cc. This year, Serbia joins 119 states in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
In the run-up to the official commemorative summit (see box), on 2 September 2021, the “Non-Aligned Movement Talks” took place in Belgrade. The organiser of this forum was the Belgrade Museum of African Art (MAA). Participants included high-ranking diplomats (ambassadors), scholars from a number of European countries, including the UK and Austria, historians, students and the general public.
On the occasion of this Forum, the President of the “Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals” and former Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Živadin Jovanović gave a remarkable lecture on the topic of the II Panel “Diplomacy of Non-Aligned Yugoslavia”, which we document in the following.
On 11 and 12 October 2021, Belgrade will be the gathering place for high representatives of non-aligned countries to mark the 60th anniversary of the First Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held on 1 to 6 September 1961.
Non-Aligned Movement 1961 and 2021
At that time, the Movement had 25 members and today it counts 120 members. Serbia preserves the tradition of fruitful cooperation with non-aligned countries, deep mutual respect and trust, and strives to renew and strengthen its friendships under the current new conditions, regardless of the fact that today it has the status of an observer. These days, Belgrade will again be the place from which a joint call will be sent to the “conscience of humanity” of those who are most responsible for the future of humanity, to ensure peace, tolerance, dialogue and a peaceful coexistence. If 60 years ago a message was sent from Belgrade stating that a bloc confrontation is not inevitable, in the coming days we can send an invitation for – dialogue and tolerance instead of a new alignment and tension.
Non-alignment in foreign policy and self-government in domestic politics were the two pillars of Yugoslavia’s strategy after the Second World War, according to which it was identified and recognised equally in the West, East, North and South. Its economic growth rate was among the highest in the world (after Japan), and education and health care were free. The example of Yugoslavia was at the same time inspiring for the newly liberated and developing countries and questionable for the bloc countries of the East and the West. Today, Serbia emphasises independence, military neutrality and the pursuit of good relations with all important factors in international relations.
In addition to India, Egypt and Indonesia, Yugoslavia is most responsible for the establishment and political profiling of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Yugoslavia and its diplomacy were accepted with great respect and trust
Non-alignment gave Yugoslavia and its diplomacy renewed strength and a lot of space for action on the international stage, for the development of bilateral relations and for strengthening its international reputation and position. Many doors were open to Yugoslav diplomacy because it represented one of the country-leaders of the NAM and adhered to clear principles. She was ready to help others in many fields, from security and defence, through health and nutrition, to education and training of personnel. Her partners were convinced that Yugoslavia respected equality, mutual benefit and, in particular, that it did not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. That is why Yugoslavia and its diplomacy were accepted with great respect and trust.
President Josip Broz Tito was a sought-after and welcome interlocutor and guest in all parts of the world, and Belgrade became a major centre for diplomatic activities in all major fields, from politics and security to trade, development, finance and culture. Belgrade was visited not only by the leaders of non-aligned and neighbouring countries, but also by the presidents and monarchs of the USA, the USSR, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavian and many other countries. Yugoslavia was the initiator of coordinated activities of neutral and non-aligned European countries for the construction and establishment of the European Security and Cooperation System (CSCE-OSCE).
In the newly liberated countries, Yugoslav diplomats were practically allowed to choose what they needed, from basic working conditions to concessions for Yugoslav companies in economic areas that were of strategic importance such as oil or the most sought-after mineral resources. Under those conditions, the cooperation depended more on its credit potential and the capacity of the enterprise in the field of investments, construction and industry to accept large projects and jobs, than on any obstacles, preconceptions or reservations of the clients. Of course, Yugoslav companies were able to withstand even the fiercest competition in tenders for projects financed by world financial institutions.
Call to dialogue and easing of tensions – also topical today
The NAM has been engaged in many important fields. Considering the reality at the time, the most important has been the struggle for peace, prevention of a nuclear conflict and global confrontation, in general. In this regard noteworthy is the appeal that the participants of the first NAM summit in Belgrade addressed to the leaders of the two superpowers – USA and USSR – calling them to dialogue and easing of tensions. Is it not valuable today too?
