The tradition of Swiss neutrality dates to the seventeenth century, and neutrality was officially declared at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Through the centuries, remaining neutral has allowed Switzerland to maintain its independence and security and to avoid damaging foreign wars. The country has used its unique position as the second-oldest neutral country in the world (after Sweden) to establish diplomatic "good offices" and mediate conflicts between other nations. See below for more information about Switzerland's neutrality and its contributions to diplomacy.
The conditions of Swiss neutrality have important implications for Switzerland's role in foreign affairs. Click here to see how Swiss neutrality governs the actions of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).
Diplomatic Good Offices
Dating to 1870, Switzerland has a long and successful history of establishing diplomatic "good offices" to protect the interests of all parties, and to pursue a policy of peace. The activities of good offices are now laid out in the United Nations Charter and include the following:
· Judicial decisions
· Use of regional institutions
· Agreements or other peaceful means of choice
Switzerland currently represents the following nations through its good offices:
· Iran in Egypt
· The United States of America in Iran
· The Russian Federation in Georgia
· Georgia in the Russian Federation
Switzerland is able to use its internationally-recognized neutral status to help resolve conflicts between other nations. It frequently plays an important role in this area, independently mediating hostilities to attempt to find solutions acceptable for all sides. Recent conflicts Switzerland has been involved in mediating include:
· Turkey and Armenia
· Israel and the Gaza Strip
· Russia and Georgia
Switzerland also provides its services in mediating domestic conflicts. In the past seven years, Switzerland has been involved with 15 peace negotiations, many of them internal disputes or violent conflicts in other nations. These include peace negotiations in Sudan, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Nepal. Click here to see more details on the FDFA website.
Contributed by Mary Ross and Krista Hahn