What is the Non-Aligned Movement? In what context was it formed?

The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of developing countries that are not officially aligned with any of the two power blocs in the world, namely the United States and Russia, although the group has evolved to not align with other major power blocs. The group was founded in 1961 when the Cold War was raging between the US and USSR (Soviet Union). Since the collapse of the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War, the movement has become rather irrelevant, but it continues to be a key organization among developing countries. The Non-Aligned Movement is currently the second largest group that gathers leaders of various countries, with the first being the United Nations.

The history of the Non-Aligned Movement begins in the 1950s. After World War II, the world began to polarize into two military blocs that are led by the USA and USSR, who were considered to be the heroes that thwarted the Axis or Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, the colonialist countries had begun to lose grip on their colonies, particularly the countries found in Asia and Africa. As a result of these colonized nations wanting freedom, they eventually became free after the Second World War. The United States and the Soviet Union began their attempts to attract these newly formed and freed nations into their sides, creating a polarized world that led to the Cold War.

At that time, India decided not to join these alliances and tried to keep a distance from them. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then leader of India, put forward an idea of forming an organization for new nations, especially those found in Asia and Africa. Named the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the group aimed to represent the socio-political state of the Third World, and protect the common interests of the nations. The objectives of this movement were primarily based on the Panchsheel principles signed by China and India in 1954. Nehru’s idea got support from the leaders of various countries, including Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Dr. Ahmed Sukarno (Indonesia), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and Gamal Abdul Nasser (Egypt).

The foundation for the Non-Aligned Movement was established in a conference that took place in Bandung, Indonesia, in April 1955, and was hosted by Sukarno. The principles and the mission of the organization were defined in the charter titled Bandung Declaration. At the 1956 conference at Brioni, Yugoslavia, the declaration was re-emphasized, as the leaders of Egypt, India, and Yugoslavia, sought peace in the battle and disputes that are occurring in developing countries.

The formal foundation of the movement was held in a conference for the leaders of several nations that was held in 1961 at Belgrade, Yugoslavia. There were 25 nations that decided to remain neutral in the Cold War while participating in the conference, which in turn led to the announcing of the Non-Aligned Movement’s founding. After that summit, there are now 18 conferences held by the Non-Aligned Movement, with the last one being the October 2019 summit that took place in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The basic principles of the movement are in favor of peace, development, the eradication of poverty, as well as the protection of political and cultural interests of the participating countries. The growth of cooperation among the nations and the development of poor countries to become a powerhouse in the future are the group’s goals. There are currently 120 countries that serve as members of the movement, and there are also observing members that are participating in the summit but are not officially a part of the movement. Unfortunately, there are three countries that left the movement due to various reasons, and these countries are Cyprus, Malta, and Yugoslavia. However, Yugoslavia only withdrew from the membership because it was split into several states, which included Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia. Both Serbia and Croatia are considered observers of the movement.

The first Secretary-General of the organization was Josip Tito, who was the president of Yugoslavia from 1953 to 1980. As of 2020, the current Secretary-General is IlhamAliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, who was assigned the position for the movement in 2019. The term of office lasts three years, hence the reason why Aliyev will withdraw his position in the Non-Aligned Movement in 2022.