Convention on Special Missions
New York, 8 December 1969
  • Introductory Note
  • Procedural History
  • Documents
  • Status
  • Photo
By Sir Michael Wood
Member of the International Law Commission
Senior Fellow of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law University of Cambridge

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Introduction

The Convention on Special Missions (sometimes referred to as the “New York Convention”) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 8 December 1969, together with an Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes and a resolution concerning civil actions. The Convention entered into force on 21 June 1985. At the time of writing (April 2012), there are 38 States parties.

Historical Context

Ad hoc diplomacy is the oldest form of diplomacy. As the United Nations Secretariat explained in 1963:

“The custom of sending a special envoy on mission from one State to another, in order to mark the dignity or importance of a particular occasion, is probably the oldest of all means by which diplomatic relations may be conducted. It was only with the emergence of national States on a modern pattern that permanently accredited diplomatic missions, entrusted with a full range of powers, came to take the place of temporary ambassadors sent specially from one sovereign to another. However, although the legal rules which were evolved to determine diplomatic relations between States were therefore based largely on the conduct of permanent missions, so that special missions came to seem merely a particular variant of the other, the sending of special missions was never discontinued. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such missions were frequently dispatched in order to provide suitable State representation at major ceremonial occasions, such as coronations or royal weddings, or for the purposes of important political negotiations, particularly those held at international congresses.” (Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1963, vol. II, p. 151, para. 3)
Negotiating History

In submitting its final draft on diplomatic intercourse and immunities to the General Assembly in 1958, the International Law Commission stated that, although the draft dealt only with permanent diplomatic missions, diplomatic relations also assumed other forms that might be placed under the heading of “ad hoc diplomacy”, covering itinerant envoys, diplomatic conferences and special missions sent to a State for limited purposes (Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1958, vol. II, p. 89, para. 51). Also in 1958, the Commission requested A. E. F. Sandström (the Special Rapporteur for the topic “Diplomatic intercourse and immunities”) to submit a report at a future session, and in 1959 appointed him Special Rapporteur for the new topic “Special missions”.

In 1960, on the basis of Sandström’s report, but without the usual in-depth study, the Commission adopted and submitted to the General Assembly three draft articles on special missions, together with commentaries, making it clear that the draft should be regarded “as constituting only a preliminary survey”(Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1960, vol. II, p. 179, para. 37). The articles would have applied the rules developed for the privileges and immunities of permanent diplomatic missions to special missions. 

The General Assembly, by resolution 1504 (XV) of 12 December 1960, decided that the three draft articles should be referred to the United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities (the Vienna Conference) so that they could be considered together with the draft articles on permanent diplomatic missions.

At the Vienna Conference, the question of special missions was referred to a Subcommittee established by the Committee of the Whole. While stressing the importance of the subject of special missions, the Subcommittee noted that, because of lack of time, the draft articles on special missions had, in contrast with the usual practice, not been submitted to Governments for their comments before being drafted in final form, and that the draft articles did little more than indicate which of the rules on permanent missions applied, and which did not apply, to special missions. The Subcommittee considered that, while the basic rules might in fact be the same, it could not be assumed that such an approach necessarily covered the whole field of special missions. Following consideration of the topic by the Subcommittee and by the Committee of the Whole, the Vienna Conference adopted a resolution recommending to the General Assembly that it refer the topic back to the International Law Commission (A/CONF.20/10/Add.l).

In 1961, the General Assembly adopted resolution 1687 (XVI) of 18 December 1961 requesting the International Law Commission to study further the subject of special missions and to report thereon to the Assembly.

In 1963, the Commission appointed Milan Bartoš as Special Rapporteur and decided that he should prepare draft articles, based on the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 but that he should keep in mind that special missions were, by virtue of both their functions and nature, an institution distinct from permanent missions.

The Commission considered this topic between 1964 and 1967. In connection with its work on this topic, the Commission had before it four reports of the Special Rapporteur, information provided by Governments as well as a document prepared by the Secretariat.

In 1964, the Commission provisionally adopted sixteen articles, which were submitted to the General Assembly and to Governments for information. At the first part of its session, in 1965, the Commission provisionally adopted twenty-eight further draft articles. All draft articles then adopted were submitted to the General Assembly for its consideration and were also transmitted to Governments for comment.

In 1966, the Commission examined certain questions of a general nature affecting special missions which had arisen out of the opinions expressed in the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the General Assembly and the written comments by Governments and which it was important to settle as a preliminary to the later work on the draft articles.

