The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held its 17th summit Sept. 17-18, on Margarita Island, in the state of Nueva Esparta, in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to mark its 55th anniversary. Its theme was “Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity for Development.”
Over 120 nations attended, including many heads of state, amid a growing economic and security crisis for oil and commodity producing regions. Venezuela has lost revenue due to U.S.- induced overproduction of petroleum resources.
Venezuela, Nigeria, Brazil, Angola, Ecuador and other countries are experiencing economic difficulties, which in some cases have resulted in political instability. The United Socialist Party in Venezuela is facing profound challenges to its authority by a U.S.-supported opposition coalition.
The summit’s concluding declaration said the nations and governments represented were “mindful of the fact that the history and reality of [today’s] world … demonstrates that it is the developing countries … who suffer more intensely from the disregard of international law, from invasions, from the ravages of war and armed conflicts, caused mostly by the geopolitical interests of the great centers of power, as well as from protracted conflicts inherited from colonialism and neocolonialism.”
These words reflect the burgeoning international crisis of internal and external displacement in recent years, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says has reached an unprecedented level. The UNHCR reports that by the end of 2015, 65.3 million people worldwide had been forced away from their homes. In this population, approximately 21.3 million were refugees; more than half were under the age of 18. (tinyurl.com/zaq2e67)
UNHCR also noted: “There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. … [Globally], nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution.”
Many of the displaced are fleeing Pentagon and NATO instigated wars of conquest and regime change. Additionally, unsustainable economic growth in many African, Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American states has prompted millions of people to seek employment in North America and Europe. The large influx of people from oppressed nations into world capitalist centers has created social tensions manifested in electoral politics.
Right-wing governments and political parties have made substantial gains in industrial states fueling institutional racism, intolerance and violence. Concurrently, these countries in Europe and North America are undergoing structural unemployment and rising poverty rates.
Pledge to continue founders’ legacy
The NAM grew out of the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. That gathering of 29 countries was a response to the growing threat of another world war following World War II. That period was characterized by U.S. intervention in Korea, French imperialism’s defeat in Vietnam and the beginning of the Algerian people’s armed struggle for national liberation. These developments heightened military and political conflicts between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, then the major global powers.
Liberation struggles, anti-colonial movements and political parties aimed to end colonialism and imperialism. The USSR, and later, the People’s Republic of China, sought to ally their foreign policies with peoples aspiring to end colonial and semicolonial rule, as well as those who had gained national independence.
By 1961, the need arose for a more permanent organization. In Belgrade, Yugoslavia, then a socialist federation led by Marshal Tito, NAM was founded by leading figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Sukarno of Indonesia.
The decolonization process in Africa was well underway by then, and the NAM sought to form a bloc of emerging states within the United Nations.
Over the last 55 years, NAM has experienced ebbs and flows. Leadership has been held by various countries, including Cuba and Egypt. The Islamic Republic of Iran hosted the previous summit in 2012.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani emphasized at the recent NAM summit: “In today’s global relations, hegemonic and domineering inclinations are incontrovertible reality. Alignment towards military polarizations and blocs is another dominant feature in the mentality and behaviors of some of the players.
“Arms race, warmongering, intensification of conflicts and violence, and interfering in the domestic affairs of developing nations by the holders of power and wealth … are only examples of such behavior which cannot be interpreted unless with the logic of hegemony-seeking and predominance.” (Iran Times, Sept. 18)
Right to self-determination affirmed
Consequently, the summit’s declaration stressed “the inalienable right of all peoples, including those of non-self-governing territories, as well as those of territories under foreign occupation or under colonial or foreign domination, to self-determination.
“In the case of peoples who are subject to foreign occupation and colonial or foreign domination, the exercise of self-determination remains valid and essential to securing the eradication of all those situations and ensuring the universal respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Pressing issues addressed at the summit included climate change, sustainable economic development, U.N. Security Council reform, human rights, unilateral sanctions, peacekeeping missions and religious tolerance. Also discussed were international solidarity, South-South cooperation, the role of youth, gender equality, the need for a new world communications and information order, and independence for Palestine and the Western Sahara.
Republic of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe called upon the NAM to increase its cooperation with his country, now facing greater threats by former colonial and now neocolonial powers. For the last 15 years, imperialist governments in Washington, London and other European Union countries have imposed harsh economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, before attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York, emphasized to summit participants: “Poverty is a threat to international peace and security and the well-being of people who are at the center of Agenda 2030. We should, therefore, continue to speak out against unilateral actions that undermine efforts to address poverty and underdevelopment.
“Zimbabwe and other Non-Aligned Movement members continue to be targets of unwarranted sanctions from powerful countries who seek to use economic might to impose their will on others. We are grateful for the steadfast support and solidarity from the movement, and expect sustained efforts to have these heinous sanctions lifted.” (Zimbabwe Sunday Mail, Sept. 18)