Azerbaijan Empowers the Non-Aligned Movement as a Formidable Global Actor
On March 2, Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, hosted the Summit-level Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Contact Group in response to COVID-19 – writes Dr. Vasif Huseynov.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a forum of 120 countries that represents nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’ members holds 55% of the world population. Representatives from about 160 countries and international organizations, including heads of State and Government from about 60 countries, as well as heads of international organizations attended the Baku summit.
The gathering discussed the issues of global importance including post-pandemic recovery initiatives, international security, the institutional development of the NAM, etc. Against the backdrop of “the most serious confrontation between East and West since the end of the Cold War”, as described by President Ilham Aliyev, the importance for the NAM to perform “a more visible and effective role in the international arena and actively participate in the transformation of the new world order” was acknowledged by all participants.
Assuming the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2019, Azerbaijan has made a wide range of efforts to revitalize the institution and increase its weight and influence in contemporary international relations. Azerbaijan’s chairmanship in 2020 coincided with the pandemic’s onset, prompting Baku to make various efforts to unite member countries against its ramifications. Through Azerbaijan’s initiative, NAM held its first extraordinary summit of member states virtually, attended by over forty-five member states and international organizations, marking a historical event for the movement. NAM took the lead in global efforts to counter COVID-19 immediately after the pandemic outbreak and countered the “vaccine nationalism” of some wealthy countries. NAM initiated two resolutions to ensure fair and universal access to vaccines for all countries, which were adopted at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly in 2021.
In the last year in this chairmanship role, Azerbaijan continues to make new initiatives and called upon the member states to take an active role towards these objectives. Azerbaijan is one of the leading voices for the reforms of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) characterizing this body “reminiscent of the past” which “does not reflect the modern reality”. Azerbaijan calls for the allocation of one permanent seat to the Non-Aligned Movement and one seat for the African continent at the UNSC. “The country holding the post of Chairman of the [Non-Aligned] Movement should have this seat on a rotating basis”, emphasized President Aliyev and called upon other member states “to start consultations on this issue and submit their views to the relevant UN Committee”.
The efforts for the post-pandemic recovery, particularly, for developing countries continue to remain on the agenda of the Azerbaijani chairmanship. This year Baku makes two particular initiatives on this path. The first is the call for the establishment of a UN High-Level Panel on Global Recovery from COVID-19. According to President Aliyev, this Panel could elaborate recommendations on global measures for the post-pandemic period. The second initiative is about the declaration of two Global Calls to support the post-pandemic recovery of Africa and Small Island Developing States. Azerbaijan, as the first donor, allocated 1 million US dollars for both Global Calls and invited other members to support the initiative.
Azerbaijan, containing one of the most mine-contaminated areas in the world, is also interested in forming a global movement of the countries that have to deal with a similar challenge. Up to 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territories that remained under the illegal occupation of Armenia for around thirty years (1992-2020) have been extensively contaminated with landmines by the Armenian side. According to the estimates of the international experts, Azerbaijan needs nearly 30 years and 25 billion US dollars to clear the area of landmines. Hence, President Aliyev suggested “forming a Like-Minded Group of Mine-Affected Countries to make our voice heard globally”.
Last but not least, the efforts for the institutionalization of the Non-Aligned Movement have been a primary task on the agenda of the Azerbaijani chairmanship over the last three years. Baku succeeded to gather enough support for the launch of the parliamentary network and youth network of the NAM. The first meeting of the parliamentary network took place in Baku in June last year. The member countries demonstrated a political will to continue this initiative. The second meeting of the network is due to take place in Bahrain on March 13. Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev has, with the support of member states, also endorsed the creation of a NAM support office in New York and the permanent secretariat of the NAM Youth Organization in Baku.
These steps mark the beginning of the process of institutionalizing the Movement, which has not made any significant progress in this direction until now. The lack of progress in developing the institution is mainly due to disagreements and conflicts among certain member states, and a lack of shared vision regarding the NAM. However, it is evident that as tensions increase in international relations between major powers and the resurgence of Cold War attitudes, countries caught between these rivalries must come together and combine their efforts to safeguard their interests. Therefore, it is likely that there will be continued efforts to institutionalize and strengthen the NAM in the years to come.
Dr. Vasif Huseynov, Head of the Western Studies Department at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center) in Baku, Azerbaijan.
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