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Old Monday, November 19, 2007
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Nonaligned Movement

Nonaligned Movement (NAM), loose association of countries that, during the Cold War, had no formal commitment to either of the two power blocs in the world, which were led by the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The group was formed in September 1961 by a conference of 25 heads of state in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The conference was organized by leaders of countries that had recently freed themselves from foreign domination and rejected renewed ties to any big power. Prominent among these leaders were Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Presidents Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sékou Touré of Guinea, and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia.

The movement has grown to include more than 110 countries, mostly from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. NAM conferences are held every three years. The group has no formal administrative body; at each NAM conference the office of chairperson rotates to the head of state of the host country.
Membership in NAM is distinct from neutrality in that it implies an active participation in international affairs and judgment of issues on their merits rather than from predetermined positions. Thus, a large majority of NAM nations opposed the United States during the Vietnam War (1957-1975) and the USSR after its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. In practice, however, many NAM nations leaned heavily toward one power bloc or the other.

The early members of NAM saw themselves as an important buffer between rival military alliances, decreasing the possibility of a major confrontation. Any pretension of being a “force,” however, was tempered by the diversity of the nations’ governments, which ranged from leftist to ultraconservative and from democratic to dictatorial, and by the economic and military weaknesses that often made them dependent on foreign aid from the big power blocs.

The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 required NAM nations to redefine their role in a world where intense ideological and military rivalry between two superpowers was no longer a factor. Today the movement focuses on promoting cooperation between developing countries and on advocating solutions to global economic and political problems.
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