Moving in the Right direction

The 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana took almost a week, from September 11 through 16. The Non-Aligned Movement, or NAM, is an international organization of 118 states which consider themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. The Non-Aligned Movement emerged back in the times of the “cold war” as an alternative to the two superpowers of that era — the USSR and the US
After the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s it seems there was no need for NAM to continue. But it appeared soon that the Non-Aligned Movement was essential for the whole world to resist the slide to a unipolar world order.

The participants in the summit were certain the organization was meant to become an independent power that the international community will have to reckon with. The meeting of the heads of state of the so-called non-aligned countries was the climax of the summit. President Alexander Lukashenko that led the Belarusian delegation believes the Havana meeting was very useful for the only European member of NAM. The reasons are many, the president said.

Belarus became the full member of the Non-Aligned Movement only eight years ago, but its participation is crucial for the organization. The principles of NAM are very close to Belarus’ policies, especially the pursuit of a multipolar world, noninterference in sovereign countries’ affairs and depoliticization of such basic issues as democracy and human rights.
At the 2005 UN Summit Alexander Lukashenko came out with an initiative to recognize the diversity of development as a major value of the human civilization. This idea makes Belarus one of the most prominent participants in the Non-Aligned Movement.

After representatives of Africa, Asia and Latin America delivered their speeches of welcome Alexander Lukashenko welcomed the participants on behalf of Europe. The president stated that Belarus considered the promotion of the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement in the European region one of its priority tasks. According to him, NAM was an essential contribution to the balance back in the times of the cold war. At present the world is turning unipolar, and both Europe and the Non-Aligned Movement have lost their positions. It is time to reinstate the organization to catch up with the progress and build a fair multipolar world, Alexander Lukashenko said.

The president went on to say that the Belarusian nation that lost over a third of its population in WWII and became the country that was hit the worst by the most terrible war of all comes out against new separating lines and expansion of military blocs. Belarus believes such urgent problems as poverty, international terrorism, illegal migration, drug trafficking, racism and other challenges of the modern world should be tackled jointly.

In his speech delivered in the Havana International Conventions Center Alexander Lukashenko suggested drafting a plan of actions to form a multipolar world. The unity of the Non-Aligned Movement is its main asset: “Our positions should be coordinated and concerted in the United Nations and other international organizations.” It is equally important to enhance economic cooperation of the member-states and grant as many mutual preferences as possible, the Belarusian president said.

The concluding document included the initiatives put forward by the Belarusian delegation at the UN Summit in New York last year. The non-aligned countries agreed not to recognize unilateral economic sanctions and other measures imposed on one of the NAM members in order to put it under pressure. The document also contains the agreement to promote the recognition of diversity of development models and facilitate collective efforts to counteract human traffic and slavery.

The 92-page document that also contains appeals to reform the United Nations and the Security Council will become the program of the Non-Aligned Movement for the next three years, until the Egypt Summit of 2009.

One of the key results of the summit in Cuba is the powerful impetus to bilateral relations with the countries that took part in the NAM meetings. Developing markets are important outlets for high-quality Belarusian commodities. In 2005 alone Belarus’ contacts with the Non-Aligned Movement member-states resulted in over $130 million of additional profits, Foreign Ministry specialists said.

In Havana Alexander Lukashenko held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Algeria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Malaysia and South Africa. The 18-hour flight to Cuba saved Belarus many hours of official foreign visits that the Belarusian state leader would have to make if it were not for the NAM Summit.

As for the country host, Belarus has very friendly and mutually beneficial contacts with Cuba. This was Alexander Lukashenko’s second visit to Havana, one of the main trade partners of this country in the Latin American region. Unfortunately, Alexander Lukashenko did not meet with Fidel Castro, who had undergone a serious operation, but Fidel’s brother Raul Castro, the vice-president, was glad to meet with the Belarusian state leader to address some promising projects.

Minsk and Teheran seem to be more and more interested in boosting mutual trade and launching joint projects. Iran has opened a facility to assemble MAZ trucks, and in turn, Belarus launched an assembly of Samand motorcars near Minsk. President Alexander Lukashenko and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed ways to increase mutual trade.

The longest meeting all was the one with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It looked a logical continuation of the dialogue that the two state leaders started during Hugo Chavez’s visit to Belarus. The heads of state signed a memorandum of understanding between Belarus and Venezuela regarding the establishment of a high level commission.

As for Alexander Lukashenko, he told the press he planned to visit Malaysia, Vietnam, South Africa, Venezuela, Egypt, Algeria and Iran in 2006 and 2007. Belarus aims to form a so-called “external arc”. The country continues to cooperate with Russia and the EU, Alexander Lukashenko said. However, one of Belarus’ priority objectives remains to get back the positions in the countries that “knew us back in the times of the Soviet Union.” All these cooperation vectors are aimed at equal and fair mutually beneficial relations.

Igor Kolosov
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