Public Diplomacy

History and Evolution of Non-Aligned Movement

August 22, 2012


The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was created and founded during the collapse of the colonial system and the independence struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions of the world and at the height of the Cold War. During the early days of the Movement, its actions were a key factor in the decolonization process, which led later to the attainment of freedom and independence by many countries and peoples and to the founding of tens of new sovereign States. Throughout its history, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries has played a fundamental role in the preservation of world peace and security.

While some meetings with a third-world perspective were held before 1955, historians consider that the Bandung Asian-African Conference is the most immediate antecedent to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement. This Conference was held in Bandung on April 18-24, 1955 and gathered 29 Heads of States belonging to the first post-colonial generation of leaders from the two continents with the aim of identifying and assessing world issues at the time and pursuing out joint policies in international relations.

The principles that would govern relations among large and small nations, known as the "Ten Principles of Bandung", were proclaimed at that Conference. Such principles were adopted later as the main goals and objectives of the policy of non-alignment. The fulfillment of those principles became the essential criterion for Non-Aligned Movement membership; it is what was known as the "quintessence of the Movement" until the early 1990s.

In 1960, in the light of the results achieved in Bandung, the creation of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries was given a decisive boost during the Fifteenth Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly, during which 17 new African and Asian countries were admitted. A key role was played in this process by the then Heads of State and Government Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, who later became the founding fathers of the movement and its emblematic leaders.

Six years after Bandung, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries was founded on a wider geographical basis at the First Summit Conference of Belgrade, which was held on September 1-6, 1961. The Conference was attended by 25 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Yemen, Myanmar, Cambodia, Srilanka, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yugoslavia.

The Founders of NAM have preferred to declare it as a movement but not an organization in order to avoid bureaucratic implications of the latter.

The membership criteria formulated during the Preparatory Conference to the Belgrade Summit (Cairo, 1961) show that the Movement was not conceived to play a passive role in international politics but to formulate its own positions in an independent manner so as to reflect the interests of its members.

Thus, the primary of objectives of the non-aligned countries focused on the support of self-determination, national independence and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States; opposition to apartheid; non-adherence to multilateral military pacts and the independence of non-aligned countries from great power or block influences and rivalries; the struggle against imperialism in all its forms and manifestations; the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, foreign occupation and domination; disarmament; non-interference into the internal affairs of States and peaceful coexistence among all nations; rejection of the use or threat of use of force in international relations; the strengthening of the United Nations; the democratization of international relations; socioeconomic development and the restructuring of the international economic system; as well as international cooperation on an equal footing.

Since its inception, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries has waged a ceaseless battle to ensure that peoples being oppressed by foreign occupation and domination can exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries played a key role in the struggle for the establishment of a new international economic order that allowed all the peoples of the world to make use of their wealth and natural resources and provided a wide platform for a fundamental change in international economic relations and the economic emancipation of the countries of the South.

During its nearly 50 years of existence, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries has gathered a growing number of States and liberation movements which, in spite of their ideological, political, economic, social and cultural diversity, have accepted its founding principles and primary objectives and shown their readiness to realize them. Historically, the non-aligned countries have shown their ability to overcome their differences and found a common ground for action that leads to mutual cooperation and the upholding of their shared values.

The ten principles of Bandung

  • Respect of fundamental human rights and of the objectives and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
  • Recognition of the equality among all races and of the equality among all nations, both large and small.
  • Non-intervention or non-interference into the internal affairs of another -country.
  • Respect of the right of every nation to defend itself, either individually or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  • A. Non-use of collective defense pacts to benefit the specific interests of any of the great powers.

    B. Non-use of pressures by any country against other countries.
  • Refraining from carrying out or threatening to carry out aggression, or from using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
  • Peaceful solution of all international conflicts in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Promotion of mutual interests and of cooperation.
  • Respect of justice and of international obligations.


The creation and strengthening of the socialist block after the defeat of fascism in World War II, the collapse of colonial empires, the emergence of a bipolar world and the formation of two military blocks (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) brought about a new international context that led to the necessity of multilateral coordination fora between the countries of the South .

In this context, the underdeveloped countries, most of them in Asia and Africa, felt the need to join efforts for the common defense of their interests, the strengthening of their independence and sovereignty and the cultural and economic revival or salvation of their peoples, and also to express a strong commitment with peace by declaring themselves as "non-aligned" from either of the two nascent military blocks.

In order to fulfill the aims of debating on and advancing a strategy designed to achieve such objectives, the Bandung Asian-African Conference was held in Indonesia in April 1955. It was attended by 29 Heads of State and Government of the first postcolonial generation of leaders and its expressed goal was to identify and assess world issues at the time and coordinate policies to deal with them.

Although the Asian and African leaders who gathered in Bandung might have had differing political and ideological views or different approaches toward the societies they aspired to build or rebuild, there was a common project that united them and gave sense to a closer coordination of positions. Their shared program included the political decolonization of Asia and Africa. Moreover, they all agreed that the recently attained political independence was just a means to attain the goal of economic, social and cultural independence.

