Non-Aligned Movement or United Nations ?

By: Shashi P.B.B. Malla & Ralf Narendra B.B. Malla

According to latest press reports, Nepal’s foreign minister, K.P. Sharma Oli of the United Marxist-Leninists (UML), the mainstream communist party, is going to represent Nepal at the next triennium meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Havana, Cuba. Subsequently, he is slated to participate in the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

It can be stated at the outset that the first meeting is a waste of time and money (which could have been better utilized for the victims of Maoist atrocities or the flood victims). NAM has become outdated and reduced to a mere talking shop. The annual UNGA, on the other hand, is a must. Let us hope that the Nepalese delegation has the necessary capable manpower.

NAM was a child of the Cold War. It resulted from the pious wish of Third World leaders like Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Dr. Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru of India to avoid being sucked into the deadly and accelerated arms race and conflict between the two super powers, USA and the USSR.

Thus, at the Belgrade Conference of 1961 the movement of the neutral and non-aligned countries was born. Now we have only one super power (and, of course, many real and aspiring great powers) and the necessity to remain neutral or non-aligned in the big game of world politics has disappeared. It would be in the interests of the poor nations to allow NAM a quiet and silent death at Havana. The United Nations is the right forum to discuss and solve international problems.

In the beginning there were only 25 nations that were non-aligned between the western and eastern power blocs. Now, there are 116 countries in this group that has no tangible organization or secretariat. It seems that any country – whether secular democracy, religious republic, one-party Communist dictatorship or military oligarchy – can be a member of this club. It is also laughable that a movement that purports to be ‘neutral’ is being presided over by a Communist head-of-state! Anti-colonial tirades are passe.

The long-winded speeches of the delegates will be lost on the rest of the world; neither will anything substantial be achieved. Communists, dictators and religious fanatics will only scratch each other’s backs! Countries like India are visibly out of place in such a gathering and the Indian delegation will be definitely uncomfortable. Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh has said that NAM must close ranks to fight terror and is also expected to counter attacks against ‘US imperialism’. Not so Oli, who will represent a new-born Nepal (on the verge of ‘total’ democracy) and garner international recognition!

There are high hopes that so-called ‘progressive’ states will assert themselves at the conference to redefine the role of the movement and project the interests of the developing world. But the attempt to bestow a new direction and meaning to the non-aligned movement is doomed to failure.

In practice, NAM has not effectively represented the developing countries. The obstacles and contradictions are just too many to overcome. The countries are too disparate and their national interests too diverse to allow effective cooperation.

Even India during the heyday of non-alignment, openly collaborated with the Soviet Union. After nearly a half-century, even the continental divide – between Asia, Africa and Latin America – has not been effectively bridged. In all the major crises and conflicts in Asia – Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Sri Lanka – it has been mainly outside powers that have tried to mediate and diffuse them.

Peaceful co-existence has been an empty word in practice, and members have resorted to high-risk wars and conflicts, violence and terrorism. Even India, an aspiring great power and prospective permanent member of the UN Security Council follows an ineffective and uninspiring foreign policy.

In Lebanon, it has rejected ‘peace enforcement’ in favour of ‘peace keeping’, and it continues to abet the policy of ethnic cleansing of its satellite state Bhutan.

African countries in particular and NAM countries in general continue to turn a blind eye to the genocide and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan. NAM also suffers from a leadership crisis. There are no towering personalities currently active, only disruptive narcissists following their own narrow agendas, like Mahmud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, belonging to the lunatic fringe of NAM. We can, therefore, safely ignore all the rhetoric expected out of Havana. NAM has progressed from mimicry to mockery.

At the United Nations there will be momentous decisions to be reached. Although now in the sixth decade of its existence, it sometimes still seems as though it is in its early days. But if the strengthening of human rights, the concerted effort to tackle environmental issues or the combating of international terrorism – there seems to be no problem of a global magnitude in which it could not play a key role. However, in order for the UN to take on the responsibility that it could (and should) assume to address these issues, it seems quite clear that it will take both reforms and a thorough rethinking on the core competencies that the UN should have to allow it to function effectively.

There is the question of reforming the Security Council and increasing its membership. This is essential if the world body is to be credible in maintaining international peace and security. Nepal has announced its candidature for the Asian non-permanent seat, but it has no serious chance, as its foreign policy is in the doldrums. Even China cannot support the current weak and ineffective government. Both the government and the Maoists have affronted the UN even before starting the attempt at arms management. Unlike Germany and Japan, India, as well as South Africa and Brazil will have difficulties in bagging permanent seats. The last three claim that they will promote south-south cooperation forcefully.

Till December of this year, a new Secretary-General must be elected since Kofi Annan will be retiring. The candidate to be the chief administrative officer of the UNO will have to have the approval of the super and great powers. According to Article 97 of the UN Charter, “the Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”. Thus the pulls and pushes of international politics will have full play. It will be too much to expect that a consensus Third World candidate will emerge at the NAM jamboree. The real action will, therefore, be in New York.

Currently, a front runner is Dr. Shashi Tharoor, an Indian and proven UN bureaucrat. Unfortunately, India’s dismal foreign policy – in the immediate neighbourhood and in the world at large – will probably floor him. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Jordan’s permanent representative at the UN (the agnatic grandson of late King Hussein of Hejaz and the heir to the Iraqi throne), a political luminary from the Moslem world, would be ideal to stem the clash of civilizations.

From Frankfurt/Main and Kathmandu

The writers can be reached at: [email protected]

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start hammering away on the keyboard.

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