In 1967, the Commission adopted a set of 50 final draft articles on special missions, and submitted them to the General Assembly with a recommendation “that appropriate measures be taken for the conclusion of a convention on special missions” (Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1967, vol. II, p. 347, para. 33).

The Sixth Committee recommended that an item entitled “Draft convention on special missions” be placed on the provisional agenda of the General Assembly’s 1968 session with a view to the adoption of a convention by the Assembly. By resolution 2273 (XXII) of 1 December 1967, the Assembly adopted the recommendation of the Sixth Committee and invited Member States to submit comments and observations on the draft articles.

Over two sessions, in 1968 and 1969, the Sixth Committee considered the item “Draft convention on special missions” on the basis of the Commission’s final draft articles.  By resolution 2530 (XXIV) of 8 December 1969, the General Assembly, upon the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, adopted the Convention on Special Missions.

Key provisions

Articles 1 to 18 and 20 of the Convention on Special Missions deal with the use of terms, and the sending, structure and functioning of the mission. Articles 9, paragraph 2, 19, and 21 to 49 set out the privileges and immunities of the mission, and articles 50 to 55 the final clauses. The final clauses were standard at the time, though the inclusion of the so-called “Vienna formula” on participation was politically contentious.

As is the case with the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, the preamble to the Special Missions Convention acknowledges the functional basis for the privileges and immunities for which it provides:

Realizing that the purpose of privileges and immunities relating to special missions is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of special missions as missions representing States”.

Article 1(a) of the Convention defines a special mission, for the purposes of the Convention, as follows:

“a ‘special mission’ is a temporary mission, representing the State, which is sent by one State to another State with the consent of the latter for the purpose of dealing with it on specific questions or of performing in relation to it a specific task”.

This definition contains a number of elements: the temporary character of the mission (which distinguishes it from a permanent diplomatic mission); the fact that it represents the sending State; the fact that it is sent “for the purposes of dealing with [the receiving State] on specific questions or of performing in relation to it a specific task”.

Above all, article 1 makes it clear that a special mission may only be sent with the consent of the receiving State, consent that is to the sending of the special mission as such. (According to Satow (p. 192), even among parties to the Convention a specific agreement to apply the Convention to a routine special mission is seldom concluded.)

Article 2 specifies that consent means prior consent, and that it must be given through the diplomatic or other agreed or mutually acceptable channel.

Article 3 makes yet further provision for consent, by providing that –

“The functions of a special mission shall be determined by the mutual consent of the sending and the receiving State.”

The Convention contains no other provision defining the functions of special missions: there is no provision corresponding to article 3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or article 5 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It was suggested during the negotiations that “[t]he normal task which a special mission will perform is a task that would ordinarily be performed by a permanent diplomatic mission of the sending State” (A/C.6/SR.1129, paras. 25-26). Permanent diplomatic missions have a wide range of functions, and are by no means limited to what may be thought of as classical diplomacy. In any event, there was no agreement during the negotiations to limit the functions that might be performed by a special mission.  Some States considered that special missions might concern technical matters as well as political ones. The key lies in the requirement of mutual consent on the functions of the mission.

Two or more States may each send a special mission at the same time to another State in order to deal together with questions of common interest (article 6). Again, the emphasis is on consent. Article 18 provides that special missions from two or more States may meet in the territory of a third State, but only after obtaining the express consent of that State.

Provision is made for the various categories of members of special missions (article 1). The sending State may freely appoint the members of the special mission, but their details must be given to the receiving State prior to their appointment, and that State may object to the overall size of the mission or to individual persons (article 10). Detailed provision is made for notifications to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the receiving State (article 11). All official business is to be conducted with or through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or with such other organ of the receiving State as may be agreed (article 15).

The scale of facilities, privileges and immunities provided for in the Convention (articles 22 to 49) follows, with only relatively minor modifications, that provided in relation to permanent diplomatic missions by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This includes, most importantly, inviolability of the person and immunity from criminal jurisdiction of members of special missions (articles 29 and 31, paragraph1). It also includes immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction, subject to the same exceptions as members of a permanent diplomatic mission plus an additional exception for “an action for damages arising out of an accident caused by a vehicle used outside the official functions of the person concerned” (article 31, paragraph 2).

