Codification Division Publications: Diplomatic Conferences Codification Division Publications: Diplomatic Conferences

United Nations Conference on Consular Relations

(Vienna, 4 March — 22 April 1963)

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At its first session (in 1949), the International Law Commission selected the subject of consular intercourse and immunities as one of the topics for codification. At its seventh session, in 1955, the Commission decided to begin the study of this topic and appointed Jaroslav Zourek (Czechoslovakia) as Special Rapporteur. In 1960, the Commission adopted a first draft, together with commentaries, and transmitted it to Governments for their comments. In 1961, the Commission adopted a final draft on consular relations, and recommended to the UN General Assembly that it convene an international conference of plenipotentiaries to conclude a convention. 

The General Assembly, in resolution 1685 (XVI) of 18 December 1961 decided that an international conference of plenipotentiaries should be convened at Vienna at the beginning of March 1963. The Assembly also requested Member States to submit written comments on the draft articles, by 1 July 1962, for circulation to Governments. In 1962, after a discussion on the draft articles on consular relations in the Sixth Committee, the General Assembly, by resolution 1813 (XVII) of 18 December 1962, invited States intending to participate in the conference to submit to the Secretary-General as soon as possible, for circulation to Governments, any amendment to the draft articles which they might wish to propose in advance of the conference.

The United Nations Conference on Consular Relations, which was attended by delegates of ninety-five States, met at the Neue Hofburg in Vienna (Austria) from 4 March to 22 April 1963. After the articles and proposals had been dealt with in the main committees, they were referred to a drafting committee, which prepared texts for submission to the Conference meeting in plenary session. The Conference adopted the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (status), together with an Optional Protocol concerning Acquisition of Nationality and an Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes.

The Final Act of the Conference was signed on 24 April 1963. The Convention and Optional Protocols remained open for signature until 31 October 1963 at the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Austria and subsequently, until 31 March 1964, at United Nations Headquarters. They remain open for accession by all Members of the United Nations or of any of the specialized agencies or Parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and by any other State invited by the General Assembly to become a party. The Convention and both Optional Protocols came into force on 19 March 1967.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations codifies some of the rules that guide consular relations between states. By providing an international legal framework for consular relations, privileges and immunities, the Convention aims to ensure the efficient performance of functions by consular posts on behalf of their respective States. These consular functions include furthering the development of commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the sending State and the receiving State; acting as notary and civil registrar and in capacities of a similar kind, and issuing passports and travel documents to nationals of the sending State, and visas or appropriate documents to persons wishing to travel to the sending State. By providing this legal framework, the Convention aims to contribute to the development of friendly relations among nations, having in mind the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular those concerning the sovereign equality of States, the maintenance of international peace and security, and the promotion of friendly relations among nations.