Mon, 24 Feb 2003

NAM can drive reform in the UN, say observers

Kurniawan Hari and Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Kuala Lumpur

Despite skepticism over its role in the modern world, observers agree that the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) plays an important role in articulating developing countries' demands for a fairer world order.

Former foreign affairs minister Alwi Shihab said on Saturday that NAM would still play an important role in international diplomacy in the future.

"NAM will still be needed, particularly to drive reform within the United Nations," Alwi told The Jakarta Post by phone from Singapore on Saturday.

International affairs expert Riza Sihbudi of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) concurred, saying that NAM had a role in influencing the decision-making process in the UN.

Riza added that NAM member countries, for example, could form a caucus in the UN to fight for the aspirations of developing countries.

Fellow expert Juwono Sudarsono of the University of Indonesia (UI) stressed that NAM would never lose its relevance because the core problem in international relations today was the gap between developed and underdeveloped countries.

In an effort to close this gap, Juwono said, leaders of underdeveloped countries should unite and enhance their solidarity.

Alwi, Riza and Juwono were commenting on the NAM Summit scheduled for Feb. 24 through Feb. 25 in the Malaysian capital.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri left for Singapore on Saturday, where she stayed overnight before flying on to Kuala Lumpur for the summit.

Some 60 heads of state and government will participate in the Kuala Lumpur summit, which will be the biggest number since NAM's inception in 1961.

The high level of participation should in itself end the debate that NAM, set up during the Cold War by countries supporting neither the communist nor capitalist bloc, is no longer relevant.

NAM consists of 114 countries, a figure that is expected to rise to 116 with the admission of East Timor, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Since many NAM members are developing or underdeveloped countries, there is skepticism over the independence of the movement vis-a-vis the more developed countries.

Alwi acknowledged that it was difficult for these countries to economically free themselves from the influence of the developed countries.

As an organization, Alwi added, NAM could only achieve a little by, for example, applying moral pressure on the key players in the international community.

The powerful, developed countries tended to ignore the aspirations of the developing countries.

However, Alwi was optimistic that the world political situation would improve after the Iraq crisis had been resolved.

He recalled that the UN had been dominated by the United States and its allies in the past. But at the present time, he emphasized, strong opposition against the U.S. plans for war against Iraq had come from France and Germany.

"In the future, the Nonaligned Movement can push for the realization of a new world order," Alwi added.

Juwono said a lack of permanent NAM secretariat had contributed to a lack of solidarity among members.

Riza meanwhile suggested that NAM should modify its aims, and adjust them to take account of contemporary realities. Otherwise, he said, the movement would be consigned to the scrap heap.

He said that NAM members could, for example, attempt to promote economic, political and human resources development. "In this regard, NAM would benefit its members," he explained.

Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda also brushed aside criticism that NAM had no significant role to play in the globalization era.

"NAM's relevance in the world is beyond doubt, but the question is how to revitalize this movement," Hassan said on the sidelines of the NAM ministerial meeting on Saturday.

"During the 40 years of its existence, NAM has struggled for decolonization and the eradication of racism. Those are the major achievements of NAM."

He admitted, however, that NAMs member countries had failed to build economic cooperation among themselves.