Non-Alignment Movement

Non-Alignment Movement: Historical Roots, Objectives, and Global Significance

International Relations, Non-Alignment Movement, Objectives, Political Science, Western Political thought

Non-Alignment Movement

The Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), comprising 120 developing states, is a forum with roots deeply embedded in the geopolitical landscape of the Cold War. The term “non-alignment” was introduced by V K Menon in a 1953 United Nations (UN) speech. Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru later adopted it in his 1954 speech in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he outlined the Panchsheel (five restraints) as principles guiding Sino-Indian relations.

Formed to eschew formal alignment with either the United States or the Soviet Union (USSR), the NAM aimed to assert the autonomy and independence of its member nations. The movement pursued an action-oriented policy, allowing countries to make decisions independently. This article provides an in-depth exploration of the historical origins, objectives, and global significance of the Non-Alignment Movement.

Historical Background:

The NAM’s inception can be traced back to the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference in 1955, where discussions laid the foundation for a group of nations unwilling to align with the prevailing power blocs of the Cold War era. The formal establishment of the organization occurred in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in September 1961, during the first NAM Summit Conference. Visionary leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia spearheaded the movement, envisioning a platform for nations to assert their independence on the global stage.

Objectives and Purpose:

Fidel Castro’s Havana Declaration of 1979 crystallized the objectives of the NAM, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to safeguarding the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security of non-aligned countries. The movement aimed to resist imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and various forms of foreign aggression. Moreover, it stood against great power politics, bloc interference, and hegemony. Contrary to a simplistic view of neutrality, the NAM’s purpose was rooted in an action-oriented policy,  empowering member states to make decisions independently and contribute to global peace.

The principles and goals of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held great importance in the Cold War period, as they aimed to foster global stability, uphold peace, and ensure security. The organization was viewed as a crucial initiative for promoting collaboration among countries in the Global South. Importantly, NAM did not advocate for the neutrality or inaction of states in global affairs; rather, it advocated for peaceful interventions in world politics to address issues and challenges.

The Ten principles of Bandung are: 

1. Admiration for fundamental human rights and of the aims and codes of the Charter of the United Nations. 

2. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every nation. 

3. Acknowledgment of equality between all races and of equality among every nation, both large and small. 

4. Non-intervention or non-interference into the domestic affairs of another -nation. 

5. Respect the right of all nations to protect itself, either individually or collectively, in conventionality with the Charter of the United Nations. 

6. Non-use of collective protection pacts to advantage the specific interests of any of the great powers and Non-use of pressures by any country alongside other countries. 

7. Abstaining from carrying out or threatening to carry out hostility, or from using force alongside the territorial integrity or political independence of any country. 

8. A peaceful solution of all international conflicts in conventionality with the Charter of the United Nations. 

9. Endorsement of mutual interests and of cooperation. 

10. Respect for justice and of international obligations. 

Alignment with Panchsheel Principles:

The principles of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) closely align with the Panchsheel principles, also known as the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence. Proposed by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954 to depict India-China relations, these principles form the bedrock of NAM’s guiding values. Emphasizing mutual respect, non-aggression, non-interference, equality, and peaceful co-existence, these principles highlight NAM’s commitment to fostering harmonious international relations.

Historical Significance and Achievements:

During the 7th summit held in New Delhi in March 1983, the Non-Alignment Movement declared itself as “history’s biggest peace movement.” This acknowledgment reflects the movement’s historical significance as a global force dedicated to promoting peace, sovereignty, and development.

Important NAM Summits:

Throughout the Cold War era, NAM emerged as a champion for various causes. Notably, during the 2nd NAM conference in Cairo, the movement strongly opposed apartheid, condemning South Africa’s discriminatory practices.

Additionally, NAM supported disarmament initiatives, advocated for reforms in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to ensure greater representation of third-world countries, and sponsored campaigns for the New International Economic Order (NIEO). The demand and idea for a new international economic order based on economic justice was first made at the NAM’s Algiers Conference in 1973. Based on it, the UN General Assembly formally moved the proposal for NIEO in 1974 on the initiative of the NAM countries. However, the demand for NIEO and overhaul of the world monetary system was wholeheartedly accepted and supported by the countries at the 5 th NAM summit at Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1976.

Further, The 10th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit was held in Tehran, Iran, in 2012. The theme of the summit was “Lasting Peace through Joint Global Governance.” The focus was on upholding the Bandung Principles, which include principles of mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, and equality among nations.

The 12th NAM Summit took place in 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. During the summit, both India and Pakistan were condemned by member nations for conducting nuclear tests. The condemnation came amid heightened tensions between the two countries. The event showcased the challenges of maintaining peace and stability in the region and highlighted the significance of the NAM in addressing global issues.

Recent NAM Summits

The 18th NAM summit, held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2019, focused on upholding Bandung principles to address contemporary global challenges. Marking the 65th anniversary of Bandung Principles and the 60th anniversary of NAM’s establishment, the summit reaffirmed the movement’s commitment to its foundational principles.

The 19th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Heads of State and Government is scheduled to take place with the overarching theme of ‘Enhancing Collaboration for Collective Global Impact.’ The Summit aims to produce a document summarizing its conclusions. Uganda, serving as the current Chair of NAM for the term 2024-2027, is hosting the Summit.

India’s Engagement and Leadership:

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s absence from the second consecutive NAM summit (17th and 18th NAM Summit), India continued its active involvement. Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu represented India at the 18th summit in Baku. India’s historical role, including hosting the 7th summit in New Delhi in 1983, signifies its commitment to NAM’s ideals.

United Against Covid-19 Summit:

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, an online summit titled “United Against Covid-19” was initiated by HE Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan and Chairman of NAM, in May 2020. The summit, attended by Prime Minister Modi and leaders from various member states, emphasized the importance of a coordinated, inclusive, and equitable response to the crisis. The event underscored NAM’s role in addressing global challenges and commemorated the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace.

Relevance of NAM in the Contemporary World:

The present relevance of NAM is multifaceted, addressing issues such as world peace and security, equitable world order, territorial integrity, development of third-world countries, South-South cooperation, cultural diversity, economic growth, sustainable development, environment protection, climate change, and the fight against terrorism and illicit activities. With a total of 18 summits held so far and the recent chairmanship by Uganda from 2024 to 2027, NAM remains a crucial platform representing its past, present, and future.

Future Outlook and Leadership Transition:

As Uganda prepares to take over the chairmanship from Azerbaijan in 2024, the future of NAM remains an intriguing subject. The movement’s continued evolution and engagement with emerging global challenges, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, will shape its relevance in the 21st century. NAM’s principles continue to provide a comprehensive framework for fostering international cooperation, peace, and development.


The Non-Alignment Movement, born out of the post-colonial aspirations of developing nations, remains a compelling force in international relations. Its detailed exploration reveals a nuanced approach that goes beyond mere neutrality, emphasizing the proactive stance of member states in shaping their destinies. As the Cold War recedes into history, the principles and objectives of the NAM retain their relevance, providing a blueprint for a just and equitable world order based on independence, autonomy, and collaborative action.

Latest articles

Leave a Comment

You cannot copy content of this page