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Bandung Conference

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Bandung Conference

The Cold War was dominated by the rivalry between the USA and USSR, and we often think of the world as divided into East and West with all countries aligned with one or the other. However, a third group of countries sought to remain outside the rivalry.

These countries were the newly independent countries in Asia and Africa. They tried to create cooperation between them at the Bandung Conference of 1955. Learn about the Bandung Conference participants, the Bandung Conference's results, and the Bandung Conference's importance in this article.

Bandung Conference Summary

The Bandung Conference of 1955 was a watershed moment in global relations. It was held from April 18-24, 1955 in the city of Bandung, Indonesia. It was a meeting of Asian and African countries' leaders and is sometimes also called the Asian-African Conference.

The 1955 Bandung Conference helped the countries of Asia and Africa to assert their independence. Let's trace its context, the participants, and significance in this Bandung Conference summary.

Bandung Conference Summary Photograph StudySmarterDelegates meeting at the Bandung Conference of 1955. Source: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Context of the Bandung Conference of 1955

The Bandung Conference of 1955 was held in the context of two important developments in global relations.

First, the Cold War pitted the capitalist USA against the communist Soviet Union in a global struggle for political and economic influence.

Secondly, this time saw a wave of decolonization. Many new states were emerging from European colonial rule in Asia and Africa.

Our peoples have been the voiceless ones in the world...the peoples for whom decisions were made by others ...And today in this hall are gathered together the leaders of those same peoples. They are no longer the victims of colonialism. They are no longer the tools of others and the playthings of forces they cannot influence."1

These countries sought to define their place in the world. In many cases, they felt caught between the emerging super power conflict. The 1955 Bandung Conference arose out of a desire to define themselves as part of neither the two cold war blocs.

Bloc

A group with common interests that cooperates. In international relations, blocs of countries often cooperate economically or diplomatically.

The Global South and the Third World

We often think of the Cold War world as divided into a West led by the United States and an East led by the Soviet Union. This tendency is logical based on the division of Europe.

However, it fails to fully account for countries outside of Europe that do not fit so neatly into this division. These countries are often called the "third world."

Third World

The "first world" was seen as the most developed and prosperous countries of Western Europe and the United States, the "second world" was the countries that were aligned with the Soviet Union, and the "third world" was the rest of the world. After the end of the Cold War, these terms have remained popular as ways to discuss relative economic development. We often use the term third world today to refer to developing or underdeveloped countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Another way of thinking about the world is not divided into east and west or a first, second, and third world, but as a global north south.

This division accounts for the fact that much of the southern hemisphere suffered to some degree under colonialism and imperialism, and their experiences and interests cannot be neatly categorized into the east vs west division.

The Bandung Conference of 1955 was an important moment in defining the third world or global south as a third bloc of countries that sought to cooperate and assert their unique interests.

Bandung Conference Map 1st, 2nd, 3rd worlds Study SmarterMap showing a rough categorization of the US aligned 1st world (blue), USSR aligned 2nd world (red), and the nonaligned 3rd world (green). Source: CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated, Wikimedia Commons

Hint

It can be useful to think about international relations by using groupings of countries like the third world, the global south, the west, and the east. They help us think about broad trends. However, it's important to keep in mind that each country has its own unique situation, dynamics, and interests, and countries we group together may not always necessarily agree with each other.

Bandung Conference Participants

The Bandung Conference was planned and organized by the leaders of Indonesia, Burma (today known as Myanmar), India, Pakistan, and Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka). They invited 30 countries to participate.

Apartheid South Africa was specifically excluded for its racist policies. The Central African Federation (the modern day states of Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) was the only country invited that did not participate, making the total of the Bandung Conference participants 29. Those 29 participants in the Bandung Conference represented over half of the population of the world at the time.

The 29 Bandung Conference participants:

OrganizersBandung Conference Participants from AsiaBandung Conference Participants from Africa
  • Indonesia
  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
  • Afghanistan
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Laos
  • Nepal
  • Philippines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • North and South Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • Gold Coast (at the time still a colony that would soon become the independent Ghana)
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Sudan (at the time under joint Egyptian and British administration, soon to become independent)

Bandung Conference Participants Map StudySmarterMap showing the Bandung Conference participants. Source: w:User:23prootie,CC-BY-SA-2.5 , Wikimedia Commons

Bandung Conference Results

The main concern at the Bandung Conference was these newly independent countries' desire to assert their independence and sovereignty. Many were concerned about continued colonial and imperial pressures from the USA and Western aligned colonial powers like Britain and France.

Sovereignty

A country's ability to govern itself independently.

It was for this reason US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was suspicious of the conference and thought it might be a forum for the further spread of communism, especially since China was a participant. Land reform, national control of natural resources, and other alternative economic models were often seen by US officials through the lens of the Cold War.

However, most of the participants in the Bandung Conference, while not necessarily in favor of traditional Western capitalism, were not necessarily sympathetic to communism either. Some were firmly aligned with the US, and many feared the USSR's overtures to them were just another form of imperialism.

Therefore, the Bandung Conference's results included the condemnation of all forms of imperialism and calling for economic cooperation between the participants to prevent over reliance on either the USA or the USSR.

