In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations

  • Introduction

International Relations The Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations
Jan Wouters, Sanderijn Duquet
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0112


The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR, signed in Vienna on 18 April 1961, entered into force on 24 April 1964) and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR, signed in Vienna on 24 April 1963, entered into force 19 March 1967) form the core of international diplomatic and consular law. To a large extent, the VCDR codified customary rules on bilateral diplomatic relations between States. Meanwhile, its provisions have largely become part of general international law themselves. With 190 State parties, its application is truly global. It provides a complete framework for the establishment, maintenance, and termination of diplomatic relations on the basis of consent between independent sovereign States and has firmly established itself as a cornerstone of modern international relations. Two optional protocols were added to the Convention: the Optional Protocol concerning the Acquisition of Nationality and the Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes. The VCCR equally found its origins in the United Nations’ striving for the codification of international law. Contrary to its diplomatic counterpart, which was also concluded at the Neue Hofburg in Vienna, agreement had to be found among delegates on a greater number of disputed issues in consular law than had been the case for diplomatic law in 1961. It was therefore not considered to be a pure codification of customary law, although its main provisions have acquired customary status over time, and as of 2014, 177 States have ratified the Convention. The VCCR embodies a general framework of minimum standards on the conduct of consular relations. In addition, it recognizes the validity of other agreements, bilateral or regional, which had been in existence before the VCCR came into force and the conclusion of agreements supplementing, extending, or amplifying provisions of the VCCR. This resulted in a Convention with a broad subject area, which provides an extensive range of tasks for consular agents, ranging from offering assistance and protection to nationals to furthering the development of commercial, economic, cultural, and scientific relations between the sending and receiving States. Two optional protocols were added to the Convention: the Optional Protocol concerning Acquisition of Nationality and the Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes. The legal framework established by the Vienna Conventions is at the heart of international law and international relations. It enables States to interact both with other States and with citizens at the international plane. Measuring by the high degree of observance and its influence on the international and national legal orders, the VCDR and VCCR are among the most successful international instruments ever to be drawn up under the auspices of the United Nations.

General Overview

Since their ratification in the 1960s, the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations have been the object of scholarly writings. Several prominent commentaries and monographs on the Conventions and the diplomatic and consular practice have been published, many of which have been updated at regular times. These handbooks have acquired the status of authoritative sources in explaining and analyzing diplomatic and consular law. The legal focus, however, is just one part of the debate. Traditionally, scholarship on the Vienna Conventions has also benefited from insights from international relations, political science, sociological and linguistic studies, and historical perspectives. The same applies to journals, which generally adopt multidisciplinary approaches to diplomacy in a broader sense. In addition to the academic study of this topic, former diplomats and consuls have been actively contributing to the debate by publishing handbooks and journal articles.

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