Skip to main content
The UN Geneva website is in Beta – this means we’re still adjusting the website and fixing bugs. Please take a few moments to give us your feedback!
About

Permanent missions were established in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which recognized that such practices contribute to the development of friendly relations among nations, irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems. The United Nations is comprised of 193 Member States, of which 181 permanent missions of Member States are accredited to United Nations Office at Geneva. 

Operationally, permanent missions organize and coordinate their Member States participation in the work of the Organization. UN Geneva performs representation and liaison functions with accredited permanent missions and observer offices to facilitate and support their participation.

Non-member States, intergovernmental organizations and other entities, may also be invited to participate as observers in the work of the United Nations, and as such may maintain a presence in Geneva.

Diplomatic personnel working for these missions and observer offices are accorded certain rights, privileges and immunities as outlined in the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. 

diplomatic guidelines

In order to provide the most accurate information and services to the diplomatic community, it is important that permanent missions regularly inform and keep UN Geneva up-to date on any changes in the diplomatic personnel, including for temporary absences of heads of permanent missions.  

It is current practice for a Government to inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in writing, through the intermediary of its permanent mission in New York, of its intention to establish a permanent mission in Geneva. The Secretary-General then informs the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

The Director-General informs the Chief of Protocol who brings this to the attention of the Head of the Permanent Mission of the host country. The current practice is that a Government informs also the Swiss Government of its intention to establish a mission in Geneva.

Credentials of permanent representatives are issued either by a Head of State or Government, or by a Minister for Foreign Affairs. They are addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and handed to the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva during the presentation of credentials ceremony. 

Through a press release issued by the Information Service, the United Nations Office at Geneva then notifies the directors and/or secretaries-general of the specialized agencies concerned.

Procedure: 

  • Submit a copy of credentials and a CV of the permanent representative-designate to the UNOG Protocol and Liaison Service protocol@unog.ch / or fax +41 22 917 0000.
  • UNOG Protocol and Liaison Service will convene a date for the credentials presentation ceremony with the office of the Director-General and a respective permanent mission.
  • Upon arrival, the permanent representative-designate will be greeted by the Chief of Protocol at Door 4.
  • The permanent representative-designate hands the ORIGINAL letters to the Director-General who receives them on behalf of the Secretary-General. An official photographer will be present at the ceremony.
  • A press release issued by the Information Service of the United Nations Office at Geneva will be posted on the UNOG website. The Host country as well as UNHQ are informed by UNOG Protocol of the new appointment.

A template of credentials can be obtained through protocol@unog.ch

See latest Presentations of Credentials at UNOG

Upon assumption of office by a permanent representative, the permanent mission should ask the United Nations Protocol and Liaison Service in Geneva to make arrangements for the presentation of credentials. For the brief ceremony of presentation, the Chief of Protocol will accompany the permanent representative.

It is customary for a new permanent representative to send individual letters to other permanent representatives informing them that he/she has presented his/her credentials.

It is the practice for a new permanent representative to call on the directors and/or secretaries-general of specialized agencies and other international organizations to which he is accredited. Given the large number of permanent missions in Geneva, it is left to the discretion of the permanent representative as to which colleagues he/she might wish to call upon. 

The Authorities of the Republic and Canton, as well as of the City of Geneva, appreciate courtesy calls by newly-arrived permanent representatives. However, given the large number of diplomatic and consular missions in Geneva, such courtesy calls are left entirely to the discretion of the newly-arrived permanent representative.

When a permanent representative relinquishes his/her post, the current practice is that he/she pays a farewell visit to the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and to the directors and/or secretaries-general of the specialized agencies and other international organizations to which he/she is accredited and that he/she informs UNOG in writing, of his/her departure and the name of the member of the permanent mission who will be in charge of the Mission in the capacity of Chargé d’affaires ad interim.

There is no institutionalized practice of farewell gifts from permanent representatives to a departing permanent representative.

