protocol (prō´təkŏl), term referring to rules governing diplomatic conduct or to a variety of written instruments. Examples of the latter are authenticated minutes of international conferences; preliminary agreements, or statements of principle, which eventuate in a formal treaty; and agreements that do not require ratification. Sometimes the term protocol is applied to an agreement that in all essentials of form or content is similar to a treaty; an example of this was the Geneva Protocol approved by the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1924, which branded aggressive war an international crime. It provided that no signatory would engage in war with other signatories who observed their international obligations. Signatories were to participate in an international disarmament conference. The protocol was supported by most nations, but British refusal to support it in the League Council prevented it from coming into force. The Locarno Pact and the Kellogg-Briand Pact were later agreements having the general tenor of the Geneva Protocol. Diplomatic protocol is the code of international courtesy governing the conduct of those in the diplomatic service or otherwise engaged in international relations. It is basically concerned with procedural matters and precedence among diplomats. Each office of foreign affairs (or equivalent body) has an official in charge of protocol.
See J. T. Shotwell, Plans and Protocols to End War (1925); J. R. Wood, Diplomatic Ceremonial and Protocol (1970); J. E. Lott, Practical Protocol: A Guide to International Courtesies (1973); P. Kattenburg, Diplomatic Practices (1980); M. McCaffree and P. Innes, Protocol (rev. ed. 1985).