Among the other differences between the privileges and immunities accorded under the Convention on Special Missions and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations are the following: tax exemption for the premises of the special mission applies only “[t]o the extent compatible with the nature and duration of the functions performed by the special mission” (article 24); the head of mission’s consent to enter the premises of the mission may be presumed “in case of fire or other disaster that seriously endangers public safety”, and it has not been possible to obtain his or her express consent (article 25); and archives and documents “should, when necessary, bear visible external marks of identification” (article 26).

Article 21 provides that the Head of the sending State, when he or she leads a special mission, enjoys the facilities, privileges and immunities accorded by international law to Heads of State on an official visit; and further that the Head of Government, Minister for Foreign Affairs and “other persons of high rank”, when they take part in a special mission, enjoy, in addition to what is granted by the Convention, the facilities, privileges and immunities accorded by international law.

The Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes is modelled on the corresponding Optional Protocols to the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. It also entered into force on 21 June 1985. At the time of writing (March 2012), there are 17 States parties.

Influence of the Convention on Special Missions

The Convention on Special Missions is the applicable international law as between the parties thereto. Yet it is not clear how it is applied in practice even between the parties. In any event, the parties are relatively few, and there are few other treaties on the subject.  So, as between most States, and in most circumstances, the governing rules on special missions and other official visitors are to be found in customary international law.

It is difficult not to share Sinclair’s assessment:

“[t]his effort at progressive development and codification has accordingly been only partially successful, no doubt because of the reluctance of Governments to accord a wide range of privileges and immunities to special missions and their members when, in the view of the Governments concerned, the grant of such privileges and immunities was not justified by functional reasons.” (I. Sinclair, The International Law Commission (1987), p. 61)

While the elaboration of the Convention within the International Law Commission and in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly has no doubt influenced the rules of customary international law in the field, there is no reason to suppose that all or even most of its provisions are reflected in customary law, given the circumstances of its adoption and the lack of support for the Convention among States. The Convention is frequently referred to by domestic courts as evidence for certain rules of customary international law, particularly as regards the elements (including consent) of a special mission, and the inviolability of the person and immunity from criminal jurisdiction of members of a special mission. But the rules of customary international law are both wider and narrower than the provisions of the Special Missions Convention. They are wider in that the class of official visitors who may be entitled to immunity is wider than that foreseen in the Convention. They are narrower in that the range of privileges and immunities is much more limited, being essentially confined to immunity from criminal jurisdiction and inviolability of the person.

Related Materials

A. Legal Instruments

Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Vienna, 14 April 1961, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 500, p. 95.

Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Vienna, 22 April 1963, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 596, p. 261.

Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes, 8 December 1969, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1400, p. 339.

Vienna Convention on the Representation of States in their Relations with International Organizations of a Universal Character, Vienna, 14 March 1975, Doc. A/CONF.67/16.

B. Jurisprudence

French Property Commission in Egypt
case (described in A. Watts, “Jurisdictional Immunities of Special Missions: The French Property Commission in Egypt”, International and Comparative Law Quarterly, vol. 12, 1963, pp. 1383-1399.

Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, Germany), Tabatabai case (Case No. 4 StR 396/83),
27 February 1984, EntBGH in Strafsachen, vol. 32, 1984, p. 275;  International Law Reports, vol. 80, pp.388-424.

Oberster Gerichtshof (Supreme Court of Justice, Austria), Syrian National Immunity case (Case 12 Os 3/98), 12 February 1998, International Law Reports, vol. 127 pp. 88-93.

US District Court for the N.D. of Ohio, Kilroy v. Windsor (Prince Charles, Prince of Wales) (Civ. No. C-78-291 (N.D. Ohio, 1977)), Digest of United States Practice in International Law 641; International Law Reports, vol. 81, p.605.

United States District Court, District of Columbia, Li Weixum et al. v. Bo Xilai (Civ. No. 04-0649 (RJL)),568 F.Supp.2d 35 (D.D.C. 2008).

High Court, Queen's Bench Division (United Kingdom), Khurts Bat v. The Investigating Judge of the German Federal Court and Others, [2011] EWHC 2029 (Admin); [2011] All ER (D) 293 (Jul); International Law Reports, vol. 147, p. 633. 

C. Documents

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its tenth session, 28 April to 4 July 1958 (A/3859, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1958, vol. II, Chapter III).

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its eleventh session, 20 April to 26 June 1959 (A/4169, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1959, vol. II, Chapter III).