  • United Nations: Precedence among the Organization of the United Nations is the following: Secretary-General of the United Nations, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, UNDP, UNCTAD, UNEP, UNHCR, UNRWA, UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP, UNDCP, OHCHR, under-secretaries-general, assistant-secretaries-general, directors.
  • Between permanent representatives accredited to the Geneva Office: Precedence among permanent representatives who hold the rank of ambassador is determined by the date of presentation of credentials. Under the next category fall permanent representatives who do not hold the rank of ambassador; acting permanent representatives take precedence after permanent representatives, irrespective of their title, in accordance with their last nomination as such.
  • Between permanent representatives accredited to the Geneva Office and the Permanent Representative of the host country: Precedence can, by courtesy, be given to the latter.
  • Between other members of permanent missions: Precedence is determined by rank, and within each group (ambassadors, ministers and ministers counsellors, counsellors, etc.) according to date of arrival.
  • Between permanent representatives and heads of secretariats of international organizations:
    • The Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva takes precedence over permanent representatives;
    • Directors-general or secretaries-general of the specialized agencies should be given precedence over permanent representatives when invited by a permanent representative;
    • Precedence between directors-general and secretaries-general of specialized agencies is determined according to the date of the agreement between the specialized agency in question and the United Nations. Among the specialized agencies and international organizations, the precedence is as follows: ILO, FAO, UNESCO, ICAO, WHO, World Bank, IMF, UPU, ITU, WMO, IMO, WIPO, IFAD, UNIDO, IAEA, and WTO. In social gatherings hosted by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva or by the directors-general or secretaries-general of the specialized agencies, it is the practice that the permanent representatives take precedence;
    • As to other intergovernmental organizations, their heads should be given precedence over permanent representatives when this is in the nature of the social gathering in question.
  • Between permanent representatives and high officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross: The President of the ICRC takes precedence over permanent representatives; the latter take precedence over other officials of the ICRC.
  • Between other members of permanent missions and international secretariats: Ambassadors who are not permanent representatives will rank above deputy directors-general or deputy secretaries-general of the specialized agencies and other intergovernmental organizations. Ministers who are not permanent representatives will rank above directors of division.
  • Between permanent representatives and other delegates attending conferences: In social gatherings related to a conference, precedence among heads of delegation is determined either according to the alphabetical order of the countries represented, or in conformity with the established practice of the conference in question. Presiding officers may take precedence over other heads of delegation. In gatherings which are not related to a conference, precedence is given to permanent representatives.
  • Between permanent representatives and members of permanent missions, on the one hand, and Geneva Authorities, on the other: Attention is drawn to the precedence recommended in the "Règlement concernant le Protocole", by the Republic and Canton of Geneva.
  • Additional remarks: In social gatherings in honour of a given personality, the latter takes precedence over all other guests; in such cases, the fact should be mentioned while issuing invitations. In social gatherings organized by, or in connexion with, special bodies, their established practice prevails.

Permanent missions must advise, in writing, the United Nations Office at Geneva and other permanent missions about temporary absences of permanent representatives, naming the member of the permanent mission in question who will be in charge.

Permanent missions must advise the United Nations Protocol and Liaison Service in Geneva of changes in the diplomatic personnel (arrivals, departures, official titles, promotions, etc.).

Permanent representatives are requested to inform the Chief of Protocol, at the earliest possible date, of the arrival of their Heads of State, Heads of Governments or Ministers for Foreign Affairs when a visit to the United Nations Office at Geneva is planned so that the appropriate arrangements are made to ensure the successful outcome of the visit.

The permanent missions are requested to inform the Protocol and Liaison Service in writing as early as possible of the following:

  • The dates of arrival and departure to and from Switzerland of Heads of State or Government in order to coordinate with the Host Country the protocol greeting at the airport;
  • The date and time of a planned visit to the United Nations Office at Geneva to attend a conference, a ceremony, an exhibition, etc., information on possible meetings with the Director-General of UNOG, other Senior Officials of the United Nations,
  • A list of officials who will accompany the dignitary: (i) during the meeting with the Director-General; (ii) during the visit to the United Nations Office at Geneva to attend a conference, a ceremony, an exhibition, etc.
  • A list of cars and number-plates, names of drivers, arrival time and venue, name of a contact person and other relevant information.

The Protocol and Liaison Service arranges with the respective permanent mission preparatory meetings, including meetings with advanced teams coming from capital, to discuss logistical details and view meeting locations.

Access to protocol salons (Czech and Slovak, French or Russian) can be arranged via the Protocol and Liaison Service for bilateral meetings of high-level dignitaries.

Security related issues should be dealt directly with the Security and Safety Section. Accreditation of journalists and other media issues should be dealt directly with the UN Information Service.

In case of specific conferences, where and when the UN premises have been allocated to other Specialized Agencies, such as the World Health Assembly, the International Labour Office, all arrangements are made in cooperation with the respective organizations. 

The procedure above determines a general framework for the organization of a high-level visit. The Protocol and Liaison Service remains at the disposal of the permanent missions to identify any ad hoc procedure should the circumstances require it.

When permanent representatives are collectively invited to ceremonies, etc., rather than as members of national delegations, they should be collectively seated in an exclusively reserved area in the right forefront of the room, immediately after cabinet ministers and the like. Should this not prove to be possible for practical reasons, a similar arrangement might be made in another prominent part of the room. The Chief of Protocol or another high official of the inviting organization might greet the permanent representatives at the entrance and see that they are ushered to their seats.

