The 14th summit conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting in Havana, Sept. 11-16, was the occasion for redefining the group’s purposes and future direction. Delegates attended from 118 nations, representing two-thirds of the world’s population.

On hand were 56 heads of state and vice presidents and 90 foreign ministers. Five observer nations were there, plus heads of the United Nations, Arab League, African Union and Group of 77. NGO and World Bank representatives attended.

High on the summit agenda was the issue of democratic reforms within the United Nations. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was supportive, telling the delegates, “The Security Council must reform for the sake of the developing world and for the sake of the United Nations itself. The perception of a narrow power-base hanging on five countries is difficult to sustain.” Other speakers portrayed the NAM as a future power bloc of southern nations operating within the UN framework.

For three years under Malaysia’s leadership, NAM commissions had been preparing analyses and proposals that, materializing in a 100-page book for the delegates, were approved by the assembly.

Final resolutions included denunciations of Israel’s war in Lebanon and its occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, and of U.S. interference in Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, and U.S. policies of pre-emptive war, torture and mass imprisonment. The summit called for multilateralism in foreign relations. It called for extradition to Venezuela of terrorist Luis Posada, currently in the U.S. It backed Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy on its own.

Cuba’s proposal for a permanent NAM secretariat to function during intervals between summit conferences did not pass, nor did its proposal for majority rule, rather than consensus, as a means for decision making.

For many speakers, among them Carlos Lage, vice president of Cuba’s Council of State, the NAM’s purpose today centers on poverty reduction and social justice. “The world we live in,” he declared, “becomes more unjust and unequal with each day that passes. More than a trillion dollars are allotted to military spending annually, while 11 million children die of preventable or curable diseases … 860 million human beings around the world do not know how to read or write.”

The new head of the movement is Cuba’s acting president, Raul Castro.