The strategy of the NAM encompassed the strife to conclude decolonisation, prevention of neo-colonialism, defence against the pressures of military-political and ideological blocs, as well as the acceleration of socio-economic development. Strengthening the mutual cooperation of the non-aligned countries, known as the South-South cooperation, accelerated the economic and political emancipation of the non-aligned countries and gave Yugoslavia, as a more developed developing country, the opportunity to take advantage of its knowledge and technologies.
Yugoslavia’s achievements as a reliable partner
The non-aligned countries accepted Yugoslavia as the most reliable partner in economic development, strengthening the achieved independence and the democratisation of international relations through the UN system. Sometimes the expectations from Yugoslavia were unrealistic and even idealistic. There were, for example, such requests from some non-aligned countries for Yugoslavia to take over the management of large abandoned naval bases of former colonial metropolises. Yugoslavia, among other things, chaired the group of 17 non-aligned countries assigned to oversee Namibia’s independence process, and initiated the establishment of the Non-Aligned New Agencies Pool.
Thanks to the founding of the NAM and its decades-old operation as an independent factor on the international scene, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) gained a large number of close friends and reliable partners. Cooperation and coordinated activities of the Movement within the UN, and in multilateral activities in general, proved to be especially effective. It was not just a “voting machine” but a strong and unavoidable organism with many new and courageous initiatives that even the most powerful powers could not ignore. That is why the Movement was able to make a great contribution to the democratisation of the work of the UN, as well as international relations as a whole. The assessments and positions of the Yugoslav diplomacy on important international issues and ways of resolving them were received with great respect and in most cases, supported and accepted.
Having been more developed than most developing countries, with a highly developed construction, hydro-construction, machine tool, food production, and pharmaceutical industry, together with other capabilities, the Yugoslav economy, with the support of an ever agile and highly professional diplomacy, was able to provide new markets, sources of raw materials, engagements in the fields of science, technology, education and mass media. Yugoslavia and its diplomacy also played the role of a bridge between developing countries and the developed world, Europe in particular.
Notable projects in Latin America and Africa
Over the past decades, the Yugoslav construction industry has accomplished many respectable projects. Just a single company form Belgrade, Energoprojekt, built a water system known as Chira-Piura in Peru, worth about USD 1.4 billion, which changed the region’s appearance and contributed to its long-term development. The same company built in Kenya two hydroelectric power plants on the Tana River, water and sewage systems in Nairobi and Thika, conference halls, housing estates in Lusaka (Zambia), Harare (Zimbabwe), Accra (Ghana). In several African countries, the Zemun Polje Seed Institute, Belgrade, has developed the production of corn seeds adapted to African climatic conditions, thus helping to solve the problem of nutrition. There are many similar examples of other highly regarded Yugoslav companies with implemented strategic projects around the world. Yugoslav companies have made a great contribution to solving one of the most important problems of African countries – irrigation and water supply (Kenya, Tunisia, Libya, Angola).
Yugoslavia was a widely accepted partner for cooperation in the fields of security, defence and the military industry. Many newly liberated countries were ready to equip themselves with military equipment, weapons, clothing and footwear from Yugoslavia, and thousands of officers and experts were educated and trained at military academies and other institutions in Serbia and other former Yugoslav republics.
Nineties: Sanctions against Yugoslavia – Diplomacy under difficult conditions
In the 1990s, FR Yugoslavia was under sanctions that have not been recorded in the recent history of international relations, with depleted foreign exchange reserves, no foreign trade, no access to international financial institutions. One of the tasks of the Yugoslav diplomacy was to secure the collection of debts from partners among the non-aligned countries in order to alleviate the lack of foreign currency at least to some extent. A colleague, the charge d’affaires of the Yugoslav embassy in an African non-aligned country, by intervening at the highest government level, secured the collection of a large debt related to completed investment projects. In the conditions of that time, it was an immense contribution to mitigating the consequences of the blockades of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Following an expedited procedure, she was promoted to ambassador, about which the entire diplomatic network was informed.