It is desirable that permanent representatives be given access to all meetings at which their country is represented, irrespective of whether they have been formally notified as members of delegations to such meetings.

All initial applications for a United Nations identification card must bear: (1) the seal of the mission; (2) the duly identified signature of the head of mission or, in the event of his/her absence, of the chargé d’affaires a.i., who shall have been designated and announced by the head of mission in advance; (3) the surname and given name, title or function, passport number and a copy of the passport, reason for the request and the desired period of validity of the requested card. For diplomatic members (holder of a carte de légitimation category B or C), the mission shall indicate whether the person will be included in the “Blue Book”, his/her precedence in the list of diplomatic members and if he/she replaces another diplomat.

Initial requests for the issuance of identification cards for the members of permanent missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva should be addressed to the Chief of the Protocol and Liaison Service, in writing (by post or pdf scan to unog.protocol@un.org).

Permanent missions and permanent observer offices will kindly note the following additional information concerning initial requests: (1) this procedure applies also to spouses of members of the diplomatic corps and to all other mission staff (spouses not included); (2) this procedure does not concern children of members of the diplomatic corps and mission staff nor all other relatives; (3) the validity of the identification card shall not exceed two years; (4) at the time of the bearer’s departure, the card must be returned directly to the Identification Unit of the Security and Safety Service.

In addition to the above, the applicants are requested to register online. The individual request with an electronic copy of the initial application can be submitted via http://reg.unog.ch/e/UNID. This procedure not only enables the applicant to initialise the needed profile requested for any registration to UN conferences or events at the Palais des Nations but represents an important reduction in processing time as once the request has been approved by the Chief of the Protocol and Liaison Service, the applicant will be immediately notified through the e-mail address entered and can directly proceed to the Identification office situated at the Pregny gate in order to have the ID card issued.

All requests for persons who are not members of permanent missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva (i.e. WTO, embassies, consulates, etc.) shall be addressed in writing, duly approved and signed by the heads of the respective permanent missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva to the Chief of the Protocol and Liaison Service (by post or pdf scan to unog.protocol@un.org)

Request for renewals of identification badges shall be addressed as per usual practice in writing, duly approved and signed by the heads of permanent missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva, directly to the Identification Unit, Security and Safety Service (identification.security-unog@un.org).The creation of an online profile is encouraged, alternatively applicants may proceed directly in possession of the written requests as well as their current badges to the Security and Safety Service in order to extend the duration of their badges.

Initial requests for persons who are not members of permanent missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva but affiliated to the Conference on Disarmament shall be addressed in writing, duly approved and signed by the heads of permanent missions to the Conference on Disarmament directly to the secretariat of the Conference on Disarmament (cd@un.org or unoda-geneva@un.org).

Requests for identification cards to attend a specific conference at the Palais des Nations should be addressed directly to the relevant conference secretariat.

For the obtention of vehicle stickers, please refer to ST/IC/Geneva/2017/2 as distributed to the permanent missions and permanent observer offices to the United Nations Office at Geneva on 11 July 2017.

It should be noted that the UNOG Pass and Identification Unit accepts following identity documents for the initial issuance or for the renewal of United Nations identification cards:

  • A valid passport issued by a UN Member State
  • A valid national ID card issued by a Schengen Member State

Any other document presented will not be accepted. For further enquiries, please contact the Pass & ID Unit on 022 9175002. The Pass & ID Office in building F at Pregny Gate is open from Monday to Friday from 7.30 am to 6.00 pm.

The Diplomatic Committee is a tripartite forum for consultation and discussion of all issues that have an impact on the work of the diplomatic community in Geneva. It endeavours to promote and strengthen the relations between the host country, the diplomatic community in Geneva and UNOG.

The Committee, which meets periodically, is composed of two representatives at ambassadorial level nominated by each regional group, as well as the representative of China. The Chairman of the Committee is selected from among the members on a geographical rotational basis for a one-year term, starting on 1 January of each calendar year. A Vice-President is also selected to act in the absence of the Chairman and automatically assumes the presidency in the following year.

The Committee may consider all questions of general interest, including privileges and immunities, housing, transport and insurance, with a view to expressing opinions and proposing solutions to the host country or to the Director-General of UNOG. The Committee may also discuss with the host country the question of security of missions and their personnel.

Representatives of the host country regularly participate in the meetings of the Committee. The Director-General of UNOG, the Chief of the Protocol and Liaison Service and the Legal Adviser of UNOG, also participate in the work of the Committee. In this regard, they provide it with the necessary assistance and bring to its attention questions of mutual interest concerning the Headquarters Agreement concluded by the international organizations and the Swiss Federal Council in April 1996.