Ad hoc
Diplomacy - Report by A.E.F. Sandström, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/129, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1960, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its twelfth session, 25 April to 1 July 1960 (A/4425, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1960, vol. II, Chapter III).

General Assembly resolution 1504 (XV) of 12 December 1960 (Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its twelfth session).

Report of the Committee of the Whole (A/CONF.20/L.2) (Official Records of the United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities, vol. II (Annexes, Final Act, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Optional Protocols and Resolutions)).

Resolution on Special Missions adopted by the Conference (A/CONF.20/10/Add.l) (Official Records of the United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities, vol. II (Annexes, Final Act, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Optional Protocols and Resolutions)).

General Assembly resolution 1687 (XVI) of 18 December 1961 (Question of special missions).

Working paper prepared by the Secretariat (A/CN.4.155, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1963, vol. II).  

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its fifteenth session, 6 May to 2 July 1963 (A/5509, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1963, vol. II, Chapter IV).

Report on Special Missions by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/166, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1964, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixteenth session, 11 May to 24 July 1964 (A/5809, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1964, vol. II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/173)).

Second Report on Special Missions by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/179, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1965, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission on the work of the first part of its seventeenth session,
3 May to 9 July 1965 (A/6009, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1965, vol. II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/181)).

Third report on Special Missions, by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/189 and Add.1 & 2, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1966, vol. II).

Reports of the International Law Commission on the second part of its seventeenth session, 3 to 28 January 1966, and on its eighteenth session, 4 May to 19 July 1966 (A/6309/Rev.1, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1966, vol. II, Part II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/191)).

Fourth Report on Special Missions by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/194 and Add.1-5, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1967, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its nineteenth session, 8 May to 14 July 1967 (A/6709/Rev.1 and Corr.1, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1967, vol. II, Chapter II and Annexes I and II (A/CN.4/199) (includes comments by Governments (A/CN.4/188 and Add.1-4))).

General Assembly resolution 2273 (XXII) of 1 December 1967 (Special Missions).

General Assembly resolution 2531 (XXIV) of 8 December 1969 (Settlement of civil claims in connexion with the Convention on Special Missions).

D. Doctrine

M. Bartoš, “Le statut des missions spéciales de la diplomatie ad hoc”, Recueil des Cours, vol. 108, 1963 (I), pp. 425-560.

M. R. Donnarumma, La diplomazia “ad hoc”, Dott. M. R. Donnarumma, Napoli, 1968.

M. R. Donnarumma, “La Convention sur les missions spéciales (8 décembre 1969)”, Revue belge de droit international, no 8, 1972, pp. 34-79.

E. Franey, Immunity, Individuals and International Law: Which Individuals are Immune from the Jurisdiction of National Courts Under International Law, Lambert Academic Publishing, Saarbrucken, 2011, pp. 135-149.

K. Ipsen, Völkerrecht (5th ed.), CH Beck, Munich, 2004, pp. 591-596.

N. Kalb, “Immunities, Special Missions”, in R. Wolfrum (ed), The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012.

A. Maresca, Le missioni speciali, Giuffre, Milan, 1975.

B. Murty, The International Law of Diplomacy, New Haven Press/Dordrecht: Nijhoff, New Haven, 1989, pp. 262-266, 454-461.

J. Nisot, “Diplomatie ad hoc - les missions spéciales”, Revue belge de droit international, no 2, 1968,
pp. 416-422.

M. Paszkowski, “The Law on Special Missions”, Polish Yearbook of International Law, vol. VI, 1974, pp. 267-288.

F. Przetacznik, “Jurisdictional Immunity of the Members of a Special Mission”, Indian Journal of International Law, vol. 11, 1971, pp. 593-609.

F. Przetacznik, “Diplomacy by Special Missions”, Revue de droit international, de sciences diplomatiques et politiques, vol. 59, 1981, pp. 109-176.

M. Ryan, “The Status of Agents on Special Missions in Customary International Law”, Canadian Yearbook of International Law, vol. 16, 1978, pp. 157-196.

Satow’s Diplomatic Practice
(I. Roberts (ed.), 6th ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009, pp. 187-193.

I. Sinclair, The International Law Commission, Grotius Publications, Cambridge, 1987.

M. Waters, The Ad Hoc Diplomat: A Study in Municipal and International Law, M. Nijhoff, The Hague, 1963.

M. Wood, “The Immunity of Official Visitors”, Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, vol. 16, 2012, pp. 35-98 (forthcoming).


