Nonaligned Movement Meets

Yugoslavian president Tito invited countries that were members of neither the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nor the Warsaw Pact to attend a convention of neutrals in Belgrade. The convention established the Nonaligned Movement as a force, albeit a modest one, in international politics, and it was followed by many other such meetings.

Summary of Event

Following World War II, the United Nations United Nations;Cold War
Cold War;United Nations established a system of international security and administration that was heavily oriented toward Europe. Although the U.N. General Assembly contained representatives from all countries on an equal basis, real power rested in the Security Council, whose five permanent members were Great Britain, France, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. In 1949, when the Communist forces of Mao Zedong took control of most of China, the United Nations, under the influence of the West, kept China’s seat in the hands of the Republic of China, which was confined on the island of Formosa (Taiwan). This reduced the power of non-European countries even further. Nonaligned Movement
Cold War;nonaligned nations
[kw]Nonaligned Movement Meets (Sept. 1-5, 1961)
[kw]Movement Meets, Nonaligned (Sept. 1-5, 1961)
Nonaligned Movement
Cold War;nonaligned nations
[g]Europe;Sept. 1-5, 1961: Nonaligned Movement Meets[07020]
[g]Yugoslavia;Sept. 1-5, 1961: Nonaligned Movement Meets[07020]
[c]Cold War;Sept. 1-5, 1961: Nonaligned Movement Meets[07020]
[c]Diplomacy and international relations;Sept. 1-5, 1961: Nonaligned Movement Meets[07020]
Nasser, Gamal Abdel
[p]Nasser, Gamal Abdel;Cold War
Nehru, Jawaharlal

Moreover, in the late 1940’s, the Cold War between Western powers and the Soviet Union turned the United Nations into an arena of constant political confrontation between the two superpowers and their allies. In Europe and North America, the superpowers created two opposing alliance systems—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the West and the Warsaw Pact in the Soviet bloc. The two sought allies throughout the globe.

The Cold War prevented the United Nations from giving its full attention to the problems that developing countries had hoped would be foremost on its agenda. Most developing countries were extremely poor, although they had great resources. Most were emerging from the grip of European imperialism, and most had problems with rapidly growing populations that they could not care for or feed. Disease was rampant. Infant mortality was high. Hunger and famine were endemic. These issues, not superpower confrontation, were the matters that the developing nations Developing nations wanted addressed.

In Asia and Africa, the first two decades after World War II witnessed the end Postcolonialism of the great European empires and the formation of many new nations that wished to loosen the subservient ties they had had with the mother countries. Many of their leaders wanted to ensure that the democratic principles of government and the best of the European ideologies remained. All wished to keep Western technology. Most believed that the European and North American world owed them economic assistance to get started, in much the same way that the United States had helped Europe recover from the devastation of World War II with the Marshall Plan. This tension between developing nations and the West over the terms of dissolution caused confrontations between former colonies and former imperial powers.

In a number of countries, liberation struggles brought anti-Western leaders to the forefront, including some who adopted the Marxist ideology of the Soviet bloc. Many other politicians from developing nations played both sides in the Cold War against each other in attempts to get foreign aid. Economic chaos added to the political strains, and quite often the new countries found themselves under military or civilian dictatorships.

Moreover, in the international politics of the 1950’s the face-to-face confrontations between the superpowers often precluded any room for compromise. This policy was called “brinkmanship,” Nuclear weapons;brinkmanship because such face-offs held the threat of the use of atomic and nuclear weapons and were based on the strategy of forcing confrontations to the brink of war before serious negotiating began. Neutral countries felt the danger and imprudence of this policy the most. They realized that they would suffer in a third world war along with the combatants, and many statesmen of developing nations, eager to alleviate the situations, became outspoken advocates of peace and disarmament.

The origins of nonalignment can be traced to the years before World War II, as a reaction to the failures and Eurocentrism of the League of Nations. World War II accelerated the desire for independence in the colonies of the European empires, but there was a general feeling of frustration over the need for small, new, struggling nations to depend on larger powers. To many such nations, all the choices of patrons appeared to be repugnant, including the fascist bloc, with its inherent racial prejudices, the totalitarian Soviet Union, and West European governments, with their imperialist histories.

