An aligned view of the nonaligned

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Nasser, Tito, and Nehru, who founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961, are long gone, but the NAM remains the only political lobby for the third world, particularly at the United Nations, where its 101 members virtually control the proceedings. Under nonaligned auspices, nearly 40 heads of state will attend this fall's General Assembly to lobby for objectives laid out at the March New Delhi summit.

Leadership among the nonaligned is drawn from larger and more committed countries like India, Yugoslavia, Algeria, Iraq, or Tanzania, though by virtue of dynamism or force of personality, it may include a few diplomats from smaller states like Uganda or Singapore. By 1983, it has come full circle to Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi.

In practice, however, a half-dozen activists at the UN run the NAM on a day-to-day basis. Their interests and idiosyncrasies explain, in part, why the nonaligned so often take positions counter to their members' apparent interests.

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The single-minded focus on economic issues of Indian Ambassador Brajesh Chandra Mishra did much, for example, to galvanize nonaligned pressure during the late '70s for a ''global round'' of negotiations with the developed countries. Equally strong was the influence of Iraqi Ambassador Ismat Kittani, who, as president of the General Assembly in 1981, did much to reorient the NAM in the last year of Cuba's term as chairman. Kittani was unable, however, to offset reaction to Iraq's continuing war with Iran and preserve Baghdad as site for the seventh summit.

Nonaligned activists tend to share a profile of common experience, education, and attitudes - and they collectively influence the movement's large and usually passive majority. They are, in a sense, hybrids whose national identities become submerged in a multinational outlook. The result of higher education abroad, prolonged absence from home capitals, and vested career interest in international organizations is often a unique mind set and alienation from home.

Foreign education is frequently prelude to a career abroad for which specialization in international organizations ensures maximum service in New York or Geneva. Recent leaders of the nonaligned have tended to be graduates of the Sorbonne, London School of Economics, Oxford, or Harvard. Some, like Ugandan Ambassador Olara Otunnu, an alumnus of Oxford and Harvard Law School, combine several.

The next step is long service abroad and close association in New York or Geneva with others of the same small fraternity. Some, like Tanzania's Salim Salim, may remain 10 years in New York, consolidating expertise and influence within the UN as a whole and the nonaligned constituency in particular. Typically, such delegates return rarely to their own capitals and, in some instances, then only as steppingstones back to larger responsiblity abroad. Others, at the conclusion of tours in New York or Geneva, may move laterally into positions in the UN system. Their life style and preferences tend toward the greater power, personal influence, and amenities of a world capital - and this very sophistication, cultivated through diplomacy in world capitals, may become a liability at home.

Expertise puts the nonaligned activists in a position of unique authority vis-a-vis their governments. Some are politicians rather than career diplomats and already have unusual access at home or are distinguished as jurists or authors. Other nonaligned leaders may be perceived at home as politically threatening by regimes eager to keep them abroad. Within the arcane world of international organizations and conferences, these leaders form an elite who have outgrown employment opportunities in their own countries and for whom the hybrid UN environment becomes the personal reality. Their imprint on the movement is to reinforce its level of abstraction and group attitudes out of step with individual capitals.

Such diplomats perceive the UN as the focus of their own careers and the fulcrum for nonaligned efforts to alter existing political and economic structures. Steeped in parliamentary procedure, they exploit the NAM as a vehicle to gain control of the larger body. Faced with intractable world problems on the UN agenda, annual resolutions, declarations, conferences, special UN sessions, and expanding committee memberships become for them and the nonaligned substitutes for real progress. Not even 40 heads of state are likely to cut through this verbiage.

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