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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The other NAM Heads for Cuba

by Circles Robinson

When most people in the United States think of NAM, they are thinking Vietnam. However, there is another NAM, the Non-Aligned Movement, comprised of 116 underdeveloped nations.

NAM held its first Summit of Heads of State in 1961 and holds its 14th in Havana, Cuba this September.

The organization, which began by trying to walk the line between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, has gained new impetus as a counterbalance to the US and its wealthy allies attempts to reshape the world using military might and economic pressure as their double-edged sword.

The task is daunting since most of the NAM member countries are suffering from the deteriorating world economy, in part from skyrocketing oil prices (nearing $80 dollars a barrel) and the direct or indirect effects of US led military adventures. Epidemics, led by HIV-AIDS, are battering dozens of the movements members and natural disasters have also recently hit member-countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Guatemala and Bolivia with severity.

Four NAM member states, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon are currently engulfed in major invasions and occupations by the United States or its chief ally Israel. The war in the Middle East is also on the verge of spilling over to members Syria and Iran.

North Korea, another NAM member country, is facing economic warfare from the wealthy countries who want to maintain a monopoly on nuclear capability for themselves or their client states.

As the Non-Aligned Movement chairmanship shifts in September from Malaysia to Cuba, the island will take the helm with a global situation quite different from 1979-1982 when it last led the movement and when Cuba’s economy was closely tied to the USSR and the Socialist Bloc Eastern European countries.

Some of the major issues likely to draw the attention of the NAM members under the leadership of Fidel Castro are: the double-standard US “war on terror” which singles out countries that don’t share it’s vision of the world; the search for energy alternatives and economic policies promoting development instead of further impoverishment; and the role of education, culture and healthcare in building a more just world.

In 2003, Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, the NAM chair from 2000-2003, warned that the movement's future depended on its response to global challenges. He called on the NAM to take stronger resolutions on key issues.

In May, 2006 the NAM foreign minister’s meeting in Malaysia declared that terrorism "should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of people's under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation," in a little veiled reference to the US and its allies.

NAM, under Malaysian leadership (2003-2006), has also opposed the categorization of “good and evil” countries “based on unilateral and unjustified criteria,” and the adoption of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attacks.

During Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s last visit to the island, Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon praised Malaysia’s leadership for making the movement more dynamic and reaffirming its determination to democratize international relations and work to make people’s hopes for independence and development a reality.

The Non-Aligned Movement is made up predominantly by almost all African, Middle Eastern, South Asia and Southeast Asian countries, and a majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations.

In September, Cuba will become the second NAM member state to twice chair the movement for a three-year period; the first was Yugoslavia. Other countries having led the movement are Egypt, Zambia, Algeria, Sri Lanka, India, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Colombia, South Africa, and Malaysia.

The summit declarations and efforts of the movement receive little or no attention in the mainstream corporate media, despite NAM representing over half the world’s population.


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