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In the course of its first session in 1949, the United Nations International Law Commission had selected diplomatic intercourse and immunities as one of the topics for codification. At its tenth session in 1958, the Commission submitted its draft articles and commentaries on this topic to the General Assembly, and stated that although the draft dealt only with permanent diplomatic missions, diplomatic relations also assumed other forms that might be placed under the heading of “ad hoc diplomacy”, including that of special missions, and should be studied (A/3859, p. 89). The Commission requested A. E. F. Sandström, the Special Rapporteur for the topic “diplomatic intercourse and immunities”, to undertake this study and to submit his report at a future session.

The Commission decided at its eleventh session, in 1959, to place the question of ad hoc diplomacy as a special topic on the agenda for its twelfth session, and appointed Mr. Sandström as Special Rapporteur for the topic (A/4169, pp. 122-123). The Special Rapporteur presented his report on “Ad hoc diplomacy” to the Commission in anticipation of its twelfth session in 1960 (A/CN.4/129). On the basis of this report, at its twelfth session, the Commission adopted three draft articles on “special missions” together with commentaries. In the report covering the work of its twelfth session, the Commission stated that the draft should be regarded ‘‘as constituting only a preliminary survey”; the Commission, nevertheless, recommended that the General Assembly should refer the draft to the United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities which was to meet in Vienna in the spring of 1961 (“Vienna Conference”). At the same session, the Commission, observing that the question of “diplomatic conferences” was linked not only to that of “special missions” but also to that of “relations between States and international organizations”, decided not to deal with the subject of “diplomatic conferences” for the moment (A/4425).

The General Assembly, by resolution 1504 (XV) of 12 December 1960, decided that the draft articles on special missions should be referred to the Vienna Conference so that they could be considered together with the draft articles on permanent diplomatic missions.

At the Vienna Conference, the question of special missions was referred to a Subcommittee established by the Committee of the Whole. Following consideration of the topic by the Subcommittee and by the Committee of the Whole, the Vienna Conference adopted a resolution recommending to the General Assembly that it refer the topic back to the International Law Commission (A/CONF.20/10/Add.l).

At its sixteenth session, the General Assembly adopted resolution 1687 (XVI) of 18 December 1961, requesting the Commission to study further the subject of special missions and to report thereon to the Assembly. In pursuance of this resolution, the Commission decided at its fourteenth session, in 1962, to include the topic of special missions on its agenda for the following session (A/5209, p. 192); the Commission also indicated that the Secretariat would prepare a working paper on this topic (A/CN.4/155).

During its fifteenth session, in 1963, the Commission appointed Milan Bartoš as Special Rapporteur for the topic of special missions and decided that he should prepare draft articles, based on the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations but that he should keep in mind that special missions were, by virtue of both their functions and nature, an institution distinct from permanent missions. With regard to the scope of the topic, most of the members of the Commission expressed the opinion that for the time being the question of status of government delegates to international conferences should not be covered in the study on special missions. In addition, the Commission stated that the time was not yet ripe for deciding whether the draft articles on special missions should be in the form of an additional protocol to the Vienna Convention, 1961, or should be embodied in a separate convention or in any other appropriate form, and that the Commission would await the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations on that subject (A/5509, p. 225).

At its eighteenth session, in 1963, after discussion in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly (A/C.6/SR.780-793), the General Assembly recommended in resolution 1902 (XVIII) of 18 November 1963 that the Commission continue its work on special missions, taking into account the views expressed in the General Assembly.

At its sixteenth session, in 1964, the Commission considered the first report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/166) and provisionally adopted sixteen articles, which were subsequently submitted to the General Assembly and to Governments for information (A/5809). The General Assembly did not discuss the report of the Commission at its nineteenth session in 1964, and consequently did not express its opinion on the draft articles.

At the first part of its seventeenth session, in 1965, the Commission considered the second report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/179) and provisionally adopted twenty-eight articles, which followed on from the sixteen articles previously adopted. All draft articles adopted at the sixteenth and seventeenth sessions were submitted to the General Assembly for its consideration and were also transmitted to Governments for comment (A/6009, pp. 163-191).

At the twentieth session of the General Assembly, in 1965, the draft articles and general topic of special missions were discussed in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly (A/C.6/SR.839-853). The General Assembly adopted resolution 2045 (XX) on 8 December 1965, and recommended that the Commission, taking into account the views expressed during the twentieth session and the comments submitted by Governments, present final drafts on this topic in the report of the Commission’s work at its eighteenth session.

