Address by Hon. Prof. G.L. Peiris, M.P., Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka at the Additional Commemorative Meeting to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement Belgrade, Republic of Serbia: 5 – 6 September 2011
H.E Mr. Mohamed Kamel Amr, Chair of the Ministers Meeting of NAM &
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt,
H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia,Excellencies,
Today is indeed a historic moment for all of us. Having traversed the contours of a path punctuated by a multitude of challenges and trying times, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has grown into a vibrant inter-governmental organization with a spirit of partnership and solidarity. To celebrate the 50th birth anniversary of the NAM is undoubtedly an auspicious occasion and to be cherished. Our pride and joy on this occasion is modified, as we have all come home,- to the birth place of our Movement, in celebration of the objectives it upholds.
Fifty years ago, in September 1961, those founding fathers gathered in the National Assembly of Belgrade, with a solid determination and a shared vision for mutual benefit and common good to, blaze the trail of the Non-Aligned Movement. This provided an alternative platform for the Afro-Asian and other newly independent developing nations, to constructively engage and cooperate with each other, amidst the turbulent winds of the Cold War bipolar power politics.
Since then, a journey marked with many tribulations and moments of glory, has served to mature the Movement into an organization, that represents almost two thirds of the membership of the United Nations, from the initial 25 States that formed the First NAM Summit. Time is therefore ripe to take stock of the achievements and rejuvenate the Movement’s vision to meet the contemporary as well as new and emerging challenges.
We in Sri Lanka take modest pride for having been among the 25 Countries that witnessed the inception of the Movement. Our association with the NAM however goes even further. The forerunner of the founding NAM Summit, as we know, was the Bandung Conference of 1955, which we were honoured to co-sponsor. The culmination of our affiliation with the Movement of course was, the period of our Chairmanship from 1976-1979, when we were privileged to be the first Asian country to host a NAM Summit. Sri Lanka therefore, has conducted a national commemorative meeting of the 50th Anniversary of the Non Aligned Movement this year in Colombo, as well as hosted the Golden Jubilee of the Asian African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCO), one other tangible outcome of the historic Bandung Meeting, endorsing the cooperation in legal matters among member countries.
As a former Chair Country of the NAM, I deem it a great pleasure to have this opportunity to share some of our thoughts on the manner in which our collective wisdom and efforts today, at this historic city of Belgrade, should buttress future directions to chart through the next half- a-century. The challenges confronting humanity today are never the same tomorrow. Multifaceted, more complex and inter-related in nature, their impacts often spill beyond national boundaries demanding concerted and innovative action. The desire of all of us for peaceful-coexistence, mutual respect for each others’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in internal matters, mutual non-aggression, equality and mutual benefit, helped the Movement to uphold its relevance for the last half century. Although evolved as a resolute opposition to colonialism, oppression, confrontations of cold war power blocks, it is our firm conviction that the Founding Principles of NAM are timeless, especially for an intergovernmental organization like ours that represent diverse socio-political, economic and ideological views. The validity of NAM is all the more remarkable that 120 members, across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have closed ranks in belief of these norms and values. NAM has consistently practised an issue based culture, which must not be compromised, even when there is an erosion of global order. Each issue must be evaluated comprehensively on its merit, and a group position evolved.
One could opine that some of the old issues that the NAM has relentlessly fought for during the first half a century remain extremely relevant to date. These include issues of Apartheid policies, imperialism and colonialism, disarmament etc. Yet, we may be mindful that, as our former Prime Minister, the Late Madame Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was also the world’s first woman Prime Minister stated at the Fifth Summit in Colombo and I quote:
“Any concept of domination or control exercised by some states over the fortunes of others is inconsistent with the democratization of international relations…”
The old issues, in our view have not gone into oblivion, as they reappear in different forms and manifestations, laying an onus on us members, to act in unison, empathy and with a sense of solidarity, as they evolve. At this crucial juncture when NAM is taking stock of its past achievements and seeking a future, on how best to fulfill the expectations of millions of peoples who are represented by the NAM and crucially need a voice, it is incumbent on us that the relevance and validity of the NAM be preserved for tomorrow, by the reactions to the covert threats that loom.
I seek your indulgence to elaborate on this matter further, as it would be relevant to assess the danger that inconsistency could cause to the democratization of international relations. Their disproportionate impact on developing countries, which grapple to make strides in economic, social and political betterment for their peoples, in a globalized world, hold so true in the contemporary world.
Firstly, when we envision a future where right to life is respected with a world free from terror and violence, we must not lose sight that all democratically elected governments, strong and powerful, weak and vulnerable, alike, have a sacrosanct responsibility to defend its territory, resources and protect the lives of its citizens. There cannot be different concepts applicable, be it a country fighting against a group of intransigent terrorists, drug cartels or organized underworld gangsters, or ethnically and racially ill-conceived cults. Any double standards to justify acts of sovereign states, are a potential source of a new form of domination or control over countries, which is inconsistent with accepted democratic values of an international system. My country has consistently condemned violence and stood firmly to eliminate all forms and manifestations of terrorism, that callously disregard the value of life, no matter what the objective is and where it occurs.
Secondly Excellencies, we must endeavour to ensure equality of life. A fair and level-playing international economic order needs to be developed. We observe that politically motivated conditionality in deciding development assistance and trade relations are increasingly being used as a tool to dominate or control weak countries, instead of commitment for partnership and constructive engagement. Here again, NAM could play an important collective role, in protecting the economic priorities of developing countries, as its responsibility for the future generation. Achieving Millennium Development Goals as scheduled, will be an illusion if partnerships based on national priorities and ownership do not emerge forthwith. Those who have misused the earth’s natural resources in their haste for development, need to take responsibility for their action, and lead the course of corrective measures, to prevent further degradation of our environment and also ensure food and energy security.
Thirdly, predictability and credibility of actions by the international system are key in ensuring sovereign equality that is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, which the Non-Aligned Movement has throughout adhered to. Any deviation from established procedures and practices in the International systems to cater to any specific situations of choice is another lethal form of exercising domination and control over countries. However, one should be mindful of aberrations and ad hoc actions as they would only jeopardize the respect for international legal systems and democracy which sovereign States and inter-governmental bodies have their foundation. It is therefore incumbent on the NAM to come together in assisting Palestine to be recognised as a full member of the United Nations system.
It is the fervent hope of my country that NAM will be able to fashion its responses to the traditional and non-traditional challenges, it may come across, upholding the purposes and founding principles of the Movement.
Last but not least, I wish to place on record our sincere appreciation for the initiative by the Government of the Republic of Serbia for organizing this official commemoration, and the meticulous arrangements done as well as for the generous hospitality extended to me and my delegation.
I thank you.
- Keynote Address by Prof. G.L Peiris, Minister of External Affairs at the Annual Symposium 2011 “Challenges of Post Conflict Sri Lanka” at the General sir John Kotelawala Defence University – 18th August 2011.
- Keynote Address by Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris at the release of the "Humanitarian Operation: Factual Analysis" report, 1st August 2011
- Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs addresses the 60th Anniversary of the Colombo Plan - 01st July 2011
- Address by Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs at the certificates awarding ceremony organised by the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute (BIDTI) - 28th June 2011
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