By Joshua Corpuz
From September 13 to 18, Venezuela hosted the annual Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit on Margarita Island off Venezuela’s Caribbean Coast to discuss member states’ domestic conflicts.
Venezuela, chair of the summit, “spent more than $120 million to wine and dine international heads of state,” according to United Press International. Out of 120 NAM member states, however, fewer than a dozen leaders attended the summit. Noteworthy attendees were Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani. Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, was absent, marking only the second time that one of the founding states did not attend a summit in the movement’s 55-year history.
This year’s NAM summit agenda included the plight of the Palestinians, Cuba’s relationship with the United States, and the domestic and political problems faced by Venezuela and its president, Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro deemed the 17th meeting to be one “remembered for centuries,” as reported by Al Jazeera. In preparation for the summit, Venezuela repainted roads, boosted security, and stocked supermarkets on Margarita Island for the international guests.
Conference preparation only riled up citizens like Henrique Capriles, an opposition leader in Venezuela, who decried “millions of dollars of Venezuelans’ money spent for the government’s ego.”
According to the New York Times, Venezuela has been suffering widespread food shortages and triple-digit inflation. There have been rallies to remove President Maduro from power because of his socialist and isolationist policies that have not helped Venezuela’s situation.
Venezuela’s chairmanship presented an opportunity for Maduro’s government to gain support from NAM allies. According to TeleSur, the conference in Venezuela “presented a strategic plan to strengthen the international body and turn it into “spearhead”- to transform the United Nations system.”.
During the summit, President Rouhani of Iran passed chairmanship of the NAM to Maduro with pride and hope for the pact’s future. “Without doubt, the approvals and outcome of this significant summit with the slogan of ‘peace, sovereignty and solidarity for development’ are yet another important step towards the realization of the noble goals of our movement,” Rouhani said in his keynote address. Rouhani alluded to his country’s historic nuclear deal, describing “plans of negotiations and talks as the best type of solution to resolve and global and regional conflicts.”
The Non-Aligned Movement was established in 1961 to help de-escalate the Cold War and let countries have an option to be aligned with neither the United States nor the Soviet Union. The movement upholds the principle of self-determination, rejects foreign military bases, and advocates for the preservation of national independence.
According to Foreign Policy, the group was “once a significant force in international politics, helping unite countries fighting for independence during the end of colonialism and pressing for international attention to the developing world.” Since the end of the Cold War, however, the movement has been slowly losing its prestige on the global landscape.