At its eighteenth session, in 1966, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/189 and Add.1 & 2) and comments received by Governments on the draft articles (A/CN.4/188 and Add. 1-3). The Commission examined certain questions of a general nature affecting special missions which had arisen out of the opinions expressed in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the written comments by Governments, and which it was important to settle as a preliminary to the later work on the draft articles (the nature of the provisions relating to special missions; distinction between the different kinds of special missions; the question of introducing into the draft articles a provision prohibiting discrimination; reciprocity in the application of the draft; relationship with other international agreements; form of the instrument relating to special missions; adoption of the instrument relating to special missions; preamble; arrangement of the articles; draft provisions concerning so-called high-level special missions; introductory article). As the Commission did not have time to consider the comments of Governments on the draft articles on special missions, and as a limited number of Governments had communicated their comments, the Commission decided to request Members States to forward their comments on the subject as soon as possible and, in any case, before 1 March 1967 (A/6309/Rev.1, pp. 274-277).

At the twenty-first session of the General Assembly, after a debate in the Sixth Committee (A/C.6/SR.902-919), the General Assembly adopted resolution 2167 (XXI) of 5 December 1966, in which it recommended that the Commission continue its work relating to special missions with the object of presenting a final draft on the topic in its next report.

At its nineteenth session, in 1967, the Commission examined the Special Rapporteur’s fourth report (A/CN.4/194) and took into account the written comments received from Governments (A/CN.4/188 and Add.1-4) and the views expressed in the Sixth Committee. The Commission adopted its final draft on special missions, comprising fifty draft articles, with commentaries, and submitted them to the General Assembly with a recommendation “that appropriate measures be taken for the conclusion of a convention on special missions” (A/6709/Rev.1 and Corr.1, p. 347).

At the twenty-second session of the General Assembly, in 1967, after discussion (A/C.6/SR.957-968, 970-974), the Sixth Committee recommended that an item entitled “Draft convention on special missions” be placed on the provisional agenda of the General Assembly’s twenty-third session with a view to the adoption of such a convention by the Assembly (A/6898). By resolution 2273 (XXII) of 1 December 1967, the Assembly adopted the recommendation of the Sixth Committee and invited Member States to submit comments and observations on the draft articles.

At the General Assembly’s twenty-third and twenty-fourth sessions, in 1968 and 1969, respectively, the Sixth Committee considered the item “Draft convention on special missions” on the basis of the draft adopted by the Commission. At each session, Switzerland was invited to participate in the relevant proceedings of the Sixth Committee as an observer without the right to vote.

At the twenty-third session, the Sixth Committee had before it the draft articles adopted by the Commission in 1967; it also had before it comments submitted by Governments on the draft text and amendments to individual articles put forward by various delegations (A/6709/Rev.1 and Corr.1). After having decided to leave aside, at that stage, article 1 (on the use of terms), the Sixth Committee examined and adopted 29 of the 50 articles in two stages. In the first stage, it considered articles 2 to 29 and article 31, and referred them all to a drafting committee in their original or in an amended form. In the second stage, it considered the texts recommended by the Drafting Committee and adopted them, generally without change (A/7375). The General Assembly, by resolution 2419 (XXIII) of 18 December 968, placed the examination of the draft convention upon the agenda of its twenty-fourth session.

At the twenty-fourth session, in 1969, the Sixth Committee considered the twenty draft articles which it had not been able to discuss at its previous session and on new amendments proposed by the United Kingdom (A/C.6/L.745 and Corr. 1) and by Switzerland (A/C.6/L.766). It also adopted a draft preamble (A/C.6/L.751/Add.6) and a set of final clauses for the Convention (A/C.6/L.751/Add.5).

On the proposal of Bolivia, Brazil, India, Iraq, Trinidad and Tobago and Tunisia (A/C.6/L.764 and Add.1 and 2), the Sixth Committee decided, on 29 October 1969, to replace article 42 of the Commission’s draft, concerning the settlement of civil claims, by a draft resolution on the settlement of civil claims which the Committee later adopted and recommended for adoption by the General Assembly. On 8 December 1969, the General Assembly adopted resolution 2531 (XXIV) (Settlement of civil claims in connexion with the Convention on Special Missions).

