CAIRO: The 15th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement kicks into high gear today in Sharm El-Sheikh. Foreign ministers and other officials have already begun preliminary meetings for the conference which will come to a close on Thursday.
As of this summit, President Hosni Mubarak is now the secretary general of the organization through 2012, receiving the post after Cuba stepped down from the rotating seat.
A host of heads of state and world figures have gathered for the summit at the lavish Savoy Hotel in Red Sea resort. Attendees include Cuba s Raul Castro, North Korea s second-in-command Kim Yong Nam, Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki among others.
It is not clear if Iran s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be attending, despite earlier speculation that he would.
A renewed dialogue between Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan and Manmohan Singh of India is a much anticipated highlight of the summit. They are expected to discuss action against Lashkar-e Taib, the Pakistani group reportedly responsible for the Mumbai bombings in November.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be attending the event as well. He plans to deliver a speech regarding the necessity of transnational cooperation and inclusion.
The main topics slated for discussion include the global economic crisis, Palestine, energy, food security and development.
NAM meets every three years and has 118 member states with a few dozen others receiving observer status.
NAM was founded in 1955 and was spearheaded by Jawaharlal Nehru, Josip Broz Tito and Gamal Abdul Nasser. The movement derived its name through its refusal to ally with the United States or the Soviet Union during the Cold War. As a founding member, Egypt has always been a central part of the movement. Its main goals included reducing economic and social inequality between North and South, encouraging multilateral negotiations, promoting peace and strengthening trade among developing states.
At the Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, the event, which sparked the establishment of NAM, 10 principles were outlined. However, the NAM never developed a charter or constitution. The movement s success and longevity has been attributed to the absence of such a document, allowing member states to act and operate independently while finding common ground.
The movement has suffered a crisis of identity since the end of the Cold War. NAM has today emerged mainly as a forum for discussion among poor, disadvantaged and sometimes maligned countries of the world. It is also fully-integrated into the UN s operations. Despite the fact that members of NAM make up a majority of the UN s general assembly, the movement has been unable to leverage this power to their advantage.