Diplomacy provides the means by which states around the world manage their affairs in a manner that ensures peaceful relations among states. The main mission of the various diplomatic services is to protect the interests of their respective countries abroad. This applies to the promotion of political, economic, cultural or scientific relations as well as international commitment in the defence of human rights or the peaceful resolution of conflicts. A central instrument of diplomacy is negotiation. In many cases it leads to the signing of treaties between states with the aim of achieving a balance of interests between them. The following ABC is constantly being updated.

Accreditation / Agrément 

Accreditation / Agrément is a procedure whereby a State, prior to sending an ambassador, asks the host country whether it agrees with the choice of the person who will be sent.

Bilateral relations

Bilateral relations refers to the discussion or negotiation of foreign policy issues between two parties, for example on political matters, human rights, cooperation in business, development or research and education. In most cases these bilateral contracts occur between states. However, it is also possible for a state and an international organisation to maintain bilateral relations.

Consular protection

Consular protection enables a State to defend the rights of its citizens abroad. For example, a State may act on behalf of one of its citizens when the latter is detained abroad and demand an improvement of detention conditions.

Diplomatic corps

The Diplomatic Corps comprises all diplomats sent to a foreign state. They represent the political, economic, cultural and military interests of their home state in their host country and enjoy certain privileges and as well as immunity from prosecution. They for example they are immune from jurisdiction, are exempt from taxes in the host country and have custom privileges.


The opening of an embassy requires diplomatic relations between two countries. These relations are based on mutual understanding and can be terminated at any time by either of the two countries. The embassy is usually headed by an ambassador. The activities of an embassy concern all issues between two governments regarding politics, economics, finance, the legal system, development cooperation, social issues and scientific as well as cultural activities.

Facilitation and mediation

The assignment of a third party to negotiate between parties in a conflict is called facilitation or mediation. Third parties can be, for example, the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), states or non-governmental organizations (NGO). During facilitation, the third party establishes contact between conflicting parties without being involved in the negotiations. It is freely chosen by the parties to the conflict and enables them to meet in a neutral place, exchange views on possible solutions to the conflict, conduct negotiations and sign an agreement. With mediation, the third party receives a mandate from the conflicting parties. It not only enables them to meet, but also supports them in their efforts to resolve the conflict.

Good offices

Good offices is a broad term for the efforts of a third party to find a peaceful solution to a conflict between two or more states. Good offices are intended to bring about a dialogue between the conflicting parties. They range from organizational support to mediation services and participation in international peace operations. Good offices also include the undertaking of a mandate as a protecting power.

Human rights

Human rights are rights to which every human being is entitled by virtue of his or her nature, irrespective of skin colour and nationality, political or religious conviction, social position, gender or age. They are anchored firmly in international law by conventions, resolutions and declarations of international organisations and have universal validity.

International Justice

The enforcement of international law is decentralized. For this purpose, the international community has created several levels of authority that can issue binding judgments for those states that recognise their authority. The International Court of Justice in The Hague is the most important judicial organ of the UN and makes an important contribution to the peaceful settlement of disputes between states. For example, courts have been established at regional level to protect internationally recognised human rights protections. These include the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica. With the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the international community has a body that addresses the most serious crimes of all: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.


Multilateralism refers to the process by which issues of public interest are discussed and negotiated between more than two states. International organisations and committees such as the UN, the World Trade Organisation or the EU are forums for such discussions. In the course of globalization, more and more international agreements, for example the standardization of traffic signs, peace processes or the question of an open and secure Internet, are being negotiated on a multilateral level.


Neutrality is the legal status of a state to refrain from participating in international armed conflicts between states. A neutral state is forbidden to support the warring parties with weapons or troops. Furthermore, it is not permitted to make its territory available to the warring parties for military purposes. With regard to the export of military equipment, the neutral state must treat all warring parties equally. If it introduces trade restrictions on arms, ammunition and all material that can be useful to a military force, it must apply the restrictive measures in the same way to all warring parties.  

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

The goal of the OSCE is to create a shared space of safety on the basis of common values such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The OSCE focuses its activities on preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, crisis management and the strengthening of democratic communities in post-conflict situations. It takes into account political, military, economic and environmental factors.

Protecting power

A protecting power comes into force when two states break off diplomatic or consular relations in the event of a conflict. If all affected parties agree, the Protecting Power takes over some of the tasks of the previous representation of the other state, provides protection for the nationals of that state on the spot and represents its interests. This service enables the affected states to maintain minimal relations despite the conflict.  


Newly established states are generally recognised by other states. A state consists of three parts:

  1. population
  2. territory
  3. government

Since the Second World War, Switzerland does generally not recognise regimes but rather states. By recognising a state, a country expresses that it accepts a territory that has become independent as its proper state and is prepared to negotiate with it on an intergovernmental level. This lays the foundation for the establishment of bilateral relations.


Sanctions are diplomatic, economic or military measures taken by a State or an international organisation to prevent a violation of international law. Sanctions against a state that endangers international peace are adopted by the UN Security Council on behalf of the states. The World Trade Organization is responsible for sanctions in the event of violations of international trade regulations. In other areas, states may, at their discretion, use non-military sanctions, provided they are proportionate to the damage suffered. The use of violence in sanctions is prohibited under the UN Charter.

United Nations (UN)

With its 193 member states, the UN is an international organization with global ambitions. It is a platform for the discussion of all topics of international concern. The UN promotes security and peace, advocates human rights, the reduction of social antagonisms and the protection of natural resources, and provides humanitarian aid. Switzerland joined the UN as a full member in 2002 by referendum.

World Bank

The mission of the World Bank, which was founded in 1944, is the sustainable fight against poverty. In order to achieve this, it grants loans, imparts knowledge, strengthens infrastructures and establishes partnerships in the public and private sectors.

Last update 20.06.2022

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