"You may rely on my complete cooperation in your efforts to achieve the goals set for you by the General Assembly", Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali told the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples this morning, as the Committee opened its 1996 session.
In a statement read out on his behalf by Under-Secretary-General Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, the Secretary-General praised the Committee and said that its successes since 1961 had changed the international landscape. In view of the recent aggravation of the financial crisis, he stressed the importance of cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers and of regular contacts between the Committee and the representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
The Committee decided to maintain the working group and the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance. It also decided that the working group should continue to study ways and means of expediting the Committee's mandate. It decided to postpone for further consideration when the Committee as a whole and the working group would hold their meetings.
The Committee elected Alimany Pallo Bangura (Sierra Leone) as Chairman, Bruno E. Rodríguez Parrilla (Cuba) and Utula Utuoc Samana (Papua New Guinea) as Vice-Chairmen, and Farouk Al-Attar (Syria) as Rapporteur. Mr. Samana was appointed Chairman of the Subcommittee. Pending final approval from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, it postponed appointing Rosyln Lauren Khan-Cummings as Vice-Chairman/Rapporteur of the Subcommittee.
On the subject of East Timor, the representative of Indonesia said that for many years the Committee had been dealing with a non-issue that should never have been before the Committee in the first place. Consideration of that item could undermine the ongoing talks being held under the auspices of the Secretary-General.
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The representative of Portugal said the situation created by Indonesia in East Timor had not been recognized by the United Nations. The Committee had a very clear mandate on the matter, and it should continue to fulfil that mandate until the situation was successfully resolved.
Statements were also made by the representatives of China, Cuba, India, Iran, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tunisia.
Committee Work Programme
The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this morning to elect its officers and consider its organization of work.
The Committee had before it a note from its Chairman (document A/AC.109/L.1841) which takes up subsidiary bodies, the allocation of items, the order of priority, recommendations of the Committee to the Assembly, and utilization of conference-servicing resources. The Chairman suggests that the Special Committee maintain the working group as a steering committee, as well as the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance. Annexed to the note is a list of matters pending for consideration by the Special Committee. They include East Timor, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, New Caledonia, and Western Sahara. The Committee may also consider items on: Puerto Rico; American Samoa; the activities of foreign economic and other interests which impede implementation of the Declaration; military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration; and implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies and the international institutions.
Among the questions to be considered by the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.
Also before the Committee is a note by the Secretary-General on the relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly (document A/AC.109/L.1840). It recalls that the Special Committee was established in 1961 pursuant to General Assembly resolution 1654 (XVI). The Committee was requested to examine the application of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and to make suggestions and recommendations on the progress and extent of the implementation of the Declaration.
At its forty-third session in 1988, the General Assembly declared the period 1990-2000 the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. In 1991, the Assembly adopted as a Plan of Action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism the proposals contained in the annex to the report of the Secretary-General, dated 13 December 1991 (document A/46/634/Rev.1). The Plan, among other things, provided that the Special Committee should: prepare periodic analyses of the progress and extent of the implementation of the Declaration; review the impact of the economic and social situation on the constitutional and political advancement of Non-Self-Governing Territories; and, in order to review progress, organize
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during the Decade seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, alternately, as well as at United Nations Headquarters.
During its fiftieth session, the Assembly requested the Special Committee to continue to seek the immediate and full implementation of the Declaration and to carry out the actions approved by the Assembly regarding the International Decade. In particular, the Special Committee was asked to: make proposals for the elimination of the remaining manifestations of colonialism; continue to examine the implementation by Member States of resolutions on decolonization; continue to pay special attention to the small Territories, in particular through the dispatch of regular visiting missions; recommend steps to enable those Territories to exercise their right to self-determination and independence; and enlist world-wide support for the achievement of the objectives of the Declaration.
As at 1 January 1996, the Special Committee was composed of the following 23 members: Afghanistan, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. (The Government of Bulgaria decided to withdraw from the membership in the Special Committee as from 1 August 1995.)
Statement by Secretary-General
CHINMAYA R. GHAREKHAN, Special Political Adviser to Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, declared open the 1996 session of the Special Committee on decolonization, and said that in the wake of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations and the thirty-fifth anniversary since the inception of the Special Committee, the Committee's endeavours served as a reminder that the task of decolonization was not yet at an end.
Due to its untiring efforts, its successes had changed the international landscape, he continued. It was due to the Special Committee that many Member States had joined the United Nations. The unswerving devotion and relentless efforts of the Committee to ensure that the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories exercised their right to self-determination stood as a beacon of hope for the peoples of those Territories.
He said despite the immense and daunting task embodied in Chapter XI of the Charter and in General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1541 (XV), the Special Committee, at a time of increasing difficulty for the United Nations, had made an important contribution to the field of decolonization. There remained some 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, all of which enjoyed the right to self-determination, with options that included independence, free association with another State or integrating with another State.
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Not all were in the same category, he said. The great majority were small island Territories which suffered from various handicaps, including limited size, remoteness, vulnerability to natural disasters, lack of natural resources, as well as migration of skilled personnel. In recognition of that fact, the General Assembly had asked the Special Committee to pay particular attention to the small Territories in order to promote political, economic and social conditions conducive to the exercise of their right to self- determination.
