Address by the Chairperson of the Non-Aligned Movement, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, to the NAM Ministerial Meeting
United Nations, New York, 23 September 1999

Madame Chair,
Distinguished Ministers,
Excellencies and
Distinguished Guests,

In my capacity as the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, it is indeed an honour for me to address this important Ministerial Meeting.

As we approach the momentous and historic end of this millennium, it is appropriate for our Movement to reflect on how far we have come and to chart they way forward in the next millenium. It is only in so doing that we can fully learns from our experiences and thus be better able to master our future. The Non-Aligned Movement, whose membership represents the majority of member states of the United Nations, has the potential to influence the decision-making processes of multilateralism to the fullest extent and thereby determine the new global agenda.

The NAM has a proud history of struggle in the pursuit of peace and against colonialism. Through our solidarity we have been able to record major advances and have at last succeeded in ending the long nightmare of colonialism. We have emerged into a new post Cold War era where power still continues to determine the pattern of international relations.

We need to debate and challenge anew, many of the assumptions made in the past about the rules of engagement of the international relations system. We must continue to be the conscience and the voice of the weak and the powerless in the face of the dominant hegemony of the strong and powerful.

We must seek dialogue and partnership of the South and the North, which should encompass the strengthening of intergovernmental cooperation, including the need to achieve the necessary coherence of policies of multilateral institutions. Many international agreements, strenuously arrived at, constitute a sound basis for strengthening such global partnerships for development. The challenge however, is to ensure that they are honoured and fully implemented.

It is also very important for the Movement to engage the development partners in dialogue on key issues and ensure that they deliver on their commitments.

Furthermore, it is vital that the NAM and the Group of 77 plus China should have a common, coordinated and strategic approach in their interactions with organisations of the North such as the G8 and European Union.We must ensure that the benefits of the twin processes of globalisation and liberalisation accrue to all of our countries and peoples and that its potential threats and risks are accordingly mitigated. It is therefore incumbent upon the Movement to continue being in the forefront of efforts to ensure the full integration of the developing countries' economies into the global economy. It is to our mutual benefit that we continue advocating for a new, transparent and accountable financial architecture.

This obligation is also connected to the need to restructure the parameters of the international economic system to ensure that the recent economic crises, triggered mainly be economic speculation on short-term financial flows, do not recur. We must also ensure that, "emerging" and all other developing economies are not held hostage by the albatross of market and commodity speculation.

The Movement needs to be flexible in an ever-changing world. It must keep pace with events and respond and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and new challenges.

Madame Chair,

Many ask whether the NAM has any relevance in today's world. Is it able to take on the major challenges facing humanity?

Can it act in unison to ensure that the aspirations of its peoples are realised?

Can it act effectively to make a real difference so that humanity can begin to construct a new peaceful world without poverty, human deprivation and violent conflicts and wars?

Can we in all honesty describe ourselves today as being part of a Movement?

Is ours a Movement taking up the new challenges of today or have we allowed ourselves to be transformed into an organisation comprising governments that periodically speak with one voice at conferences and Summits, yet act unilaterally without reference to agreed policies?

These and other questions need to be asked if we are to ensure that the NAM develops into a credible and effective movement that can mobilise millions of people as well as governments and act in solidarity to achieve its objectives.

Indeed we need to aske whether our people consider the NAM to be able to deliver on the major challenges faced by them.

How do we promote a democratic system of global governance that will ensure that all countries have an equal stake in promoting peace and security?

These questions take on added importance if we are to respond adequately to the new challenges posed by globalisation.

We have to review and question our methods of work and the structures of the NAM in order to ascertain whether they are appropriate and able to serve the needs of our people. Do we need to create new mechanisms to enable us to implement the mandate of Durban and is the consensus principle not all too often preventing us from taking meaningful action when some few, or even one, refuse to compromise and thus prevent the majority from acting in unison.

Can we really be affective if our procedures and methods of work only allow us to move at the pace of the slowest or the most obstinate and fifficult member?

We can only begin to see the high cost of inaction when we truly reflect on the plight of our people who live in poverty without having their most basic human needs met. Indeed, they face additional threats posed by the spread of HIV/Aids, drug abuse, transnational crime, famine, terrorism and environmental degradation as well as by landmines, the proliferation of small arms and violent conflicts and wars.

Madame Chair,

We need to ensure that we, as governments, do more by actually serving our citizens and instituting democratic structures. We must be pro-active in developing a real partnership with civil society.

Without such a partnership, very little can be achieved and the NAM has to once again develop a vision of a real people centred movement rather than being simply a grouping of states.

The largest number of intra and inter-state violent conflicts and wars are in our region and result in millions of refugees and displaced persons. Are we not able to prevent and manage these conflicts so as to spare our people of their horrendous consequences>

Can we, or are we ready, as NAM members, to assist each other, learn from one another and act together to end tension and resolve conflicts? Or do we deliberately deny ourselves the possibility of sharing these problems with one another by asserting our state sovereignty? Should we not rather engage in meaningful dialogue and resolve our conflicts?

Madame Chair,

Africa, faced with the same problems has risen to the challenge by taking greater responsibility for its own problems. In seeking solutions, it has demonstrated the capacity to take charge of its own destiny. We believe the regional interventions in conflict resolution in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, offer some valuable lessons for all. The leaders of the Southern African Development Community and of the Great Lakes region, demonstrated unprecedented political will to find a lasting solution to the wanton destruction of lives, communities and property through senseless armed conflicts. In all these conflicts, women, chi9ldren and the elderly, the most vulnerable sectors of our societies were the main caualties. Clearly, we cannot talk of economic growth and development in a continent of displaced persons and refugees.

There is a new urgency to build and strengthen our institutions of democracy, develop a culture of respect for Human Rights, and ensure accountable and transparent governance. That is why the Organisation of African Unity, at its last Summit in Algiers, decided that those leaders that seized power through force, should not be allowed into the next Summit of the OAU. The African continent is awakening and assuming its responsibilties.

For Africa and the NAM the question must be asked as to whether we have faith in our own capacity to resolve our problems or do we not have that competence>

If we are unable to addr4ess and resolve our problems how can we then complain when powerful countries interfere and intervene in our affairs?

I do believe that these are fundamental questions that ned to be addressed if indeed we are serious about the NAM achieving its full potential and discharging its solemn responsibility to millions of people of the South and to humanity.

I wish you all a successful Ministerial Meeting.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

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