Also during the twenty-fourth session, Switzerland proposed a new amendment on the settlement of disputes, which would have provided that disputes arising out of the interpretation or application of the Convention were to lie within the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (A/C.6/L.766). While this proposal was rejected by the Sixth Committee, a sub-amendment submitted by 12 states to incorporate the substance of the Swiss proposal in a draft optional protocol was adopted by the Sixth Committee on 10 November 1969 (A/C.6/L.769 and Add. 1). After coordination and review by the Drafting Committee, the final text of the draft Optional Protocol was adopted by the Sixth Committee on 4 December 1969 (A/C.6/L.779/Add.5).

The Sixth Committee also had before it three drafts of final clauses submitted to the Drafting Committee by France, the United Kingdom and the United States; by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and by Ghana and India, respectively. The Sixth Committee adopted the first of these proposals on 17 November 1969 (A/C.6/L.773, annex, part II), which would become articles 50 to 55 of the Convention.

By resolution 2530 (XXIV) of 8 December 1969, the General Assembly, upon the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, adopted the Convention on Special Missions and the Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes relating thereto. The final provisions of the Convention open it for signature and for ratification or accession by all States Members of the United Nations or members of any of the specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency or parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and also by any other State invited by the General Assembly to become a party to the Convention. The final provisions of the Optional Protocol open it for signature and for ratification or accession by all States which may become parties to the Convention. The Convention and the Optional Protocol came into force on 21 June 1985.


Text of the Convention

Selected preparatory documents
(in chronological order)

International Law Commission, Summary records of meeting no, 6, held on 20 April 1949 (A/CN.4/SR.6, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1949, vol. I, p. 49).

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its tenth session, 28 April to 4 July 1958 (A/3859, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1958, vol. II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/117)).

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its eleventh session, 20 April to 26 June 1959 (A/4169, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1959, vol. II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/122)).

Ad hoc Diplomacy - Report by A.E.F. Sandström, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/129, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1960, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its twelfth session, 25 April to 1 July 1960 (A/4425, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1960, vol. II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/132)).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 649, 652–661 and 663-665, held on 11 October and from 19 October to 3 November and on 7, 8 and 9 November 1960 (A/C.6/SR.649, 652-661 and 663-665).

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 943, held on 12 December 1960 (A/PV.943).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/4605, 1 December 1960).

General Assembly resolution 1504 (XV) of 12 December 1960 (Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its 12th session).

Report of the Committee of the Whole (A/CONF.20/L.2) (Official Records of the United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities, vol. II (Annexes, Final Act, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Optional Protocols and Resolutions).

Resolution on Special Missions adopted by the Conference (A/CONF.20/10/Add.l) (Official Records of the United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities, vol. II (Annexes, Final Act, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Optional Protocols and Resolutions).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary record of meeting No. 731, held on 15 December 1961 (A/C.6/SR.731).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/5043, 15 December 1961).

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 1081, held on 18 December 1961 (A/PV.1081).

General Assembly resolution 1687 (XVI) of 18 December 1961 (Question of special missions).

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its fourteenth session, 24 April to 29 June 1962 (A/5209, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1962, vol. II, Chapter IV (A/CN.4/148)).

Working paper prepared by the Secretariat (A/CN.4/155, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1963, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission covering the work of its fifteenth session, 6 May to 2 July 1963 (A/5509, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1963, vol. II, Chapter IV (A/CN.4/163)).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 780, 783-789, 791-793, held on 26 September and from 3 October to 11 October and on 14, 15 and 16 October 1963 (A/C.6/SR.780, 783-789 and 791-793).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/5601, 6 November 1963).

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 1258, held on 18 November 1963 (A/PV.1258).

General Assembly resolution 1902 (XVIII) of 18 November 1963 (Report of the International Law Commission).

Report on Special Missions by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/166, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1964, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixteenth session, 11 May to 24 July 1964 (A/5809, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1964, vol. II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/173)).

Second report on Special Missions by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/179, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1965, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission on the work of the first part of its seventeenth session, 3 May to 9 July 1965 (A/6009, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1965, vol. II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/181)).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 839-850, held from 29 September to 13 October 1965, respectively (A/C.6/SR.839-850).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/6090, 4 November 1965).

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 1391, held on 8 December 1965 (A/PV.1391).

General Assembly resolution 2045 (XX) of 8 December 1965 (Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixteenth and seventeenth session).

