Africa Notes: The Nonaligned Summit: Behind the Rhetoric - October 1986
October 25, 1986
The easy story to file from Zimbabwe on the September 1-7 summit marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Nonaligned Movement was that it was a gathering "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." But viewed in historical perspective, and measured in terms of what might have happened that didn't, the 1986 heads-of-state gathering emerges as a more noteworthy event.
Such an assessment is based on a critical judgmental assumption - that the interminable speeches, the grandstanding, the squabbling, and the Washington-bashing were traditional rites only marginally related to the meeting's bottom-line substance. On several important matters, including southern Africa and disarmament, the summit hammered out a common approach. Divisive issues that had stalled previous summits (especially Afghanistan and Kampuchea), while not resolved, were set aside on an "agree-to-disagree" basis, leaving time for those issues on which accord was possible. A perceived drift by the Nonaligned Movement toward the Soviet Union, already partially reversed at the last summit in 1983 in New Delhi, was further arrested under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's chairmanship. And if American officials observing the proceedings went away unhappy with the large number of denunciations of U.S. policy in the summit declarations, Moscow must also have been disappointed by its poor record in getting wording praising Soviet policy adopted, issues it disliked avoided, and its favored candidates named as sites for upcoming Nonaligned Movement events.