Representing an opportunity to portray a fresh image to the world, Tehran hosted the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in August 2012, which was attended by representatives from 120 countries. With 27 presidents, two kings, and seven prime ministers participating, the event addressed the most pressing issues of the epoch, positioning Iran as a platform for international dialogue and helping to reassert the movement's influence on the world's stage. Iran, Chair of NAM from 2012 to 2015, concluded the event with a call for peace and a proposal for a ceasefire in Syria.
More than 7,000 people and 1,600 journalists or other press affiliates were involved in the 16th event held in Iran, marking the most media attention the country has received in decades. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the two-day summit and met with both Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Other high-profile figures included Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who took with him a group of leading Indian businessmen seeking to cement new trade arrangements with their Iranian counterparts. The presence of Mohamed Morsi, the first Egyptian president to visit Tehran since the 1979 Revolution, marked another landmark of the summit.
The presence of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain—all of whom have differing opinions on various questions—underscored the essence of NAM providing an influential forum for disparate voices to address the world's challenges.
Each summit consists of three main events, one of which is a Senior Officials Meeting. Held on the first two days of the conference in 2012, the Senior Officials Meeting saw Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh, outline the main points of the agenda, including rejecting all forms of terrorism, ending the occupation of Palestine by Israel, requesting the restriction of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear disarmament, condemning unilateral sanctions, and replacing the unipolar management of international politics with collective management. In addition, the committee voiced its desire to keep the Middle East free from nuclear weapons, but emphasized the inalienable rights of all NAM member states to make peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdullahian, made international headlines during the summit by putting forward a decisive plan for Syria. “Iran's proposal to the meeting of members of the Non-Aligned Movement to solve the Syria issue is to recommend a ceasefire and the implementation of national reconciliation talks in the country," he said.
The event ended with a message of peace from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “The important political message from NAM to the international community is the message of friendship and peace, and its readiness to tackle global challenges," he said to the 120 member nations.
All NAM members expressed support for Iran's right to pursue nuclear energy and ratified a statement calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners, rejecting unilateral sanctions, and naming Venezuela as the next NAM chair in 2015.
Founded in 1961, NAM was created by countries advocating a so-called “middle course" for states between the Western and Eastern blocs of the Cold War. The countries of NAM represent nearly two-thirds of UN member states and contain 55% of the world's population. Since 1961, these nations have worked to follow the guidelines implemented by the UN, while simultaneously supporting efforts to avoid intervention and conflict. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, NAM's influence waned. The 16th Summit in Tehran, however, has reestablished the Movement's influence, particularly in the context of shifting regional sands.
“The deficit in global governance is perhaps most stark in the sphere of international peace and security and in restoring just and fair economic and financial mechanisms," said Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India. “Our movement should take the lead in building global governance structures that are representative, credible, and effective. I am certain that our deliberations will be helpful in restoring this historic movement to its rightful place on the international stage."