Attempts after World War II, principally among the non-Europeans, to form a bloc of neutrals began with President Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies of Indian neutrality. Nehru included these in a foreign policy India;foreign policy program announced in the spring of 1954 called Panchsheel (five points); the program called for sovereign territorial integrity, nonaggression, noninterference in domestic affairs, equal and mutual beneficial relationships, and peaceful coexistence. Nehru also maintained that international relations of all countries should be directed toward dissolving colonial bonds, promoting national and individual liberty, and eliminating racism, hunger, want, disease, and ignorance. Although many derided Nehru as an unrealistic idealist and an overbearing moralist, he continued to pursue his lofty principles in the international arena.

At about the same time as the promulgation of his Panchsheel program, Nehru attended a conference of the Asian subcontinent countries in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The conference delegates acknowledged Nehru as the unofficial spokesman for emerging former colonies and agreed to hold a broader conference of Asian and African nations in Bandung, Indonesia, in April, 1955, where his ideas would be discussed.

Although no nonaligned organization or program of action resulted from the Bandung conference, Nehru, with the aid of Zhou Enlai Zhou Enlai , the delegate of the Communist People’s Republic of China, was able to have his Panchsheel principles adopted as a guide for nonalignment. The opinions of the superpowers were mixed. John Foster Dulles Dulles, John Foster
[p]Dulles, John Foster;opposition to Nonaligned Movement , the American secretary of state and the father of brinkmanship, publicly stated that neutralism was immoral. On the other hand, the Soviet leadership sought to ingratiate itself with the former colonies of the European empires, a policy that it had been following since the 1917 revolution, and praised Nehru’s program. Communist China, for its part, despite its presence at Bandung, was skeptical of the movement.

Ironically, the person who proved to be the catalyst for the creation of an alliance of nonaligned nations was not the leader of a developing nation but a European, and a Marxist at that. The post-World War II Nonaligned Movement (NAM) began at a conference convoked by Marshal Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia, in Belgrade in June, 1961.

The government of Yugoslavia had fallen under the control of Tito’s Marxist League of Communists League of Communists, Yugoslavian in 1945. Tito was among the first to realize the need for independence from both East and West. He did not wish Yugoslavia to be a pawn of the Soviet Union and broke with Stalin in 1948. Furthermore, while the West was willing to support him in his struggle with their common enemy, he was still a committed Marxist and mistrusted the Western Europeans and Americans. Thus in 1961 he invited the leaders of the neutral and former colonial countries of Africa and Asia to join him in a conference in Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia, to establish a nonaligned movement. A preliminary meeting was convened in Cairo and was hosted by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Representatives of about twenty countries attended. Much discussion over whom to invite occupied the organizers of the conference. They established five principles of nonalignment: an independent foreign policy, belief in the principle of peaceful coexistence, support for national liberation movements, no agreements with the superpower blocs, and no military ties with the superpowers. In practice, these criteria were applied very loosely, and many countries involved in the NAM had links with the United States or the Soviet Union. In the end, all who wished to attend the conference did so. There were twenty-five delegations led by heads of state, including some of the most important figures of the twentieth century. Besides Tito, the two most outstanding figures present were Nehru and Nasser. Other delegates included Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, Sukarno of Indonesia, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus.

Delegations attending the Belgrade conference included seven from sub-Saharan Africa (Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Somilia, and the Sudan), seven from Asia (Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, India, Indonesia, and Nepal), eight from the Arab Middle East (Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Republic—as the joint state of Syria and Egypt was called at the time—and Yemen), two from Europe (Cyprus and Yugoslavia), and one from Latin America (Cuba). Three other Latin American countries sent observers (Bolivia, Brazil, and Ecuador).

The Belgrade conference successfully started a vital developing-nation bloc detached from the superpowers. The nonaligned countries would now be able to play a major role in international affairs, both for promoting world peace and for raising the resources for elevating the standards of living in their own countries.


The Belgrade conference established the Nonaligned Movement on a permanent basis. Later conferences were held, for example, in Cairo (1964), Lusaka (1970), Algeria (1973), Colombo (1976), Havana (1979), New Delhi (1983), and Harare (1986). More countries joined the movement as they won their independence and witnessed the influence that the movement had in world affairs. By the time of the Harare conference, the NAM had 101 members. The movement’s ability to accomplish its goals was mixed. While it consistently stood as a voice for general peace and the prevention of war, especially nuclear war between the superpowers, the individual countries were not averse to using war to settle their own difficulties.

