While most UN members voted in favour of the US-sponsored resolution condemning Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the number of countries that abstained should not be ignored. It means there is a considerable body of opinion among the international community that has concerns regarding both sides of the conflict, and these concerns kept these countries from supporting either side.
Most of the abstainers belong to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) whose time - contrary to some people’s opinion - has not passed. The importance of this movement emerges whenever an international crisis erupts and most countries rush to take sides with one world power against the other: those that do not stand for the hope of compromise and mutual understanding as a means to resolve the conflict.
The Russian-Ukrainian crisis reconfirms this.
In last week’s UN vote, while only five countries voted against the Western camp and its sympathisers, 35 countries remained neutral. This is not an insignificant number especially when we consider that many countries that voted in favour of the resolution did so due to enormous US pressures as was remarked on in many news reports from the UN. If the non-aligned nations can help resolve the crisis by playing a role as credible mediator, they could demonstrate the importance of their movement, revive it and stimulate a growth in its ranks.
India was among the countries to abstain while Egypt, the second cornerstone of NAM, voted in favour of the resolution but issued a statement explaining that Cairo opposed the use of force to resolve disputes and appealed to all sides to abide by international legitimacy. Surely the positions of these two founding members of NAM call for a mediating initiative which, in turn, would revive the importance of this movement and its crucial role.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.