Updated: Dec 13, 2021
The possibility of a utopian and peaceful world is promoted annually today: the International Day of Neutrality. The observance of this day was initiated by the United Nations and focuses on advocating and campaigning for mutually beneficial and friendly relations between countries. A country in a neutral state means that it is not taking any sides in times of conflict or war. Switzerland is a great example of neutrality, which chose to remain neutral during both World Wars.
The duties and rights of a neutral country were set in the Hague Convention of 1907. In international law, a sovereign state that refrains from any participation in a war with or between other countries and maintains an attitude of indifference towards any belligerents is defined as a neutral country. In return, belligerents should respect this impartiality and leave them be. A country in a permanent state of neutrality will remain as such in any future wars.
In 1815, the first country to declare its permanent status of neutrality was Switzerland and, as a result of this, thousands of refugees have long found a safe haven in this country over the years (notably from the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and the other previously war-torn Balkan states). If you were to ask a person if they could name a historically neutral country, the vast majority would indeed state Switzerland as their answer.
However, the actual creation of this date stems from a much more obscure source. The central Asian (and at the time, recently independent after the collapse of the USSR) nation of Turkmenistan is the only officially recognised neutral state according to the United Nations. Resolution 50/80 was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 12th 1995, which recognised Turkmenistan as an entirely neutral state, and recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary last year. The anniversary of this declaration was then established worldwide by the UN as the International Day of Neutrality on February 2nd 2017.
In order for countries to operate effectively while remaining independent, neutrality serves as an important concept for the United Nations to gain the cooperation and confidence of its member countries. The UN creates awareness of neutrality as a means to strengthen security and peace in regions where it is needed and, eventually, at a global level so that friendly ties are maintained between countries all over the world. Functions that fall under neutrality include prevention of conflict, negotiation, mediation, and employing special envoys, consultations, and development activities.