The Bandung meeting has been considered as the most immediate antecedent of the founding of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, which finally came into being six years later on a wider geographical basis when the First Summit Conference was held in Belgrade on September 1-6, 1961. This gathering was attended by the Heads of State and Government of 25 countries and observers from another three nations.

This First Summit of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries was convened by the leaders of India, Indonesia, Egypt, Syria and Yugoslavia. On April 26, 1961, the Presidents of the Arab Republic of Egypt (Nasser) and Yugoslavia (Tito) addressed the Heads of State and Government of 21 "non-Aligned" countries and suggested that, taking recent world events and the rise of international tensions into account, a Conference should be held to promote an improvement in international relations, a resistance to policies of force and a constructive settlement of conflicts and other issues of concern in the world.

The Movement played an important role in the support of nations which were struggling then for their independence in the Third World and showed great solidarity with the most just aspirations of humanity. It contributed indisputably to the triumph in the struggle for national independence and decolonization, thus gaining considerable diplomatic prestige.

As one Summit after another was held in the 1960s and 1970s, "non alignment", turned already into the "Movement of Non-Aligned Countries" that included nearly all Asian and African countries, was becoming a forum of coordination to struggle for the respect of the economic and political rights of the developing world. After the attainment of independence, the Conferences expressed a growing concern over economic and social issues as well as over strictly political matters.

Something that attested to that was the launching at the Algiers Conference in 1973 of the concept of a "new international economic order."

By the end of the 1980s, the Movement was facing the great challenge brought about by the collapse of the socialist block. The end of the clash between the two antagonistic blocks that was the reason for its existence, name and essence was seen by some as the beginning of the end for the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

The Movement of Non-Aligned Countries could not spare itself difficulties to act effectively in an adverse international political situation marked by hegemonic positions and unipolarity as well as by internal difficulties and conflicts given the heterogeneity of its membership and, thus, its diverse interests.

Nevertheless, and in spite of such setbacks,the principles and objectives of non-alignment retain their full validity and force at the present international juncture. The primary condition that led to the emergence of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, that is, non-alignment from antagonistic blocks, has not lost its validity with the end of the Cold War. The demise of one of the blocks has not done away with the pressing problems of the world. On the contrary, renewed strategic interests bent on domination grow stronger and, even, acquire new and more dangerous dimensions for underdeveloped countries.

During the 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana, Cuba in September 2006, the Heads of States and Governments of the member countries reaffirmed their commitment to the ideals, principles and purposes upon which the movement was founded and with the principles and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

The Heads of States and Governments stated their firm belief that the absence of two conflicting blocs in no way reduces the need to strengthen the movement as a mechanism for the political coordination of developing countries. In this regard they acknowledged that it remains imperative to strengthen and revitalize the movement. To do so, they agreed to strengthen concrete action, unity and solidarity between all its members, based on respect for diversity, factors which are essential for the reaffirmation of the identity and capacity of the movement to influence International relations.

They also stressed the need to promote actively a leading role for the movement in the coordination of efforts among member states in tackling global threats.

Inspired by the principles and purposes which were brought to the Non-Aligned Movement by the Bandung principles and during the First NAM Summit in Belgrade in 1961, the Heads of States and Governments of the member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement adopted in their 14th Summit in Havana the following purposes and principles of the movement in the present International juncture:

I. Purposes:

a. To promote and reinforce multilateralism and, in this regard, strengthen the central role that the United Nations must play.

b. To serve as a forum of political coordination of the developing countries to promote and defend their common interests in the system of international relations

c. To promote unity, solidarity and cooperation between developing countries based on shared values and priorities agreed upon by consensus.

d. To defend international peace and security and settle all international disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the principles and the purposes of the UN Charter and International Law.

e. To encourage relations of friendship and cooperation between all nations based on the principles of International Law, particularly those enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

f. To promote and encourage sustainable development through international cooperation and, to that end, jointly coordinate the implementation of political strategies which strengthen and ensure the full participation of all countries, rich and poor, in the international economic relations, under equal conditions and opportunities but with differentiated responsibilities.

g. To encourage the respect, enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, on the basis of the principles of universality, objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity, avoiding politicization of human rights issues, thus ensuring that all human rights of individuals and peoples, including the right to development, are promoted and protected in a balanced manner.

h. To promote peaceful coexistence between nations, regardless of their political, social or economic systems.

i. To condemn all manifestations of unilateralism and attempts to exercise hegemonic domination in international relations.

j. To coordinate actions and strategies in order to confront jointly the threats to international peace and security, including the threats of use of force and the acts of aggression, colonialism and foreign occupation, and other breaches of peace caused by any country or group of countries.

k. To promote the strengthening and democratization of the UN, giving the General Assembly the role granted to it in accordance with the functions and powers outlined in the Charter and to promote the comprehensive reform of the United Nations Security Council so that it may fulfill the role granted to it by the Charter, in a transparent and equitable manner, as the body primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security.

