Non-Aligned Movement – history and political overview

The Non-Aligned Movement was established as an expression of the efforts of a large number of developing countries, having mostly emerged from the process of decolonization, to avoid opting for one military-political bloc and articulate an independent foreign policy approach by offering a kind of political alternative during the Cold War division of the world.

After the Bandung Conference (Indonesia), in 1955, where the principles of peaceful coexistence were outlined, the first Conference of Heads of State and Government of Non-Aligned Countries was held in 1961 in Belgrade – among other, at the initiative of the then Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

During the Cold War period, the Non-Aligned Movement played a significant role in preserving peace and calming the competitiveness between blocs, accelerating the decolonization process, fighting for the respect of equality and sovereignty of countries and their equitable economic and social development.

After the end of the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement was compelled to redefine its role and reformulate its fundamental ideology in order to find its place in the newly-emerged global order. As a result, the Movement today sees itself as one of the promoters of the principles of multilateralism and advocates of the views and needs of developing countries, primarily within the United Nations. It attaches special attention to the challenges faced by the members of the Movement while focusing on an equitable social and economic development, the fight against poverty and disease, the fight against climate change, environmental protection, scientific and technological development, etc.

Today, the Non-Aligned Movement has 120 member states, which is almost two thirds of the membership of the United Nations, and 18 states have observer status. The activities of the Movement are managed by the chair country, and so far the Movement has been chaired by Yugoslavia (twice), Egypt (twice), Zambia, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Cuba (twice), India, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Colombia, South Africa, Malaysia, Iran and Venezuela. Azerbaijan is the current chair of the Non-Aligned Movement for the 2019-2022 period.

Political declarations and the program of activities of the Movement are defined at summits of heads of state or government that are held every three years, and meetings of the Movement are also held in the form of thematic ministerial conferences.

Serbia and the Non-Aligned Movement

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) played a leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement since its inception. The First Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement was held in Belgrade, from 1 to 6 September 1961, and the creators of the idea for this event are considered to be the presidents of SFRY – Josip Broz Tito, Egypt (then United Arab Republic) – Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana – Kwame Nkrumah, Indonesia – Sukarno and the first Prime Minister of India – Jawaharlal Nehru.

View of the hall for plenary sessions during the session of the Belgrade Conference, 1 September 1961 (photo Museum of Yugoslavia)

In 1961, the First Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade was attended by the heads of state and government of 25 states (Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Cyprus, Congo, Cuba, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Republic and Ceylon), 3 observer states (Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador) and several liberation movements, parties and organizations.

Heads of delegations at the First Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, Federal Executive Council, Belgrade, 5 September 1961 (photo Museum of Yugoslavia)

“I believe that we will do a great service to the world if we clearly and decisively point out the path that leads to peace in the world, to freedom, equality and peaceful cooperation of all peoples.” (from the opening statement by J.B. Tito at the NAM Belgrade Conference, 1961)

In the ensuing decades, Yugoslavia continued to be one of the leading promoters of the ideas and fundamental principles of the policy of non-alignment, while working to deepen cooperation in a number of areas with all developing countries.

Following the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and subsequent events, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia applied for observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement, which was accepted at the NAM ministerial meeting held in New York in November 2001.

The Republic of Serbia regularly participates in the summits and ministerial meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement, while it was the host of the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Belgrade to mark the 50th anniversary of the First Conference of Heads of State and Government of Non-Aligned Countries, on 5-6 September 2011.

Serbia is committed and consistent in implementing the fundamental principles of multilateralism based on the UN Charter and international law – preserving peace and security, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, as well as strengthening cooperation in the process of identifying common answers to all contemporary global challenges. The role of the Non-Aligned Movement in these processes remains to be of great importance and it is necessary to work on having the Movement continue to play an active and constructive role in the realization of the vital interests of as many countries and peoples as possible with a view to achieving lasting peace and prosperity.

The Republic of Serbia, as one of the successors to the former Yugoslavia, strives to preserve and further strengthen relations and cooperation with all member states of the Non-Aligned Movement, which is one of our foreign policy priorities. This form of cooperation with the members of the Movement is not contradictory, but instead complementary to the European perspective of the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Serbia will remain committed to the revival and further deepening of all forms of cooperation with the member states of the Movement and will continue to observe global political and economic issues from the perspective of this group of countries as well.

High-Level Commemorative Event marking the 60th anniversary of the First Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement

The Republic of Serbia, together with the Republic of Azerbaijan as the current chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, is hosting a high-level commemorative event to mark the 60th anniversary of the First Conference of NAM which was held in Belgrade in 1961. The event will take place on 11-12 October 2021, in Belgrade.

Belgrade, as a kind of “hometown” of the Non-Aligned Movement in which its first Summit was held back in 1961, bears a special historical symbolism as a city in which the newly-established Bandung principles, that “laid the foundation” on which the Non-Aligned Movement continues to rest to this day, were affirmed.

This event will be a significant opportunity for the Non-Aligned Movement to discuss its historical contribution, reaffirm its commitment to the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations and its support to a global order based on multilateralism, as well as to set new goals for the future.

Despite the complex situation dictated by the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the marking of this important anniversary is worthy of being one of the largest multilateral events in the world this year.

As the host of the event, the Republic of Serbia is proud that it will have the great honour and pleasure to welcome its traditional friends from all parts of the world.