Multilateralism and the Non-Aligned Movement

The concept of multilateralism became one of the focal points in the study of International Relations after the end of Cold War and the dismantling of a bipolar international order. In a seminal article “Multilateralism: An Agenda for Research” published in the International Journal in 1990, Robert O Keohane defined Multilateralism as “the practice of coordinating national policies in groups of three or more states, through ad hoc arrangements or by means of institutions”. In 1992, John Gerrard Ruggey in his article “Multilateralism: The Anatomy of an Institution”, also published in the same journal, defined multilateralism as ‘coordinating relations among three or more states…in accordance with certain principles’ that order relations between them. Multilateralism represented a generic institutional form and implied institutional arrangements that ‘define and stabilize property rights of states, manage coordination problems and resolve collaboration problems”. Multilateralism thus entails a rule based international order where three or more actors engage in an institutionalised international cooperation governed by law and principles.

Non-Aligned Movement has strived for a just and peaceful global order based on multilateral principles. The Movement has committed to promote such principles, especially by strengthening the central role of the United Nations, including in Global Governance, defending the interests of developing countries and preventing their marginalization. With regards to the role of institutions, NAM reaffirms that the United Nations, its Charter, and international law remain indispensable tools and central in the preservation and maintenance of international peace and security and the strengthening of international cooperation.

Non-Aligned Movement regards the growing trends of unilateralism and arbitrary measures undermining UN Charter and international law as challenges to multilateralism. On 24 April 2019, a day marked by the UN General Assembly as International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, Jorge Arreaza, Minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, voiced the profound concern of NAM over the growing trend of unilateralism and arbitrary measures that undermine the Charter and international law. International law, diplomacy and multilateralism are paramount. He appealed to the international community “in this house of multilateralism” to achieve peace, sustainable development and human rights, and to spare future generations form the scourge of war.

The above remarks were made during a commemorative meeting observing the United Nations International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace held as part of the 73rd session of United Nations General Assembly held on 24th and 25th April 2019. Apart from Venezuela, a number of NAM Member States put forth their views regarding the current state of multilateralism and the challenges. Iraq called the United Nations the embodiment of multilateralism and appealed to all Member States to put aside their differences, engage in dialogue and focus on building relations based on the United Nations Charter and respect for national sovereignty.

Sri Lanka, associating its statement with the Non-Aligned Movement, remarked that threats to multilateralism often emanate from politically motivated fear‑mongering. The fear of globalization has fed into a suspicion of multilateralism and has fuelled protectionism, populism and unilateralism. Sri Lanka called on the international community to work together to allay those fears and address frustrations in meaningful ways that allow the dividends of multilateralism to reach all peoples at all levels.
Nicaragua, aligning itself with NAM statement, mentioned that peace and multilateralism are closely intertwined and are fundamental principles of the Movement and advocated for the peaceful settlement of disputes and the non‑interference in the domestic affairs of States.

Mauritius, aligning itself NAM, stated that a multilateral rules-based order was the need of the hour considering the multifarious challenges confronting the international order in the form of climate change, poverty, rising inequality, migration, as well as weapons proliferation, deteriorating oceans and cybercrime.

NAM thus strives to promote and work towards creating a multi-polar world through the strengthening of multilateralism through the UN and the multilateral processes. The Movement rightly contends that only a multilateral global order can address the development needs of the Global South.

By Dr. Pawan Mathur

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