Neutrality is 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. It is 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.
International Day of Neutrality is observed on December 12 every year marking the day by holding events aimed at enhancing public awareness of the value of neutrality in international relations.
Amidst political and escalating crisis across the world, upholding the principles of sovereignty and the sovereign equality of States, territorial integrity, self-determination and non-intervention in the internal affairs of any State is need of the hour to defend, promote and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means without hampering international peace and security.
Hence, 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.
Neutrality is a key factor for providing conditions and building a platform for peaceful negotiations. Hence, 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 — is a core function of the United Nations for peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
On February 2, 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 December 12, 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 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.
What is preventive diplomacy?
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. Preventive diplomacy can also encompass the involvement of the Security Council, the Secretary-General and other actors to discourage the use of violence at critical moments.
What is mediation?
United Nations has always been playing 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. The Secretary-General and his representatives carry out good offices and mediation efforts at the request of parties to disputes, on the Secretary General’s initiative, or in response to a request from the Security Council or the General Assembly. The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) was established in 1992 to assist in this work and in 2019, DPA joined forces with the Peacebuilding Support Unit (PBSO) to form the new DPPA.
Successful conflict mediation requires an adequate support system to provide envoys with the proper staff assistance and advice, and to ensure that talks have the needed logistical and financial resources. The United Nations, led by DPPA, has moved over the past several years to sharpen its ability to provide such support to its own mediation efforts as well as to those of partner organizations.
The UN 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. The DPPA anchors the UN’s peacemaking efforts, monitoring global political developments and advising the Secretary-General on the prevention and management of crises, including through the use of his diplomatic ‘good offices’ to help parties in conflict settle disputes peacefully.