Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser were the three main forces behind the organization’s creation. Kwame Nkrumah, the Marxist pan-African leader of Ghana, and Ahmed Sukarno, the leader of Indonesia, would also put their weight behind the NAM and join Tito, Nehru, and Nasser. These leaders and their countries did not view the Cold War as an ideological struggle. This was a smokescreen. The Cold War was a power struggle from their perspectives and ideology was merely used as a justification.

(here in  Portuguese)

The word “non-alignment” was first used on the world stage by Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon, India’s ambassador to the United Nations, while the term “Third World” was first used by the French scholar Alfred Sauvy. Third World is a debated political term and some find it both deregulatory and ethnocentric. To the point of confusion the phrase Third World is inextricably intertwined with the concept of non-alignment and the NAM.
Both the NAM and, especially, Third World are wrongly and carelessly used as synonyms for the Developing and Under-developing Worlds or as economic indicators. Most Third World countries were underprivileged former colonies or less affluent states in places like Africa and Latin America that were the victims of imperialism and exploitation. This has led to the general identification or misidentification of the NAM countries and the Third World with concepts of poverty. This is wrong and not what either of the terms means.
Third World was a concept that developed during the Cold War period to distinguish those countries that were not formally a part of the First World that was formed by the Western Bloc and either the Eastern/Soviet Bloc and Communist World that formed the Second World. In theory most these Third Worlders were neutral and joining the NAM was a formal expression of this position of non-alignment.

Aside from being considered Second Worlders, communist states like the People’s Republic of China and Cuba have widely been classified as parts of the Third World and have considered themselves as parts of the third global force. Chairman Mao’s views defined through his concept of Three Worlds also supported the classification of communist states like Angola, China, Cuba, and Mozambique as Third Worlders, because they did not belong to the Soviet Bloc like Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.

In the most orthodox of interpretations of the political meaning of Third World, the communist state of Yugoslavia was a part of the Third World. In the same context, Iran due to its ties to NATO and its membership in the US-controlled Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was politically a part of the First World until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Thus, reference to Yugoslavia as a Second World country and Iran as a Third World country prior to 1979 are incorrect.

The term Third World has also given rise to the phrase “Global South.” This name is based on the geographically southward situation of the Third World on the map as opposed to the geographically northward situation of the First and Second Worlds, which both began to collectively be called the “Global North.” The names Global North and Global South came to slowly replace the terms First, Second, and Third World, especially since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed.

The NAM formed when the Third Worlders who were caught between the Atlanticists and the Soviets during the Cold War tried to formalize their third way or force. The NAM would be born after the Bandung Conference in 1955, which infuriated the US and Western Bloc who saw it as a sin against their global interests.

Contrarily to Western Bloc views, the Soviet Union was much more predisposed to accepting the NAM. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev even proposed in 1960 that the UN be managed by a “troika” composed of the First, Second, and Third Worlds instead of its Western-influenced secretariat in New York City that was colluding with the US to remove Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba from power in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as other independent world leaders.

Fidel Castro and Cuba, which hosted the NAM’s summit in 1979 when Iran joined as its eighty-eighth member, would actually argue that the Second World and communist movements were the “natural allies” of the Third World and the NAM. The favorable attitudes of Nasser and Nehru towards the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc’s support for various national liberation movements also lends credence towards the Cuban argument about the Second and Third World alliance against the capitalist exploitation and imperialist policies of the First World.

The first NAM summit would be held in the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade in 1961 under the chairmanship of Marshall Tito. The summit in Belgrade would call for an end to all empires and colonization. Tito, Nehru, Nasser, Nkrumah, Sukarno and other NAM leaders would demand that Western Europeans end their colonial roles in Africa and let African peoples decide their own fates.

A preparatory conference was also held a few months earlier in Cairo by Gamal Abdel Nasser. At the preparatory meetings non-alignment was defined by five points:

(1) Non-aligned countries must follow an independent policy of co-existence of nations with varied political and social systems;

(2) Non-aligned countries must be consistent in their support for national independence;

(3) Non-aligned countries must not belong to a multilateral alliance concluded in the context of superpower or big power politics;

(4) If non-aligned countries have bilateral agreement with big powers or belonged to a regional defense pact, these agreements should not have been concluded in context of the Cold War;

(5) If non-aligned states cede military bases to a big power, these bases should not be granted in the context of the Cold War.

All the NAM conferences to follow would cover vital issues in the years to come that ranged from the inclusion of the People’s Republic of China in the UN, the fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, African wars of independence against Western European countries, opposition to apartheid and racism, and nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, the NAM has traditionally been hostile to Zionism and condemned the occupation of Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Egyptian territories by Israel, which has earned it the seamlessly never-ending aversion of Tel Aviv.