Protocol in the international sphere may be defined as the customs and regulations dealing with diplomatic formality, precedence and etiquette. Within the United Nations, that simple definition means that in any given year, the staff of the Protocol and Liaison Service will liaise with representatives of all 193 Member States of the United Nations, including Heads of State and Government who come to the Secretariat in New York in an official capacity. Common ground in accepted codes of conduct and ceremony, will prevent misunderstandings and unintentional mistakes in dealings with high-level officials.
The Protocol and Liaison Service serves the protocol needs of the Secretariat, including those of the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly. It also interfaces with the Permanent Missions and Observer Offices to the United Nations as well as with the liaison offices of the specialised agencies and related organizations stationed in New York. The Service applies an orderly, uniform set of rules and governing codes of behaviour in diplomatic forums, meetings and ceremonies involving missions/observers and their representatives. This is the essence of UN diplomatic protocol.
Among the responsibilities of the Service are the following:
Providing protocol coverage to meetings and events involving the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, both at and away from Headquarters, as well as visits to the United Nations by high-level dignitaries;
Acting as the liaison between the Permanent Missions/Observer Offices and the host country for the purpose of facilitating and ensuring the proper registration of the staff of their offices. Registration of diplomatic and non-diplomatic staff of missions/offices, including the Processing requests of diplomatic privileges and immunities for diplomatic personnel and the registration of delegations to meetings held at Headquarters;
Providing protocol support to all legislative meetings as well as all special and ceremonial events. Assisting Permanent Missions in the preparation of official visits to Headquarters of Heads of State or Government and other VIP's.
Assisting in the presentation of credentials to the Secretary-General by newly appointed Permanent Representatives, as well as the letter of appointment for Permanent Observers;
Organising state luncheons, dinners and other social events hosted by the Secretary-General and/or spouse, the Deputy Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly;
Arranging flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies and ensuring the observance of official periods of mourning;
Maintaining and disseminating up-to-date lists of: Heads of State and Government and Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the United Nations; the membership of the principal organs of the United Nations; the missions' diplomatic list, more commonly referred to as the “Blue Book”, and; the official delegations to numerous conferences;
Communicating with Permanent Missions/Observer Offices, including the issuance of notes verbales;
Providing regular briefings to Permanent Missions, as well as detailed training on registration procedures.