Every year on December 12th, the International Day of Neutrality promotes the importance of peaceful, friendly, and mutually beneficial relations between countries.
When a country is neutral, it means they are not taking a side in times of war or conflict. One of the best-known examples of neutrality is the country of Switzerland. During both World Wars, Switzerland remained neutral. Their neutrality goes back as far as 1815. As a result of their permanent neutral status, Switzerland has become a safe haven for thousands of refugees over the years.
Other countries that have remained neutral during times of armed conflict include:
- Costa Rica
Even though these countries do not get involved in a conflict, some of them still have large armies and a military presence.
Preventative diplomacy, early warnings of conflict, mediation, and fact-finding missions all help these countries maintain their neutrality. Some neutral countries might also utilize special envoys, informal consultations, and negotiations. Maintaining neutrality is not an easy feat. This is especially true in a world that is never void of conflict. In fact, dozens of new conflicts occur each year.
Some of the most recent conflicts involve the countries of Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Venezuela. There have also been tensions between the United States and China, as well as between the U.S. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Many people around the world live in fear each day that there will someday be a World War III.
With the increasing numbers of conflicts and rumors of war, neutrality is more important than ever.
International Day of Neutrality History
On February 2, 2017, the UN General Assembly Declared December 12th as the International Day of Neutrality. The resolution was introduced by the country of Turkmenistan. This country had been recognized as a permanently neutral state since December 12th, 1995.
In the face of political tension and escalating crises, it is of great importance to uphold the principles of sovereignty and the sovereign equality of States, territorial integrity, self-determination and non-intervention in the internal affairs of any State, and to defend, promote and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security are not endangered.
Therefore, the policy of neutrality contributes to the strengthening of peace and security in relevant regions and at the global level and plays an important role in developing peaceful, friendly and mutually beneficial relations between the countries of the world.
It is worth noting that the policy of neutrality — a key factor for providing conditions and building a platform for peaceful negotiations — is also closely interconnected with and based on the tools of preventive diplomacy, such as early warning and prevention of conflict, mediation, good offices, fact-finding missions, negotiation, the use of special envoys, informal consultations, peacebuilding and targeted development activities.
Hence, preventive diplomacy is a core function of the United Nations and is central to the role of the United Nations Secretary-General, including the special political missions of the United Nations and the good offices of the Secretary-General in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
Consequently, and in accordance with the guiding principles for the strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations system, countries with the status of neutrality play an important role in providing and delivering humanitarian assistance in situations of complex emergencies and natural disasters.
On 2 February 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted without a vote resolution 71/275 — introduced by Turkmenistan, recognized by the UN as a permanently neutral state since 12 December 1995 — which noted the link between the preservation of peace and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and declared 12 December as the International Day of Neutrality.
The aforementioned GA resolution also proposes that UN Secretary-General continue to cooperate closely with the neutral states, with a view to implementing the principles of preventive diplomacy and utilizing them in the mediation activities.
5 FACTS ABOUT NEUTRAL COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD
Switzerland maintains its armed forces
Despite having no military alliances, Switzerland maintains its strong armed forces.
Serbia may change its neutral status
Serbia’s neutrality is subject to change in the future if it decides to join CSTO or NATO.
Ghana’s switch to neutrality
The Government of Ghana implemented a closed-neutral policy, following the death of President John Atta Mills.
Japan is ready to defend
Although Japan is bound by its constitution to never participate in wars, it has a history of conflict and war, and continues to maintain military alliance and heavily armed forces for self-defense.
Switzerland, the peaceful
Due to its neutrality, Switzerland has become a popular region for the establishment of several organizations’ headquarters, like the International Committee of the Red Cross.