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Treaties are traditionally negotiated or revised within diplomatic conferences of plenipotentiaries specifically convened for that purpose. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are no exception. Those core instruments of international humanitarian law have been negotiated and adopted during diplomatic conferences held in Geneva. Interestingly, it is not the ICRC that convened those meetings, but the Swiss Federal Council:
“It is not the ICRC which convenes diplomatic conferences; it is more orthodox if this is done by a public authority. From the beginning it has been the Swiss Government, true to its tradition and to the support it has always given to the Red Cross, a fine embodiment of its ideal of neutrality and peace.”
— Jean S. Pictet
The Library holds the exhaustive collection of the preparatory works and official records relating to the adoption of the Geneva Conventions of 1864, 1906, 1929 and 1949 and of the Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005:

1864: Diplomatic Conference for the purpose of adopting a convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded in armies in the field

1868: Diplomatic Conference to clarify some provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1864 and, particularly, to extend to naval forces the advantages of this Convention

20.10.1868, Geneva, Switzerland

Full text of the Convention and lists of States parties or signatories

Official documents (only available in French)


The Additional Articles of 1868 were adopted but they failed to secure any ratifications and never entered into force. Nevertheless, in the Franco-German War of 1870-71 and in the Spanish-American War of 1898 the parties agreed to observe their provisions. It was not before the First Hague Peace Conference of 1899 that a Convention for the Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention was finally adopted.

Source: The laws of armed conflicts : a collection of conventions, resolutions and other documents / ed. by Dietrich Schindler and Jiri Toman. – 4th rev. and completed edition – Leiden ; Boston : M. Nijhoff, 2004, p. 369


1906: Conference for the revision of the Geneva Convention of 1864

1929: Diplomatic Conference with a view to the revision of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field of 6 July 1906, and the elaboration of a Code relating to the Prisoners of War

01.07.1929 – 27.07.1929, Geneva, Switzerland

Full text of the Conventions and lists of States parties or signatories

Commentary (Only available in French)

Official documents (Only available in French)

Preparatory documents (Only available in French)


1949: Diplomatic Conference for the establishment of international conventions for the protection of war victims

1974-1977: Diplomatic conference on the reaffirmation and development of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflicts

2005: Diplomatic Conference on the adoption of a third Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the adoption of an additional distinctive emblem