In a general way, peace was inimical to another program of the movement, the liberation of subject peoples. Thus, for example, the Muslim members consistently favored the Palestinians in their disputes with Israel. Even Nehru’s India used force to “liberate” and annex neighboring Goa from Portugal in 1961. Cuba sent soldiers to fight in wars of national liberation in Africa. Furthermore, many of the nonaligned leaders were guilty of maintaining themselves in power through dictatorial, undemocratic, or corrupt means. Tito’s Yugoslavia was a one-party Communist state, Nkrumah was a dictator who permitted no opposition, and Sukarno’s corruption was the scandal of southeast Asia.

Disputes among the nonaligned nations also flared up at the conferences. Because of the anti-imperial origin of the movement, there was a bias against the West. Most of the leaders, however, did not completely trust the Soviet bloc either. Some members, such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, favored the West. In the most famous row, Tito and Castro squared off against each other at Havana when the Cuban leader wanted to push through a resolution stating that the movement should favor Moscow.

The greatest success of the movement was giving a source of united political power to those countries that were caught between the superpower struggles. The movement also made significant contributions to the movement for nuclear disarmament. During the Belgrade conference, the Soviet Union began testing nuclear bombs in the atmosphere. The United States was already testing underground. The conference sent delegations to both countries to persuade them to end testing and begin serious talks on disarmament. One result was the inclusion of nonaligned and neutral nations at disarmament talks, such as those begun at Geneva in March, 1962. In any case, after Belgrade, the NAM became a force in international politics, although its cohesiveness diminished as it grew in size. Nonaligned Movement
Cold War;nonaligned nations

Further Reading

  • Alimov, Yuri. The Rise and Growth of the Non-aligned Movement. Moscow: Progress, 1987. Contains a detailed history and very favorable description of the NAM. No index; bibliography, some footnotes.
  • Arora, K. C. Imperialism and the Non-aligned Movement. New Delhi, India: Sanchar, 1998. Examines the NAM from a postcolonial perspective, detailing its successes and failures in resisting imperialism. Bibliographic references and index.
  • Crabb, Cecil V., Jr. Elephants and the Grass: A Study of Nonalignment. New York: Praeger, 1965. Although written before the later nonaligned conferences, this is one of the few comprehensive studies of the movement. Very well researched, it examines the nonaligned movement from different perspectives. The title comes from an old African proberb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” Endnotes, index.
  • Edwardes, Michael. Nehru: A Political Biography. New York: Praeger, 1971. A biography of the Indian leader for the general reader. Contains passages dealing with Nehru’s role in the NAM. Index, some documentation, illustrated. No bibliography.
  • Jackson, Richard L. The Non-aligned, the UN, and the Superpowers. New York: Praeger, 1983. A balanced, comprehensive, scholarly work analyzing the NAM by a career foreign service officer who served with the United States mission to the United Nations. Argues that the NAM is not inherently anti-American. Index, bibliography, glossary, and appendixes.
  • Jansen, G. H. Non-alignment and the Afro-Asian States. New York: Praeger, 1966. A scholarly analysis of nonalignment in developing nations. Examines steps leading up to the Belgrade conference. Documentation and bibliography.
  • Kardelj, Edvard. The Historical Roots of Nonalignment. Edited by Nikolaos A. Stavrou. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980. Kardelj was one of Tito’s closest political and ideological advisers. This is a reprint of his article that appeared in the Yugoslav journal Socialist Thought and Practice in 1975; it is a valuable primary source tracing the development of Yugoslavia’s conception and role in the NAM. Stavrou’s excellent introduction provides useful information about Yugoslavia, nonalignment, and Kardelj himself. Documented and illustrated; includes an index.
  • Ramchandani, R. R. NAM and Third World Development Dilemma in the Post-Cold War Era: A Comparative Study of India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Delhi, India: Kalinga, 2000. Study of the functioning of the NAM as an advocate for developing nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bibliographic references and index.
  • Singham, A. W., and Shirley Hune. Non-alignment in an Age of Alignments. Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill, 1986. An excellent scholarly study of the NAM. Contains both the history of the movement and a thorough political analysis. An appendix contains a list of members. Index and bibliography.

Organization of American States Is Founded

Soviet Bloc States Establish Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Is Formed

Warsaw Pact Is Signed

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Forms

Agency for International Development Is Established

Organization of African Unity Is Founded