Non-Aligned Movement is ‘United Against Covid-19’

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The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev chairs the NAM virtual summit. [Twitter]

On Monday (4 May), an online Summit of the Non–Aligned Movement (NAM) states was held at the initiative of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Dr Esmira Jafarova shares her impressions from this event.

Dr Esmira Jafarova is a board member of the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center)

The summit was called “United Against COVID-19” and was joined by over 40 heads of state and government in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Azerbaijan, as chairman of the NAM for the 2019-2022 period, launched the first ever virtual summit of this diverse and largest group of states after the United Nations, which does not align with or against any major power centres, and stands for “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” (Havana Declaration, 1979).

In his opening remarks, President Aliyev specifically noted that solid display of unity among the members of the Movement is essential in these challenging times and that countries cannot win over this battle against the invisible enemy without uniting.

He noted that as the incumbent chair of the NAM, Azerbaijan will do its best to increase solidarity and mutual support among the members of the group. In the face of new realities posed by the pandemics, this open discussion within the group is needed for joining efforts to attain nimble actions and mutual support in order to achieve best and most effective solutions.

The President also informed about the works done in Azerbaijan to stem the tide of the pandemics.

Those include the establishment of Operative Headquarters, the enforcement of the special quarantine regime since 24 March, the establishment of the Special Coronavirus Support Fund and government-sponsored 3.5 billion manat (€1.9 billion) rescue package extended to economy, entrepreneurship and social benefits, as well as other relevant measures adopted.

The President also specifically highlighted the significance of keeping unhindered trade and communication networks during the pandemic and once again underscored Azerbaijan’s role as a transit and logistics center.

He also stressed that Azerbaijan donated $5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its efforts to fight the pandemics and will earmark an additional 5 million US dollars to support the NAM countries in dire need in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Alongside the members of the NAM, other lofty guests also addressed the meeting, with the President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez,  Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus, EU Commission Vice-President in charge of coordinating the external action of the European Union, Josep Borrell, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat.

All of them have underlined the timeliness of the NAM meeting and emphasized the necessity to work on new and innovative initiatives in order to more effectively fight the virus and eliminate social and economic consequences of the pandemics.

Universal efforts to build a stronger and more effective post-pandemic world based on cooperation and multilateralism were hailed as being utterly indispensable.

The discussions focused extensively on the global efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemics and fostering the increased role by the NAM in dealing with and alleviating the consequences caused by the epidemics in the NAM countries as well as globally.

The reports delivered by the participants highlighted the works done in particular regions to stave off the threat of the pandemics, alongside containing the recommendations on how to further improve inter-NAM and the global cooperation to curb the spread of Covid-19.

One of the important outcomes of the Summit was the establishment of the NAM Task Force to set a database that will indicate the basic humanitarian and medical needs of NAM member states, which will subsequently be submitted by the Chairmanship to all potential donors in order to attract support to the needs of the members states.

Azerbaijan defined the promotion of multilateralism, fostering of cooperation and solidarity within the NAM group as among its priorities when it took the Chairmanship in the NAM for the period of 2019-2022.

The philosophy of the current Summit was to once again find the points of convergence and unity among the NAM group of states in responding to this global calamity in an effort to underscore the critical importance of multilateralism while coping with the scourges of such magnitude.

President Aliyev also suggested in his statement that NAM countries could also initiate the summoning of the special UN General Assembly session related to the COVID-19 response on the level of Heads of States and Governments.

This is not the first time NAM speaks on Covid-19 as it has previously voiced its concern over the threat via a communiqué (Azerbaijani Chairmanship to the NAM, 25 March).

The added value of the Summit is in its aims to draw resources and efforts from diverse economic, cultural and national centers represented in the NAM and scattered across the world, to the global fight against COVID-19.

In the era when the contagion that popped up in some remote corner of the world managed to spread with such a high intensity engulfing new geographic terrains, the only solution therefore to break the chain of spread is through amassing the power of multilateralism and display of global solidarity.

The NAM Summit also showed the convergence of global interests and adherence to common principles highlighted in the very basic documents of the Movement, including the above-mentioned Havana Declaration that defined standing for “…security of the non-aligned countries” as among the highest priorities of the group.

With “security” mostly being perceived in its traditional sense when one has to stand against a visible enemy, current situation with Covid-19 has nonetheless shattered our perceptions of an “enemy”.

The NAM therefore, under the Azerbaijani chairmanship, has mobilized in the face of this “invisible enemy” in order to fight for the security of its members and by doing so, also extend a hand of support to the global efforts in this domain.

This mission was also reflected in the final declaration of the meeting which among other things once again “underlined the need for concerted efforts to prevent the negative effects of the pandemic on the economies of member states”.

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