Geneva Accords: Definition & Overview

Geneva Accords: Definition & Overview
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  • 0:00 The First Indochina War
  • 0:52 The Geneva Conference
  • 1:36 Terms of the Geneva Accords
  • 3:08 Significance of the…
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

A number of events contributed to the Vietnam War, including the Geneva Conference and the Geneva Accords. This lesson explains the context and main provisions of the Geneva Accords.

The First Indochina War

For decades, France controlled French Indochina, a region in Southeast Asia made up of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. In 1946, one year after the end of World War II, communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh seized Hanoi in northern Vietnam and created the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, what we call North Vietnam. France, however, refused to give up control of the State of Vietnam, what we call South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and his forces waged guerrilla warfare in Vietnam, while France fought to maintain its control for nearly eight years. But by 1954 they had had enough. The First Indochina War would finally come to an end as a result of the Geneva Accords.

The Geneva Conference

The Geneva Conference began on April 26, 1954, with negotiations continuing until July 21, 1954. Vietnamese and French combatants were still fighting during this time. A total of nine parties met to discuss peace terms. In addition to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the State of Vietnam, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom were there to represent western democratic interests in the region and to support South Vietnam, while the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union were there to represent communist interests and to back North Vietnam. Cambodia and Laos were also present, largely because the conflict in Vietnam affected Southeast Asia at large.

Terms of the Geneva Accords

The Geneva Accords were comprised of ten separate documents that outlined military agreements, declarations from the parties present, and a plan for elections in Vietnam. The conference ended with the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference, which was a summation and recognition of the agreements and declarations made during the conference. One of the key points of the Final Declaration was that there would be a two-year transitional period during which actions would be taken based upon the agreements of the Geneva Accords, and would culminate in July 1956, with Vietnam holding a nationwide election to reunite the country and decide on the government of the reunited Vietnam.

Several key military agreements of the Geneva Accords outlined the following provisions:

  • A cease-fire line would be drawn at the 17th parallel, temporarily dividing the country into two parts. The communist Viet Minh occupied the north, while the State of Vietnam remained in the south.
  • The Viet Minh, State of Vietnam, and France had to withdraw their troops to their side of the 17th parallel.
  • The citizens of Vietnam were to be given 300 days to relocate, at their will, to either South or North Vietnam.

In addition, all communist forces would be removed from Laos and Cambodia and the countries would be allowed to have free elections in 1955. French troops would be permitted to stay in the area at the request of Laos and Cambodia. A committee of three countries, made of Canada, India, and Poland, was responsible for overseeing and enforcing the elections.

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