Why NAM is still relevant today
By Adriano José Timossi
Established in 1961 at the Belgrade Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement, despite some criticisms, still remains relevant as one of the most important platforms to promote unity among the countries of the developing world which is so necessary to face their longstanding, emerging and growing challenges. This is particularly true inside the United Nations, where most of the NAM’s daily business takes place, as its member states debate, agree on and advance common positions quite successfully.
The NAM quite often puts forward common positions of its members. Or many of the members coordinate with one another during debates on some issues in various fora of the UN, especially on political-related issues in the UN headquarters in New York. At the UN in Geneva, NAM operates on several issues (for example on the right to development) in the Human Rights Council as well as on health-related matters where a NAM Ministerial meeting of Health Ministers takes place on the sidelines of the annual World Health Assembly.
The NAM is also relevant in providing support to countries to specific member states such as Palestine which is facing occupation and siege and struggling for independence, and Cuba which has been suffering from an embargo by the United States for decades. It had been a firm supporter of the anti-apartheid movement of South Africa. It remains a strong pillar of support for developing countries fighting against racism, occupation and neo-colonialism. NAM also takes up social and economic issues, so its coordination on these issues with the G77 and China can yield positive results.
It is important to note that despite the poor media coverage of the week of intense diplomatic activities in the Caribbean island of Margarita, and in most of the cases, the negative tone of many reports, the 17th NAM Summit was an important gathering. It had the participation of several heads of state or government, many Ministers and Ambassadors, and important observer countries such as Russia, China, Argentina and Mexico. A total of 14 organizations also attended as observers, including the UN and the South Centre.
Over a dozen of developed countries also attended part of the meetings open for invited guests. These included Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Portugal, Canada, The Netherlands and Slovakia, which holds the EU presidency. The participation of around 140 countries in Isla Margarita is indeed the greatest proof of the summit’s importance.
Apart from the plenary debates which facilitated an exchange of views on international issues, the summit also adopted the two documents that will serve as guides for NAM for the next three years. They comprehensively cover all the significant international and regional issues.
Equally important were the hundreds of bilateral meetings that took place among delegations attending the week-long events in Isla Margarita, with useful outcomes such as trade deals, and discussions on regional differences. For instance, it was at the NAM Summit that discussions with OPEC and non-OPEC countries were somehow advanced and that resulted in the agreement to reduce the production of oil, which was recently announced in an informal meeting in Algeria at the end of September. President Maduro himself announced at the conclusion of the NAM summit that a deal was close to being reached.
Most recently, in October, the NAM, operating at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, also successfully advocated for a resolution on the right to development. The resolution that was approved by the Council established a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development, a fresh victory for the new presidency of the NAM. The Special Rapporteur will support countries in the implementation of the right to development and Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development. The Declaration on the Right to Development, a heritage of the NAM, is being commemorated this year in its 30th anniversary. The Right to Development is one of the core elements of the NAM agenda in Geneva, a right that today is even more relevant in a period of multiple crises.