NAM: Five Decades of Efforts to Turn “Common Identity” to “Common Unity” – Part II

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

By reviewing the conferences convened by heads of member states of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement over the past 47 years, one can notice a series of concentrated efforts by NAM members to turn their “common identity” to “common unity.”

Considering that Tehran will be hosting the 15th foreign ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement next week, a review of the fundamental issues related to NAM seems imperative.

Shifting Venue of 7th Summit from Baghdad to New Delhi

One and a half years after the start of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran, the IRI Foreign Ministry sent a note to Cuba (the NAM chairman) in March 1982 voicing its objection to Baghdad as the venue of the 7th summit and demanded a new venue be decided for the conference. Following this request, the Iranian delegation at the NAM foreign ministerial conference in Havana threatened it would boycott the 7th summit if it were held in Baghdad and that it would not recognize the NAM chairmanship.

There were a lot of debates about this issue at the political committee of the NAM ministerial conference and eventually, due to the support of certain countries for Iraq, including Yugoslavia, it was announced that Baghdad had been decided as the venue by the heads of state and it was beyond the authority of the ministerial conference to revoke their decision. Therefore, it was decided that the Iraq-Iran war should end quickly. The final statement of the ministerial conference also reaffirmed the decision of the 6th summit that Baghdad would be the venue of the 7th summit.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, however, continued its activity in this respect and by sending letters to all the NAM embassies in Tehran, reiterated its opposition to convening of the summit conference in Baghdad. Meanwhile, delegations from the IRI Foreign Ministry were dispatched to various countries to convey Iranian president’s protest message.

Likewise, Iraq was also very active to host the 7th summit and started construction of a complex at a cost of $1 billion. It had even drafted the final statement of the summit in three languages and hoisted the flags of the participating countries in Baghdad. But with penetration of Iranian troops into the Iraqi territory in Operation Ramazan (July 1982) followed by Iranian jet fighters’ air raids on Baghdad changed the situation.

As the time to hold the summit was approaching (September 1982), the Cuban leader Fidel Castro in August proposed the holding of NAM foreign ministerial conference to decide a new venue for the summit. The ministerial conference was held in New York in October 1982 and those who claimed they could not change the decisions of the previous summit conference agreed to shift the 7th summit venue from Baghdad to New Delhi.

7th Summit (New Delhi): The 7th summit was held in New Delhi in March 1983 attended by 99 countries and chaired by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In view of the differences surfaced in the Havana conference among the NAM member states challenging the integrity of the movement, Ms Gandhi’s task to restore the trust of member countries and do away with what certain members described as NAM’s deviation to the East, was more difficult.

The 7th summit was held under conditions that the impacts of the global economic crisis particularly in the less developed states who were mostly NAM members, had reached an unprecedented level. The summit therefore issued its final declaration in two political and economic sections. The political statement underlined the role of the Non-Aligned Movement in attaining peace and security, the question of disarmament, and peaceful coexistence, and paid special attention to the situation in southern Africa, Palestine, Lebanon, Middle East, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Korea and the Iran-Iraq war. A decision on the venue of the 8th summit was delegated to the NAM ministerial conference in Luanda in 1985. Harare, Zimbabwe was picked as the host of the 8th NAM summit.

8th Summit (Zimbabwe): The 8th summit was held in Harare, Zimbabwe September 1-6, 1986. Before the summit, the NAM foreign ministers met August 28-29 after political and economic experts prepared for the conference.

The 8th summit coincided with the 25th silver anniversary of creation of NAM and the following issues were discussed at the event: disarmament and global security; peaceful use of nuclear energy; Palestine; Lebanon; the Middle East; Iran-Iraq war; the Cyprus question; US invasion of Libya; southern Africa; the rights of the nations to safeguard their culture and national works; foreign loans; science and technology.

One of the most controversial issues at the Harare summit was the Iran-Iraq war. Thanks to the efforts of the Iranian delegation, a statement drawn up by Arab countries in support of Iraq and calling for an unconditional end of the war was not approved. At that time, part of the Iranian territory was still under Iraqi occupation.