l. To continue pursuing universal and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, as well as a general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control and in this context, to work towards the objective of arriving at an agreement on a phased program for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time to eliminate nuclear weapons, to prohibit their development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use and to provide for their destruction.

m. . To oppose and condemn the categorization of countries as good or evil based on unilateral and unjustified criteria, and the adoption of a doctrine of pre-emptive attack, including attack by nuclear weapons, which is inconsistent with international law, in particular, the international legally-binding instruments concerning nuclear disarmament and to further condemn and oppose unilateral military actions, or use of force or threat of use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Non-Aligned countries.

n. To encourage States to conclude agreements freely arrived at, among the States of the regions concerned, to establish new Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones in regions where these do not exist, in accordance with the provisions of the Final Document of the First Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament (SSOD.1) and the principles adopted by the 1999 UN Disarmament Commission, including the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East. The establishment of Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones is a positive step and important measure towards strengthening global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

o. To promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to facilitate access to nuclear technology, equipment and material for peaceful purposes required by developing countries.

p. To promote concrete initiatives of South-South cooperation and strengthen the role of NAM, in coordination with G.77, in the re-launching of North-South cooperation, ensuring the fulfillment of the right to development of our peoples, through the enhancement of international solidarity.

q. To respond to the challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities arising from globalization and interdependence with creativity and a sense of identity in order to ensure its benefits to all countries, particularly those most affected by underdevelopment and poverty, with a view to gradually reducing the abysmal gap between the developed and developing countries.

r. To enhance the role that civil society, including NGO´s, can play at the regional and international levels in order to promote the purposes, principles and objectives of the Movement.

II. Principles:

a. Respect for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and International Law.

b. Respect for sovereignty, sovereign equality and territorial integrity of all States.

c. Recognition of the equality of all races, religions, cultures and all nations, both big and small.

d. Promotion of a dialogue among peoples, civilizations, cultures and religions based on the respect of religions, their symbols and values, the promotion and the consolidation of tolerance and freedom of belief.

e. Respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including the effective implementation of the right of peoples to peace and development.

f. Respect for the equality of rights of States, including the inalienable right of each State to determine freely its political, social, economic and cultural system, without any kind of interference whatsoever from any other State.

g. Reaffirmation of the validity and relevance of the Movement’s principled positions concerning the right to self-determination of peoples under foreign occupation and colonial or alien domination.

h. Non-interference in the internal affairs of States. No State or group of States has the right to intervene either directly or indirectly, whatever the motive, in the internal affairs of any other State.

i. Rejection of unconstitutional change of Governments.

j. Rejection of attempts at regime change

k. Condemnation of the use of mercenaries in all situations, especially in conflict situations.

l. Refraining by all countries from exerting pressure or coercion on other countries, including resorting to aggression or other acts involving the use of direct or indirect force, and the application and/or promotion of any coercive unilateral measure that goes against International Law or is in any way incompatible with it, for the purpose of coercing any other State to subordinate its sovereign rights, or to gain any benefit whatsoever.

m. Total rejection of aggression as a dangerous and serious breach of International Law, which entails international responsibility for the aggressor.

n. Respect for the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

o. Condemnation of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and systematic and gross violations of human rights, in accordance with the UN Charter and International Law.

p. Rejection of and opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. In this context, terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation.

q. Promotion of pacific settlement of disputes and abjuring, under any circumstances, from taking part in coalitions, agreements or any other kind of unilateral coercive initiative in violation of the principles of International Law and the Charter of the United Nations.

r. Defense and consolidation of democracy, reaffirming that democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social, and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their life.

s. Promotion and defense of multilateralism and multilateral organizations as the appropriate frameworks to resolve, through dialogue and cooperation, the problems affecting humankind.

t. Support to efforts by countries suffering internal conflicts to achieve peace, justice, equality and development.

u. The duty of each State to fully and in good faith comply with the international treaties to which it is a party, as well as to honor the commitments made in the framework of international organizations, and to live in peace with other States. v. Peaceful settlement of all international conflicts in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

w. Defense and promotion of shared interests, justice and cooperation, regardless of the differences existing in the political, economic and social systems of the States, on the basis of mutual respect and the equality of rights.

x. Solidarity as a fundamental component of relations among nations in all circumstances.

y. Respect for the political, economic, social and cultural diversity of countries and peoples.

The movement has succeeded to create a strong front on the International level, representing countries of the third world in the International organizations on top of which the United Nations.

Current Challenges facing the NAM include the necessity of protecting the principles of International law, eliminating weapons of mass destruction , combating terrorism, defending human rights, working toward making the United Nations more effective in meeting the needs of all its member states in order to preserve International Peace , Security and Stability, as well as realizing justice in the international economic system.

On the other hand, the long-standing goals of the Movement remain to be realized. Peace, development, economic cooperation and the democratization of international relations, to mention just a few, are old goals of the non-aligned countries.

In conclusion, The Non-Aligned Movement, faced with the goals yet to be reached and the many new challenges that are arising, is called upon to maintain a prominent and leading role in the current International relations in defense of the interests and priorities of its member states and for achievement of peace and security for mankind.


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