Bandung Conference of 1955 Declaration

The immediate result of the Bandung Conference of 1955 was a declaration from the Bandung Conference participants. It laid out 10 principles:

  1. Human rights should be respected
  2. Sovereignty and borders of countries should be respected
  3. All races and countries should be treated equally
  4. Countries should not interfere in the internal politics of others
  5. Countries had a right to defense
  6. No country should serve the interests of the more powerful countries or pressure another to act a certain way
  7. No country should threaten another
  8. Disputes between countries should be settled peacefully
  9. Participants agreed to cooperate and promote mutual interests
  10. Countries should respect justice and international obligations

If this Conference succeeds in making the peoples of the East whose representatives are gathered here understand each other a little more, appreciate each other a little more, sympathise with each other’s problems a little more – if those things happen, then this Conference, of course, will have been worthwhile, whatever else it may achieve."2

Influence on Further Cooperation in the Third World

Another of the Bandung Conference's results was the creation of a "spirit of Bandung" that hoped to continue building on the foundations laid at the conference.

In particular, there was hope for further cooperation and collaboration to promote alternative economic, political, and social orders to the Cold War's dichotomy of capitalism vs communism.

The Non-Aligned Movement

The Bandung Conference is often seen as the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement. That interpretation is both true and false.

The Non-Aligned Movement arose separately and included other countries outside of Asia and Africa, such as Yugoslavia, and its origin is better traced to the 1961 Belgrade Conference. Some of the Bandung Conference participants were also aligned with the US or USSR and never joined the Non-Aligned Movement.

Still, one of the Bandung Conference's results was that it was the first time many of the leaders who eventually joined the Non-Aligned Movement had met, including India's Jawaharlal Nehru and Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, who along with Yugoslavia's Tito were important proponents of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Therefore, while the Non-Aligned Movement should not be seen as a direct result of the Bandung Conference, the conference should be seen as an important moment on the way to its creation.

Bandung Conference Participants Photo StudySmarterPhotograph of some of the Bandung Conference's participants, including Nasser and Nehru. Source: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Importance of the Bandung Conference of 1955

The main importance of the Bandung Conference of 1955 was its clear indication that the world was not simply divided into a capitalist west and a communist east, and that the age of imperialism had come to an end.

It allowed for a forum for the newly created states of Asia and Africa to declare that they sought to establish their independence and prosperity free from the domination of either of the superpowers and also promoted cooperation between them for doing so. It also helped to inspire further movements for independence.

Another importance of the Bandung Conference of 1955 is that it laid the foundations for other forms of cooperation such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 (G77), established in 1964. Regional cooperative groups such as the Arab League and African Union can also be seen as being influenced by the "spirit of Bandung."

Importance of the Bandung Conference Stamp StudySmarterA stamp issued in Indonesia for the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference of 1955. Source: Public Domian, Wikimedia Commons.

In 2005, an Asian-African Summit was held in Bandung to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference of 1955. Over 100 nations attended and the summit issued a call for further cooperation, a testament to the importance of the Bandung Conference of 1955 even in more recent times.

The Asian–African Conference must be recognized as an event that encouraged many leaders of developing countries to articulate a vision of global anti-imperialist cooperation beyond their own borders. The Conference was also a trigger for some governments, including those of China, Egypt, and Ghana, to begin to seek both domestic and international legitimacy by portraying themselves as exemplars of a commitment to Third World solidarity."3

The Bandung Conference - Key takeaways

  • The Bandung Conference of 1955 was organized as a way for newly independent countries in Asia and Africa to find ways to cooperate.
  • The Bandung Conference's participants consisted of 29 countries.
  • The Bandung Conference's results included a declaration of 10 principles that called for respect for human rights, independence and sovereignty, and cooperation between the participating countries.
  • Part of the Bandung Conference's importance was its promotion of further cooperation between countries in the global south such as the Non-Aligned Movement.

References

  1. Sukarno. Speech at the Opening of the Bandung Conference, 1955
  2. Sukarno. Speech at the Opening of the Bandung Conference, 1955
  3. Kyle Haddad-Fonda, The Asian-African (Bandung) Conference: Fact and Fiction, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Bandung Conference

The Bandung Conference was successful in creating a framework for the third world to cooperate.

The main purpose of the 1955 Bandung Conference was to allow new independent states in Asia and Africa to find ways to cooperate and promote their national sovereignty.

29 countries joined the Bandung Conference.

The Bandung Conference was a meeting in 1955 between the leaders of 29 countries in Asia and Africa.

The significance of the Bandung Conference was that it established a framework for cooperation between the countries of the Third World outside the Cold War rivalry between the US and USSR.

Final Bandung Conference Quiz

Question

What year was the Bandung Conference?

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Answer

1955

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Question

Where was the Bandung Conference held?

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Answer

In the city of Bandung in Indonesia

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Question

How many countries attended the Bandung Conference?

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Answer

29

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Question

The Bandung Conference brought together countries from what two continents?

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Answer

Asia and Africa

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Question

Why did the US not like the Bandung Conference?

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Answer

They worried it would help spread communism.

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Question

What were the immediate results of the Bandung Conference?

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Answer

A declaration calling for the respect of national sovereignty, equality, and increased cooperation.

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Question

What later movement did the Bandung Conference influence?

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Answer

The Non-Aligned Movement

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Why was South Africa excluded from the Bandung Conference?

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Answer

Because of its racist policy of Apartheid.

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Question

Which 5 countries organized the Bandung Conference?

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Answer

Indonesia, Burma (or Myanmar), India, Pakistan, and Ceylon (or Sri Lanka)

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Question

Which two leaders who became important in the Non-Aligned Movement met for the first time at the Bandung Conference?

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Answer

Nehru and Nasser

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