Baku Non-Aligned Movement Summit: a chance for a reboot

Baku, August 7, AZERTAC

Azerbaijan will host the 18th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement on 25-26 October this year. The significance of this event for our country can hardly be overestimated taking into consideration its scale, political and economic potential of the organization and its ability to influence world politics. This will be one of the largest, if not the largest international political event in the history of Azerbaijan ever since the republic regained its independence. Another important point political scientists and experts have drawn their attention to is that the European continent in the person of Azerbaijan will be hosting the heads of state and government of participating countries of the second largest international organization after the UN for the first time in the 30 years since the Belgrade summit of 1989.

Unity of need

The Non-Aligned Movement unites 120 countries of the world. The basis of the foreign political course of these countries is considered to be a refusal to participate in military and political blocs and a peaceful coexistence of peoples based on the principles of independence and equality. The origins of the organization go back to the 1955 Bandung Conference of Asia and Africa, when young states were looking for their own development path free of post-colonial dependence that would provide the opportunity to build a modern economy and establish a more fair and optimal system of international relations. As one of the founders of NAM, the president of Indonesia Ahmed Sukarno (1945-967) noted, the basis for the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement was not a geographical, racial or religious unity, but a "unity of need." The need for a world without wars – after all, the Non-Aligned Movement was formed in a certain sense as a deterrent in the period of the Cold War, in the time of geopolitical, military, economic and ideological confrontation of the two blocs, the center of one of which was the USSR and of the other the USA. Its goal was to contribute to economic and social progress, fair and equitable conditions for development.

The Declaration on the Promotion of Global Peace and Cooperation adopted at the conference in Bandung set out 10 principles for the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of countries: respect for fundamental human rights, as well as the goals and principles of the UN Charter; respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; recognition of the equality of all races and the equality of all nations, large and small; abstinence from intervention and interference in the internal affairs of another country; respect for the right of each country to individual and collective defense in accordance with the UN Charter; abstinence from using collective defense agreements in the private interests of any of the great powers; abstinence of any country from exerting pressure on other countries; abstinence from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country; settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means; promotion of mutual interests and cooperation; respect for justice and international obligations.

This was also reflected in the declaration of the Belgrade Conference of 1961, from which the Non-Aligned Movement officially counts its history. The document adopted with the participation of the heads of state and government of 25 non-aligned countries outlined the basic principles of the Movement: rejection of dictatorship, hegemonism and expansion in international relations, the need for equal and mutually beneficial cooperation between states; the struggle for the formation of a new economic order based on justice and equality. A lot has changed in the world since then, but these principles, I think, still have not lost their relevance.

Two thirds of the world

Today, about 55 percent of the world's population lives in countries of the Non-Aligned Movement. These states possess more than 75 percent of the world's oil reserves and over 50 percent of the world’s gas reserves, huge human and natural resources. It is unlikely that anyone will dispute the thesis that, with sensible and rational use, all this potential can be transformed into a powerful political force that can influence world developments.

Azerbaijan has become a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement relatively recently – in 2011. And the fact that our country, after only eight years, hosts such an important international event of this organization, which will feature more than half of the world, is undoubtedly a recognition of the growing international authority of Azerbaijan.

In principle, if we look at the processes of recent years, we can definitely say that the election of Baku as the meeting place for the heads of state and government of more than a hundred countries of the Non-Aligned Movement is a logical result of a balanced and prudent foreign policy conducted by the country under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev on the basis of national interests of the Azerbaijani people and impressive successes of the republic in all areas.

The key contributors to the fact that the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement will be held in Azerbaijan include the following:

- Our country fully supports and shares the principles of the organization, demonstrating commitment to them;

- Official Baku pursues an independent policy ensuring equidistance from the main power centers of the world, maintains good relations with all countries (with the exception of Armenia, which has occupied 20 percent of the country's territory) based on goodwill, pragmatism and mutual benefit, and has repeatedly proved that not a single third-party force cannot impose its will on Azerbaijan;

- Azerbaijan is the absolute leader of the South Caucasus, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the region’s economy, not only economically but also politically;

- Azerbaijan is an active and respected actor in international relations. Evidence of this is that in 2011 our country was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2012-2013. Prior to this, only Ukraine was awarded such honor from amongst post-Soviet republics. In fact, the support of countries participating in the Non-Aligned Movement also played an important role in the election of Azerbaijan by the votes of 155 countries as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

- Another confirmation of this postulate is that over the past three years, Azerbaijan has regularly become a venue for the military leaders of Russia and NATO, where key problems of world security are being addressed. I believe that it would be superfluous to dwell on the significance of this in detail. Yes, Azerbaijan only provides a platform in this case, but no-one would have held these meetings in our country had it not enjoyed special international confidence. There are about 200 countries in the world, but Moscow and Brussels choose in favor of Azerbaijan. I think this is something worth contemplating about.

