The Status of the Non-Aligned Movement

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Abdolreza Ghofrani

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The 15th Non-Aligned Movement foreign ministers meeting is now being held (27-30 July 2008) in Tehran. In the three-day event, NAM representatives address the issues of their interests, remarkably those problems and challenges some of the member states have been entangled with for years or even decades.

Their viewpoints, solutions, and proposals enshrined in the final statements of the Ministers will be tabled as the agenda for the Summit Meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

The NAM is an international organization of states considering themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. It was founded in April 1955. As of 2007, it has 118 members.

The purpose of the organization as stated in the Havana Declaration of 1979 is to ensure "the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security of non-aligned countries" in their "struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, Zionism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great powers and bloc politics.

They represent nearly two-thirds of the UN members and comprise 55 percent of the world population, particularly countries considered to be developing or part of the third world.

The global situation has drastically changed compared to half a century ago. Fortunately, major aspirations the founders of this great forum have been realized, and some challenges this movement has been faced with are now fading away.

Colonialism and even the so-called neo colonialism have both ended. In Today's world, there are very few or no territory that is a colony of any major power or even protectorate of any power or governed by the “mandate system”.

Moreover, the strong sense of nationalism and independence nations, particularly those which have been colonized for centuries, share makes it impossible for major powers to exercise hegemony or impose their will on them however small and weak they may be.

Besides, invasion of other countries, aggression and the use of force for the occupation of other countries is over and no longer acceptable, given modern international norms and public opinion.

Over the past three decades, it has been proven that aggression has not only adversely affected perpetrators but also destabilized global peace.

Notwithstanding the problems NAM member states have overcome over the past decades, the world however can be a safer place. There are still challenges that all countries as well as NAM members need to brace.

Racism, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, drugs, climate change, food crisis and HIV/AIDS ….. are the challenges these countries are now facing and unless a permanent solution for these problems is found, a great portion of the energy and resources of these countries will have to be allocated to remove those problems.

It is noteworthy that in a globalized world, any political or economic crisis will have noticeable effects on developing nations, including NAM members. This is mainly due to the weak political, economic and social infrastructure of some of these countries.

Undoubtedly, in the future, NAM members will be among the countries exposed to crises. Therefore, the most important task set before NAM is economic development. Fortunately, focusing on the economic growth and prosperity of the peoples of the Movement has gained momentum in recent years but more needs to be done.

Nearly, all NAM countries are among Asian and African as well as Latin and South American developing nations. The most pressing and critical problem of some members, and in particular Africans, is severe poverty, and in some regions famine. Besides, the majority of these countries are single product economies that are vulnerable to global economic fluctuations.

Definitely, the collective action by NAM, and of course with the collaboration of concerned international organizations including the United Nations and FAO and other pertinent world bodies, will help prevent a human disaster caused by famine.

However, the important privilege NAM has is that most of the rich natural resources located in Asia and Africa. This, plus having more than half of the world's population is the cutting edge to the movement. This has given the Movement the weigh it deserves. Therefore, in economic turmoil, NAM's role can be very significant and certainly its decisions and actions will be critical and its viewpoints can be heard and reckoned with.

Now, NAM has a stronger position because a bipolar global system that makes this world body to take many considerations for any decision it makes or act no longer exists. Therefore, the member states are in a better position for advancing their objectives that are certainly in line with international regulations.

Moreover, as a big international organization, NAM can have a stronger say at the behest of 118 countries in international affairs. In fact, in the current global situation, Non-Aligned Movement can maintain its neutrality more than before, and through this, it can support the interests of its members, as it has been the aspiration of the founders of the movement.

Therefore, having this fact in mind and given the rapid world economic developments, it is for the Movement to adjust itself with the economic situation and keep pace with the rapid developments.

Because, the developing world should not loose sight of the fact that the advanced industrial countries as well as rapidly emerging economies are progressing fast and movement members need to brace the challenges and take the opportunities.

NAM is a good venue for developing and less developed nations to move at a rapid pace, while those nations have the support of this powerful forum. Therefore, the movement needs to give more priority to the economic arena.

Certainly, the focus on economic issues is of great importance. Nevertheless, it does not mean that NAM is an archrival to other international and regional forums and advanced economies. It must have a constructive economic interaction with those economies and the global economy as a whole.

NAM member countries have massive natural resources as well as a greater work force and more important vast markets that can be highly lucrative for advanced economies.

The latter can have great investments in the former, albeit this should be on bilateral interests and in other words, this needs to be on the equal positive interaction. To do this, both sides must have some kind of productive cooperation.

Fortunately, over the past few years a number of countries, also NAM members, have been invited to G8 summit meetings. Although, the desired concrete results have not been achieved of this participation so far, it has been a good beginning of interaction and cooperation and must be continue unabated in the years to come.

Despite achieving some of its objectives, NAM needs to preserve its non-alignment status in the international arena, and inspired by prime objectives, this important forum can be a good shelter for the developing world in all areas and can voice, as a potential power, the political and economic positions of developing nations.


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