BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 3. The Summit of NAM Contact Group on the fight against COVID-19 held in Baku became an even more important event, than anticipated in the build-up. What initially looked like a "healthcare event" quickly turned into an all-encompassing discussion as the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev delivered his opening statement.
The President used the privilege of the Chairmanship to set the tone of the Summit. His ideas ranged from the fight against the global pandemic to international security and the changing world order. His insights were thought provoking, and the major accomplishment of the head of state, in this context, was the effective use of the medium of the Non-Aligned Movement to unite the member-states around several crucial issues.
President Aliyev’s development initiatives
During the opening remarks, the head of state said that Azerbaijan will allocate $1 million for the post COVID-19 recovery of Africa and Small Island Developing States. The initiative is crucial for several reasons.
First, Azerbaijan expressed its willingness to support a large number of countries struggling from the COVID-related challenges the most. In times of a global crisis like COVID, some developed states demonstrated tendency to exhibit signs of a “biased” approach towards the issue of vaccination. This approach hurt small and underdeveloped countries that were in a desperate need of life saving medical products. Additionally, the same states are also among the most challenged by climate change, making the calls even more relevant.
Second, Azerbaijan leveraged the power of the NAM summit to announce initiatives in a bid to bolster support from a large number of like-minded countries. The Non-Aligned Movement unites a wide array of countries with different capabilities. However, the countries are united by the common values, as each country in the NAM suffered from similar issues in the past. In this context, it is far more likely that decision-makers in the member-countries of the movement, will choose to cooperate with each other, as the countries within the Organization have a solid track record of previous cooperation.
Third, the initiative will foster relationships, dialogue, and cooperation between the member countries of the Movement. It is not a secret that NAM countries exhibited a significant degree of support to Azerbaijan during the second Karabakh war by blocking the anti-Azerbaijani statement in the UN Security Council, which stopped the pro-Armenian countries from unfairly tarnishing Azerbaijan’s reputation. The initiative announced by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev is an indication of the Baku’s commitment to continue building relationships will each country of the movement, despite its relative political power and influence.
Building a just political order
Colonialism had a devastating impact on the future economic capabilities of African states. Most scholars agree that colonization led to fragmentation within the society of the said states, as well as introduced a high level of economic dependence on the colonized state. The dehumanization of the local workforce led to decades, if not centuries of economic hardships and politically contentious situations.
For these reasons, it is particularly important that President Ilham Aliyev voiced his concerns regarding neo-colonial tendencies.
"The new world order is in the process of reshaping. Now the world is witnessing the most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War, with repercussions for the remaining part of the world. As the second largest international institution after the UN, NAM should play a more visible and efficient role in the international arena and actively participate in reshaping the new world order,” President Ilham Aliyev said.
Indeed, the potential of NAM in this direction is unquestionable. The Movement is a truly global community of states, which boasts a high degree of diversity and cohesion, as demonstrated by the unity of the Organization in most questions. Certain challenges and issues indeed remain among some members of NAM, however, the common interests and values of the states should enable cooperation within the Organization on the matter of building a better and just political climate.
International law and security architecture
The debates on the effectiveness of international law are not new, however, the tendencies observable in recent years are very alarming. Crises are breaking out in various parts of the world, and international law is unable to provide an adequate answer to these urgent challenges.
“The international security architecture, which has existed for the last several decades, is currently facing dramatic changes, and multilateralism is at stake. The erosion of international law norms and principles further threatens the international order. More cases of violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity and intervention in the internal affairs of states are observed. The decisions of the leading international organizations are not either implemented or the selective approach and double standards are being applied,” President Ilham Aliyev noted.
Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is one of the countries that became the victim of the “selective approach” of international law. In an environment where there is no higher authority to enforce the norms and international law, injustices will happen. And many times, the countries facing crises, especially of military nature, are forced to hope for the goodwill of more powerful states. Unfortunately, these “rules of the game” indirectly promote conflict. And one of the bodies responsible for such injustices is the United Nations Security Council.
“For example, some Security Council resolutions have been implemented within days. However, in the case of Azerbaijan, Armenia ignored the four Security Council's resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of its armed forces from the territories of Azerbaijan for almost 30 years. In 2020 Azerbaijan itself restored its territorial integrity and historical justice by military-political means and enforced the Security Council resolutions' implementation. Probably, it was the first case in the world since the establishment of the UN”, President Ilham Aliyev said.
The deeply flawed security system of the UN Security Council is inadequate for dealing with current issues and crises. It has not undergone any transformation since its inception after the end of the World War II. In the meantime, geopolitical realities and political climate has changed. Lack of representation in the UN security council makes it a relic of the past, that seeks to promote individual interests of its permanent members. To date, not a single Muslim country is featured in the UNSC, despite a significant percentage of global population practicing Islam. There are no developing states in the Council, only well-established political entities with significant resources, and protected by their nuclear arsenals. This situation makes them rather questionable guardians of peace, as the same states possess nuclear deterrence against any attack.
The problem of representation and diversity is a challenge to the integrity of the UNSC. To tackle the issue, President Aliyev issued a call to make amends to the Security Council.
“One permanent seat should be given to the Non-Aligned Movement, and the country holding the position of chair of the Movement should have this seat on a rotating basis. I call on NAM member countries to start consultations on this issue and present their views to the relevant UN Committee. We also support the allocation of permanent seats for Africa in the Security Council,” the head of state said.
These potential changes would alleviate some of the existing issues with the Council, however, the process is, without a doubt, going to be long and challenging.
Final thoughts on the role of NAM
The Summit of NAM Contact Group on the fight against COVID-19 held in Baku illustrated the role of Azerbaijan in revitalizing the Organization during the previous several years. The issues that global community is facing are becoming more pronounced, and Azerbaijan is at the forefront of boosting cooperation between the NAM states.
The key points of the speech delivered by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev illustrate the seriousness of Baku’s intentions on transforming a wide array of issues that plague the system of international relations. The goals put forward are ambitious and their implementation will certainly take time, especially in terms of restructuring international security system.
However, the fact that Baku is at the forefront of the proposed changes illustrates the growing stature of Azerbaijan in the international relations system. The ability of Baku to put forward ideas that will empower developing states, thus challenging existing status-quo, illustrate that Azerbaijan maintains a morally correct position in the world of international politics, which is usually plagued with injustice, insincerity and manipulation.