H.E. Ernesto Samper
President of the Republic of Colombia


Non-Aligned Movement has not outlived its usefulness, says Colombian Presdient

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 28 (G-77)-- The chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), President Ernesto Samper of Colombia, has refuted the Western argument that NAM is a political anachronism in the post-Cold War era. “Yes, the Cold War is over; but this fact has not marked the end of poverty in the world. It has not removed the problems of the environment which we face, nor has it put an end to the concerns of our productive sectors,” he said, in an interview with the JOURNAL OF THE GROUP OF 77. The essential reason for NAM today, as it was yesterday, is to overcome these barriers through political solidarity, he said. Excerpts from the interview:

JOURNAL: The West says that the Non-Aligned Movement has outlived its political usefulness in post-Cold War era. How valid is this argument?

PRESIDENT SAMPER: I have often been asked what is the point of continuing with the Movement if the end of the Cold War should also mean the end of Non-Alignment. Let me reiterate what I expressed in my address at the Inaugural Session of the Eleventh Conference of Heads of State or Government of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries in Cartagena. My answer has always been that, yes, the Cold War is over; but this fact has not marked the end of poverty in the world. It has not removed the problems of the environment which we face, not has it put an end to the concerns of our productive sectors.

And my answer has also been that, on the contrary, the collapse of the barriers which used to separate two world has marked the beginning of a new division in the world. It is a division marked by the appearance of fresh barriers to progress in our countries. There are non-tariff trade barriers which block our products from major markets. Technological barriers which isolate us from the march of science and knowledge. Financial barriers which limit our access to credit on equitable terms. Information barriers, which have left the information regarding what is happening to many in the hands of a few. The essential reason for the Non-Alignment, today as yesterday, is to overcome these barriers through solidarity. The challenge, today as yesterday, is to join forces in the quest for our ideal, freedom.

JOURNAL: What, in your experience, are the major deficiencies in NAM? And how would you rectify them for the greater good of the Movement?

PRESIDENT SAMPER: The major deficiencies of NAM are in our weaknesses as individual countries. That's why we must cooperate among ourselves to become stronger. Cooperation among the countries of the developing world is not an option but an imperative if we want to become actors on the world's stage, but above all if we want to endure as nations. The best weapon we can wield against the interventionism of the powerful is our own solidarity.

The challenges before us are even more complex than those that faced us during the Cold War. That solidarity must be expressed in a search for new global scenarios for coordination to take the place of the old confined areas of the Cold War and prevent new forms of interventionism.

JOURNAL: If you were given the option, what changes would you propose to revitalize the Movement and make it a stronger political force at the United Nations?

PRESIDENT SAMPER: Several changes have been proposed in the past as changing the name or establishing a permanent secretariat, without reaching a consensus. I don't think that NAM needs to be changed. The Movement has proved its usefulness for more than 35 years now, it has been a moral force in the international arena. What has to be changed, or more exactly, adapted, is the agenda of the Movement. The priorities of action are different now than 35 years ago. When we met in Belgrade, our main preoccupation was the possibility of a war between the superpowers. Today, when we approach the 21st century, our main concern is to eliminate poverty and to develop economically and socially our citizens. The current international agenda is a social agenda, although we still have to strive to achieve other goals as the nuclear disarmament.

JOURNAL: Do you think the membership of NAM should be expanded? And if so would you recommend new criteria or eliminate any existing criteria to attract more countries to join the Movement?

PRESIDENT SAMPER: The membership of NAM is growing permanently. South Africa, under President Mandela joined NAM. New states, such as Eritrea, immediately after proclaiming her independence, asked for membership in the Movement. Armenia, Azerbaiyan, Kyrguistan and Ukraine, the last one admitted in September 1996. Recently, we received also the request of Kazakstan to become observer. Additionally, former allies of the USSR that now want to be neutral have joined the Movement such as Mongolia. So despite the arguments of some people that NAM must disappear, Governments are interested in joining NAM.

At the meeting of the Committee on Methodology held in Cartagena last year, we examined the criteria for admitting new members, observers and guests. If in the 1960s the main criterion was not to be member of a major military alliance, in Cartagena we agreed that the main criterion for the admission of new members should be the adherence to and respect for the principles and objectives of the Movement, in line with the Ten Bandung Principles and the Declarations of the NAM Summits and Conferences.

JOURNAL: What is the role the Group of 77 can play in coordinating its strategy with NAM on economic issues? Or should these issues be left to the Group of 77?

PRESIDENT SAMPER: As you know, the NAM and the G-77 established in 1994 a Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC). Since then, the importance and positive role played by the Joint Coordinating Committee in advancing the common positions of the developing countries and in promoting the interest of the developing countries in the international fora, has been widely recognized.

For example, during the last year, through the JCC, we participated in the deliberations of the Open-ended High-level Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations System and we coordinated the positions of the developing countries in the Subgroup on Non-Governmental Organizations created by the Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations system. We also supported, at the High-level Open-ended Working Group on the Financial Situation of the United Nations, the position paper of the developing countries presented by the Group of 77.

Also, in the last General Assembly, in the framework of the Second Committee, NAM co-sponsored 13 resolutions presented by the Group of 77 on issues such as trade and development, cooperation for industrial development, environment and sustainable development, human settlements, population, external debt, food and sustainable agricultural development, an Agenda for Development and renewal of the dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership.
So, I think the JCC is proving to be a very useful mechanism and we are doing a very positive work in coordinating the positions of all the developing countries.

JOURNAL: What are the prospects of reform of the Security Council and what is the view of NAM regarding its expansion and representation of developing countries?

PRESIDENT SAMPER: Let me underline something: when we in the NAM talk about "reforming the Security Council", we not only talk about expanding its membership but reforming its procedures. Both, expansion and reform, should be considered as integral parts of a common package that takes into account the principle of sovereign equality of states, equitable geographical distribution, as well as the need for transparency, accountability and democratization in the working methods and procedures of the Security Council, including its decision making process.

The Non-Aligned countries are grossly under-represented in the Council. This under-representation should be corrected by enlargement of the Security council, to reflect the universal character of the world body and to correct the existing imbalances. This should enhance its credibility. The NAM has also proposed that the veto should be curtailed and the Charter should be amended so that it only apply to actions taken under Chapter VII of the Charter.