In April of 1926, world representatives met in Paris and wrote the 1926 Paris International Convention Relative To Motor Traffic.  Following the end of WWII, as many more people worldwide started to travel internationally, it became clear that the terms of the 1926 Paris convention needed to be updated.

In 1949, delegates met in Geneva and wrote the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, which became effective in 1952. The terms of this convention were updated again when representatives of the world met in Vienna in 1968 to write the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic

1926, 1949, and 1968 conventions all addressed commercial drivers, tourists, and international drivers who drive for other purposes.

Number of countries have never signed or ratified the 1949 and 1968 conventions, but their governments have still opted to honor international driving permits. Some countries have signed the 1949 and 1968 conventions and still need to honor international driving permits.

The government of Afghanistan has also never signed the 1949 convention. Until recently, the transportation agencies in Afghanistan had been allowing people traveling into Afghanistan from other countries to drive in Afghanistan with international driving permits. Following the recent coup, the Taliban have yet to issue any statements regarding this issue, so no one yet knows whether they intend to honor international driving permits.   

Brazil, Iraq, Mongolia, and Nigeria have signed the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, yet those countries’ governments still need to honor international driving permits.

Why are international driving permits not recognized?

As a journalist, I’m not particularly eager to write any of the articles I write, mainly based on guesswork. Like all credible journalists throughout the world, I prefer to write based on reading through databases, articles, and primary sources materials such as the terms of international conventions and treaties. However, in this particular instance, because there is so little information available about this aspect of this topic (actually, there’s none whatsoever), I’ll do my best to attempt to explain some possible reasons as to why the governments of any countries may still be refusing to honor the international driving permits. 

The government of Iraq was established in 2005, and the government of South Sudan was established in 2011, so it is possible that the governments of these countries have been so busy attempting to establish the basic domestic infrastructure that their national assemblies have not yet had the time to discuss this issue.  

In Brazil and the PRC, some highways are pretty overcrowded. The governments of Brazil and the PRC may want to wait to decide to honor international driving permits because they want to avoid even greater volumes of traffic driving on roads that are already dangerously overcrowded. 

Since the 1950s, most of the world’s governments have considered North Korea a rogue state. The three successive Kim regimes have paid no attention to international law, treaties, and conventions. The government of North Korea has refused to consider participating in any United Nations convention since the 1950s, so it’s no great surprise that they refuse to honor international driving permits.  

The government of North Korea allows very few people from other countries to enter North Korea, so I suspect that their decision not to participate in the conventions which establish the legal terms relevant to people who are from other countries driving automobiles when they travel internationally is probably part of their efforts to ban people from different countries from entering into the country, to begin with.  

Why this needs to change

People don’t plan or cancel vacation plans based on whether or not a country accepts international driving permits. However, people will likely feel more comfortable driving in other countries if they know that the countries they are traveling to accept international driving permits.

In some countries that do not honor international driving permits, including Brazil and the PRC, international travelers can rent automobiles using their driver’s licenses from their home countries. Quite a few people drive into Brazil and the PRC from other countries every day of the year to deliver commercial freight for business purposes as well as tourists and recreational travelers.

A second reason the governments should opt to do so is that the decision to honor international driving permits would demonstrate to the rest of the world that they are willing to participate actively in modern international law.

I also encourage the countries I’ve mentioned that honor international driving permits but have not signed the 1949 convention to sign and subsequently ratify it.


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Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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