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The economic, communication and information Agendas of the non-aligned movement in the new millennium.


The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has been in existence for nearly 40 years. The profound changes which have swept the global geopolitical order during the past few years have raised the question whether NAM has a role to play in contemporary international affairs. NAM still has definite aims of bringing about international equity through a more balanced economic, communication and information order, despite the setbacks experienced in establishing a meaningful New International Economic Order and a New World Information and Communication Order during the 1970s. The continuing preoccupation with redressing global inequalities demonstrates NAM's will to remain an influential international political player.


The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) reflects global collective action regarding political and economic issues on the part of Southern developing states. Non-alignment has been synonymous with global peace; human rights; territorial sovereignty; the equality of all states and races; the respect for justice and international obligations; and the promotion of equity regarding the international information, communication and economic regimes. These aims are as valid today as when NAM came into existence. The current global order is still characterised by economic disparities between states and between regional blocs. These economic disparities are accentuated in developing states, particularly least developed states (LDCs), by inadequate information and communication infrastructures. An inseparable link exists between economic activity and information and communication. Trade cannot occur effectively in an environment lacking adequate communication and information infrastructures. States with weak, inadequate communic ation and information infrastructures are likely to experience weak economic activity and low levels of economic growth. NAM is well aware that the ability of developing states, especially LDCs, to adapt to globalisation depends on their ability to slot into the technical competent Global Information Society (GIS). It is therefore imperative for NAM to promote not only economic development, but also the development of adequate information and communication infrastructures in the developing world in order to equip the South for the challenges of the postindustrial age.


The traditional NAM stance of equidistance as a means of assuring the independence and the promotion of the economic and social aims of its member states is being questioned after the end of the Cold War. Despite the end of hostilities between the former main protagonists, the current global order is characterised by the re-emergence of old political conflicts which were glossed over by ideology during the Cold War. Economic disparities between states and rivalries between emerging economic blocs are as pervasive today as they were before the end of the Cold War. In the opinion of the South, the end of the Cold War was seized as an opportunity by the dominant power centre in the developed North to impose its own vision of the global system on the new order. (1)

The emergence of NAM as an alternative bloc to East and West during the Cold War helped to counter the hegemony of these Eastern and Western blocs, especially since development issues were secondary to security issues which aggravated the slow level of growth in developing states. Although it was not the original intention of NAM to become embroiled in Cold War events, this soon transpired when NAM discovered its political leverage abilities in international forums such as the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). NAM, together with the Group of 77 (G77), played an influential role in the momentum of developing states to acquire greater influence in international affairs. The fact that developing states were able to form a unified front despite their disparate colonial experiences and levels of development, was an indication of their determination to help themselves.

The end of the Cold War meant a drastically reduced influence of the so-called Third World developing states in international organisations such as the UN, since the global balance of power had changed. No longer in a position to play East off against West, NAM has had to produce a new global strategy in order to prevent its marginalisation in the post-Cold War global order. The new global order is one of new alignments. The ability of NAM to realign itself within this new order will determine the success with which it is able to address issues facing the movement as well as pressing issues within the movement itself. Its current strategy is still to provide a forum for states which supported the notion of non-alignment during the Cold War era. The most pertinent issues currently facing developing states are economic ones which directly impact on their individual and collective influence in international politics.

According to Sid Ahmad, an Egyptian political philosopher and public opinon-former, the end of the Cold War does not signify the end of bipolarity which characterised the Cold War. Instead, the bipolarity that exists today is between North and South. (2) Despite this, there has not been a distinct re-polarisation between North and South after the end of the East-West conflict. This may be attributed to the realisation that economic problems engendered by increasing interdependence and globalisation could spill over from developing to developed states; that new markets should be created in the developing world in order to stimulate not only developing economies, but also the wider global economy owing to increased interdependence; that the rhetoric of colonialism as the root cause of all ills in the developing world is outdated; that a pragmatic approach to stimulate the North-South dialogue is necessary; and that developing states should collectively strive towards an active and rational partnership with the North through envigorated South-South co-operation, despite differences between developing states. (3)

The post-Cold War order is characterised by technological and scientific innovations that present developing states with the opportunity of transforming their economies through liberalisation, deregulation, export orientation, privatisation and transparency. National policies in developing states that recognise these dynamics should be able to promote economic development and integration into the global economy. The success of such national policies depends on the manner in which they are implemented and the support they receive from the global economic environment. (4)


Over the years NAM has succeeded in focusing international attention on the problems of economic development in the South. As stated, issues concerning information and communication are related to economic development. Other issues impacting on economic development include the environment as well as human and social issues.

