TCS Daily

The NAM You Should Worry About

By Richard Tren - September 24, 2004 12:00 AM

The so-called Non Aligned Movement (NAM) recently held its 14th Ministerial Conference in Durban, South Africa and produced resolutions and statements with regard to world peace and aid transfer from rich countries to poor countries that are at the same time predictable and frustrating. The NAM, which was founded in 1961 in an effort to find a middle way between the West and the Communist block, urged rich countries to boost aid transfers to poor countries. The organisation, which now consists of 115 developing countries, among them some of the poorest countries on earth, feels that aid transfers will pull poor countries out of poverty. No surprise there, but the frustrating part is that there seems to be very little introspection among the NAM and a lack of willingness to address the source of their own poverty -- their own misguided economic policies and brutish political regimes.

The concern that the ruling elite of these countries express with regard to poverty in their countries would be touching, were it not for the fact that they are frequently the cause of that poverty.

According to the Economic Freedom of the World report, an index rating countries according to their economic freedom, over 75% of the NAM has scores below 6, making them economically repressive. In addition, of the 21 countries that perform worst with regard to their legal structure and security of property rights, all but 2 are members of the NAM.

Some members of the NAM, such as Botswana, Singapore, Chile and Mauritius, have made great strides in recent years to increase economic freedom and have stable, open and democratic institutions. Unlike their fellow NAM members, these countries that have secure property rights, limited government and low taxes, have achieved impressive economic growth and have reduced poverty. However among the NAM, these countries are few and far between. It is not unusual for poor country governments to blame rich countries for their economic woes; it's a tactic that is far easier than actually undertaking the necessary reforms that will create wealth in poor countries. Yet this finger pointing is getting very tiresome; until the poor countries begin to embrace more open and liberal economic policies there is little hope that anyone but their ruling political elite will prosper.

It is not just that the vast majority of NAM countries are unwilling to adopt economic policies that will generate wealth; most of them have frightful human rights records. This didn't stop the NAM from making some 'feel good' statements about international peace. President Mbeki of South Africa recommended that the NAM play a larger international role in promoting peace and stability. That is all very well, until you understand that many of the NAM members cause war and instability in the first place. Among the more brutish members of the NAM are Algeria, DR Congo, Libya, Myanmar, Mauritania, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The governments of these countries and many others in the NAM repress and regularly torture and kill any kind of political opposition. And when they are not killing their own people, many NAM governments regularly threaten their neighbours.

For anyone to seriously consider that the NAM can play an important role in promoting peace and stability when the very members of the movement are actively promoting war and unimaginable brutality is laughable. In addition, for the members of the NAM to consider themselves worthy of aid transfers from rich countries suggests that that they are suffering from some collective delusions. Decades of aid transfers from rich countries to poor countries only served to prop up undemocratic, intransigent and often violent regimes. Furthermore aid has exacerbated poverty by bloating government and stifling any need among the ruling elite to change their ways. If wealthy countries want to be kind to the unfortunate citizens living in NAM countries, they should steadfastly ignore any requests for more money. Giving money to the numerous brutal NAM governments would be like giving children to paedophiles.

Groucho Marx once quipped that he "didn't care to be a member of a club that would elect me as a member." Some countries within the NAM may want to take a leaf out of Grouch's book and leave the movement. Any organisation that hosts such tyrants as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe cannot be worth belonging to. Unless the NAM aligns itself with sound, market based economic policies along with open and democratic government and stops blaming rich countries for their problems, it will continue to be an irrelevant and morally bankrupt organisation.


TCS Daily Archives