- Azerbaijan is one of the safest countries in the world with solid experience in organizing and conducting major events - political, cultural, humanitarian, and sports.

Azerbaijan’s priorities

If we talk about foreign policy dividends Azerbaijan receives by participating in the Non-Aligned Movement, these, as clearly stated in the Order of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev from 11 February 2019 related to the upcoming Summit, have created an opportunity for more active involvement of our country in the processes of international peace, security and cooperation, the development of bilateral and multilateral relations with various states, including many Latin American, Asian and African countries.

From the very beginning of Azerbaijan’s membership in the Non-Aligned Movement, this organization has expressed unequivocal support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the borders of our republic recognized at the international level. All of the documents the organization has adopted call for the settlement of the most painful problem for our country – the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – on the basis of these principles. This was also vividly confirmed in the final document of the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the organization of the Non-Aligned Movement held in the capital of Venezuela, Caracas, in July this year. It contains a separate paragraph supporting the position of Azerbaijan, which states that despite the relevant resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains unresolved and poses a threat to international and regional security and peace. Once again reaffirming the importance of the principle of non-use of force specified in the UN Charter, the Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement called for a search for ways to resolve the conflict through negotiations within the framework of territorial integrity, sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan. This is the position of 120 states of the world, almost two-thirds of the planet!

For Azerbaijan, the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku is yet another opportunity to draw the world's attention to the long-standing conflict, the solution of which is hampered by the unconstructive position of Armenia which occupies 20 percent of the country's territory, to the “double standards” existing in the world, to the imperfection or lack of legal mechanisms to influence the aggressor, and force it to act within the framework of civilized norms.

But as a responsible member of the world community, Azerbaijan naturally will not focus only on its problem, especially since its solution largely depends on what the world will be like and what principles it will be guided by in the coming years and decades. In this sense, Azerbaijan, as a country that will chair the Non-Aligned Movement from 2019 to 2021, has a very important task.

Baku has already outlined its priorities during the chairmanship of the organization, which will consist in further enhancing the role and authority of the Movement in the system of international relations, promoting its basic principles at the international level, promoting the formation of interstate relations based on the rule of law, respect for international law and the fundamental Bandung principles, contributing to the strengthening of peace and security and sustainable development on the planet.

For a more secure and fair world

The logic of the processes taking place in the world is such that right now, when the world is becoming multipolar, when the opposing blocs and coalitions have reappeared on the world’s geopolitical map, the role of the Non-Aligned Movement, which has decreased after the end of the Cold War, tends to increase. The existing world order is collapsing again, new power centers are emerging, the relations between states are reformatted, long-standing contradictions are deepening, traditional partners find themselves on opposite sides of the barricade, and long-standing competitors find a common language based on the coincidence of geopolitical and economic interests. New hotbeds of local conflicts threaten to escalate into large-scale wars; under the banner of democracy, the statehood of a number of countries is undermined. In such a situation, it is important for the Non-Aligned Movement to find its place in the emerging world architecture as a balancing and restraining factor. One can agree with the assertions that, as an organization, the Non-Aligned Movement is heterogeneous, it includes countries with completely different levels of economic development, the maturity of state institutions, internal stability, and social welfare of the population, and their views on certain international problems do not coincide. However, it is also indisputable that all the participating countries of NAM, of course, want to live in a better and more secure world, where development models are not imposed from outside, countries are not dictated how to behave in certain situations, how to build relations with other states, with whom to make friends and establish partnerships, how to dispose of their natural wealth. They want to live in a world where the threat of devastation and extinction due to wars does not hang over them, where external interventions do not lead to conflicts, civil wars and the emergence of millions of refugees. It is up to these countries to join forces and demonstrate their political will, oppose it to aspirations to turn the planet into an arena of a constant arms race, tough confrontation and sanctions. As President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev emphasized at the ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Baku last April on the subject of “Promoting international peace and security for sustainable development”, “We must support each other. We are facing, one might say, similar challenges and problems. Our past is also, to a certain extent, similar. We all want to live our own and independent lives. None of us wants anyone to demand any action from us, interfere in our affairs, dictate something to us. To do this, we must be strong. We can be strong only if we are together.”

For this, the Non-Aligned Movement needs to reboot its activities. By fate, this period coincides in time with the chairmanship of Azerbaijan in NAM. In this sense, the upcoming Baku Summit and the Azerbaijani chairmanship have a chance to go down in history as crucial for the Non-Aligned Movement.

Aslan Aslanov

Chairman of the Board of AZERTAC, President of OANA

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