Sharm El-Sheik: A summit of the Non-Aligned Movement opened at this Egyptian Red Sea resort town Wednesday with a call from Cuban President Raul Castro for a new international financial system to shield developing nations from the global recession.
Castro was addressing the opening session of the movement’s two-day summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, the 15th such gathering since the group was founded in the 1950s.
“We demand the establishment of a new international financial and economic structure that relies on the participation of all countries,” Castro said. “There must be a new framework that doesn’t depend solely on the economic stability and the political decision of only one country,” the Cuban leader said, apparently referring to the United States.
The new system, he said, must give developing countries “preferential treatment.” He did not elaborate.
Castro later handed the movement’s presidency over to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose country will head the group for the next three years. Egypt, India and the former Yugoslavia are the movement’s founding members.
The 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement was born during the Cold War more than five decades ago as a group of countries that is neither allied with the US-led camp or the Soviet bloc. A middle course, they argued then, was in their best interest.
However, the movement has lost much of its relevance when the Cold War ended nearly two decades ago. Made up mostly of African, Asian and Latin American nations, it has since become primarily an international speaking forum for developing nations.
Castro’s call for a new world financial system follows up on a similar demand by foreign ministers and senior officials from the movement who warned after four days of meetings here that the global financial crisis will adversely affect their developing nations the most. Joint action, they said, was needed to ward off its impact.
The summit’s draft declaration also calls for the group to coordinate with China — attending the summit as an observer — to have their voices heard at international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The prime ministers of nuclear powers Pakistan and India, meanwhile, were expected to meet on the sidelines of the summit in what would be one of the conference’s highlights. The two leaders met in Russia last month for the first time since the Mumbai terror attacks last year, but they made little headway in defusing the tension in their relations.
India blamed Pakistan-trained militants for the attacks, which killed 166 people.