Meet Duja Muhanna: 2018 Winner of our National Protocol Officer Week Contest

PSOW Staff - Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Protocol and the Olympic Games" won her a complimentary tuition to attend Protocol Officer Training. The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea highlights examples of protocol successes and illustrates why protocol professionals are needed more than ever. We spoke with Duja on her entry and what the future holds.


Duja, congratulations on winning the “Where in the World is Protocol?” contest in honor of National Protocol Officers Week. We asked entrants to highlight examples of where protocol has been successfully implemented—or where it is most needed—in today’s world and you referenced the recent Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Tell us about your entry and why you chose to highlight the Olympics. My entry was on the topic of protocol and the Olympic Games. I chose to highlight the recent 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea because the work of protocol professionals received a lot of attention in these Games, mainly due to the complicated VIP seating plan that they had to put together for the Opening Ceremony.

Why is protocol particularly important in the staging of international events like the Olympics? At international events like the Olympics, protocol plays a crucial role in supervising and coordinating the arrival and departure operations, the seating, transportation, security, and hospitality services for visiting heads of state and key dignitaries. Protocol is responsible for the overall success of these events. The work of protocol professionals is crucial in minimizing the risk of conflicts and awkward situations, especially where heads of state and government officials are present.

Do you think the general public is aware of the enormous role that protocol plays in the organization of such events?
No, I do not think the general public is aware of the enormous role that protocol plays in the organization of such events. Protocol is often behind the nitty-gritty details of an event that many people may not be aware of. For example, at the Olympic Games, protocol professionals are involved in tailoring the rituals, traditions, and symbols surrounding the ceremony to the goals of the event, its audience, and visitors. 

How do you think protocol can help bridge cultural and political differences?
Hundreds of important diplomatic and international business meetings are taking place every day and protocol can help bridge cultural and political differences in these meetings by creating a good climate to support meaningful encounters and to ensure that everyone is mindful of the habits, traditions, intellectual, and political backgrounds of many of the states, personalities, and officials.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that protocol professionals face in today’s world? What are their biggest opportunities? One of the biggest challenges that protocol professionals face in today’s world is the increasing use of social media in diplomacy, particularly the use of Twitter as a foreign policy tool. Some of the most outstanding protocol violations have been through the form of tweets that come across as blaming, sarcastic, or offensive. This is a challenge for protocol professionals who are trying to facilitate relationships amongst leaders and make everything look good. Although heads of state have a staff of protocol officers around them to provide guidance, they sometimes do not adhere to the protocol advice. 

There is a huge opportunity for protocol to become a strategic asset for organizations or even small companies. Protocol officers can help establish a company’s brand, create valuable relationships, facilitate cross-cultural respect and cooperation between coworkers and clients, and provide advice on doing business with international clients and proper business etiquette.

Tell us about you. What is your current occupation or educational status? I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with an honours bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History. My focus of study was in international relations. I also have a certificate in Professional Communications from the University of Toronto. My professional experience includes healthcare administration, event management, and research and analysis. I am currently working with the G7 Research Group as a Lead Analyst for their 2017-2018 project cycle. The G7 Research Group is a research institution at the University of Toronto that monitors the extent to which G7 leaders follow up on their summit commitments. The group produces an annual compliance report that informs the public how well G7 leaders implement the commitments they make on a range of issues. I will be participating as a member of the G7 Research Group’s field summit team this June at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec.

Why is protocol of particular interest to you? From my undergraduate studies in international relations, I became very interested in the subject of protocol. We studied the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that defined the framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries. By looking into foreign cultures, history and how etiquette can play a part in diplomacy—along with my own work experience—I developed a real interest in the work of protocol professionals.

As winner of this year’s contest, you will receive complimentary tuition in protocol officer training. What do you hope to gain from this educational experience?

I am interested in building a career in government, particularly in areas concerned with the activities unique to the operations of government, such as international relations and protocol. Through the protocol officer training program, I hope to master the written and unwritten rules of protocol and develop the tools and strategies needed to navigate complex protocol challenges.

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