3.1 The environment and social and human development

Sustainable development in the South depends on environmental space to provide for industrialisation and the raising of living standards in developing states. Northern states are expected to endeavour to alleviate pressures on the environment and to provide for resources to address the cost of environmentally sound technologies and investments. The greater proportion of current pressures on the environment are deemed by the South to originate in the North. (5)

The ultimate aim of development is growth and the general improvement of the human condition. Human and social development are inseparable from the economic and technological transformation of the South. (6) Numerous NAM member states currently exhibit high levels of internal poverty. This problem featured extensively on the agenda of the Eleventh NAM Summit in Cartagena (Colombia) in October 1995 where it was stated that in order to eradicate poverty, populations of developing states should not only be beneficiaries of development but they should also promote their own development. (7) Where conditions of severe internal poverty exist, resources are more often than not channeled to social upliftment projects. Under such conditions, the acquisition and application of new technologies in the field of information services and communication infrastructures are secondary. Information, particularly as a sellable commodity, is viewed as a luxury for consumption by the elites in dual societies and for this reason th e development of adequate communication infrastructures, particularly in LDCs, is neglected. Social transformation cannot be divorced from economic and technological transformation and from the internal and external requirements for such transformation.

The quest for an equitable international economic order is the most pressing issue facing NAM as the new millennium is approached. To this end, a coherent economic agenda which addresses the needs of the South in its entirety is essential in order to improve economic conditions of developing states.

3.2 An economic agenda to promote development

Despite achieving political independence, many developing states of the South retain vestiges of economic, cultural and informational dependence on developed states of the North. In the opinion of developing states, the imperialist tactic of achieving fragmentation through the divide-and-rule policy of exploitation and penetration affected their ability to emulate the economic success of the developed states. This is because the developing states have historically been unable to determine their own economic priorities and processes since most of them have traditionally been raw-material producing states, the beneficiation of which occurred in the more industrialised Northern states. Historically the flow of surplus has been from the South to the North. This neo-Marxist sentiment is echoed in the view that, regardless of political independence, states are only acting agents of those powerful forces that dictate the global economy including entities such as multinational corporations (MNCs). The causal relation ship of the interests of the dominant Northern states is regarded as leading to the attrition of welfare in the LDCs. This refers to a zero-sum condition between the world's richer and poorer nations. (8)

Slow economic growth patterns in the South, with a few exceptions, have placed constraints on the ability of LDCs to effectively participate in the post-industrial age. Economic growth essentially refers to "a rise in the total economic output of a society and a rise in the per capita output: modernisation as institutional and cultural concomitants of economic growth under the conditions of sophisticated technology". (9) A related concept, development, may be described as sustained economic growth and desirable modernisation. The level of social systems are determined by development through economic growth reflected by an increase in gross national product; social growth through nation-building and the redistribution of wealth; and cultural growth by means of national pride and a desire by the South to bridge the divide with the developed world. (10) Modernisation may be described as growth in societies through structural change which incorporates urbanisation, literacy and democracy. (11)

In an attempt to redress what developing states perceived as gross imbalances in the global economic, information and communication order, the slow progress in the South towards growth, development and modernisation led to the call by developing states during the 1970s for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). Information, communication and trade are inseparable since the one cannot take place without the other, hence the linkage of NIEO and NWICO. NAM has played a leading role in developing states' attempts to rectify perceived imbalances in the international flow of information. Not only was NAM largely responsible for the articulation of the principles which eventually culminated in the call for NWICO, but together with the G77 succeeded in voicing demands for NIEO.

Since the 1970s, however, the economic conditions of developing states in general have not drastically improved, neither have their heavy debt burdens been notably alleviated. International information transfers are still characterised by dominant North-South flows and the monopoly of international news by Northern-based media cartels. The encouragement of collective awareness and knowledge are essential for developing states to overcome their economic and informational difficulties. To this end, developing states should facilitate endogenous national development in order to benefit from South-South economic co-operation, thereby improving their own influence and countervailing power with regard to the developed states of the North. This should be done primarily through international forums in order to improve the functioning of the structures governing international political and economic relations so that these reflect the interests of the collective South. (12) It is only through collective action that sta tes of the South will be able to influence the global information and economic regimes which are weighted heavily in favour of the developed states. The political mobilisation of NAM members is a prerequisite for the implementation of any NAM agenda which would not only benefit NAM states, but also the entire developing world. (13)

The implementation of an economic agenda for Southern states depends on the ability of these states to improve their domestic policies in order to promote increased scope for free enterprise, innovation, and the operation of market forces which will enable them to compete in the globalising world economy characterised by openness and transparency. The most effective national policies however, can be undermined if a supportive global environment is not encouraged. The criteria for such a conducive global environment (which determines the allocation of resources for development through trade and capital flows) include addressing issues such as debt service burdens; capital flows; international trade and market access; and commodity prices. Addressing these issues does not imply that concessions from developed states should be encouraged, but rather that the establishment of more equitable policies and mechanisms will support the development process in developing states. (14) The promotion of a conducive externa l economic environment depends on co-operation between all states, developing and developed, to address common interests. A further requirement is the adaptation of the framework of international organisations to the requirements of negotiations, and the envigoration of Southern negotiation capacities. In order to facilitate this, a new development consensus should be reached whereby the South will be recognised as an equal partner in the global economy. The North should be sensitised to the fact that it is affected by whatever occurs in the South and that the failure of development in the South could negatively impact on the North through for example, the influx of migrants and refugees.

