Nonaligned nations focus on financial meltdown

"We demand the establishment of a new international financial and economic structure," said Cuban President Raul Castro.

Nazar Obaid Madani 88 248 (photo credit: )
Nazar Obaid Madani 88 248
(photo credit: )
Cuban President Raul Castro on Wednesday called for an international financial system that better takes into account developing countries' interests, as the global recession captured the spotlight at a summit of nonaligned nations. His remarks at the opening session of the two-day Non-Aligned Movement's meeting in this Red Sea resort were echoed by other leaders and build on earlier discussions among officials from the 118-nation grouping of mostly of African, Asian and Latin American nations. "We demand the establishment of a new international financial and economic structure that relies on the participation of all countries," Castro said, ahead of handing over the movement's presidency to Egypt. "There must be a new framework that doesn't depend solely on the economic stability and the political decision of only one country," he said, apparently referring to the United States. The new system must give developing countries "preferential treatment," said Castro. As the global meltdown roiled world markets, erasing trillions in dollars in individual, corporate and government wealth, calls have mounted for greater market regulation and a shift from the use of the dollar as the main foreign-reserve currency. Developing nations have argued that their growth and stability is being undercut by a crisis in which they had no part in creating. "This crisis, the worst in living memory, emanated from the advanced industrial economies, but the developing economies, the members of our movement, have been the hardest hit," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "The economic crisis has revealed the need to improve the international financial architecture, so we may see the developing world and emerging powers gain more of a say in that realm." The call by Castro, whose country has been under US sanctions for decades, followed similar demands by the movement's foreign ministers and senior officials who emphasized that joint action was needed to ward off the global meltdown's impact. The summit's draft declaration also calls for the group to work more closely with China - attending the summit as an observer - to have their voices heard at international financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The movement - born in the 1950s as a group of nations allied neither with the US nor the Soviet Union - has lost much of its relevance with the end of the Cold War. Over the past two decades, it has become a forum in which developing nations meet to complain. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in his address, recognized the "challenge" facing the movement's founding principles, saying the group must work closely with developed nations to address the world's biggest problems, such as terrorism and financial instability. But some of the group's members, including India and Saudi Arabia, have gained considerable economic clout, and that influence has not been lost on the West. As the movement's members met in Egypt for their 15th gathering, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was in the United Arab Emirates on the second leg of a Mideast visit during which he stressed the need for joint effort to rebuild a more stable global economic foundation. Geithner's trip, which began in OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia, was a clear reflection of the growing financial strength of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. As a whole, that bloc is the US's second biggest creditor after China.