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The Global South and the Non-Aligned Movement


Global South countries are actively advocating for a multipolar world, opposing domination by a single hegemonic state in international organisations. This push for a fairer global order is evident in their efforts to expand groups like BRICs, work towards de-dollarization, and call for reforms in the international financial architecture. They are also demanding increased representation and voices from the Global South in international organisations. While promoting multilateralism, these countries need to ensure that the organisations they form uphold their objectives and avoid the pitfalls observed in existing international structures.

This article delves into the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and its significance for Global South countries, particularly those in West Africa. It examines the historical context, purpose, structure, successes, and challenges of the movement, as well as its relevance amid current geopolitical shifts.

The Global South nations are resolutely advocating for a multipolar world, consistently rejecting the dominance of any singular state and its "hegemonic" influence over international organisations. A notable current focus of the Global South involves expanding the influence of BRICs, while simultaneously pursuing de-dollarization. In addition, these nations demand comprehensive reforms within the realm of international financial architecture, a transformation of international summits, and greater representation of voices from the Global South within international bodies.

While these call for a more equitable world order and multilateralism, Global South countries must ensure that newly formed organisations dedicated to these principles do not replicate the pitfalls of existing international structures. It is in this context that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) gains significance.


Small states within the international realm have united in their quest for self-preservation, understanding that the national interest is paramount. These states, distinct from the powerful global players, manoeuvre through coalescence and collaboration to elevate their national agendas. A pertinent observation underscores that small states frequently engage in a greater number of international organisations compared to their more powerful counterparts, embracing the approach of small-state multilateralism. This strategy enables these smaller nations, despite their numerical disadvantage, to articulate their concerns and interests on a global platform.

The concept of neutrality takes on two nuanced forms. Non-belligerency involves a state refraining from direct involvement in warfare but favouring one side over the other. Conversely, non-alignment signifies a state's deliberate choice to abstain from aligning with any particular side, reflecting a strategic political move to safeguard its national interests.

Origins and Objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) emerged from the 1970 Lusaka Conference in Zambia, a product of the East-West conflict and the North-South conflict during the 1970s. Its fundamental purpose, as articulated by Yugoslavia's President Josip Tito, was to empower member states to transition from passive entities to active participants in international affairs, thereby articulating their distinct positions. A key facet of NAM's foundation was to maintain non-alignment, particularly concerning major global powers such as the United States and Russia.

NAM's establishment was intrinsically tied to its mission to advocate for the comprehensive political and economic transformation of the prevailing world order. This transformation aimed to cater to the needs and aspirations of post-colonial nations that were not aligned with any bloc, emphasising their independence. The movement bestowed smaller and lesser powers with renewed purpose, certainty, and predictability in international engagements, evolving into a platform for collective endeavours that would have been unattainable individually on the global stage.

NAM's Successes, Challenges, and Membership

The peak of NAM's significance can be attributed to the 1970s, an era characterised by an increasingly interconnected global landscape. During this period, NAM shifted its focus toward addressing economic and developmental challenges, advocating for the restructuring of prevailing global economic systems. This restructuring was intended to serve the interests of the majority that had been historically underrepresented. NAM's contributions in dismantling classical colonialism were evident, as demonstrated by the end of apartheid in South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa. Moreover, the movement played a pivotal role in instigating the North-South dialogue.

Nevertheless, NAM faced its share of challenges that posed a threat to its standing in the international arena. These challenges ranged from the interference of major powers such as China, Russia, and the United States to ideological discrepancies among member states. Instances of discord among NAM members became evident through conflicts like the 1980 Iraq-Iran War and the Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia in 1978. The movement encountered ideological divisions during the Cold War, with moderate and radical factions advocating varying approaches to engagement with great powers.

Membership, Structure, and Contemporary Relevance

Membership within NAM is notable, with Asia boasting 39 member nations, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean with 26 countries, and even a couple of European countries participating. Africa's sole non-member is South Sudan. NAM operates without a permanent constitution or secretariat, relying extensively on consensus among member states for decision-making. The leadership role within NAM rotates among member states, symbolising the collaborative ethos of the organisation.

NAM's continued significance is evident in the 21st century, as the world grapples with evolving challenges such as global health pandemics, climate change, realignments in geopolitics, and economic transformations. The dependence on powerful states for survival places smaller nations, predominantly constituting NAM members, in a vulnerable position. This was poignantly demonstrated during the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, debates over debt renegotiation, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

NAM's Future Role and West African Implications

In the midst of these shifts, the clamour for reforms within the United Nations Security Council, Bretton Woods Institutions, international exchange markets, climate financing, and debt restructuring remains largely unaddressed. NAM, with its history of successfully advocating for change, remains a pertinent multilateral entity to champion the interests of Global South nations. This is exemplified by its accomplishments in ending economic embargoes against Cuba, supporting the restoration of Honduras' ousted president, condemning Israel's settlements in Palestinian territories, and advocating for self-determination in Puerto Rico and Western Sahara.

The disparity between the Global South's population size and its representation within international organisations is striking. NAM possesses the potential to leverage its collective strength to articulate unified stances on pertinent issues, thereby translating deliberations into actionable outcomes. Notably, the Global South holds a substantial share of the world's natural resources, offering NAM an opportunity to advocate for unimpeded sovereign control over resource extraction and trade.

In a world that is gradually embracing multipolarity and acknowledging the expertise of Global South professionals, NAM's role becomes even more pivotal. The ascent of figures like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Tedros Adhanom to influential positions within international institutions underscores the recognition of their capabilities and signals progress toward a more inclusive global order.

Upholding NAM's Legacy and Future Impact

To conclude, as the 21st century unfolds with its intricate challenges, the relevance of NAM remains undeniable. West African countries, in tandem with other Global South nations, should rally behind NAM to amplify their voices, address contemporary challenges, and pave the way for a more equitable global order. By championing cooperation, equitable representation, and principled international engagement, NAM can continue its legacy of advocating for the interests and aspirations of the Global South, thereby etching its mark on the evolving narrative of international relations.

Works Cited

Agdube, G. ,. (2014). Amilcar Cabral's Note on Impasses to Africa's Development. European Scientific Journal, 333-355.

Dimitrijevic, D. (2021). The Non-Aligned Movement: Sixty Years since the Belgrade Summit. ResearchGate Publication.

Mathews, K. (1987). AFRICA AND NON-ALIGNMENT. India Quarterly, 40–51.

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