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THE NON ALIGN MOVEMENT: A Socio-Political Perspective

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is an international organization of states considering themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. The movement is largely


 the brainchild of the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was founded in April 1955; as of 2007, it has 118 members. The purpose of the organization as stated in the Havana Declaration of 1979 is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, Zionism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.” They represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’s members and comprise 55 percent of the world population, particularly countries considered to be developing or part of the third world’.

Members have, at various times, included: Yugoslavia, India, Ghana, Pakistan, Algeria, Libya, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Indonesia, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, post-1994 South Africa, Iran, Malaysia, and, for a time, the People’s Republic of China. Brazil has never been a formal member of the movement, but shares many of the aims of NAM and frequently sends observers to the Non-Aligned Movement’s summits. While the organization was intended to be as close an alliance as NATO or the Warsaw Pact, it has little cohesion and many of its members were actually quite closely aligned with one or another of the great powers. For example, Cuba was closely aligned with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Additionally, some members were involved in serious conflicts with other members (e.g. India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq). The movement fractured from its own internal contradictions when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. While the Soviet allies supported the invasion, other members (particularly Islamic nations) of the movement did not.

The Non-Aligned Movement was formed as an attempt to thwart the Cold War and has struggled to find relevance after the Cold War ended. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, a founding member, its successor states of Yugoslavia have expressed little interest in membership, though some have observer status. In 2004, Malta and Cyprus ceased to be members and joined the European Union

Independent countries, who chose not to join any of the Cold War blocs, were also known as nonaligned nations. Some nations, such as India and Indonesia, were able to maintain their neutrality. But others took sides with the superpowers or played competing sides against each other.

The term “Non-Alignment” itself was coined by Indian Prime Minister Nehru during his speech in 1954 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In this speech, Nehru described the five pillars to be used as a guide for Sino-Indian relations, which were first put forth by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Called Panchsheel (five restraints), these principles would later serve as the basis of the Non-Aligned Movement. The five principles were:

The founding leaders of the Non-Aligned states meet in New York in October 1960. From left: Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia.

  • Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
  • Mutual non-aggression
  • Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs
  • Equality and mutual benefit
  • Peaceful co-existence

A significant milestone in the development of the Non-aligned movement was the 1955 Bandung Conference, a conference of Asian and African states hosted by Indonesian president Sukarno. The attending nations declared their desire not to become involved in the Cold War and adopted a “declaration on promotion of world peace and cooperation”, which included Nehru’s five principles. Six years after Bandung, an initiative of Yugoslav president Tito led to the first official Non-Aligned Movement Summit, which was held in September 1961 in Belgrade.

At the Lusaka Conference in September 1970, the member nations added peaceful resolution of disputes and abstention from the big power military alliances and pacts as the aim of the movement. Opposition to stationing of military bases in foreign countries was also added as the movement’s aim.

The founding fathers of the Non-aligned movement, apart from Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia and Tito of Yugoslavia, were Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. Their actions were known as ‘The Initiative of Five’.

Organogram and Membership essentials

While the NAM is an organization of united countries, much like the United Nations or NATO, it is unique to some of these organizations in its organization and structure. First, it considers itself to be non-hierarchal in nature in that there are no countries that contain veto power or have special privileges in certain areas. The chair is rotated officially at each summit. The administration of the organization falls to the responsibility of a rotating chair (currently Cuba) and the rotation is consistent and fair. Secondly, the organization does not have any sort of constitution as many similar organizations do. This was done out of recognition that with so many countries having so many varying viewpoints and priorities, any formal sort of administrative structure would increase divisiveness and eventually lead to the collapse of the organization.


Membership in the organization has changed from the original requirements as well. As the organization has matured and international political circumstances have changed, so too have the requirements. There is an obvious attempt to integrate the requirements of the NAM with the key beliefs of the United Nations. The latest requirements are now that the candidate country has displayed practices in accordance with:
  • Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
  • Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations, large and small.
  • Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
  • Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
  • Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Promotion of mutual interests and co-operation.
  • Respect for justice and international obligations
Policies and Ideology: NAM in discussion forum
The NAM has espoused a commitment to world peace and security. At the seventh summit held in New Delhi in March 1983, the movement described itself as the “history’s biggest peace movement”.The movement places equal emphasis on disarmament. NAM’s commitment to peace pre-dates it’s formal institutionalization in 1961. The Brioni meeting between heads of governments of India, Egypt and Yugoslavia in 1956 recognised that there exists a vital link between struggle for peace and endeavours for disarmament.
From the 1960s onwards, critics came to see the movement as unduly dominated by states allied to the Soviet Union. Many questioned how countries in close alliance with the Soviet Union, such as Cuba, could claim to be non-aligned. The movement divided against itself over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. This division was an indication that the NAM was indeed aligned, and it is possible that an organization of this nature can never be fully non-aligned.
In contrast, The Non-aligned movement believes in policies and practices of cooperation, especially those that are multilateral and provide mutual benefit to all those involved. Many of the members of the NAM are also members of the United Nations and both organizations have a stated policy of peaceful cooperation, yet successes that the NAM has had in multilateral agreements tends to be ignored by the larger, western and developed nation dominated UN. African concerns about apartheid were linked with Arab-Asian concerns about Palestine and success of multilateral cooperation in these areas has been a stamp of moderate success for the NAM. The NAM has played a major role in various ideological conflicts throughout its existence, including extreme opposition to apartheid regimes and support of liberation movements in various locations including Zimbabwe and South Africa. The support of these sorts of movements stems from a belief that every state has the right to base policies and practices with national interests in mind and not as a result of relations to a particular power bloc. The Non-aligned movement has become a voice of support for issues facing developing nations and still contains ideals that are legitimate.