Group picture with all the Tibetan participants after the certificate ceremony
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Group picture with all the Tibetan participants after the certificate ceremony

Up in the Himalayas

His Holiness the Dalai Lama considers himself nothing special. He was born into a large farming family with four brothers and two sisters in a small village called Taktser in Amdo, northeastern Tibet. To this day, he dislikes formality. Instead he prefers to speak with us on the same level – as one human being to another – calling us “brothers and sisters.”

While wandering around The Tibet Museum in Dharamshala in northern India last week, I was intrigued by the above sentences on one of the displays in the exhibition about the impressive life of the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Truly humble. No fuss. Also during all kinds of meetings with high-level dignitaries, whether on a local, national or international level. Always with his longstanding conviction that engaging in dialogue is the best way to resolve difficult issues. And providing guidance on hope and aspirations to live in freedom and dignity, as well as a strong devotion to preserving Tibetans’ rich traditional culture.

Maryse Larché Mele and myself felt privileged to be able to provide a customized training last week for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), in close cooperation with the National Democratic Institute and USAID, both based in Washington, DC, in order to support their mission. With breathtaking views of the high peaks of the magnificent Dhauladhar maintain range, lush forests, cascading waterfalls, clear streams that meander through the valleys, historic monasteries and vibrant prayer flags and wheels, the venue and surroundings were as extraordinary, as the purpose of our course.

This ‘1st Training on International Protocol, Etiquette, Diplomacy and Management of VVIP visits’ was officially inaugurated by Karma Choeying, Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations. In his opening remarks he referred to the training as a “significant step forward” in CTA’s pursuit of excellence and standardisation in ways to handle protocols, drawing upon a more “universal and refined approach.” He also indicated that “the training is about creating an environment where every detail speaks of our professionalism and respect for those we engage with. From how to present ourselves to understanding the significance of protocol in our representation, each topic has been carefully curated to empower us with the knowledge and skills needed for a more polished and effective execution of our duties.” A total of 17 civil servants of the CTA, including the personal assistants of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile and the Kalons (Ministers), the front desk coordinators, and protocol officers who are involved in defining meetings and event procedures were attending our intensive tailormade training. Over the period of three days, we introduced the participants to protocol in an international environment; orders of precedence, best practices in high-level event orchestration, ceremonies, risk management, roles of (social) media and security, planning public relations campaigns, as well as reviewing the jointly created tools for standardizing visit execution, while keeping into consideration the unique circumstances of the Central Tibetan Administration.

Before, as well as after, the training course, we had the honour to have an audience with Kalon (Minister) Norzin Dolma of the Department of Information and International Relations. The purpose of these meetings was to discuss the expected outcomes of the training and the development of all kinds of manuals, as well as follow-up activities in the near future. Because even though last week felt like a once in a lifetime experience, we certainly agreed to be back soon to continue this joint journey of continuous learning!

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