Comments by Governments on the draft articles on special missions drawn up by the Commission at its seventeenth session (A/CN.4/188 and Add. 1-3, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1966, vol. II).

Third report on Special Missions, by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/189 and Add.1 and 2, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1966, vol. II).

Reports of the International Law Commission on the second part of its seventeenth session, 3 to 28 January 1966, and on its eighteenth session, 4 May to 19 July 1966 (A/6309/Rev.1, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1966, vol. II, Part II, Chapter III (A/CN.4/191)).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meeting No. 902, held on 3 October 1966 (A/C.6/SR.902).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly, “Reports of the International Law Commission on the Second Part of its Seventeenth Session and on its Eighteenth Session” (A/6516, 21 November 1966).

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 1484, held on 5 December 1966 (A/PV.1484).

General Assembly resolution 2167 (XXI) of 5 December 1966 (Report of the International Law Commission).

Fourth report on Special Missions by Mr. Milan Bartoš, Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/194 and Add.1-5, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1967, vol. II).

Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its nineteenth session, 8 May to 14 July 1967 (A/6709/Rev.1 and Corr.1, reproduced in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1967, vol. II, Chapter II and Annexes I and II (A/CN.4/199) (includes comments by Governments (A/CN.4/188 and Add.1-4)).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 957-968 and 970-974, held from 26 September to 11 October and from 12 to 18 October 1967 (A/C.6/SR.957-968 and 970-974).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/6898, 17 November 1967).

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 1615, held on 1 December 1967 (A/PV.1615).

General Assembly resolution 2273 (XXII) of 1 December 1967 (Special Missions).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 1039-1059, 1061-1972 and 1087-1090, held from 15 October to 15 November, and on 5, 6 and 9 December 1968 (A/C.6/SR.1039-1059, 1061-1972 and 1087-1090).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/7375, 11 December 1968).

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 1746, held on 18 December 1968 (A/PV.1746).

General Assembly resolution 2419 (XXIII) of 18 December 1968 (Draft Convention on Special Missions).

Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 1121-1153 and 1170, held from 10 October to 18 November and on 4 December 1969 (A/C.6/SR.1121-1153 and 1170)

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meeting No. 1825, held on 8 December 1969 (A/PV.1825).

Text of amendments to the Draft Convention on Special Missions submitted at the twenty-third session remaining before the Sixth Committee, Proposed new article by United Kingdom concerning conferences (A/C.6/L.745 and Corr.1, 30 September 1969).

Final clauses: text adopted by the Drafting Committee (A/C.6/L.751/Add.5, 18 November 1969).

Preamble: text adopted by the Drafting Committee (A/C.6/L.751/Add.6, 18 November 1969).

Bolivia, Brazil, India, Iraq, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia: amendment to article 42 of the draft articles on special missions and draft resolution on the settlement of civil claims (A/C.6/L.764 and Add.1 and 2, 28 October 1969).

Switzerland: amendment to be inserted after article 50 of the draft articles on special missions (A/C.6/L.766, 31 October 1969).

Brazil, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Yugoslavia, Zambia: sub-amendment to article 51 proposed by Switzerland (A/C.6/L.769 and Add.l, 7 November 1969).

Draft final clauses submitted by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (A/C.6/L.773, Annex, part I., 11 November 1969).

Draft final clauses submitted by France, United Kingdom and United States (A/C.6/L.773, Annex, part II, 11 November 1969).

Draft final clauses submitted by Ghana and India (A/C.6/L.773, Annex, part III, 11 November 1969).

Text of the draft Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes,
co-ordinated and reviewed by the Drafting Committee (A/C.6/L.779/Add.5, 28 November 1969).

Report of the Sixth Committee to the General Assembly (A/7799, 28 November 1969).

General Assembly resolution 2530 (XXIV) of 8 December 1969 (Convention on Special Missions and Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes).

General Assembly resolution 2531 (XXIV) of 8 December 1969 (Settlement of civil claims in connexion with the Convention on Special Missions).


The Convention entered into forcce on 21 June 1985. For the current participation status of the Convention, as well as information and relevant texts of related treaty actions, such as reservations, declarations, objections, denunciations and notifications, see:

The Status of Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General

 
11 May 1964
Sixteenth Session of the International Law Commission, Geneva, Switzerland.
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11 May 1964
Sixteenth Session of the International Law Commission, Geneva, Switzerland.
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11 May 1964
Sixteenth Session of the International Law Commission, Geneva, Switzerland.
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