- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Yvonne Yew Seeks Better Understanding of the Non-Aligned Movement in Nuclear Global Order

  • Joseph Leahy
| Winter 2011-2012

Since the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) emerged 50 years ago to counter the dominant power blocs of the Northern Hemisphere, a new global order has taken shape. In her June 2011 discussion paper, “Diplomacy and Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Navigating the Non-Aligned Movement,” Belfer Center fellow Yvonne Yew argues that developing countries now stand at a pivotal moment for nuclear engagement.

While the Obama administration continues to push a cooperative approach to stemming the spread of nuclear weapons, Iran is positioned to become NAM Chair in 2012. Because such an appointment is likely to further complicate nuclear cooperation, Yew argues the importance of understanding that NAM positions do not always cohere to NAM members’ actions.

“A few key actors have played an active role in . . . creating a false perception of homogeneity of the 120 members to outside actors,” writes Yew. “The reality is much more complicated.”

Yew, therefore, calls for the need to “understand why moves to strengthen non-proliferation measures have been opposed by the NAM as unfair, unnecessary, and burdensome to developing countries.”

She explains that the behavior of NAM’s individual members falls into three categories: “leaders,” like South Africa or Egypt, which utilize NAM to assert their stewardship in the developing world; “spoilers,” notably Iran, which seek to promote a divisive, anti-American agenda through NAM’s platform; and “others”—the majority of NAM members—comprised of smaller states with less clout and resources to significantly influence nuclear dialogue.

Yew, a past fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project and current joint fellow with the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom/International Security Program, occupies a unique vantage point for distinguishing the complexity of NAM’s non-proliferation positions. She was Singapore’s representative to the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, where she served on the agency’s Board of Governors from 2004 to 2006. As a former diplomat, she brings a practitioner’s insights into the complex machinations of NAM discussions.

“The differences between the NAM and the Western world frame the nuclear non-proliferation discourse,” she says.

As much of the projected growth in nuclear energy use is expected to take place in the developing world, Yew says, the path taken by key developing countries will play an important role in shaping the future nuclear order.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Leahy, Joseph. Yvonne Yew Seeks Better Understanding of the Non-Aligned Movement in Nuclear Global Order.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Winter 2011-2012).

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