The outcome of the 13th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which ended in Malaysia on Tuesday, is not just a few documents adopted by consensus by 116 member-countries. Incidentally, this new figure is also one of the summit's results, since the non-aligned numbers at this forum increased, with Timor, St Vincent and the Grenadines joining its ranks.
The documents themselves, which, under the movement's rules, must satisfy all forum participants without exception, look rather anemic, against the backdrop of passions that accompanied their discussion.
A statement on Korea, through North Korea diplomats' efforts, has been reduced to a total absurdity; a separate document on Iraq has become more evasive-worded than the original one, and so on.
But there is nothing surprising or fundamentally new about this. The non-aligned movement groups 116 countries from all continents, with most varied interests, different regimes, and simply states warring against each other. Everyone wants to get their wording in resolutions and everyone knows that they have to agree to a compromise.
At the current summit not the final documents, but the atmosphere of frantic despair, in which they were debated by ministers and experts ahead of the gathering of heads of state and government, that can be regarded as the main event. It is this process that has demonstrated what is now taking place in the minds and political thinking of most countries that are members of the international community. According to the UN rules, issues of war and peace are decided by the Security Council.
Prior to Kuala Lumpur, the world had a general idea of what is thought about a war in Iraq by Security Council members, or the Europeans, Americans and the Chinese combined - but the world did not know for sure the mind-set of many dozens of other states from all continents. Now it does.
True, in the course of discussions the resolution omitted the word "aggression" /that was its initial definition of a future US action in Iraq/. The most zealous advocates of a milder resolution were Singapore, Chile and two or three other countries. But the rest of the movement's members were and are agreed with the obvious fact that aggression /that is, according to the UN rules an attack on a member-state of that organisation without Security Council sanctions/ is aggression, after all.
Efforts to "soften" and "balance" the Iraqi resolution were exerted by many, including Lal Brahimi, an envoy of the UN secretary-general. But the final text dropped only the extreme and radical words, while in general it is such that both Russia and, say, France may calmly sign it - it says in effect that the crisis should be solved exclusively through the UN. What we have is a soft-spoken anti-American resolution instead of a tough-worded anti-American one - that's the whole difference.
In Kuala Lumpur, it became obvious that the George W. Bush administration with its stubborn desire to culminate the Iraqi crisis with a war antagonised not only Europe or China, but practically the entire developing world.
This is a serious achievement, especially considering that in the 1990s the non-aligned movement seemed to have developed a consensus against extreme radicalism, against mere haranguing and resolution-taking, a consensus favouring reforms, and turning the NAM into an instrument of civilised dialogue between the relatively undeveloped South and the highly developed North on world economic issues. Properly speaking, the forum in Malaysia did begin such a reform. But it proved a tall order, because a war about to erupt in Iraq, as well as the Palestinian issue, absorbed most attention of the audience.
It will be noted that never in the movement's history has its summit gathered together so many heads of state and government: there were 63 of them in Kuala Lumpur. This is a record high. At previous summits a figure of 30 to 35 leaders was considered sufficient not only to live up to the proud name of a summit, but also to regard it as a success. And they have been brought together not even by Iraq in itself. For many leaders from Africa or Latin America Baghdad is very far off, but they realise that the bell tolls not only for Iraq, but also for them.
At the final part of the summit - a two-day marathon of speechifying by a succession of kings, presidents and premiers - one could hear both dull and unexciting speeches and real masterpieces of oratory of our time /these were obviously those by Iran's Mohammad Khatami, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Palestine's Yasser Arafat - his speech was broadcast over satellite - and Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad/. It was a full analogy with Europe, which the impending war divided into the "old" and the "new", into those ready and those not ready to support a war in Iraq.
In the developing world there are many countries that kept a low profile at the summit, aware that quarrels with the US may cost them dearly. And that is very much like the position of many in the "new Europe", who are pressing not so much for disarmament of Iraq, a distant land for them, as for the Bush administration's good graces. But it is a matter of tactics, while in general the vision of what is happening is shared by all: the world has grown far more frightening and dangerous than during the Cold War.
It is a pity, said Iran's President Khatami, that following the Soviet Union's collapse the other superpower is so confident that the opponent's defeat allows it to appoint itself the ruler of the whole world. As a result, he went on to say, the very security of many countries is in serious jeopardy, with globalisation exposing to attack the most fundamental components of our societies. We have encountered a "leviathan which is immune to the bitterness of tears or sweetness of smiles," said this poet and philosopher.
We observe, said Namibia's President Sam Nujoma, international politics that has moved from Cold War-time "deterrence" to a policy of "preventiveness" and "one-sidedness", and this is casting a threatening shadow across peace and security.
We are living in a mismanaged world which is in an awful state, said Malaysia's premier Mahathir Mohamad. Following September 11, 2001, the heckles of the rich and powerful have risen against the poorer section of the world, and extreme measures they are taking only add to the anger of the disaffected and impoverished. Our peoples, the premier warned, are anxious for us to do something with this situation. If we fail to do so, they will, including by rising against us.
The Malaysia summit has shown perfectly that practically all its participants, whatever their differences on secondary matters, are agreed on the basic issues of the world today. All movement members are anxious for a world order which would respect the sovereignty of states; a world that is ruled by justice embodied in the UN; a global system without any single superpower but a multipolar one. Incidentally, this word - axiomatic for the greater part of mankind - has from the outset figured in the summit's main document and was challenged by no one.
It is a different matter how far the non-aligned movement is capable of working towards its ambition. The early 1990s were awash with arguments that the NAM is to be dispensed with. But those days of division and disarray are over, largely thanks to George W. Bush. Kuala Lumpur saw a complete consensus that the movement is today wanted by everybody, a more powerful and more effective one than before. To be sure, former Third World countries are accustomed to economic, military and political impotence in face of great powers, both singly and collectively. But they are also accustomed to persevering in their main goals.
US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Qadimi signed an agreement on July 26 to formally end the USA's military presence in the country by the end of the year