This remains as an example of superior professionalism and sacrifice of the Yugoslav diplomacy under difficult conditions, but also an example of understanding and solidarity of non-aligned partners towards FR Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).
There were also cases where the Yugoslav side owed money to other non-aligned countries, which at the time of the sanctions renounced part of their claims or postponed the return of the debt for better times.
An active commitment to peace, dialogue and coexistence is also urgently needed today
Under conditions when the non-aligned countries were heavily pressured by the blocs to choose between one or the other ideology and system of socio-economic organisation, the NAM decided on the principles of active peaceful coexistence as the essence and basis of its strategy. This included the freedom to choose the development path of the internal socio-economic system while respecting the specificities of every country individually, i.e., that the diversity of ideologies and paths of development must not be a reason to interfere in the internal affairs or violate the principle of sovereign equality. Ready-made recipes for political and economic systems were not accepted, coming from either the East or the West. It is not superfluous to ask oneself what the state is today regarding the respect for specificities and the freedom of choice of internal development paths, the non-interference in internal affairs under any pretext.
If in those years, as far as Yugoslavia is concerned, from 1948 onwards, we fought for the independent regulation of political and social relations, despite accusations of revisionism, what has changed in our consciousness if after 5 October 2000, the ambassadors of the so-called “Quint” (USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy) call on Serbian leaders and dictate to them who can and who cannot be a member of the new government, and decide what is important for the government and what is not?! If in the years of self-governance and non-alignment we had the Korčula Summer School1, where in our “democracy” is there something akin to that school today? Or, perhaps, we should all believe that today’s system of liberal, multinational corporate capitalism is perfect, so that any thought of change is unnecessary!
Occasionally, I meet foreign researchers, historians and analysts who are interested whether there is literature in Belgrade on non-alignment and self-governance in any of the world’s languages. It is clear that none of them are interested in it because “they” deal with “larpurlartism”, or because they want to copy, graft, mechanically combine. Such questions come from people who have realised that the current retrograde and dehumanising liberal-capitalist system has become unsustainable, who do not believe in the effectiveness of beauticians from Davos or similar world salons, those who have the will and courage to think about a new humanly shaped system.
Thus, the Non-Aligned Movement and conference in Belgrade had the goal to stop global confrontation before it was too late, especially to prevent a global nuclear conflict, to encourage dialogue and coexistence in diversity. Are we today, 60 years after the First NAM Conference in Belgrade, free from global confrontation, new classifications, arms races, militarisation? The dangers are still our reality today; the global economic, health, security, environmental, migrant and other trends, apart from multipolarisation, are not encouraging. Nevertheless, the most important are the state of mind, consciousness and political will. We believe that the upcoming jubilee of the NAM and the large gathering in Belgrade will not take place in the format of a protocolary event, but rather as an impulse for the “largest peace movement” to raise awareness for the need of a stronger engagement by all, especially those responsible for peace, dialogue and coexistence.
Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries
One of the fundamental goals of the Non-Aligned Movement is to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country. Can we count how many sovereign states have been broken up in the meantime, how many nations have been torn apart, turned into national minorities, refugees, migrants? SFR Yugoslavia, the co-founder of the UN, the OSCE, the NAM, a country with a unique internal socio-economic system, self-governance and non-alignment, was broken by active action from outside and through exponents from within. It was not a spontaneous, nor a process that we can understand only by analysing the behaviour of internal role bearers. After that, the creators and executors of the geopolitics of the most powerful forces of the West, broke up the FRY, the community of Serbia and Montenegro. Now, even Serbia is too big for them, so, by force and machinations, they are trying to crush it as well. It is high time that the matter was returned to the UN Security Council, where it was from the beginning, before the development gets out of control.
