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[Park Sang-seek] Non-aligned Movement as an anti-West movement

Iran has taken over the chairmanship of the Non-aligned Movement from Egypt, which held its 16th summit in Tehran in the last week of August. The world is keenly watching how NAM will change.

NAM emphasizes that the traditional world order dominated by the U.S. and the West should be replaced by a new international order, which is based on multilaterism and democracy. All members agree that NAM should play the leading role for the transformation of the world order.

Here the demand for multilateralism means that the pyramidal international order is transformed into a pluralistic structure; the call for democracy means that the principles of the democratic decision-making process should be applied in all international organizations, particularly in the U.N. system.

In other words, the hegemonic powers should be denied of the privileged position and an all inclusive global governance structure should be built. It believes that the decline of America and the European powers and the rise of new great powers indicate this change.

In a word, Nam rejects any manifestations of hegemonism and emphasizes democracy in interstate relations more than in domestic politics. NAM believes that the U.N. is the most appropriate mechanism through which multilateralism and the multilateral decision-making process can be realized.

On the basis of the principles of anti-hegemonism, NAM puts priority on the principle of non-intervention over humanitarian intervention. In concrete terms, it supports humanitarian intervention to protect peoples from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, but only on conditions that it will not violate the principles of national sovereignty and non-intervention.

NAM condemns the vilification of other states’ political systems, civilizations, cultures and religions. In the same vein, it disagrees with the West’s definitions of human rights and democracy and the latter’s attempts to cultural homogenization and uni-culturalism. In view of the fact that civilizational, cultural and religious diversities are the main cause of domestic and international conflicts, NAM advocates the dialogues among civilizations, cultures and religions.

NAM’s views of globalization, sustainable development, and the digital divide and terrorism are also different from the West’s.

Historically, NAM was created mainly by Afro-Asian countries which had gained independence from their Western colonial rulers to stay away from the cold war between the Western and the Eastern ideological blocs. Member states were divided into three groups ― pro-Western, pro-Eastern and moderate. The pro-Eastern group was more vocal and dominant in the early period. Now we observe a different division within NAM ― pro-West, moderate and anti-West.

Another difference is that during the cold war period there were three camps ― Western, Eastern and non-aligned. Now, there are two camps ― Western and anti-Western. The main difference between them is not ideological but civilizational. In this sense, the Non-aligned Movement can be called an anti-Western movement.

Some might argue that the Group of 5 (BRICS) is compared to the Eastern bloc in the cold war period. NAM and the G5 share a similar view of the world in many ways. Moreover, India and South Africa, members of the G5, are also members of NAM.

NAM and China maintain a close relationship through the G77. China also attends NAM summits as an observer. The G77 is a common interest group operating within the U.N. NAM maintains a close relationship with the G77 and exerts influence on UN activities through the latter. Actually, the memberships of the two bodies mostly overlap.

Russia is neither a member of the G77 or NAM but shares a similar perception of the world order and a similar interest in world affairs with NAM.

NAM is divided on the Syrian crisis but most members of NAM share the same view with China and Russia. As China and Russia become powerful, they will try to form a united front with NAM against the U.S. and the West. Then, NAM will not remain a talking shop or paper tiger any longer.

As long as the West and the non-West (including NAM and the G5) do not share the same perceptions of the world and the same interests and are divided on the definitions of universal values and human rights, the conflict between the West and the non-West will aggravate.

It is necessary for South Korea to maintain a close relationship with NAM. Korea can hardly enjoy peace and prosperity with the cooperation and support of the West alone. 

By Park Sang-seek

Park Sang-seek is a professor at the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University. ― Ed.
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