At the Tenth NAM Summit held in Jakarta (Indonesia) in 1992, it was decided that NAM should at all costs adapt to the new international environment to avoid being marginalised. This was to be done by adapting old priorities, and formulating new ones through new strategies and approaches designed to place economic co-operation at the top of its agenda, particularly the attainment of an equitable international economic order. (15)

3.2.1 South-South co-operation

The increasing differentiation of the South may be regarded as a weakness within the South-South system of co-operation. Developing states however, share the common goal of a global economic environment which is conducive to development. Developing states realise that the North cannot be the only centre of growth and absorption for export surpluses in the world economy. Consequently, heightened South-South co-operation can develop the capacities of developing states for absorbing their own export surpluses within the developing world. For this reason the negotiations on the Globalised System of Trade Preferences should be supported and new initiatives to revitalise commodity markets should be promoted within the South. The growth of developing country manufactured exports should also be encouraged. (16)

Increased co-operation between developing states signifies a measure of self-reliance that enhances economic independence from developed states. The principle of self-reliance is one of the mechanisms through which NAM seeks to promote economic as well as informational and communication independence from the developed states.

3.2.2 Southern self-reliance

Self-reliance collectively and individually forms a cornerstone of both NIEO and NWICO. The principle of self-reliance originated at the Third Conference of Heads of State of NAM in Lusaka (Zambia) in 1970. Its basic tenets are to improve autonomous capacities of the developing states for the setting of goals; the making of decisions; and the implementation of such decisions. It aims to collectively increase the bargaining power of the Southern states through improved South-South and South-North co-operation in an endeavour to alter the present international division of labour which favours the developed states. Growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not its main aim, rather the ultimate purpose is development. Southern development has a broader purpose, that of empowering the previously disem-powered by addressing national social issues. Self-reliance therefore has a moral objective of improving basic living conditions. (17)

3.2.3 Reform of the Bretton Woods System

NAM has, in recent years, voiced its opinion regarding the reform of the Bretton Woods System which principles are soundly entrenched in the current international economic order. The reform of the UN and its attendant agencies could greatly enhance the influence of developing states. The global monetary regime in particular needs to become more transparent and responsive to the needs of the developing world since the current global order faces new challenges which were not foreseen when the regime came into being 50 years ago.

The Dumbarton Oaks Conference and proposals of 1944 in the United States (US) constituted a preparatory meeting on the establishment of the UN. Agreement led to the preparation of the UN Charter which was signed at the UN Conference of San Francisco in 1945. In July 1944, 45 states attended the first UN Monetary and Financial Conference held at Bretton Woods. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was established to assist members in resolving short-term balance of payments problems under a monetary regime of fixed exchange rates in order to facilitate trade expansion. Financial relations between members would be regulated, the IMF taking the role of a consulting organ. Among others, the consequence was more international interference in domestic economies. The World Bank, a term loosely used to refer to a host of financial institutions including the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), was also created and is currently the primary multilateral source of development funding. (18) Southern states attending the Bretton Woods Conference had little influence on the final results and the system that emerged favoured the Northern states. (91)

The current global order is characterised by conditionality which is applied to states individually. The principles of conditionality apply to most developing states of the South and originate in the reigning ideologies of donor states and multilateral financial institutions. The developing states of the South are not as much concerned with the principle of conditions applied to the use of resources as with the scope and nature of such conditions. (20) Conditionality is viewed by developing states to be a discriminatory practice which inhibits the allocation of funds for development. Conditionality was a contributing factor in the deterioration of relations between NAM, the developed states and multilateral institutions such as the IMF during the 1970s and 1980s.

