The Non-Aligned Movement was formed during the Cold War, largely on the initiative of then-Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, as an organization of States that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union, but sought to remain independent or neutral. The basic concept for the group originated in 1955 during discussions that took place at the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference held in Indonesia. Subsequently, a preparatory meeting for the First NAM Summit Conference was held in Cairo, Egypt from 5-12 June 1961.
- While the loudest current rhetoric from the NAM is anti-west, its member governments show great ideological diversity across the spectrum. Both conservative Columbia and leftist Venezuela have recently hosted NAM conferences.
- A conference – in this case the XVII summit of the heads of state and government of the Non-Aligned Movement – can do no more than issue media communiqués.
- The NAM has merely a modest coordinating office adjacent to the United Nations in New York, and even its conferences are three years or more apart.
- Its member states enjoy cohesion on a few issues. Historically, their heterogeneity ranged from absolute monarchs to socialist presidents. Some voted with France and NATO in the United Nations on most issues; others, such as Cuba, tilted towards the late Soviet Union.
- The NAM anti-colonialism principle meant it gave full support to the armed struggles against settler Rhodesia, as well as apartheid Namibia and South Africa.
- When the disintegration of the Soviet Union into 15 countries marked the end of the Cold War, many observers presumed that the NAM would wind itself up. What could its members now be non-aligned to? The answer turned out to be: non-aligned to the remaining world power – the US and its western allies.
- The best way to get a sense of the NAM in the 21st century is to summarise its media communiqué at the end of its 17th summit which was hosted in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. This laid out its objectives as
- strengthening and revitalisation of the NAM;
- strengthening international peace and security;
- the right to self-determination.
- The only case specified is a demand to end Israeli occupation of Palestine’s West Bank and East Jerusalem, and an end to Israeli occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights. disarmament and a nuclear-free Middle East (here, Israel and its A-bomb stockpile were not mentioned by name); the protection and promotion of Human Rights and the principles of the United Nations Charter; condemnation of terrorism, including specifically Da-esh, Boko Haram and al-Shabbab, and condemning the destruction of cultural heritage and religious sites.
- Another theme was for reform in global governance. This included reform of the UN by strengthening the powers of the General Assembly, reforming the Security Council, and the need for geographic rotation and gender equality in choosing the Secretary-General.