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What Is The Nonaligned Movement?


Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito (right) with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (left) and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, shown here meeting in 1956, are considered to be among the founding fathers of NAM.

Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito (right) with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (left) and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, shown here meeting in 1956, are considered to be among the founding fathers of NAM.

The Nonaligned Movement (NAM), founded at the height of the Cold War, is a grouping of developing countries that do not want to align themselves with any major superpower.

The movement has its origins in a 1955 conference held in Indonesia during which representatives from 29 Asian and African countries, including many newly independent states that had been colonized for years, discussed common concerns.

President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, President Achmad Sukarno of Indonesia and President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana are considered the founding fathers of the movement.

The first summit of the NAM heads of state was held in 1961 in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, through Tito's initiative. Twenty-five countries attended the summit, which focused on the arm race between the United States and the Soviet Union and the escalating threat of war.

NAM currently is made up of 120 members, with Venezuela, Iran, South Africa, India, and Saudi Arabia among the more influential. China, Russia, and Brazil are among the prominent countries with observer status.

The movement does not have a permanent secretariat. A summit of NAM heads of states usually takes place every three years.

Egypt currently holds NAM's rotating chairmanship, which Iran will assume during the August 26-31 summit in Tehran.

Since its inception, the group says, it has waged a battle to ensure that people being oppressed "by foreign occupation and domination" can exercise their right to self-determination.

NAM says it is committed to the principles of the nonuse of force and respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence, and security of all member states of the United Nations.

In recent years, NAM countries have turned their attention to a range of issues, including development, globalization, food security, and nuclear concerns.

All decisions in the movement are made by consensus. Reaching consensus in a diverse group of countries with sometimes weak ties and different interests can be challenging.

The relevance of the movement has been questioned since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some have suggested that in order for the movement to remain relevant some 50 years after it was founded, it should show greater visibility and innovation in solving global problems.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
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