What is Non-Alignment?
Many writers have used the term non-alignment to be synonymous to terms like isolationism, non-commitment, neutrality, or non-involvement. Yet, these terms are not inter-changeable. Isolationism implies adopting a policy of aloofness; non-commitment implies detachment generally in international relations; and non-involvement implies detachment from tensions specifically between power blocs. Political neutrality has the closest similarity to non-alignment. While the former implies a specific context, the latter refers to a broader and continuing international situation.
Non-Alignment implies keeping out of alliances in general and military pacts in particular. Conceptually it is not meant to be a policy of passive but of active involvement in the struggle against imperial and colonial determination. Non-Alignment is meant to be dynamic and constructive rather than static and negative.
Origin of NAM
The idea of non-alignment in international relations was first conceived in 1955. The founding members of the movement were Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Abdul Nasir of Egypt and Ahmad Sukarno of Indonesia. Now the Non-Aligned Movement is a Movement of 115 members representing the interests and priorities of developing countries. The Movement has its origin in the Asia-Africa Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955. The meeting was convened upon the invitation of the Prime Ministers of Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia and Pakistan and brought together leaders of 29 states, mostly former colonies, from the two continents of Africa and Asia, to discuss common concerns and to develop joint policies in international relations. Prime Minister Nehru, the acknowledged senior statesman, along with Prime Ministers Soekarno and Nasser, led the conference.
At the first NAM meeting, Third World leaders shared their similar problems of resisting the pressures of the major powers, maintaining their independence and opposing colonialism and neo-colonialism, especially western domination.
The criteria of NAM membership were as follows:
- The country should have adopted an independent policy based on the coexistence of States with different political and social systems and on non-alignment or should be showing a trend in favor of such a policy.
- The country concerned should be consistently supporting the Movements for National Independence.
- The country should not be a member of a multilateral military alliance concluded in the context of Great Power conflicts.
- If a country has a bilateral military agreement with a Great Power, or is a member of a regional defense pact, the agreement or pact should not be one deliberately concluded in the context of Great Power conflicts.
- If it has conceded military bases to a Foreign Power the concession should not have been made in the context of Great Power conflicts.
Reasons for NAM’s Growth
- Nationalism:Strong sense of nationalism amongst newly independent Asian, African and Latin American countries.
- Anti-Colonial Sentiments:Weary of colonial powers, newly independent countries sought means to counter their continuing influence.
- Economic Underdevelopment:Newly emerged countries wanted to develop themselves rather than waste resources by getting embroiled in Cold War tensions.
- Visionary Leadership:the ability of towering personalities of developing nations to join hands with other nationalists.
- Presence of UN system:the presence of a collective forum where newly emerged countries could meet and voice their collective concerns.
- Formulation of independent foreign policies
- Economic development by avoiding conflict and military build-ups
- Resistance to neo-colonialism and imperialism
- Strive for world peace by opposing war and nuclear armament
- Focus domestically on development and social welfare
NAM’s Institutional Structure
Standing Committee: This committee consists of 7 member countries elected on the basis of geographic distribution, on yearly rotation basis to undertake preparatory work for the yearly ministerial meeting held on the eve of the UN General Assembly session.
Coordinating Bureau: The Algiers Summit of 1973 recommended establishing the Bureau which consisting of 17 member states which work in the intervening period between Summits to monitor implementation of decisions and programs.
Council of Ministers: This council consists of foreign ministers of member states.
Council of Heads: Heads of states of all countries which are members of NAM are members of this Council
News Pool: The Non-Aligned Press Agencies Pool was established following the Delhi Conference in 1983 to facilitate dissemination of information between member states.
Frequency: Summit Conferences are held every three (03) years, and Ministerial Conferences are held eighteen (18) months after each Summit Conference, with a view to address existing, new, and emerging issues of collective concern and interest to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), as well as to review the progress and implementation of the provisions contained in the Final Document adopted during the precedent Conference.
The most recent Summit of Heads of Non-Aligned States has been held in October 2019, in Baku, Azerdbaidjan, country that took the rotative presidency of the movement for the next three years.
Which is the purpose of the Non-Aligned Movement after the end of Cold War?
Since the end of the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement has been forced to redefine itself and reinvent its purpose in the current world system. A major question has been whether many of its foundational ideologies, principally national independence, territorial integrity, and the struggle against colonialism and imperialism, can be applied to contemporary issues. The movement has emphasised its principles of multilateralism, equality, and mutual non-aggression in attempting to become a stronger voice for the global South, and an instrument that can be used to promote the needs of member nations at the international level and strengthen their political leverage when negotiating with developed nations. In its efforts to advance Southern interests, the movement has stressed the importance of cooperation and unity amongst member states, but as in the past, cohesion remains a problem since the size of the organisation and the divergence of agendas and allegiances present the ongoing potential for fragmentation. While agreement on basic principles has been smooth, taking definitive action vis-à-vis particular international issues has been rare, with the movement preferring to assert its criticism or support rather than pass hard-line resolutions.
The movement continues to see a role for itself, as in its view, the world’s poorest nations remain exploited and marginalised, no longer by opposing superpowers, but rather in a uni-polar world, and it is Western hegemony and neo-colonialism that the movement has really re-aligned itself against. It opposes foreign occupation, interference in internal affairs and aggressive unilateral measures, but it has also shifted to focus on the socio-economic challenges facing member states, especially the inequalities manifested by globalization and the implications of neo-liberal policies. The Non-Aligned Movement has identified economic underdevelopment, poverty, and social injustices as growing threats to peace and security.
The 16th NAM summit took place in Tehran, Iran, from 26 to 31 August 2012. According to Mehr News Agency, representatives from over 150 countries were scheduled to attend. Attendance at the highest level includes 27 presidents, two kings and emirs, seven prime ministers, nine vice presidents, two parliament spokesmen and five special envoys. At the summit, Iran took over from Egypt as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement for the period 2012 to 2015 and latest one held in Venezuela 2016.
In 2019 Colombia and Peru suspended their participation in the Movement under the presidency of Venezuela, because their governments did not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolás Maduro‘s regime.
Organizational structure and membership
The movement stems from a desire not to be aligned within a geopolitical/military structure and therefore itself does not have a very strict organizational structure. Some organizational basics were defined at the 1996 Cartagena Document on Methodology The Summit Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned States is “the highest decision making authority”. The chairmanship rotates between countries and changes at every summit of heads of state or government to the country organizing the summit.
Requirements for membership of the Non-Aligned Movement coincide with the key beliefs of the United Nations. The current requirements are that the candidate country has displayed practices in accordance with the ten “Bandung principles” of 1955:
- Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
- Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
- Recognition of the movements for national independence.
- Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations, large and small.
- Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
- Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
- Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
- Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
- Promotion of mutual interests and co-operation.
- Respect for justice and international obligations.