Policy and goals of the Non-Alignement Movement still relevant and necessary today
The policies and goals of the Non-Aligned Movement are still relevant and needed today. The methods of the Cold War, the policy of divide and conquer, the division and classification into democratic and autocratic countries, attempts to establish new “curtains” and “walls”, gross interference in internal affairs, the ominous widening gap between rich and poor countries and people – are part of the harsh reality. The arms race today consumes USD 1.5 trillion a year. What would Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and other disintegrated, devastated and ill-fated countries look like if trillions of USD were invested in development instead of destruction, would there be as many waves of mass refugees and migrants as we have today?! While the EU is still unable to agree on “quotas” for old and new refugees, it seems that someone is thinking that the Balkans, among all the other problems, should be converted into a gathering place or quarantine for these unfortunate people, women and children, whom the “coalition of the willing” forced to flee? It is clear that many of them who come have difficulties handling anything other than weapons. Who and in the name of what is forcing the Balkan countries to accept on their weak shoulders the burden of catastrophic mistakes of the richest and most powerful powers in the world?
The establishment of the movement in 1961 can also be seen as the beginning of the creation of a multipolar world. In addition to two military-political alliances and two opposing ideologies. A new force has been created that opposes divisions and confrontations and that strongly supports the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, sovereign equality, non-interference in internal affairs, mutually beneficial cooperation, non-membership in blocs, non-acceptance of foreign military bases. Today, the process of multipolarisation of global relations is in a phase from which there is no return to the bipolar or unipolar order. The non-aligned countries have a great interest in supporting this process because it opens wide avenues for the democratisation of global relations, peace and stability, and thus for the economic and social progress of all, especially underdeveloped countries.
Belgrade is the birthplace of the Non-Aligned Movement. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the existence and activities of the NAM is an opportunity to breathe freshness and new energy into the movement, and for Belgrade to confirm its historical role as a place where ideas of peace, dialogue and progress come from. Although Serbia is an observer in the Movement today, it inherits its most valuable achievements. That is why the NAM is still an important partner for Serbia in the sense of economic, political, scientific, technical and other forms of cooperation. It is especially important for Serbia that the vast majority of the 120 non-aligned countries supports its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and treats UN Security Council Resolution 1244 as an immutable basis for a peaceful, balanced and sustainable solution to the issue regarding the Province of Kosovo and Metohija. •
1 Between 1963 and 1974, critical intellectuals from East and West met on the island of Korčula for an annual “summer school”. Transcending the borders of the Cold War, the summer school was a place of exchange and the search for a political perspective in the sense of a “humanistic socialism”. The organisers were a group of Yugoslavian philosophers and social scientists who published the journal Praxis. (Editor’s note)
(Translation from Serbian to English Mirko Lukovic)
ef. Largely unnoticed by Western media, the official commemorative summit on the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement took place in Belgrade on 11 and 12 October 2021.
The Non-Aligned Movement had been launched in September 1961 at the invitation of the then President of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. It was founded together with the then Presidents of India, Indonesia and Egypt Javaharlal Nehru, Sukarno and Gamal Abdal Nasser: a “third force between East and West” with the goals of decolonisation and the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction.
Today, 120 member countries belong to this movement, as well as 17 observer countries. The observers include all the former Yugoslav republics except Slovenia and Northern Macedonia, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Ukraine and Russia. The Non-Aligned Movement is the largest group of states in the world after the UN. More than 100 member countries and 9 international organisations participated in this summit with high-ranking state representatives. The Serbian President Alexandar Vučić stated in his speech: “The future of equals is the direction in which this movement has moved. This is not just a question of the interests of the countries, but one of the important civilizational movements forward” To the delight of the participants, he also referred to an old African proverb: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres praised the movement “as a forum for consultation and cooperation that consistently promotes peace, cooperation and friendship”. As a cornerstone of the global multilateral system, he said, it is as needed today as it was 60 years ago.
Several heads of state and government clearly criticised the accumulation of COVID-19 vaccines by the rich Western countries and called for more solidarity and fairer distribution.
Recently, Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selaković had visited Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Angola, Namibia, Egypt and Jordan. He either donated or pledged to donate COVID-19 vaccines to most of these countries.