9th Summit (Yugoslavia): The 9th summit was held in Belgrade September 4-7, 1989 in the presence of 109 countries. This was the second time Yugoslavia chaired the Non-Aligned Movement. The summit coincided with important developments in the bipolar world and marked the end of the cold war. In light of the new situation, differences surfaced on administration of the movement and continuation of its work.

Some member states noted that the cold war era polarizations had come to an end and lost their philosophy of existence and therefore proposed a change of name for NAM or its merger with Group 77. A larger number of the movement while reaffirming the transformations in the international arena, believed that the Non-Aligned Movement had still a long road ahead to accomplish its goals.

As the chair of the 9th summit, Yugoslavia in a bid to create some change in the outlook of the Non-Aligned Movement dropped basic issues in the political documents from its agenda, including decolonization and creation of a new information and communication order. But these issues were reinstated thanks to the efforts of certain leftist countries such as Cuba. Anyway, the Belgrade summit witnessed heated debates by advocates of both sides but they all agreed to stay committed to the principles of NAM, continue collective efforts and attempt to develop cooperation with the developed world.

10th Summit (Indonesia): The 10th summit was held in Jakarta, Indonesia September 1-7, 1992. The most important issue at the Jakarta summit was the change of the system ruling over international relations and the ways and means NAM should cope with it. Various countries expressed their views on the new world situation in different sessions. The sum-up of the negotiations was that the Non-Aligned Movement has not only managed to maintain its identity but by going through this critical stage, is also ready to face the new challenges in the world.

The 10th summit marked an important juncture in the Non-Aligned Movement because NAM regained its identity of existence in post-cold war era due to the unanimity among the member states on the need for its continuation and promotion of its role in international developments. The most important regional and economic issues discussed at the summit related to South East Asia, Afghanistan, Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanon, Bosnia, South Africa, narcotic drugs, terrorism, peaceful use of nuclear energy, and international economic cooperation for development and environment.

11th Summit (Colombia): The 11th summit was held in Cartagena, Colombia October 18-20, 1995. In conclusion of its work, the summit in addition to its final statement issued a separate statement regarding UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) and UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization). The summit discussed numerous issues the most important of which were restructuring of the United Nations Organization; the end of the cold war era and the economic and social problems of the third world; disarmament and international security; international cooperation for development; the need to deal appropriately with international developments; economic cooperation and terrorism.

12th Summit (South Africa): The 12th summit was held in Durban, South Africa August 29 to September 3, 1998, attended by representatives of 114 countries and chaired by Nelson Mandela. The most important issues discussed during the summit and adopted in the final statement were the role of NAM in dialogue between civilizations; restructuring of the United Nations; the financial status of the UN; terrorism; foreign loans; environment and development; science and technology; South-South cooperation; less developed countries; racism; racial discrimination and narcotics.

13th Summit (Malaysia): According to a decision made by the 12th NAM summit in Durban, Bangladesh was due to host the 13th summit but it withdrew its offer in October 2001. As a result the 13th summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia five years after the Durban summit, on February 20-25, 2003.

This was the first NAM summit after 9/11 terrorist operations in New York and for the same reason terrorism was one of the main debates during the event. The summit was also held one month before the US invasion of Iraq and amidst the UN Security Council debates about Iraq. That is why Iraq was another main issue during the 13th summit.

The then IRI president in his address to the summit said the US military invasion of Iraq had inflicted great losses on the innocent Iraqi people, endangered regional security and stability, destroyed the environment and bolstered extremism. He said the attack will undermine the coordinated movement towards democracy compatible with religion, ethics and culture in this region.

14th Summit (Cuba): The 14th summit was held in Havana September 20-25 2006 and Cuba is the current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement. Among the most important issues at the Havana summit was Iran’s nuclear issue on which a separate statement was issued.

The next NAM summit is due to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in July 2009.

On the threshold of the 15th foreign ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, the IRI diplomatic machine has certainly drawn up precise plans to take advantage of this international opportunity and draw the attention of global media. The outcomes of the Tehran conference would be seen in the coming months and during the 15th summit in Egypt.


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