Protecting power

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A protecting power is a state which somehow protects another state, and/or represents the interests of the protected state's citizens in a third state.

In diplomatic usage, "protecting power" refers to a relationship that may occur when two sovereign states do not have diplomatic relations. Either country may request a third party (with which both do have diplomatic relations) to act as the protecting power, using its "good offices".[1] In the territory of the host country, the protecting power will be recognized by that state as empowered to represent the other and protect its interests. This may extend to caring for the diplomatic property of its protectee or acting as consular officers on behalf of its citizens. The relationship and the legal status are recognized in international conventions on diplomatic and consular affairs, such as the Vienna Conventions.


The Swiss Embassy in Washington DC also represents Cuba's interests in the United States

The practice is used when two countries have severed or suspended formal diplomatic ties for whatever reason (or never had them), including military or territorial disputes, and yet wish to retain some form of communication or means of conducting necessary business. Effectively, it is a means of maintaining diplomatic relations when those ties have been formally severed. It is not uncommon[citation needed] for the protected power to retain the use of its former diplomatic representation's buildings (although "attached" to or recognized as a section of the embassy of the protecting power), and to post diplomats to the host state (again, as members of the protected power's "Interests Section" of the protecting power's diplomatic mission). The host may impose much more substantial restrictions on the protected power's ability to post personnel or in other areas, however, than would be customary under normal diplomatic relations.

There is no requirement that the protecting power be of any particular size or that it maintain formal neutrality, but rather that the protecting power have diplomatic relations with both states. The host must grant or accept the assumption of protection.[citation needed] The specific responsibilities and arrangements are agreed between the protecting power and the protected power.

In practice, the "protected power" may be able to carry on quite substantial diplomatic and other relations with the host, despite the lack of formal relations. For example, Cuba and the United States do not have formal diplomatic relations, but both maintain substantial diplomatic presences in each other's countries. Switzerland is the protecting power for the United States in Cuba, and for Cuba in the United States (note that Cuba has separate diplomatic representation in New York at its Permanent Mission to the United Nations). Formally, the U.S. representation in Cuba is known as the United States Interests Section in Havana of the Swiss Embassy to Cuba; in practice, it is staffed primarily by U.S. diplomats and government personnel, and effectively occupies the physical buildings of the (former) U.S. Embassy.[citation needed] Other cases where a protecting power relationship exists include Israel and Taiwan in certain countries where they are not recognized.


Switzerland has a long history serving as a protecting power in many conflicts. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 it represented the interests of the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Grand Duchy of Baden in France (the North German Confederation used the United States as its protecting power in this period). In the First World War, Spain took on more protecting power representational duties than Switzerland, and the Netherlands also took carriage of some mandates.[citation needed]

However in World War II both Axis-leaning Spain and the Nazi-occupied Netherlands were effectively unable to serve as a protecting power, and instead Switzerland took on the role of representing a number of belligerent states. At one point Switzerland represented the interests of 35 states in their enemies' capitals, including the Allies in Axis capitals and the Axis in Allied capitals simultaneously, totaling around 200 mandates.[2] The Swiss were able to cover various issues between the warring states, including the repatriation of prisoners of war, the welfare of Rudolf Hess after his arrival in Scotland and notification of Japan's acceptance of unconditional surrender.[3]

Since the Second World War, Switzerland has been given over 67 protecting power mandates during several conflicts, including the Congo Crisis, the Suez Crisis, the Falklands War and the Kosovo conflict. In the case of the Falklands War, it served as the protecting power for the UK in Argentina, while Brazil served as the protecting power for Argentina in the UK.[4] In Havana, Switzerland represented the interests of eleven[citation needed] Latin - and North American states after the Cuban revolution led these states to withdraw diplomatic relations (since restored in most cases), and Switzerland was instrumental in resolving disputes involving hijackings and refugees between Cuba and the United States. Following the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Switzerland took on additional mandates in the Middle East, and had at one time 25 assignments, the greatest number since 1945. Switzerland provided protecting power representation between India and Pakistan until the two states formalised diplomatic relations in 1976, and supervised the movement of over 320,000 refugees between these countries.[5]