After the Tenth NAM Summit of 1992 the North-South dialogue was resumed. NAM's suggestions on the North-South Dialogue now feature on the UN Secretary General's Agenda for Development. NAM's decision to actively co-operate with institutions formerly considered politically disagreeable is evident in the current good relations between NAM member states and the IMF following the financial crisis in Asia. A continuation of good relations may improve the debt alleviation of some of the poorer NAM member states, especially those who stand to benefit from the World Bank's joint proposals with the IME to decrease the debt burdens of highly indebted poor countries (HIPC). In order to qualify for debt relief these states have to implement structural adjustments programmes. If the Bretton Woods institutions are to be reviewed, the positive as opposed to the confrontational attitude which has characterised Southern states during previous decades, may serve to encourage reform. Another positive development is that the Ch airpersonship of the Group of Eight industrialised states (G8) now receives advice from NAM leaders regarding the problems facing the developing and less developed states of the South. The NAM Panel of Economists established in October 1997 may also make positive contributions in future. (21)

Another serious challenge facing NAM as the new millennium draws closer, is the improvement of the international information and communication order to reflect not only dominant states' interests, but also those of the developing world. The current international information and communication order favours the developing states. They exhibit well-established and technologically advanced infrastructures, as opposed to the generally inferior infrastructures of developing states who more often than not still largely depend on developed states of the North for information and technology transfers.

3.3 Revitalising the NWICO debate

The continued persistence by NAM to reform the existing international information and communication regime, has led to some recognition in developed states that international imbalances do indeed exist and need to be addressed.

3.3.1 The development of the NWICO debate

The international debate surrounding NWICO which characterised the 1970s and 1980s disappeared as quickly as it had surfaced. Many in the developed world currently believe that the debate is dead. This is not the case as the debate is dormant and capable of resurrection, given the right conditions. The acrimony between the North and the South during the NWICO debate largely led to the scuppering of NWICO. It is possible, however, that this debate in a new form may be resurrected in new and different forums such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC). At least eight representatives of NAM states, representing the private sector, attended the GIIC Annual Forum in Tokyo (Japan) in October 1998. China was officially represented by its Vice-Minister of Information Industry, Lu Xinkui. (22)

In view of the fact that international flows of information are still largely unidirectional from North to South, NAM has been giving attention to the development of its own media while simultaneously making optimum use of private media. (23) Self-reliance cannot be implemented without harnessing communication and information structures. Mass communications facilitates self-reliance through the creation and guidance of public opinion. Public opinion at micro- and macro-levels can be a constraining or a liberating factor since it may be manipulated in a variety of ways. Full-scale public involvement in mass communications is not possible since infrastructures would not be able to bear the load except for direct channels such as dial-in programmes, live audiences and letters to editors. This incapacity is at the core of the call for NWICO: how to organise communication and information systems to become accessible to all, not just to some. (24)

3.3.2 NAM's continued support for NWICO

During the Tenth NAM Summit in 1992 decisions taken at the First Conference of the Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries (COMINAC I held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1984); the Second Conference of the Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries (COMINAC II held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1987); and the Third Conference of the Ministers of Information of the Non-Aligned Countries (COMINAC Ill held in Cuba in 1990), all of which recommended the need to establish NWICO, were approved. The Heads of State stressed the need to "identify strategies for the development of co-operation in all information-related activities, and that the Movement should seize the momentum offered by the improved international political climate and seek common approaches to remove the inequalities inherent in the information and communication system" and to play a decisive role in promoting understanding and co-operation by emphasising the critical importance of equitable participation of all member states in the emerging N WICO. They also agreed that the network of the UN Information Centres which play an important role not only in promoting the establishment of the NWICO but also in providing the only link between the UN, the local media, non-governmental organisations and education centres, should be expanded". (25)

Another significant decision of the Tenth NAM Summit was to improve the image of NAM in order to promote NWICO. This was to be done by enhancing relations with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in order to reserve fair orbital and spectrum resources in space for NAM members; to improve co-operation between NAM states regarding space communication infrastructures and co-operation; and to exchange information with transnational news agencies. (26)

During the Eleventh Summit of Heads of State of NAM, member states were urged to co-operate in the area of science and technology. The importance of developing rural telecommunications was stressed, particularly by means of regional co-operation through the creation of specialised technology networks. In this regard the formation of the Commission on Science and Technology (COMSTEC), the idea of which originated in Islamabad (Pakistan) in 1994, received wide support. The exchange of information and experience between the states of the South would further enhance South-South cooperation since such exchanges form a crucial element of the implementation of South-South joint projects. The South Investment, Trade and Technology Data Exchange Centre (SITTDEC) based in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) is a prime example of improved technical co-operation between Southern states. The Heads of State confirmed their support for co-operation in the information and communication field, based on the principle of self-reliance. Com mitment to the principles agreed to at the Fourth Conference of Ministers of Information and Communication of the Non-Aligned Countries (COMINAC IV held in Pyongyang, North Korea in 1993) was reaffirmed. The Heads of State also urged member states to co-operate with UNESCO to develop information and communication infrastructures in developing states including NAM member states, as well as to articulate the position of developing states in organisations such as UNESCO. It was agreed that efforts should be made to alter the distorted image of the South and to this end they emphasised "the urgent need to establish the New World Information and Communication Order on the basis of the principles of independence, progress, democracy and mutual co-operation". (27)

