By Edgardo Mocca (for Safe Democracy)

Edgardo Mocca takes advantage of the most recent meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana to reflect on the necessities of global democracy, and on the very real possibility that NAM‘s influence as a global voice may not have the same importance as it did during the Cold War. Mocca gives important ideas on how NAM can renew its strength by taking on a realistic and pragmatic series of goals to give it meaning and importance.

Edgardo Mocca is political scientist and professor in the Buenos Aires University. He works as advisor for the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Argentina.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE ARGENTINEAN GOVERNMENT that it would attend the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana has stirred up some very polemic reactions.

But this should come as no surprise. Argentina distanced itself from the movement in 1991, upon the grounds that there was no obligation for the members to be free democratic governments. But behind this withdrawal, was the hidden intention of President Menem to align himself unconditionally with the United States.

On the left, the reaction to Argentina’s choice to attend the meeting has been one of enthusiasm that Argentina has chosen to return to the ideals of anti-imperialism for which it first joined NAM in 1973. On the right, the reaction has been one of suspicion and apprehension that Argentina dangerously change its foreign policy to coincide with the confrontational rhetoric of Venezuela.

Yet, on both sides it is easy to find a certain anachronism: the world has changed drastically since the 1970’s, and the global climate is no longer what it was, characterized by the dying rattles of the Soviet empire.

Even the name of the movement has lost all practical meaning. When the movement was formally created in a meeting in Belgrade, the definition corresponded to those countries that were not a part of the two big political and military blocks of the world: The Warsaw Pact and NATO.

But since then much has changed. The Warsaw Pact disappeared at the end of the 1980’s, and NATO has lost its relevance before the unilateral military efforts of the United States. The original common denominator of NAM no longer exists.

Yet, the world is not experiencing the conditions that liberalism promised at the beginning of the 1990’s. The fall of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe did not bring with it the evolution of liberal democracy throughout the world, and capitalist globalization has not produced generalized prosperity and development.

Far from achieving this idealized world, the globe has now fallen subject to new (and old) conflicts. Terrorism has grown as a threat, and the exclusively military and unilateral response to it has only helped it flourish, particularly in the Middle East. Social and economic inequities have grown exponentially between rich and poor countries. The Doha Round of the World Trade Organization has fallen apart in its attempts to liberalize commerce, thanks to the unrelenting obstacles that the United States and Europe put on the import of agricultural products from less developed countries.

And in order for the Non-Aligned Movement to recover its position as an important world voice, it must come up with a realistic and pragmatic alternative to the way the world is working currently.

The popular anti-American rhetoric, of internal interest to many governments, does not serve as a tool to become a world protagonist. In NAM’s inaugural declaration of 1961, the organization declared as one of its central values the fight for peace. It is important, therefore, to remember that the tension between the United States and the USSR put the survival of the entire world at risk. The Cuban missile crisis marked the period of the greatest risk in world history of a nuclear holocaust.

Were NAM to recover this tradition, in completely changed circumstances, it would help the movement find a whole new historic justification. It would require some profound consideration on what the current global threats to peace are, without either silencing criticism of the United States, or falling into Manichean simplicity.

How to end the growing armed conflicts in different regions of the world? How to create economic and social conditions that favor equal development? How to deal with the problem of mass migration, racism, and xenophobia? What changes can be made in international organizations in order to further negotiation and calmness? How can commercial decisions take a favorable direction towards development and equality? By addressing issues like these, the Non-Aligned Movement could find a whole new purpose behind its existence.

It is unclear whether this will be the course that the meeting in Havana adopts. The political climate of the host country, turned strange by Fidel Castro’s sickness, could turn the event into a tool for propaganda, empty of all content.

But if it is done right, Argentina, following the framework of MERCOSUR, could contribute greatly by creating a realistic and pragmatic set of goals for the organization.

This alone could give its presence at the meeting, meaning and importance.

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