ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: De 1961 à 2009, de Bandung à La Havane
by Bernard Duraud
Translated Saturday 25 July 2009, by Kieran O’Mearaand reviewed by
Weakened since the end of the Cold War by a unipolar world and neoliberalism, the Non-Aligned Movement is seeking to rebuild itself through taking action.
The fifteenth summit of the Movement of the Non-Aligned Countries (NAM) takes place from the 11th to the 16th of July at Sharm-el-Sheikh, when Cuba will pass the baton of the presidency to Egypt. The movement was founded in 1961 in Belgrade, and brings together the majority of nations which emerged from decolonization (originally Asian countries, then those of Africa and Latin America). It marked the will of both governments and peoples to rebuild the global system on the basis of the recognition of the rights of nations which had been ruled over up to that point. Today it has 118 member states. That goes to show the importance of the NAM in a world in which the United States remains in a position of hegemony, where the relationship of imperialism and dependence continues to hold sway, and the development of one being the condition for the under-development of a large part of the planet.
The NAM had sought, after the Bandung conference in 1955, to protect its members from the pressures of the confrontation between the two superpowers of the time, the United States and the USSR. Therefore it pleaded for a respect for the UN charter, as well as for the principles of national sovereignty and self-determination. It advocated an opposition to "blocs" and foreign military bases, in favour of the struggle for peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, as well as for a new, just and equitable international economic order. Its influence carried a lot of weight until the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The collapse of the USSR opened the door to US unipolarity and the development of the neoliberal offensive. The application of the Washington Consensus (in which the Law of the Free Market was carved in stone) across the board, caused many non-aligned countries to lose their autonomy, and along with the development of unipolarity, provoked an enormous amount of ideological confusion within the movement, condemning it to semi-paralysis. Nevertheless, the devastating consequences of neoliberalism on the economic and social front and its bellicose outcomes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon gave the movement a new lease of life.
After the Havana summit (2006), Cuba, which led the NAM for three years, as well as insisting on putting the historical principles of non-alignment into action through practical measures, has tried to relaunch co-operation between the member states by developing important programmes in the areas of education, health and energy efficiency. Also, during the most recent ministerial meeting, last April, they affirmed their "unity" in the face of the world economic and financial crisis, while the planet faced "enormous challenges" such as immigration, the environment, disarmament and terrorism. To sum up, the NAM has moved from talk to action.