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Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (centre) addresses the media on Oct 23 in Baku, Azerbaijan, ahead of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attendance at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit today. Also present is Malaysian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Datuk Yubazlan Yusof (3rd-right). - Bernama

Since the start of the new millennium, peace has been very much elusive for the world.

Conflicts are aplenty — Islamophobia, terrorism, the global refugee crisis. Additionally, new threats have emerged. Even in peaceful societies, there are threats of polarisation and sectarianism.

Just take a look at some reported numbers — about 10,000 people have died in major wars in the current or past year, and between 100 and 999 deaths are caused by minor conflicts, skirmishes and clashes. Some of the conflicts have been going on for decades.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine, for instance, is the longest running conflict. The United Nations (UN), as the premier conflict negotiator, founded in 1945, has categorically failed to resolve the conflict. In July, the UN under-secretary-general had warned the Security Council that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “locked in a dangerous paralysis”, and tangible steps are needed to reverse a negative trajectory.

The UN, in a way, does not have the ability to protect a diverse international community. The end of the Cold War saw the need for a different organisation, a neutral movement that sought peace through dialogue.

Enter the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), founded in 1956 — a forum of 120 developing member countries that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. After the UN, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now upon us, but the international community is still facing wars, conflicts and skirmishes, among them in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Clearly, the UN needs others to back it up, especially as the United States under President Trump sees it as a burden. Can NAM take up the challenge?

The 18th NAM Summit is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan. This Leader, which is written in Baku, hopes that Azerbaijan, assuming the chairmanship of NAM, can enhance its reputation on the global stage.

A senior official from the country's foreign policy department reportedly said international peace and security are priority issues to be debated during the summit. NAM may just be what the world needs. People still need to be saved, not just from wars, but from famine, climate change, computer hacking and a host of new problems.

Historically, NAM had its origins in the Bandung Conference in 1955. It was inspired by three world leaders: Nehru of India, Tito of Yugoslavia and Nasser of Egypt.

Bandung formulated the concept of non-alignment based on the Third World desire not to get involved in the ideological confrontation of the Cold War, and to focus instead on national independence struggles, the alleviation of poverty and economic development.

These principles were adopted at the founding summit in Belgrade in 1961.

The importance of NAM should not be downplayed. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is arriving later today, had said in 2003, when Malaysia chaired the summit, that NAM, “which embodies our hopes and aspirations for economic prosperity in a peaceful, secure and just world, has become even more relevant today to protect and promote the interests of the South”.

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