During the Twelfth NAM Ministerial Conference which was held in New Delhi (India) in April 1997, alarm was expressed over the increasing incidence of distortion of information and defamation by some mass media instruments of the North. In this regard, Voice Free Asia and Radio Marti were specifically mentioned as instruments of hegemonic powers to destabilise the governments of developing countries. (28)

At the Twelfth NAM Summit held in Durban (South Africa) from 29 August to 3 September 1998, it was recommended that member states should intensify the development of communication technology as a way of reducing existing imbalances between developed and developing states; that member states should promote the effective functioning of the Non-Aligned News Agency Pool (NANAP) and the Broadcasting Organisation of Non-Aligned Countries (BONAC); and that the establishement of the New International Information Centres approved by the Fifth Conference of Ministers of Information of the Non-Aligned Countries (COMINAC V held in Aabuja in September 1996) be accelerated. As at previous summits, NWICO was mentioned again at the Twelfth Summit where developing state leaders "expressed their concern over the undisguised attempts of some countries to eliminate the concept of a new equitable world information and communication order and stressed that the establishment of a new world information and communication order aimed at ensuring impartiality and balance in the information flow, improving the information and communication infrastructure and capacity of developing countries through the transfer of advanced information technology and expanding their access to information is more imperative than ever before, particularly for the maintentance of international peace and security". (29)

The work of the UN regarding information and informatics, particularly the Committee on Information and the Working Group on Informatics, was viewed by NAM member states, China and the G77 as an important arena for developing states to become more actively involved in. Collective self-reliance with regard to information and communication would enhance South-South co-operation, particularly since developing states were aware of the danger of marginalisation due to the strain on developing economies as a consequence of technology acquisitions and the effects of globalisation. It was further stated that the forces of globalisation and liberalisation, as well as increasing interdependence make co-operation vital. The differences between NAM member states regarding development experiences and levels of expertise should not preclude increased and more effective bilateral, sub-regional, regional and inter-regional co-operation among all developing states, not just NAM members. The harmonisation of South-South collec tive co-operation would also facilitate the developing states' position in the current global system. With regard to the development of regional strategies to improve information and communication infrastructures, the Summit applauded the African Connection Report of Africa which flowed from the Telecom '98 Conference, as a yardstick for other developing nations. (30) The efforts by African members of NAM to accelerate their own development regarding information and communication capacities, are therefore viewed as a positive step towards their incorporation into the GIS.

The 1998 NAM Summit once more emphasised the support for NWICO among members of NAM, just as the 1995 Summit demonstrated support for NWICO. It would appear that this support for NWICO may well be carried over into the deliberations of the next NAM Summit. Despite the current continued support for NWICO by member states of NAM, the NWICO debate has lost its place on the wider international agenda and appears only to enjoy support by the weaker section of the international community.

Any attempt on the part of NAM to resurrect the NWICO debate should take the current stance of the US into consideration. The US withdrew from UNESCO during the mid-1980s as a result of its opposition to NWICO. As the US has still to rejoin UNESCO, any perceived negative move on the part of NAM to rekindle this contentious debate within UNESCO would surely put an end to the intentions of the US to rejoin. For this reason it is up to NAM to convince the US and its developed allies in the North that NWICO can be realised through more convivial means.


Issues which are intimately related to international information flows include culture and the influence that such flows from more dominant cultures have on weaker cultures, particularly in developing states; technological and informational transformation; and the role of communication in the enhancement of development.

4.1 The preservation of culture

The post-Cold War international order has given rise to the question of cultural ecology. Ecology in this context refers to the symbolic environment wherein human and technological communication occurs. The cultural ecology paradigm, which co-exists with the GIS paradigm, is viewed by some to be the origin and major determinant of power transformation, as well as a source of future conflict in the post-Cold War world order. A number of issues of concern exist in international relations which impact on cultural ecology, such as alterations in the patterns of human values; the divide between those who have (more) and those who have less; population growth; nonrenewable resources; communication technology; market control; access to labour and financial resources; control of political systems; and opposing public and private interests. Information technology has given rise to increasing interest in the ethical and moral issues associated with the symbolic environment of international relations in which increasing cultural confict has become a feature. A call for a new information ecology where culture is the nucleus has recently been made. (31) Local levels of responses to the global forces that threaten national cultures are necessary since governments are not always effective in their defence of national culture. This can be done through the involvement of communities in alternative radio, television and print media to construct a shared identity. (32)

It has long been believed that religion, politics and economics were the main factors that influenced the future of states. It is now evident, however, that human and social behaviour are deeply rooted in culture and that this is another important factor to consider in international relations. (33) In this regard the call for NWICO came about as a result of a long-standing concern with cultural and information sovereignty that had been on the agenda of NAM since 1955. It is through information and communication technology that cultural values peculiar to some nations are transmitted to other nations. It also enables a single nation to entrench its own values and cultures, provided a wide enough audience is reached (34)

The prospect for cultural domination in the GIS is great since the North, particularly the US, is responsible for the largest output of cultural material which is disseminated globally. These Northern values are based on the ideologies of post-modernism and post-industrialism, which serve to entrench the political, economic and cultural dominance of the developed states.

