Swiss Security Policy Hearings 2009 - Neutrality and its Discontents

16 Pages Posted: 27 May 2009 Last revised: 1 May 2014

See all articles by Simon Chesterman

Simon Chesterman

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 17, 2009


Testimony at the Swiss Security Policy hearings, April 17, 2009. In Switzerland, terms such as 'integral neutrality' and 'active neutrality' have been adopted in political discourse. However, I am not sure this is helpful in clarifying the meaning of neutrality and, to an outsider at least, this appears to be hanging political policies on legal clothes hooks. Everyone in Switzerland seems to agree that neutrality is important and vital, but everyone seems to understand the term differently. Speaking as a lawyer, I would therefore separate the legal concept of neutrality from political policies which we might term, for example, 'isolationism' or 'engagement'. For your security you should have a security policy and not a neutrality policy. I would accept that international armed conflict in Europe is unlikely, but to rule it out completely seems to be a mistake. An important part of conflict resolution and peacebuilding is a military component. Given the extensive involvement of Switzerland in mediation and humanitarian assistance, these efforts would be best supported by robust military support. From an efficiency perspective, it would therefore seem to make sense for Switzerland to play a role in that, so that its efforts are not wasted.

Keywords: Switzerland, security policy, neutrality, peace operations, United Nations, international law

Suggested Citation

Chesterman, Simon, Swiss Security Policy Hearings 2009 - Neutrality and its Discontents (April 17, 2009). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 09-37, Available at SSRN: or

Simon Chesterman (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

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