Non-Aligned Movement Members To Meet In Iran: Searching For Lost Clout?

ANALYSIS

 @MayaErgas
on August 24 2012 5:05 PM
Non-Aligned Movement
Flags of the Non-Aligned Movement members. Reuters

The Non-Aligned Movement is holding its 16th summit beginning next Monday in Tehran, Iran. Notables such as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un are slated to attend. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is also going, marking the first time that an Egyptian President will visit Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Does it all mean anything?

Probably not, said Stewart M. Patrick, senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Non-Alignment Movement, or NAM, is a remnant of the Cold War -- it was originally formed in 1955 as a bloc of countries that wanted to try and "carve out a different sense of political future," Patrick said. "It was an attempt to choose an economic third way between Communism on the one hand and 'naked capitalism' on the other."

But now, in a time when the Cold War is more a section in a history book than a recent memory, one has to think, said Patrick, what are these countries not-aligned against?

"You wonder what the NAM is at a time when many of the members of NAM are also in the U.N.," Patrick said. "India, Indonesia, a lot of these countries are members of the G-20 now."

NAM is still around more as a solidarity measure for the countries involved, says Patrick, than as a bloc that's trying to influence policy.

"This is probably the biggest bloc of countries within the U.N. that still provides a cost-free platform and a talk stoop among developing countries to complain about big countries throwing their weight around," Patrick mused.

In general, NAM these days is more of an influence-peddler in terms of being able to rally votes within the U.N., rather than a powerful entity in its own right.

Patrick also pointed out that NAM has grown increasingly heterogeneous, meaning many of the countries are now far more developed economically and politically than other member states.

And as a result, it's hard, said Patrick, to talk about the NAM as any kind of coherent entity.

As for the summit itself, it probably won't accomplish much policy-wise, says Patrick. Most of the attention paid to this summit has been purely driven by some of the high-profile dignitaries who are attending.

For Morsi, Patrick said, don't expect any grand gestures of reconciliation.

"There's no way you could describe this as Egypt and Iran becoming buddies," said Patrick. "They're basically sworn enemies."

"It's a coincidence of rotation [that the summit's in Iran]" said Patrick.

"The Iranians will crow about it and try to make political mileage and show that they're not isolated politically. In no way does this represent a uniform endorsement by NAM of their human rights violations or nuclear status."

Patrick added: "It's not surprising [U.N. Secretary-General] Ban [Ki-Moon] would go," said Patrick. "He's been subject to the abuse of being called a 'meek creature of the West,' and so here's an opportunity to be his own man."

As for Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader, "he'll be an oddity and curiosity," said Patrick.

Kim will probably be looking to demonstrate that North Korea is not as isolated as it appears to be, and people will probably want to meet him, but just out of curiosity, he noted.

"It will be interesting to see the two remaining members of the 'Axis of Evil' [Iran and North Korea] in the same room," he added.

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