Switzerland now only has six protecting power mandates:

Other protecting power relationships[edit]

Certain countries may have agreements to provide limited consular services to the citizens of other countries. This does not necessarily constitute a protecting power relationship, as the host country may not have formally agreed, and there may in fact be diplomatic relations between the host country and the third country, but no physical representation. Without the agreement of the host country, consular officials in this role may not be recognized as representing the interests of another, and be limited to a "good offices"[citation needed] role.

  • The United States provides consular services to citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau, which formerly were part of a US Trust Territory.
  • Certain Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, have agreements in certain countries to provide consular services for citizens of the other countries where they do not have physical representation. The United Kingdom provides consular assistance to Canadians abroad where there is no Canadian mission, as stated in each Canadian passport. Canada provides consular assistance to Australian citizens to several states in Latin America and Africa; while Australian diplomatic missions reciprocate in several Asia-Pacific states.[23][24]
  • Under Article 20 section 2c of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) citizens of European Union countries may request consular services at the missions of other EU countries when their home country does not have a mission locally.[25]
  • In 2006, Governments of Montenegro and Serbia adopted the Memorandum of Agreement between the Republic of Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia on Consular Protection and Services to the Citizens of Montenegro. By this agreement, Serbia, through its network of diplomatic and consular missions, provides consular services to the Montenegrin citizens on the territory of states in which Montenegro has no missions of its own.[26]

Other meanings[edit]

  • Historically a protecting power held a permanent protectorate over a weaker state, which in practice could constitute a form of colonial domination, in the logic of indirect rule.[citation needed]
  • The term friendly protection also applied to 'guarantor' state(s) vowing to prevent the protected state (or a specific part) being overrun by a third party.
  • Protecting power has a distinct and separate meaning under the Geneva Conventions for protection of civilians in times of war.[27]


  1. ^ Article 12(1) of Geneva Convention IV 1949
  2. ^
  3. ^ Probst, R. (1989). "Good Offices" in the Light of Swiss International Practice and Experience. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7923-0141-7
  4. ^ Argentina and Britain Move To Restore Diplomatic Ties, New York Times, September 1, 1989
  5. ^ Fischer, T. (2002). Switzerland's good offices: a changing concept, 1945-2002 (PDF). Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Forschungsstelle für Internationale Beziehungen.
  6. ^ Iran Foreign Entry Requirements, A Briggs
  7. ^ Georgian Foreign Minister Receives Head Of Swiss FDFA, UNOMIG, January 13, 2009
  8. ^ Website of the Russian Federation's Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia
  9. ^ Website of Georgia's Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland to the Russian Federation
  10. ^ "Turkey to serve as protecting power for U.S. in Libya". CNN. 24 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Tehran and London formalize Embassy closures". The Daily Star (Lebanon). 28 June 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  12. ^ Loislaw Federal District Court
  13. ^ Indonesia names envoy to Lisbon, Jakarta Post, November 16, 2000
  14. ^ The British Interests Section in Kampala, 1976-7, G.R Berridge, January 2012
  15. ^ Africa Research Bureau. (1984). Africa Research Bulletin. Africa Research. p. 7228
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Canada Thanks Italy for Agreeing to Represent Interests in Iran". Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "Iran Not Consulted on Selection of Italian Embassy as Canada's Interests Section". Fars News Agency. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ DFAIT Canada
  24. ^ DFAT Australia
  25. ^ Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Europa
  26. ^
  27. ^ "From Geneva to Sri Lanka". International Relations and Security Network. ReliefWeb. 12 August 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-14. "The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is the official protecting power of the Geneva Conventions, has just put forward guidance on what it means to take part in hostilities, according to their understanding." 

External links[edit]