Did you know that United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared International Neutrality Day? Presented by Turkmenistan, that Resolution 71/275 2017 declared December 12 as International Neutrality Day – and invites all Member States to mark their observance. In more substantive terms, this suggests that Secretary General Please continue to work closely with neutral countries, with a view to applying the principles of preventive diplomacy, while using those principles in their mediation activities (all with voluntary contributions of course!).
So what exactly does neutrality mean in 2021? Surely everyone will think about it first Switzerland, a State expressly committed to permanent armed neutrality, and in Geneva, headquarter International Red Cross and home to UNOG, as well as various UN programs and agencies. Swiss neutrality officially dates back to the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and Switzerland has long prided itself on its merits and its role as a protective or mediating power. For the Red Cross, its base in neutral Switzerland reinforces its impartiality and, therefore, its effectiveness in treating victims of conflict.
However, neutrality, even in Switzerland, is not a static concept. When I was UNOG Chief of Staff – long ago – Swiss voters surprised us by voting by a three-to-one margin not to join HE-HE-THAT. It was 1986, and one of the main reasons given was that joining the UN would jeopardize neutrality Switzerland. Even in Geneva, 70% against accession. However, 15 years later, in another referendum, Swiss voters decided – in a tight ballot – to join the UN. Apparently, membership in HE-HE-THAT incompatible with neutrality. And now, Switzerland is ready to enter security Council next year as a non-permanent member. It would take a longer article than this one to analyze the changing motivations underlying these various positions, but it is clear that it is impossible to point to a quick and rigid definition of neutrality beyond the basic premises.”not taking sides in the conflict“.
Other leading neutral countries in Europe –Austria, Suecia, Finland and Ireland– they don’t hesitate to join HE-HE-THAT, and they all take different neutrality approaches. As a young diplomat who served in Vienna (also for quite a while), I was often reminded of the demands of the Austrian Treaty of State, the 1955 treaty with the four occupying powers (Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and United States of America) is forcing Austria not to join any military alliance, and which led to Austria declaring its permanent neutrality, while in the same year it joined the United Nations. Austria stated that they would pursue a policy of “neutrality active”, Offering his good services for East-West affairs. And now, Vienna, of course, is the third UN headquarters, after New York and Geneva.
In Sweden, the issue of neutrality is a fairly lively issue today, although it is not related to the United Nations. Sweden has long defended the United Nations and sees no problem with the country’s neutral status. In fact, the most famous of all the UN Secretary-General is probably Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden. Sweden’s current debate revolves around a closer partnership with NATO, a Western military alliance with a country that has maintained a level of cooperation. NATO membership, as opposed to the universality of the United Nations, would clearly end neutrality, but there are many voices in the country who would choose NATO membership as a realistic policy in today’s troubled geopolitical situation. which will tend towards neutrality.
Finland and Ireland are other European countries that have chosen neutrality at one point or another in their national history and maintain this option today. Like Sweden and Austria (and Cyprus and Malta, two other countries declared neutral), they are members of the United Nations and the EU, but not members of NATO. And this affiliation begs the question: Is it really neutral to support sanctions imposed by the United Nations on other countries? Perhaps the “universal” nature of the UN allows this type of action without compromising neutrality, but what about the EU, with its initiatives evolving within the framework of the Common Security and Defense Policy? At least Costa Rica and other neutral countries outside Europe don’t have this problem.
First Secretary General of the United Nations, try Lie, states that international organization and neutrality are in two different fields. Now we have the UNGA which promotes respect for neutrality as an instrument of preventive diplomacy. Woodrow Wilson, deeply frustrated by Congress’ refusal WE to join People of Nations, rejecting armed neutrality as “very ineffective”, despite the international solidarity shown by some of the major neutral countries –Sweden, Austria you Switzerland– has long been a role model. Ultimately, this is a matter of politics, not international law.
The debate on neutrality is linked to the internal political debate that pits isolationists against interventionists: a longstanding debate in country Union and it crosses the left and right party lines. And when we debate humanitarian intervention and national sovereignty, we ask some of the same questions. Furthermore, on various historical events, for example during the World War II, neutrality may be more a matter of survival than free choice. The way we view neutrality today depends on changing political currents, on changing alliances with new conditions, on new threats and challenges that no one can fight against.”neutral”, But this is far from the political neutrality conceived by that Resolution 75/170, with which we begin.
* Michael Stopford is a former member of the UN Secretariat and UNOG Chief of Staff. The original article was published in UN Today.
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