It was of vital importance, he continued, that there be constructive cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers and regular contacts between the Special Committee and the representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in order to accelerate the process of self- determination. In that way, the Special Committee could keep itself informed of the situation in the Territories and work with administering Powers in a spirit of cooperation to achieve the goal of eradicating colonialism by the year 2000. He urged all concerned, including the specialized agencies and institutions of the United Nations and various regional organizations, to provide all necessary assistance to those Territories. He called particular attention to the need for the support from all concerned for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in the execution of its mandate with regard to Western Sahara, the largest territory that remained on the Special Committee's agenda. Such support would be essential in order to overcome existing obstacles to the holding of a free and fair referendum in the territory.
He noted that, in 1995, the Special Committee had demonstrated a practical and flexible approach to its work. He regretted that the recent aggravation of the financial crisis obliged him to urge the members of the Special Committee to exercise maximum restraint and economy in use of its resources. In conclusion, he assured the Committee that he attached great importance to its work. "You may rely on my complete cooperation in your efforts to achieve the goals set for you by the General Assembly", he said.
ALIMANY PALLO BANGURA (Sierra Leone), Chairman of the Committee, said there were still 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, and many of them were small islands which suffered handicaps arising from the interplay of such factors as size, remoteness, geographical dispersion, vulnerability to natural disaster, lack of natural resources, and migration, particularly of people with high-level skills. As long as there were such territories, the Committee's task remained unfinished, and the era of colonialism was not over.
The Committee, he said, would continue to hear petitioners, assist in the dissemination of information on decolonization, and make fruitful suggestions to the General Assembly and the Security Council regarding the
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implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The decolonization process would be enhanced if the Committee were to receive the full cooperation of the administering Powers concerned.
It would be in conformity with their responsibilities under the United Nations Charter for the administering Powers to submit regular and timely information on the Territories under their administration and to invite missions to visit those Territories and evaluate the situation, he said. Regular contacts and consultation between the Committee and the permanent missions of the administering Powers in New York would further expedite the work of decolonization. In view of the United Nations target to eradicate colonialism by the year 2000, he urged the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system to formulate, in collaboration with the regional organizations, programmes to promote sufficient economic and social development so that the peoples of the Territories would be able to determine their political status.
OLEG N. CHTCHERBAK (Russian Federation) made two proposals regarding the Committee's organization of work. First, he suggested holding an open-ended meeting of the working group of the Committee, so as to have a wide-ranging discussion of the modalities of the Committee's work and as a way of responding to the financial situation of the Organization. To that end, he also urged that the Secretariat, in conjunction with the Department of Administration and Management, propose to the Committee how it could possibly save resources.
Further, he suggested that, instead of the summer session that had been proposed, the Committee meet in May. That would make it possible to prepare a better report and allow the Member States to prepare their own proposals regarding the report. It would also make it possible to avoid the differences that had arisen in the past. In addition, a summer session would be difficult for the smaller delegations in particular, since normally they left New York in the summer.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said that, for many years, the Committee had been dealing with a non-issue that should never have been before the Committee in the first place. Consideration of that item -- the question of East Timor -- did not contribute to the ongoing tripartite dialogue being held under the auspices of the Secretary-General, and such consideration could undermine those talks. Among the items under consideration were the preservation of the cultural identity of the East Timor people and bilateral relations between Indonesia and Portugal. Indonesia objected to the inclusion of the item on the agenda.
IVAN RAUL NUÑEZ LOPEZ (Cuba) said the work of the Committee must continue. In recent times, there had been an emergence of ideas, in terms of
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restructuring the United Nations, that would strip away some of the importance of the Committee, despite the fact that a great deal of work still needed to be done. There were territories where the feeling for independence was still alive, as in the case of Puerto Rico. The establishment of military bases and military activities there by the administering Power should continue to be examined.
So long as there were people calling for the exercise of their right to independence and as long as there was one petitioner that wanted to be heard by the Committee, there was a need for the Committee to exist, he continued. Accordingly, there should be an increase of resources made available to the Committee. He would prefer to keep the sessions to hear petitioners in August. The Committee should keep intact the number of meetings, as well as the resources provided by the Secretariat.
ANTONIO NORONHA GAMITO (Portugal) said East Timor was a Non-Self- Governing Territory established by the General Assembly and had always been inscribed on the Committee's agenda. Each year, the Secretary-General requested Portugal to supply information on that Territory, a request that Portugal complied with as administering Power, despite the fact that it was hampered in fulfilling that obligation. The Assembly had not taken any decision that would lead the Committee not to inscribe the item on its agenda.
The decolonization of East Timor had not been completed, he said. He did not support altering the framework in which the question would be considered. His Government was committed to the ongoing efforts of the Special Committee in that matter, as well as those of the Secretary-General.
