The Summit that Revitalised the Non-Aligned Movement

Martin Khor

The Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, held last week in Tehran, was held in high spirits, with leaders calling for a new multi-polar world with developing countries having their proper say in decision-making

The Summit of the Non Aligned Movement concluded in Tehran on 31 August in high spirits with the political leaders adopting several declarations and action plans, and many of them calling for a revival of the importance of NAM, especially to protect the countries from foreign intervention and to build a new multi-polar world.

The Summit was already notable for the presence about 25 Presidents and Prime Ministers, and the Vice Presidents, Ministers and other senior officials of another 95 member states, and representatives of 16 observer and guest countries.

If NAM has been searching for a new identity since the end of the Cold War, it seems to have found it in the fight against continued political and economic domination by the dominant countries, in reforming the United Nations and other global institutions, and enabling the South to have a fair say in global decision-making.

The Summit’s theme, Lasting Peace through Joint Global Governance, captured the spirit of the Summit.

What helped was the high profile achieved by the Summit.  It was opened with a lengthy address by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei.  The opening ceremony then heard from Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UN General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser , and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad.

Other high profile speakers during the Summit included the Presidents of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Mongolia, Palestine, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe and the Prime Ministers of Bhutan, Cambodia, Iraq, Lesotho, Nepal, Swaziland, Syria.

The Summit had come under the spotlight before it started by an attempt by the United States to persuade Ban Ki-Moon, and reportedly some high-level political leaders, from attending on the ground that it would legitimise the standing of Iran, on which the US and Europe have placed sanctions over the issue of its nuclear programme.

This US move seems to have boomeranged because the high-level attendance was seen as a snub to its attempt to isolate Iran.

A highlight was the statement by Ayatollah Khamenei that Iran regards the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a “great and unforgivable sin.”

He attacked the argument of countries possessing the largest nuclear arsenals for retaining them as a deterrent.  This concept has to be rejected totally as nuclear arms do not provide security but pose a threat to all.

Calling for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, Khamenei said this did not mean forgoing the right to peaceful use of nuclear power and production of nuclear fuel.  He attacked some Western countries that own nuclear weapons and armed Israel with them, but opposed Iran’s production of nuclear fuel for medical and other peaceful purposes.

He put forward the motto, “nuclear energy for all, and nuclear arms for none.”

Ban Ki-Moon praised the Arab Spring, and criticised those countries that supplied arms to both sides in the Syrian conflict.  He identified nuclear proliferation as the biggest threat and called on Iran as NAM president to play a role, and also asked Iran to build international confidence on the peaceful use of its nuclear programme.

President Morsi, whose country chaired NAM the past three years, said NAM had stuck to its principles and direction, and it must actively work to achieve the theme of peace through joint global governance.  In a just world order, developing countries would escape from marginality and be part of power sharing.

He added that democracy had to be implemented at a global level, that multilateralism without these principles was unacceptable. He also called for a solution for Palestine and action to stop the conflict in Syria.

Indian Premier Manmohan Singh said today’s global governance structures were outmoded and NAM should take the lead in reforming these structures, including the Security Council, IMF and World Bank.  He called for South-South collaboration in solar energy, food security and skills development.

Malaysia was represented by Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman, who stressed the need  for UN reform and the need for good global economic governance and reforms in the Bretton Woods institutions especially in view of the global financial crisis.

The Vice President of Venezuela, which will be Chair of NAM after Iran’s term, traced two previous phases of NAM’s history:  from 1961 to 1986 when NAM focused on the fight for decolonisation and development during the Cold War era when NAM achieved great visibility;   and from 1992 with the fall of the Soviet bloc and the attempt by the US to dominate a uni-polar, when NAM stressed the UN principles of sovereignty of states and non-intervention.

The time has come for a new phase to consolidate a multi-polar world without empires and hegemonic powers, with respect for international law, peace and development, he said, elaborating also on UN reform, and on the rapid reforms and regionalism in Latin America which has emerged as a powerful bloc.

The closing session saw the adoption of a 162-page Final Document, a short Tehran Declaration, a Tehran Plan of Action and two declarations on solidarity for Palestine and on Palestinian political prisoners.

The Tehran Declaration is mainly about measures to reform global governance.  It also covers NAM’s position on Palestine, racism, human rights, nuclear weapons and peaceful nuclear activities, terrorism, dialogue among religions and cultures, and the need for nations not to use extra-territorial or coercive measures.

The Final Document, formulated by the NAM in New York, gives details on the NAM position on global issues (especially UN reform); regional political issues; development, social and human rights issues.  The action points of these are distilled into the Tehran Plan of Action.

In his closing speech, Iranian President Ahmadinezhad said that all the leaders had emphasised that NAM should have its deserved position in the world, and preparation is needed so that NAM can play its important role in international relations.  The commitment of NAM is for a better world based on justice and compassion.

This post originally appeared on the Third World Network.

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