Author: Ilgar VELIZADEH, political scientist
The 18th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Baku on October 25-26 was an important milestone in the history of Azerbaijan and in the political life of the planet. The event was attended by the heads of states and governments of about 60 countries, as well as the heads of international organisations. In general, representatives of about 160 countries and international organisations gathered in Baku.
The event was important for Azerbaijan also because the country will chair this prestigious international institution in 2019-2022. For the rest of the world, the event once again demonstrated the desire and growing potential of non-aligned states to fight against a policy of double standards and for the supremacy of international law in global politics.
The Non-Aligned Movement is the second largest organisation after the UN uniting more than 120 countries and several large international organisations. Almost the entire African continent (except South Sudan), almost all of Latin American countries and almost all of Asian countries (except a few states) are represented in the movement. This is a huge resource, rational use of the potential of which will significantly give a more ordered character to international relations and strengthen the political and legal base for the fair solution of many existing global problems.
A short analysis of the history of the movement shows that one it all started with a conference of Asian and African countries held in the Indonesian city of Bandung in 1955, which was a sort of prologue to the establishment of the movement. Even then, the event was attended by representatives of 29 countries with a total population of 1 billion 150 million people. The then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a chairman of the conference. At the Bandung conference, the states spoke from different platforms, which did not allow creating a single basis to formulate the basic principles of a new political platform. However, thanks to the efforts and authority of Nehru, they could define a set of initial principles based on the ideas of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. Then the parties agreed on ten basic principles of the movement, which were reflected in the Bandung Declaration.
Thanks to the rapid growth of the movement in subsequent years, at the Belgrade conference in 1961, the movement was recognised as the largest organisation of representatives of the so-called "Third World". In the course of its development, the organisation has become a truly authoritative international platform, where the participating states have made a considerable contribution to the recognition of each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, to the relief of tension and disagreements in international relations. In particular, the movement refuses to join military alliances and provide them with military bases on their territories in support of the UN Charter, its decisions and the need for disarmament within the framework of international organisations. The member states of the Non-Aligned Movement insist on the exercise of the rights of peoples, establishment of peace and stability through participation in the settlement of international issues.
Since the Non-Aligned Movement is not recognised as a full-fledged international organisation, its effectiveness in the political arena raises questions. However, even in the era of colossal geopolitical changes, when the confrontation between various blocs was over, the movement demonstrated its relevance. After all, a desire to revive the confrontation between political, economic and military blocs, as well as the attempts of individual states to subjugate smaller countries to their interests, the moralising tone of some states in relation to others only because the former are richer and stronger than the latter, are tempting to use the tools once popular during the era of colonialism in the modern system of international relations.
In order to counter such destructive processes effectively, the member states of the movement make significant efforts to create permanent structures within its framework, including those responsible for improving the effectiveness of the organisation. For example, a country hosting the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of that country, is responsible for advancing and implementing the goals of the movement in three years. Among other things, taking into account regular meetings of the representatives of member states at the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly, the country's permanent representative will act as a minister for non-aligned countries. So, a set of working and contact groups, as well as special committees have been created within the movement to simplify the duties and responsibilities of the permanent representative. In this context, the authority and influence of Azerbaijani diplomacy in the international arena will steadily increase.
Azerbaijan joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 2011. Five years later, it was decided to hold the current summit in Baku and transfer to Azerbaijan the chairmanship of the organisation for the next three years. "During the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan will build its priorities and activities on historical principles set in Bandung. The Bandung principles, including respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity of all countries, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, protection of mutual interests and promotion of cooperation, coincide with the fundamental principles of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy," Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at the opening ceremony of the Baku summit.
The Baku summit showed that Azerbaijan can use the potential of the movement to voice regional problems and focus on resolving these problems within the internationally recognised rights and norms. Reflection of the issue of Karabakh in the final declaration of the Non-Aligned Movement is an important condition making it possible for Azerbaijan to receive support in this issue from a significant part of the international community. Speaking about the significance of the summit in this context, we can clearly see that the organisation is a good platform for the promotion of Azerbaijan's interests.
Nowadays even the founding principles of international laws are subject to regular revision. Quite often, a state violating the norms of international law does not bear any responsibility. For example, Armenia, which occupied the 20% of Azerbaijani territories is still free of sanctions, while another country of the same region, Turkey, is under pressure for an anti-terrorist operation in Northern Syria. Moreover, contrary to UN resolutions, the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands has been effective for 20 years, while Ankara's military operations in Syria are a necessary and temporary measure.
It is important for Azerbaijan that international activity ultimately lead to the elimination of double standards and barriers to the development of states. In particular, Baku is interested in implementing all resolutions of the UN General Assembly and other international organisations to increase their authority and ensure the primacy of international law. "We must intensify efforts to comply with the norms and principles of international law universally. In this context, there is a great need for reforms in the activities of the UN," Ilham Aliyev said in his address to the summit participants.
Undoubtedly, the chairmanship of Azerbaijan will help promote the relevance of issues related to security, fight against terrorism, extremism and aggressive separatism. Azerbaijan will insist on the implementation of all UN resolutions on the liberation of the occupied territories and counts on the support of its fair demands by the member states of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Armenia has an observer status in the organisation. Although its representatives did not take part at the Baku summit, the country is still involved in the activities of the movement and its decision making process. The adoption of the declaration, where the Karabakh conflict was included as a separate item, shows that Armenia is in an isolated position, its position is unfair and flawed, and soon or later it will have to change this approach. The sooner Yerevan understands this, the better it will be for Armenia as whole.
In addition, Azerbaijan now faces a very difficult task as a new chair of the movement. A number of events of global significance are taking place on the territories of the member states of the Non-Aligned Movement. We will see the outcome of many problems already during the period of Baku's presidency. In particular, it is expected that the settlement of the Syrian conflict and the political crisis in Libya take place in the near future. Today we are going through a turbulent period after the Arab springs and social upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa. We also may see the outcome of the processes ongoing in Afghanistan. Great expectations are associated with the increasing role of the African states. The situation around Iran and the actively developing Southeast Asia are also worth mentioning. These are just a number of events that will shape the international agenda in the coming years.
Skilful regulation of these processes coupled with setting conditions for a dialogue between different member states is not an easy task. At the same time, the potential of Azerbaijani diplomacy, its experience and resources developed in recent decades in the context of the conflict with Armenia, as well as Azerbaijan's proximity to competing regional and world centres of power make us hope that Azerbaijan can cope with the upcoming challenges.