As early as 1980 the Mac Bride Commission appointed by UNESCO to investigate international information and communication problems, identified cultural domination and the threat to cultural identity as a major impediment in international relations. The Commission was of the opinion that the cultural identity of states, even those with rich and ancient cultures, were threatened by the sheer force of newer cultures leading to cultural impoverishment through assimilation and acculturation. Diversity is the distinguishing characteristic of culture, and for this reason the loss of culture impoverishes the whole world. In order to facilitate the preservation of culture, the Commission recommended the establishment of national policies which would foster cultural identity. (35) The South Commission also addressed the issue of cultural identity and urged governments to adopt cultural development charters which articulate the basic rights of peoples in the field of culture. Cultural policies should stress the right to culture, cultural diversity and the role of the state in preserving and enriching the cultural heritage of society. (36)

Development and cultural identity are inseparable. Education, science and communication are intimately tied to culture and together they facilitate development. Social roots are sustained by culture and education and economic and social development is primarily conditioned by the perception of the world which prevails in any given society. (37) The importance of maintaining cultural diversity in an increasingly interdependent world was one of the primary issues discussed at the First Meeting of NAM Ministers of Culture in Medellin (Colombia) in August 1997. The maintenance of culture may well become the eleventh principle of NAM, according to the Colombian, Dr Jairo Montoya Pedroza, Director-General for Multilateral Organisations. Culture is viewed by NAM member states as a foundation for peace and democracy and is a factor which may protect vulnerable developing states during the process of globalisation. An appreciation of the collective richness of the cultures that emanate from information and communicati on can also promote cultural tolerance in the field of national and international relations. (38)

4.2 Technological and informational transformation

Overwhelming innovations in information technology (IT) over recent years have drastically affected the world economy. Today's information economy is based on information as a commodity. IT has made concrete the concept of the so-called global village. (39) New technologies facilitate the measuring and monitoring of electronic communication and information transactions, which also make information and entertainment available for profit in the service sector. The information economy is thus based on information as a commodity. The term GIS reflects the notion of the service sector particularly with regard to the sale of information. Developing states can only benefit from such innovations. Yet the danger persists that LDCs may be marginalised if they are not able to apply such technologies for their own economic development. (40)

Technological advances have created a new challenge to policymakers and academics because they have changed the established idea of mass media which mainly incorporates film, radio, television and the print media. The GIS incorporates newer concepts to describe the broad spectrum of modern technologies such as cable television (transmission of television signals by coaxial cable enabling more channels than broadcast television), informatics, telematics, telesat-computers, cybernetics (the science of communication and control) and digital technology which establish new conceptual parameters. (41) The characteristics of the GIS include the digitalisation of the different kinds of information - text, numbers, sound and images - and their integration into multimedia information services and products; an increase in computing power with a concomitant reduction in cost; communication satellites with improved capability and accessibility; cheaper optic fibre cable and new wireless technologies; and the increase in c omputer networks, such as the Internet, which enhances the trend towards global linkages and interdependence between individuals worldwide. All these technologies supply inexpensive ways of accessing and disseminating information and are universal in character. (42)

For governments such innovations enable social control (information systems give rise to new forms of social organisation), as well as economic growth because information activities account for increasing shares of the GDP. (43) New technologies also facilitate the so-called global grid or pattern of information highways which enables MNCs and governments of dominant states to extend their international communication, command and control ([C.sup.3]) capabilities. The new technologies also affect the international division of labour since they place dominant MNCs in a position of advantage with regard to the acquisition of cheap labour, raw materials and financing in a shorter period of time than before. (44)

