It has always occurred this way, even when those present, their interests, the number in attendance didn’t have anything to do with agreement among the 120 nations and 15 observers currently members of NAM – or much less with the interests of the people who want to see a reflection of high level discussions held by other select clubs on their tables, in their pockets, in elemental rights within their daily lives.
Contrary to the foundational principles of the Non-Aligned Movement, economic and military powers have called other summit meetings that attract the world’s attention to miniscule groups such as the G8, the G20, and make these small alliances as explosive as a nuclear reaction.
During these gatherings, the site becomes the capital of the world, since the mass communications media put up tents, highlight their issues, promote their agendas, and shine all spotlights on their subject of debate, no matter if they’re discussing military advantages, or cracks debilitating the hegemony of their economies.
The climate and terms used in Non-Aligned Movement Summits are at least distinct. There is a kind of respect for, loyalty to, the organization’s original purpose, generated in 1955, in Bandung, Indonesia, with the idea shared by three leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt) and Sukarno (Indonesia), to create an organization of nations committed to not aligning themselves with either one of the two sides in the Cold War, the geopolitical conflict between Soviet and U.S. blocs.
Although this indirect confrontation ended with the collapse of the socialist camp, and the NAM practically disappeared without its fundamental reason for being, the organization has since grown considerably, having established a record in defense of international causes such as the right to self-determination; condemnation of apartheid in South Africa and racial segregation; disarmament; rejection of multilateral military pacts; strengthening the UN; the struggle against imperialism; non-interference in domestic affairs of nations; and the democratization of international political and socio-economic relations.
The joint, majority-approved positions taken by members in support of these issues have brought these nations together and guaranteed the NAM’s survival, beyond the crises provoked at various times, like the dismantling of the USSR and armed conflicts among some of its former member states.
Clearly, the Movement has come to understand that its action can not be limited to insisting on passive neutrality, that it must participate in a political activism which is able, to some degree, to promote peaceful international relations.
This was conceived within the foundational precepts developed in Bandung and later in membership requirements established in the lead-up to the first summit held in Belgrade, September 1-6, 1961, where the NAM was officially constituted, and the policy of non-alignment began to gain significant momentum.
Participating in this first event were 28 countries, 25 of which were full members, plus three observers. Noteworthy was the active involvement of newly independent countries, including Cuba, which was the only Latin American nation to join at that time.
After Belgrade, a period of development began, which took important steps forward in the next two years, including the founding of the precursor of today’s African Union, composed of 31 independent nations on that continent. The progressive adherence of new member states brought the total to 47 by October, 1964, when the 2nd Summit was held in Cairo, with 10 additional observers and the novel participation of 30 national liberation movements from countries still struggling against colonial regimes.
Peaceful coexistence was established here as a key NAM concept, codified within the organization’s principles, and from then on, peace became the fundamental subject of its positions and debates.
In Egypt, for example, a program for peace and international collaboration was drafted. In the following gathering in Lusaka (Zambia), held in 1970, given the armed conflicts unfolding in member countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and several in the Middle East, two proclamations were issued entitled “Declaration on peace, independence, development, cooperation, and democratization of international relations.”
This document, in addition to reaffirming the organization’s positions against colonialism, racism, and military alliances, emphasized diplomacy as the only solution to conflict, and promoted the aspirations of NAM member countries to achieve economic independence and cooperation under conditions of equality.
NAM’s growth was consolidated in Algiers, where the 4th Summit was held in September of 1973, with 75 members, seven observers, three invitees, and 12 representatives from national liberation movements in attendance. The traditional positions supporting peace and opposing colonialism were reiterated, but emphasis was placed on economic conditions existent in member countries and a critical analysis of imperialism, with a call made for cooperation among NAM nations themselves.
The perspective of developing countries marked discussions during the Colombo summit, in Sri Lanka, with 86 members, 10 observers, and seven guests attending this 5th gathering. A Program of Economic Action and seven resolutions set a more practical tone, while the approved Political Declaration noted the easing of international tensions, although criticism of imperialism, racism, neocolonialism, and intervention was reiterated.
In 1979, with Havana as the site, the NAM Summit came to Latin America for the first time. New participants increased full membership to 96 countries, with nine observers, 10 guests, and other representatives from national liberation movements in attendance. The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, inaugurated and closed the sessions with several speeches which masterfully summarized the essential objectives of the organization.
This period of expansion entered a decline shortly thereafter with the outbreak of conflicts between member countries, such as that between Iran and Iraq, requiring a change in the site scheduled for the summit, from Baghdad to India’s capital. At this gathering the New Delhi Message was issued, critically dissecting the new period of tensions, calling for efforts to overcome these, and urgently advocating the concept of peaceful coexistence, central among NAM’s founding principles.
This line of thinking continued to be promoted in the following summit in Harare (Zimbabwe) in 1986, during which Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro set the tone and important world leaders saluted the organization’s 25th anniversary.
The following years meant a radical turn for the Movement. With its foundational reason for being gone, as the European socialist bloc was dismantled and the Cold War supposedly ended, developing countries had reached sufficient maturity to understand that the organization could be a pillar of resistance to the unilateralism and globalization predominating in the new relationship of forces.
The problems of the so-called Third World were growing worse, and NAM continued to be a mechanism through which these countries could defend their interests, although the conjuncture obliged the organization to forego a good portion of the criteria on which it was founded.
From Jakarta in 1992, to Cartagena de Indias in 1995, Durban in 1998, Kuala Lumpur in 2003, again in Havana in 2006, Egypt in 2009, and Teheran in 2012, NAM continued as a stalwart defender of the positions of developing countries, addressing issues such as the increased authority of the UN and the need to reform and democratize the Security Council, with the elimination of veto power; non-intervention in the internal affairs of countries; the solution of conflicts without war; attention to the growing influence of terrorism; and the defense of political independence and sovereignty of nations as principles.
During this year’s event in Venezuela, new problems emerged in the debates. Peace, the Movement’s essential issue, has seen interesting practical progress in Latin America, such as in the case of Colombia, which can serve as a reference for similar efforts at other latitudes. Terrorism, on the other hand, extends conflict, and although a real and present danger, it serves as a pretext for military interventions which allow for the control of valuable resources like oil.
For the fourth occasion on the Latin American continent, the event is ideal for putting the offensive against legitimate progressive governments on the table, as these are facing underhanded attempts to remove them from power and undo the social gains achieved.
Venezuela is acting as the host precisely at a time when the world believes the country is immersed in chaos, as a result of the portrayal disseminated by the corporate press. The nation whose people are resisting the blows of an economic boycott and the political conspiracies of an oligarchy supported by foreign interests, now has the opportunity to show things as they are, supported by an international policy redesigned by Comandante Hugo Chávez and implemented today by President Nicolás Maduro, who is facing an avalanche of lies and attacks which he has rebutted in this essential forum that is the NAM Summit.
With the hosting of 17th Summit Conference, Venezuela has been named president of the Non-Aligned Movement, and its government will assume a third leadership position in a multilateral body, along with the presidency of Unasur and Mercosur, to reaffirm its rightful role in the region despite the shady operations and conspiracies.
On the beautiful beaches of the small island of Margarita, Venezuela’s gateway to the Caribbean, a world debate has landed, which, as has been the case in previous summits, is allowing the firm, strong positions of a group of nations to be established, a group of nations which choose unity over conflict, and peace over military alliances.