The Endangered State of Nonalignment: An Engaging Perspective | Inquirer Opinion

As the world became more divided and entered the nuclear age, a group of developing countries formed the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961. The purpose of NAM was to prevent further polarization of the world and mitigate the escalating confrontation between superpowers during the Cold War. Today, NAM has 120 members, making it the second-largest international organization after the United Nations (UN).

During the Cold War, NAM served as a safe space for its members to break free from the dominance of powerful nations and determine their own paths. It operated as a forum where principles such as self-determination, sovereign equality of states, fundamental human rights, noninterference, and safeguarding the UN Charter formed the basis for a fairer, more just, and peaceful world. However, the values and principles that NAM stands for are now at risk.

At the NAM Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan in July, a prominent non-NAM member with emerging superpower status successfully blocked a proposal from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to update factual information about the South China Sea (SCS) in the NAM Ministerial statement. Despite Asean’s efforts to engage with these states and their willingness to compromise, the emergent superpower influenced several states to object to the proposal. These states suggested that Asean should negotiate directly with the emergent superpower, which was present at the meeting. However, Asean delegates refused, recognizing that giving the country a seat at the table would set a dangerous precedent.

Superpowers have made attempts in the past to influence NAM, but usually in the context of policy or ideology, rather than targeting individual NAM members or groups. Asean, both as a group and its individual members, formally expressed their serious objections to the efforts of the emergent outside power to manipulate NAM’s decisions. Asean pointed out that despite potential conflicts in its region, it has worked together with others to maintain peace. Its record economic growth, built on a foundation of peace and stability, speaks volumes about the success of Asean’s approach.

In Baku, the Philippines joined Asean in expressing strong objections and disappointment, going a step further by disassociating itself from NAM’s decision not to update the paragraphs on the SCS. This is a rare move for the Philippines in multilateral fora. Several other NAM members supported Asean’s position, although not all were as articulate in their support. Nonetheless, there was a noticeable sense of disgust and repulsion among many delegations towards the attempts of the emergent superpower to manipulate NAM. These efforts did not go unnoticed, with many delegations privately voicing their support for Asean members. The Asean delegates agreed to address the issue at the next Asean Ministerial Meeting.

The Joint Communiqué of the 56th Asean Ministerial Meeting Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta on July 11 to 12 expressed serious disappointment over NAM’s failure to update the paragraphs on the South China Sea. Asean called on all NAM members to respect its unity and centrality, particularly on issues that directly impact peace and prosperity in the region. Asean also urged NAM members to uphold their commitment to the Bandung Principles and the principles of nonalignment while promoting peace, friendship, solidarity, and cooperation among themselves.

Even after the end of the Cold War, NAM remains relevant as the world continues to face efforts to divide nations and multilateralism comes under threat. Superpower confrontations are still a reality, albeit in evolved and more complex forms. NAM has the potential to play a crucial role in preventing confrontation from escalating into conflict, as long as its members refuse to be used as tools by any superpower against fellow NAM members. It is crucial to safeguard the principles and values of NAM and prevent any power from subverting them.

Quote: “Nonalignment is in peril and every effort must be taken to prevent any power from subverting the fundamental principles and values of NAM.”
– Ambassador Carlos D. Sorreta, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva


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