Contemporary aspects of nonalignment

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Non-alignment started at the Bandung Conference of April 1955, which brought together the heads of 29 recently decolonized states of Asia and Africa who were determined to assert their independence of all forms of colonialism and neo-colonialism; it took institutional form with the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at the Belgrade conference in 1961.

In the era of confrontation between the East and West blocs, the movement’s aim was to assert a set of shared principles intended to preserve these states’ autonomy: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; non-aggression; non-interference in domestic affairs; equality and mutual support; peaceful co-existence.

Behind the initial cohesion, various strands quickly formed within the movement, as in practice some states maintained exclusive relations with one of the two blocs, while others were engaged in open conflict (India and Pakistan, for example). These divisions impaired the NAM’s ability to produce anything more than symbolic declarations and forms of cooperation. Nonetheless, the principles it asserted raised the profile of the “ third world ” enabling these actors to claim their political autonomy and show that they were not prepared to submit to power politics and proxy wars imposed by the two major powers.

Non-Aligned Movement, 2018


Comment: The Non-Aligned Movement (independence from colonialism and neocolonialism, and not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc, either East or West) started during the Cold War at the 1955 Bandung conference (29 states). It was institutionalized in 1961, survived the bipolar period, and today boasts 120 members. However, three large countries in the Southern hemisphere – China, Brazil, and Mexico – are merely observers.

When the end of the Cold War called the basis of its existence into question, the NAM sought to reinvent itself. Today the movement sees its function as providing a platform for countries of the South, promoting their interests in the context of multilateral negotiations and embodying opposition to neocolonialism. Yet it remains weakened by divisions between its members and the existence of other organizations or groups representing a similar agenda in multilateral bodies (the G77). Today the NAM has 120 members, i.e. two-thirds of member states of the UN and 55% of the global population.

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" Contemporary aspects of nonalignment " World Atlas of Global Issues, 2018, [online], accessed on Mar 15 2021, URL:

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