Non-Aligned Movement to Focus on Future

24 May, 2011 | Source: The Jakarta Post

The Non-Aligned Movement celebrates its 50th anniversary in Indonesia next week with ministers focusing on how to maintain the relevance of an organization born at the height of the Cold War in the complex 21st century world.

Egypt′s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, whose country currently chairs the 118-member organization, said Thursday the meeting in Bali will give diplomats and ministers a chance to take stock of the movement′s achievements since its founding in 1961.

"It turned from an organization that was made to balance between the East and the West to an organization that is meant to pursue the political, economic and social objectives of the developing countries," Abdelaziz said in a recent interview. "It was more successful in the ′60s and the ′70s."

At the four-day meeting that begins Monday, there will be a special declaration commemorating the anniversary of the movement which united countries that did not consider themselves to be aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union, the two superpowers at the time.

But Abdelaziz said the focus will be on the future.

He said the Non-Aligned Movement, or NAM, has changed dramatically since the Cold War and requires "a lot of revitalization."

In the current more "unipolar" world dominated by the United States, he said "the NAM is looked at suspiciously" by rich developed countries "because they want to deal with individual countries" not with the developing world as a whole.

Abdelaziz said a key goal in Bali is "to achieve much more closer ranks on dealing with issues in the United Nations, whether it is on the political front or in the economic and social front."

He said the movement′s clout lies in the bloc vote that it can provide on critical issues like statehood for Palestine, which will be on the agenda in Bali.

But the NAM′s problem is that it is an all-encompassing political body whose members range from China and Libya to Chile and Singapore and have very differing views on issues like nuclear nonproliferation and human rights, Abdelaziz said.

In Bali, the NAM will welcome two new members: Fiji and Azerbaijan.

But Abdelaziz said Libya′s seat will be empty.

He said both the Libyan government led by Moammar Gadhafi and the transitional government in Benghazi wanted to attend the Bali meeting, but the NAM coordinating bureau decided to follow the Arab League which has suspended Libya from all activities.

Because of its varied membership, Abdelaziz said the organization "was not meant to negotiate among ourselves what are our demands, or what are our aspirations."

"So the NAM is not going to become an organization that is going to change attitudes of member states," Abdelaziz said. "The maximum it′s going to do is to coordinate positions on political, economic and social issues and to coordinate this with other parties."

For instance, he said, the NAM "troika" - comprising the current, past and future presidents - meets monthly with the European Union troika at the U.N. to discuss a wide variety of issues, and it also coordinates with Asian and Arab groups.

The NAM′s current troika includes immediate past president Cuba, current president Egypt, and Iran which will take over the presidency next year.

The Cuba "benefited very much" from leading NAM and many of their stances softened from seeing how other countries act and reacted. He expressed hope that Iran′s upcoming presidency will have a similar effect.

 

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