ON THIS DAY – 12TH DECEMBER International Day of Neutrality is Observed

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Every year on December 12th, the International Day of Neutrality promotes the importance of peaceful, friendly, and mutually beneficial relations between countries. It was officially declared by a UN General Assembly resolution adopted in February 2017 and first observed on December 12 of the same year.

In international law, a neutral country is a sovereign state that abstains from all participation in a war between other states and maintains an attitude of impartiality toward the belligerents. The belligerents, in their turn, recognize this abstention and impartiality. A permanently neutral power is bound to be neutral in all future wars.

The rights and duties of a neutral country are defined in the Hague Convention of 1907. One of the first recommendations of the convention was that, when war breaks out between certain powers, each nation wishing to remain impartial should normally issue either a special or general declaration of neutrality. Such a declaration, however, is not required by international law. A neutral state may, during the course of the hostilities, repeal, change, or modify its position of neutrality, provided that such alterations are applied without bias to all belligerents.

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.

During the First World War, Switzerland sustained its policy of neutrality despite sharing land borders with two of the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and two of the Allied Powers (France and Italy). 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: Austria, Costa Rica, Finland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Sweden and Turkmenistan. Even though these countries do not get involved in a conflict, some of them still have large armies and a military presence.

Turkmenistan is the only state in the world that has been given the status of a permanent neutral state by the United Nations. This status was granted on 12 December 1995 by the unanimous adoption of General Assembly resolution “Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan” and thus, the UN has become the guarantor of its neutrality. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in 2010, “This was a historic day for the people of Turkmenistan and a unique achievement in the foreign policy of their Government.  Not only did Turkmenistan make a strategic decision to adopt the status of permanent neutrality, the country also made a public commitment to build harmonious relations with its neighbours and to promote international peace and security in the wider world.”

Neutrality day of Turkmenistan is the second most important state holiday in Turkmenistan. In Neutrality Day across the Central Asian republic are mass festivities and holiday concerts. Ashgabat hosts international conference. In 2005, on the holiday’s 10th anniversary, a parade of the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan led by Colonel Kairam Bairamov was held in the Ashgabat Stadium.

The UN promotes the neutrality of states as a means to 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.