. Protocol: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official and Social Usage, 35th Anniversary Edition. Center for Protocol Red Book Studies, LLC April 2013. ISBN 978-1-935451-16-7. www.protocolredbook.com
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