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Artwork symbolizing ‘peace in the world
Artwork symbolizing ‘peace in the world’ © United Nations

Introduction

Neutrality — defined as the legal status arising from the abstention of a state from all participation in a war between other states, the maintenance of an attitude of impartiality toward the belligerents, and the recognition by the belligerents of this abstention and impartiality — is critically important for the United Nations to gain and maintain the confidence and cooperation of all in order to operate independently and effectively, especially in situations that are politically charged.

As Article 2 of the UN Charter obligates member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means and to refrain from the threat, or the use of force in their relations, the General Assembly reaffirmed those obligations in its resolution 71/275.

The resolution also underlined that some states’ national policies of neutrality can contribute to the strengthening of international peace and security and play an important role in developing mutually beneficial relations among countries of the world.

Recognizing that such national policies of neutrality are aimed at promoting the use of preventive diplomacy, which is a core function of the United Nations and occupies a central place among the functions of the Secretary-General, the General Assembly decided to declare 12 December the International Day of Neutrality, and called for marking the day by holding events aimed at enhancing public awareness of the value of neutrality in international relations.

Background

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.

Preventive Diplomacy

The United Nations is committed to moving from a culture of "reaction" to one of "prevention". The term "Preventive diplomacy" refers to diplomatic action taken to prevent disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of conflicts when they occur. While it is conducted in different forms and fora, both public and private, the most common expression of preventive diplomacy is found in the work of envoys dispatched to crisis areas to encourage dialogue, compromise and the peaceful resolution of tensions. Learn more!

Mediation

Since its inception, the United Nations has played a crucial role in helping to mediate inter- and intra-State conflicts at all stages: before they escalate into armed conflict, after the outbreak of violence, and during implementation of peace agreements. Successful conflict mediation requires an adequate support system to provide envoys with the proper staff assistance and advice, and ensure that talks have the needed logistical and financial resources. Learn more!

Peacemaking

UN peacemaking flourished in the decade following the end of the Cold War, as many longstanding armed conflicts were brought to an end through political negotiated settlements. The organization continues to play a preeminent role in peacemaking, working increasingly in partnership with regional organizations in order to bring ongoing conflicts to an end, and to prevent new crises from emerging or escalating. Learn more!