The World Bank has played a leading role in carrying forward the globalization agenda for the last three decades. This has witnessed a worldwide easing of trade barriers, a rapid development of communication platforms and major advances in information technology. This has further bolstered the global north’s grip over the world economy. While certain countries from the global south have made surging strides ahead, many countries of the ‘third world’ are light years away from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. This unfair advantage of the developed countries over the developing or underdeveloped world is what organizations like the Non -Aligned Movement (NAM) seriously question.
During the 15th NAM Summit in Egypt one of the focal issues was the culpability of the Western countries in creating the global financial crunch that resulted in serious economic turmoil in many countries of the global south. Leaders like Raul Castro of Cuba stressed the importance of NAM as an alternative to the international financial institutions as well as the UN. Raul Castro also called for a new “economic order” in which there is an “economic division of labour and financial power”. NAM’s criticism of Western controlled international financial institutions has been growing intense and over the past ten years it has increased significantly.
NAM, over the years, has been prominent in condemning Western neo imperialism, external interventions and other policies of the West which it deems harmful for the third world countries. NAM has been very active in promoting nuclear non proliferation and disarmament. This was seen during the 16th NAM Summit in Tehran when issues regarding disarmament and third world perspectives of human rights were discussed. The 16th NAM Summit also discussed about reforming the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and saw the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei make a thundering speech against the UNSC which he called “irrational, unjust and undemocratic”. The NAM has always said that the NPT while preventing non nuclear states from becoming nuclear gives the nuclear states complete monopoly over their stockpile of weapons. NAM has also talked about an alternative to the World Bank and this aspect of NAM has been one of its defining features. NAM has long been asking for an economic alternative to institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. NAM argues that these institutions create widespread inequality through globalization and the relaxing of trade barriers has given Western powers more economic clout while decreasing that of other small countries. They argue that the World Bank provides development for certain ‘elites’ within the third world and several policies of the World Bank have been disastrous for the host country’s environment. A report by the Independent Evaluation Group in 2008 of the World Bank criticized the Bank for some of its policies. The report stated that the Bank reneged on its pledges of developing the environment and also undertook projects like building dams and pipelines which were harmful for the environment.
This argument of NAM is largely synonymous with Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory. In order to understand the core of NAM’s argument Wallerstein’s theory is crucial. Wallerstein talks about a ‘world system’ which divides the world into three parts – core, semi-periphery and periphery. The core countries are economically and militarily developed and they have significant power and influence over the rest of the world. The countries of the semi periphery are those that lie between the core and the periphery. These countries are not poor yet not entirely wealthy. They strive to make it to the core and therefore rely on mostly protectionist policies and sometimes bow down to the pressure from the core. The peripheral countries are the most economically backward countries. Most of these countries have a past of being colonized and still have not been able to break from the chains of the colonial leftovers. Today these countries heavily rely on the core powers for financial and developmental aid.
The World Systems Theory is essential in understanding the perspective of NAM. The fact that an organization provides a strong critique of the Western dominated world makes NAM a very important and unique voice. With 120 member states and 17 observer states the NAM covers more than half of the world’s population. The voice of NAM is one that cannot be easily ignored and it has always been suggesting proposals and reforms to overcome crises like the financial meltdown. NAM has also been one of the strongest advocates of reforms within international systems so that developing countries can get their fair share which has been long overdue.
NAM has also coordinated with the G-20 and G-77 of developing nations. This year’s G-20 summit will be held in China and the focus will be on concerns of developing countries, especially Africa. The upcoming 17th NAM Summit to be held in Venezuela will once again focus on issues related to disarmament, UNSC and World Bank reforms, economic development through south-south coordination and stressing for world peace.