The Nassau Accord 1985

The Commonwealth of Nations was formalized by The London Declaration of 1949. It is an organization of fifty-three member states who represent every continent, cover almost a quarter of the world land area, and which have one third of the world’s population.  Most of the member states had been colonies of the former British Empire. 

From October 16th - 22nd 1985, the 8th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was held at Lyford Cay, Nassau, The Bahamas. The Meeting was hosted by the Rt. Hon. Sir Lynden Pindling, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, who was also the Chairman of the Meeting. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Head of The Commonwealth, was in attendance, along with representatives of forty-five heads of government.

With all eyes on Nassau, The Bahamas sparkled in the rays of international spotlight and scrutiny. Against the background of impeccable arrangements and flawless execution, The Bahamas lived up to its international reputation as a destination renowned for its beauty and hospitality.

Against this idyllic background, CHOGM dealt with several major pressing international issues, of which the one that engaged most of the Meeting’s attention was the continuing system of Apartheid in South Africa.

In a lecture at the College of The Bahamas, Sir Lynden described Apartheid thus:

“Apartheid is the Afrikaans word for separateness. The elements which apartheid shares with segregation are but the tip of the iceberg. Beneath them lie a carefully developed network of hundreds of laws systematically refined to guarantee white supremacy. These laws govern marriage and sexual intercourse, the ownership of land and where to live, the freedom of movement and where to work, the right to political expression and the right to vote, the level of education and the right to collective bargaining…” (Michael Craton…)

The repressive system had been met with economic sanctions against South Africa by many nations around the world.  These did not include the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was in attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and powerful spokesman for those opposed to economic sanctions.

Against this background, Sir Lynden’s eloquence, passion and astute diplomatic skills (ably supported by Secretary General Shridath Ramphal), succeeded in persuading the majority of heads of senior Commonwealth members (including Australia, New Zealand and Canada), to support the position taken by the great majority of Commonwealth members. Sir Lynden is credited with having played the pivotal role in producing the almost unanimous statement by the Commonwealth, in favour of sanctions against South Africa.

The Commonwealth Agreement on South Africa, also known as The Nassau Accord, was signed on October 20th, 1985, at Lyford Cay, Nassau, The Bahamas. It opened with the following declaration:

We consider that South Africa’s continuing refusal to dismantle apartheid, its illegal occupation of Namibia, and its aggression against its neighbours constitute a serious challenge to the value and principles of the Commonwealth, a challenge which Commonwealth countries cannot ignore”.

Sir Lynden Pindling was appointed to the Eminent Persons Group, which was established by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The EPG visited South Africa in 1986 and reported on the situation there, reinforcing the call for sanctions against South Africa.

The economic sanctions against South Africa articulated in the Nassau Accord set off a chain of events that would eventually lead to the abolition of apartheid and the first democratic general elections in South Africa in 1994. On February 11, 1990, South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and on his first trip abroad, visited The Bahamas, to thank Sir Lynden for the critical role that he had played in the process.

The Nassau Accord was the culmination and confluence of the best that our Nation stood for. Into the fray of international politics, strode a giant from a small nation, embodying Excellence, Vision, Credibility, Courage and Focus. The seminal role of Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling in achieving The Nassau Accord, took The Bahamas to global prominence, recalling the spirit of The Bahamas as reflected in the words of our national anthem:

Lift up your head to the rising sun, Bahamaland;
March on to glory your bright banners waving high.
See how the world marks the manner of your bearing!
Pledge to excel through love and unity.

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas proudly recognizes and commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of the Nassau Accord and the role played by Sir Lynden O. Pindling in achieving this important milestone in world history.

Media contact: Nikia Deveaux | Bahamas Ministry of Tourism | nhdeveaux@bahamas.com | (242) 422-6858