4.3 Implications of new information and communication technologies for developing states

IT is not viewed favourably by structuralists in developing states. In their opinion IT is regarded as a structure of capitalist society - the dominance of the North over the South - which produces new products and services for the profit motive. According to this view, IT is responsible for the commercialisation of culture and the deepening of the divide between North and South since it undermines the South rather than enhancing its advancement. According to this view, the internationalisation of production, distribution and exchange is a direct consequence of the profit motive. This explains the growing privatisation of major telecommunication systems around the globe. (45) IT is deemed to cause a restructuring of global relations which is evident in the growing centralisation of capital in the areas of media, information, hardware and distribution. IT in this sense refers to power relations based on information where those who control the production and dissemination of information, also promote the ideolo gy of the free flow of information and the notion that the market supplies the only answer to the distribution and creation of information and culture. For this reason structuralists condemn the control by developed states over stocks of hardware, skills and decisionmaking. Consequently structuralists condone public control over telecommunications and broadcasting. In their opinon private ownership is synonymous with the ideology of capitalism and the promotion of the norms and values of the owners. Private ownership is also deemed to deprive the dispossessed of access to information. (46) The principle of the free flow of information was one of the main causes of the NWICO debate, with the developed states being in favour and the developing states, many of them NAM members, being opposed to the principle. The NWICO debate was suffused with structuralist ideology which served to protract the North-South conflict and eventually led to the withdrawal of the US and the United Kingdom (UK) from UNESCO, the main f orum in which NWICO was debated. The UK subsequently rejoined UNESCO following the accession to power of Tony Blair's Labour Party.

International tensions could arise due to the unbalanced use and application of information technology. This is already evident inasmuch as the majority of LDCs are dependent on the North for technological innovations and the transfer of such technology. In the GIS, according to the ITU, the technological divide between North and South is in fact widening. (47) Unequal distribution of costs and the benefits of information technology is another area where international tension could arise. Ogura remarks: "In North-South relations, for example, tension might arise in conjunction with the transfer of technology, or so-called brain-transfer. How to mitigate or avoid those tensions should be one of the major topics of discussion in international dialogue about information technology "another emerging consequence is the tendency to reduce raw material input in manufacturing as a result of the miniaturisation of products and computer-isation of quality-control procedures. Such a trend, if it continues for long, may upset the complementary trade patterns between primary goods producers and suppliers of manufactured products". (48)

Prior to the Twelfth NAM Summit, a NAM Ministerial Meeting of the Co-Ordinating Bureau was held in Colombia during May 1998. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs agreed that states of the South should acquire access to and benefit from information technology expansion, especially the cyberspace. It was agreed that Southern states should request preferential and concessional assistance from developed states to improve and facilitate Southern capacity-building and access to information and communication technology. (48)


The realisation of NAM's economic agenda depends on greater self-reliance and co-operation between Southern states. The developed states of the North are no longer in a position to grant unlimited aid to LDCs since economic and social problems in developing states themselves need to be addressed. As stated by US President Bill Clinton during his southern African visit in March 1998, the post-Cold War order is characterised by trade not aid. For this reason endogenous development requires Southern solutions to Southern problems and the collective will to address the issues facing Southern states. Although emphasis is placed on South-South co-operation and self-reliance, an invigourated dialogue with the North is essential owing to the increasing interdependence between states and regional blocs in the new international order. The improvement of economic conditions of Southern states will enable them to improve their information and communication infrastructures and will facilitate their incorporation into the GIS.

The determination of developing states to improve their own information and communication infrastructures is evident in Africa which has traditionally exhibited high levels of underdevelopment in these sectors. The recent attempts by African states to engender endogenous development in these sectors bode well for the future of other LDCs in the South. The ability of NAM member states to foment their own development and to utilise multilateral institutions to realise their aims and objectives with regard to economic development and the improvement of their information and communication infrastructures, will determine the success of NAM's response to the challenges posed by the increasing economic liberalisation and globalisation of the current international order.

Although the entry of Southern states into the GIS is of paramount importance, due consideration should be given to its consequences, particularly on fragile cultures which are susceptible to the influences of more dominant cultures within the GIS. The maintenance and preservation of Southern cultures is vital since national identity and pride are founded upon tradition and culture. Apart from national identity and pride, national cultures also form the foundation of norms and values which entrench social order.

The ability of NAM to press for the reform of the Bretton Woods system in an attempt to restructure the global financial order, may provide an indication of its ability to press for the reform of other UN structures. Simultaneously, this will provide a yardstick for the future role of NAM in the global order. Contrary to the allegation that NAM has served its purpose, it may be expected to remain an influential Southern lobby as long as the developing states share a collective vision regarding the challenges facing the South.

(*.) This article is based on a dissertation submitted in January 1999 for the MA degree in International Politics in the Department of Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts, University of Pretoria, with Prof M Hough as study leader.


(1.) South Centre, Non-Alignment in the 1990s: Contributions to an Economic Agenda, South Centre, Geneva, 1993, p 2.

(2.) Sunday Independent, (Johannesburg), 16 November 1997.

(3.) Sutresna, N S, "A Review of the NAM: Its Historical Origins and Contemporary Relevance", paper presented at a conference organised by the South African Institute of International Affairs on Non-Aligned Against What? South Africa and the Future of the Non-Aligned Movement, Johannesburg, 10 March, 1998.

