Mon, 07 Jul 2003

The relevance of NAM solidarity

Uraniwan S. Sudarsono, Diplomat, Jakarta

Indonesia will host the Asia-Africa Subregional Organization Conference (ASROC) late this month. The meeting is the first of two preparatory ministerial meetings for the 50th celebration of the Asia Africa conference in 2005. The second meeting will be held in Johannesburg next year. This article is focused on the future of the cooperation among countries in the two continents.

The need for adherence to the non-aligned movement (NAM) principles adopted by the Asia-Africa Conference is imperative, given that the post Cold War period has not yet led to world peace and security.

The momentum started 48 years ago in Bandung, West Java, where leaders from 29 Asian and African countries met in an unprecedented international event, which for that whole week was the fuss of world attention. After the conference, Asia and Africa, cradles of great civilizations that had fallen to colonial bondage, intensified their endeavors to play a commemorate role in the community of nations.

The conference highlighted the notions, that nations all over the world still under foreign dominations were stirred to break the chains and contend their rightful place within the international system. The "Spirit of Bandung" -- a new ethos to govern the relationship between and among nations, great and small, derives from the Dasa Sila Bandung (Ten Principles of Bandung) -- remained as a beacon of an undying hope for a world of true independence, peace, justice and shared prosperity.

The need to strengthen Asian-African solidarity and cooperation has created a favorable climate for the strengthening of ties between the peoples of the two continents. The seeds that sprouted in Bandung took firm root six years later when 25 newly independent countries formally founded the NAM at the Belgrade Summit of 1961. Since then the movement has remained faithful to its avowed principles and ideals in spite of the many obstacles and challenges it encountered during and after the Cold War.

Inspired by these principles and ideals, developing countries have waged unyielding struggles to obtain and safeguard national independence, oppose aggression and expansion, maintain world peace, facilitate economic and social development and promote the just cause of human progress.

At the UN, the NAM has become a voice, which is regularly heard and heeded, in the great debates of our time. The NAM and the UN is therefore contributing to the creation of a new order for the world nations, states and peoples.

From either Bandung or New York, it was the international community, jointly and severally, which was calling for a new world. Consequently, the group was based not on the balance of power but rather on solidarity between peoples. This key word of solidarity became the foundation of the movement, which throughout more than forty years marked by East-West antagonism, has managed to hold high the aspirations of the peoples of Africa and Asia.

The wisdom of Asia, the determination of Africa and the steadfastness of Latin America have brought the concerns of the developing countries to the forefront of international politics, and no global approach to world problems could be addressed without regard to their concerns.

At the time of the Bandung Conference, the inspired vision of NAM looked more like a dream. Today most of these goals have been achieved. The end of the Cold War, while liberating the world from the threat of nuclear catastrophe, and the possible confrontation of the superpowers, unleashed the forces of nationalism, armed conflicts and ethnic rivalries. Every day we witness misery which the abhorrent practice of ethnic cleansing and fanaticism bring to millions of people.

Today, we are indeed still in the opening stages of creating the elements of the post-Cold War international system. The world, relieved from the bipolar stage, is now confronted with grave problems of a different nature.

It is in this context of a rapidly changing world, and of a UN adapting its mechanisms to need for a new international system that the role of the NAM should be understood. Evidently, since the Summit of the NAM in Belgrade in 1989, the Movement has examined the consequences for the end of the Cold War for the international system.

This has translated, at the UN, into continuous efforts by the NAM to promote development activities, to seek solutions to the problems of international debt; to support disarmament efforts; and to draw attention to the close links between disarmament and development. Moreover, the principles set-up in Bandung have allowed developing countries of different regions to contribute to reorienting the structure of the international system, in the framework of the principles stated by the United Nations and in international law.