UTULA UTUOC SAMANA (Papua New Guinea) said that, given the mounting financial pressures on the United Nations, the work of the Committee was particularly crucial. In the interest of economizing and reorganizing, the United Nations must not undermine the integrity of its mandate and its responsibility to redeem the sacred trust of the peoples who looked to the Organization to serve their interests and their rights. To economize, the Committee could consider the possibility of integrating the work of the Committee and the Subcommittee on Small Territories. In addition, it should look at the list of the Territories under consideration and seriously consider whether it was going to be possible to meet the targets of the Declaration by the year 2000.
Mr. JENIE (Indonesia) said the representative of Portugal had failed to take note of the history surrounding East Timor. Portugal had abandoned East Timor, thereby utterly mishandling the decolonization process and relinquishing its responsibility as administering Power. The people of East Timor had achieved independence through integration with the people of Indonesia.
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Mr. GAMITO (Portugal) said now was not the place or time to get into polemics on the question of East Timor. He thanked the representative of Indonesia for teaching him history. The situation created by Indonesia in East Timor had not been recognized by the United Nations. The Committee had a very clear mandate on the matter, as did the Secretary-General, which was why the negotiations were ongoing. The Committee should continue to fulfil its mandate until the situation was successfully resolved.
FAROUK AL-ATTAR (Syria) said the work of the Committee must continue until it attained the goal of complete decolonization, an event which would be a great achievement for the United Nations. He hoped that the Committee would make important strides forward.
Mr. JENIE (Indonesia) said the last time the General Assembly had voted on the question of East Timor was in 1982. Proposed by Portugal, the resolution had not been supported by 90 members of the Assembly. The issue had first been brought before the Assembly in 1975, at which time the Assembly had adopted a resolution critical of Indonesia. The change in voting showed the increased understanding of the Member States regarding the question of East Timor.
Mr. GAMITO (Portugal) said the Committee should remain aware of the fact that there were several resolutions relevant to the question of East Timor. The Committee and the Secretary- General had specific mandates regarding East Timor.
JAMAL SAMADI (Iran) said the time of the meetings should be kept in tune with the needs of the petitioners. All of the aspects of the matter should be considered.
RENGARAJ VISWANATHAN (India) said that in 1995 the Committee had demonstrated a new approach in rationalizing its work, and that approach had inspired signs of a positive attitude on the part of some of the administering Powers. He wished to build on those positive signals, and to build on what had been learned regarding the nuances of drafting resolutions.
It was also important, he continued, to prioritize and take into consideration the differing situations and levels of development in the Territories. The new realities of decolonization and the United Nations financial situation should also be taken into consideration. At the same time, "economy" should not become a code word for undermining the effective implementation of the mandate of the Committee. It was a good time to do a mid-term review of the Decade of Decolonization. Over the last five years, appreciable progress had not been made. That fact needed to be reviewed in light of the goal to reach the twenty-first century free of colonialism.
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He said he had no problem with the Russian Federation's proposal for the Committee to hold its session in the spring, rather than the summer, but Cuba's point that summer might be a better time for petitioners to come to the United Nations should be taken into consideration. Given the importance of hearing from the petitioners, their convenience should be given full consideration.
YAO YUHUA (China) said her Government would continue to support the work of the Committee, so that by the twentieth century decolonization would be achieved.
Mr. CHTCHERBAK (Russian Federation) said he had suggested that the Committee sessions be held earlier in order to enhance the effectiveness of its work. There would be gap between the sessions of the Committee and that of the Special Political Committee, making it possible for the latter to study the Committee on decolonization's proposals at greater depth. That would contribute to successfully implementing the mandate of the Special Committee.
He said that last year the lack of time had contributed to the Committee's problem. Budgetary aspects should also be borne in mind. Regarding the question of petitioners, he said petitioners came to the sessions at whatever time the Committee met. He could be flexible about the date and would agree that the petitioners be heard in June. However, he could not agree to meetings in August.
EL WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia) said he agreed with the proposal that the Subcommittee on Small Territories and the Special Committee be merged, so that their meetings could be brought together in terms of time. Perhaps, the members could work the matter out in informal meetings so that the Special Committee could work more efficiently and effectively.
The CHAIRMAN proposed further consideration of the proposal to integrate the Subcommittee into the main Committee. It was so decided. He said that it had been agreed that Mr. Samana (Papua New Guinea) and Rosyln Lauren Khan- Cummings (Trinidad and Tobago) should serve as Chairman and Vice- Chairman/Rapporteur of the Subcommittee.
ROSYLN LAUREN KHAN-CUMMINGS (Trinidad and Tobago) said she was still seeking final approval from her Government on her accepting the post. She would like to delay her appointment until she had that approval.
The CHAIRMAN consented. He said the Subcommittee was scheduled to meet in May. He suggested that the open-ended working group continue to study ways and means of expediting the mandate of the Committee and to make appropriate recommendations to that effect.
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Mr. CHTCHERBAK (Russian Federation) proposed that the working group be convened in the second half of March, so that its work could be done without much delay and in a substantial manner.
The CHAIRMAN said consultations would be held on that suggestion, and the results of those consultations would be announced. The Committee would hold a summer session in July to complete its work and plenary meetings whenever necessary to take decisions formally. He asked Committee members to continue to work to curtail documentation requirements and also to minimize the utilization of conference-serving resources.
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