(4.) South Centre, op cit, p 11.

(5.) Ibid, p 27.

(6.) Ibid, p 28.

(7.) Sutresna, N S, op cit.

(8.) Holsti, K J, The Dividing Discipline: Hegemony and Diversity in International Theory, Allen Unwin, Boston, 1985, pp 65-73.

(9.) Lee, C C, Media Imperialism Reconsidered: The Homogenisation of Culture, Sage, London, 1979, p 27.

(10.) Bauzan, K E and C F Abel, "Dependency, History, Theory and a Reappraisal", in Tetrault, M A and C F Abel (eds), Dependency Theory and the Return of High Politics, Greenwood Press, New York, 1986, p 58.

(11.) Bradbury, M, "What was Post-Modernism ? The Arts in and after the Cold War", International Affairs, Vol 71, No. 4, 1995, p 766.

(12.) South Centre, op cit, p 3.

(13.) Ibid, p9.

(14.) Ibid, pp 4-5, 14-15, 18, 21 and 23.

(15.) 10th Summit Conference of Heads of State or Government of the NAM, Final Document, Jakarta, 1992, pp 67-70.

(16.) South Centre, op cit, pp 25, 36 and 53.

(17.) Pavlic, B and C J Hamelink, The NIEO: Links between Economics and In formation, UNESCO, Paris, 1985, pp 25-27.

(18.) Bennet, A L, International Organisations: Principles and Issues, 4th Edition, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1988, p 248.

(19.) Williams, M, International Economic Organisations and the Third World, Harvester Wheatsheaf, New York, 1994, pp 54-55.

(20.) South Centre, op cit, p 30.

(21.) Sutresna, N S, op cit.

(22.) Facsimile of attendees at the GIIC Forum, Tokyo, October 1998, provided by the GIIC Secretariat.

(23.) Sutresna, N S, op cit.

(24.) Pavlic, B and C J Hamelink, op cit, pp 27-29.

(25.) 10th Summit Conference, op cit, p 68.

(26.) Ibid, p 69.

(27.) 11th Summit Conference of the Heads of State or Government of the NAM, Final Document, Cartagena de Indias, 1995, s.p.

(28.) 12th Ministerial Conference of the NAM, Draft Final Document, New Delhi, 1997, p 82.

(29.) 12th Summit Conference of Heads of State or Government of the NAM, Final Document, Durban, 3 September 1998, pp 91-93.

(30.) Ibid.

(31.) Mowlana, H, "The New Global Orcer and Cultural Ecology", Media, Culture and Society, Vol 15, No 1, January 1993, pp 10 and 23-25.

(32.) Final Statement of the 1993 Mac Bride Round Table on Communication, Seoul, August 1993, p 2. Information drawn from the Internet.

(33.) Roach, C (ed), Information and Culture in War and Peace, Sage, London, 1993, pp 29-30.

(34.) Wa Thiongo, N, "National Identity and Foreign Domination", UNESCO Courier, July 1982, p 20.

(35.) Hamelink, C J, The Politics of World Communication, Sage, London, 1994, p 191.

(36.) South Commission, The Challenge to the South, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990, p 133.

(37.) M'Bow, A M, "The Human Dimension", UNESCO Courier, July 1982, pp 6-8.

(38.) Pedroza, J M, "Pinpointing Successes and Failures: The NAM in the 1990s", paper presented at a conference organised by the South African Institute of International Affairs on Non-Aligned against What? South Africa and the Future of the Non-Aligned Movement, Johannesburg, 10 March, 1998.

(39.) Locksley, G, "Information Technology and Capitalist Development, in Little, R and M Smith, (eds), Perspectives on World Politics, 2nd Edition, Routledge, New York, 1992, p 343.

(40.) South Centre, op cit, p 29.

(41.) Mowlana, H, Global Information and Communication, 2nd Edition, Sage, London, 1997, pp 170 and 174.

(42.) The African Connection Document. The Report of the African Ministers of Communications, May 1998, p 8.

(43.) Mowlana, H, op cit, pp 174 and 226.

(44.) Mosco, V. "Communication and Technology for War and Peace", in Roach, C (ed), op cit, p 43.

(45.) Locksley, G, op cit, pp 340 and 347.

(46.) Ibid. pp 349-350.

(47.) The African Connection Document ..., op cit, p 9.

(48.) Ogura, K, "Information Technologies and International Relations", in Jussawalla, M, Okuma, T and T Araki (eds), In formation Technology and Global Interdependence, Greenwood Press, London, 1998, pp X-XI.

(49.) Ministerial Meeting of the Co-Ordinating Bureau of the NAM, Communique Cartagena de Indias, May 1998, p 56.
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Author:Wiese, Petra
Publication:Strategic Review for Southern Africa
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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