TIMELINES: What international body recognizes Switzerland’s neutrality Feb. 13, 1920?

February 13, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Monday, February 13, 2012


Feb. 13, 1920, Switzerland’s official policy of perpetual neutrality is recognized by the League of Nations, the international governing body created at the end of World War I and the precursor to the United Nations. Switzerland is a loose confederation of French, German, and Italian populations until it is unified and occupied by French revolutionary troops in 1798. In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte agrees to a Swiss-approved constitution restoring the federal government and withdraws his troops. Influenced by the Swiss population’s resentment of the occupation, a new constitution is adopted in 1848 solidifying the country’s principle of neutrality. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Switzerland is declared a neutral country and manages to maintain its neutrality throughout World War I. Because of Switzerland’s neutrality, the decision was made to move the headquarters of the League of Nations to Geneva, Switzerland.


Today, Switzerland maintains its policy of neutrality and Geneva remains the location of the United Nations’ second largest office. In 2002, after internal debate regarding the preservation of its long-standing principles, Switzerland became a U.N. member state. In addition to the policy of neutrality, the secrecy of the Swiss banking systems is also protected by Swiss law. Strict confidentiality laws prohibiting disclosures related to Swiss bank accounts have their origins in a law passed in 1934. The Swiss banking system’s policy of secrecy has been under increased scrutiny, particularly by the United States, over concerns that the Swiss banks are aiding tax evasion and are a haven for the world’s dictators to stash their ill-gained fortunes.

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