16 January 1997


Press Release
GA/COL/2955



CONSULTATIONS BETWEEN ADMINISTERING POWERS AND DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SHOULD HELP UNITED NATIONS REACH GOAL OF ERADICATING COLONIALISM BY YEAR 2000

19970116
Secretary-General, in Opening Message, Tells Special Committee of 24 as 1997 Session Begins; Work Programme Adopted

Consultations due to reconvene tomorrow, 17 January, between administering Powers of Non-Self-Governing Territories and the Special Committee on decolonization should foster cooperation to help the United Nations achieve its goals regarding the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Special Committee on decolonization this morning.

In a message, read on his behalf by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Marrack Goulding, the Secretary-General said: "Your Committee will, I know, maintain its efforts to attain the goal of eradicating colonialism by the year 2000."

Further, he said the United Nations should help ensure that the Territories' peoples enjoyed the right to self-determination and help them determine the best courses for their future. It should not do so by undermining the administering Powers' efforts or by imposing any formula on the Territories' peoples. "The right to self-determination, as elaborated through the practice of the United Nations, gives the people the freedom to choose to be independent, to be associated with another State or to integrate with another State", he said.

Also this morning, the Special Committee elected Utula Utuoc Samana (Papua New Guinea) as Chairman; Bruno Rodriguez Parilla (Cuba) and Moctar Ouane (Mali) as Vice-Chairmen; and Farouk Al-Attar (Syria) as Rapporteur.

In an opening statement, the Chairman said the administering Powers should invite the Committee to be involved in free and fair electoral processes that should be applied to the Non-Self-Governing Territories. "Recent developments in the international community affirmed that a free and fair electoral process is one of the pillars of democracy", he said.

During discussions on the programme of work adopted by the Committee, Iran's representative supported the integration of the Special Committee and


Decolonization Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance. The integration should streamline both bodies' work, without diminishing the Subcommittee's mandate.

The representative of Cuba said that the Committee should discuss the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the holding of seminars on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Portions of that report, especially on the Committee's work, were offensive. The Committee Chairman endorsed the proposal.

Indonesia's representative objected to the inclusion of the question of East Timor in the work programme, since the people there had exercised their right to self-determination in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions. The representative of Portugal said that, since East Timorese had not concluded that process, the Committee should continue discussing the Territory.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Tunisia, Mali, Syria, Chile, China, Côte d'Ivoire and Fiji.

The Committee Secretary, Amer Araim, also spoke.

The Committee will meet again at a time to be announced.


Special 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 officers and consider the provisional agenda for its 1997 session. The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary- General on relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly and a note by the Committee Chairman on the organization of work.

The note by the Secretary-General (document A/AC.109/L.1855) states that the fifty-first General Assembly session adopted resolution 51/146 on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The Assembly also adopted eight other resolutions and three decisions relating to specific items considered by the Committee in 1996. On the recommendation of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Assembly decided to defer until March consideration of the matter relating to the Non-Self-Governing Territories of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands. The note lists all the texts adopted by the fifty-first session that are of relevance to the Special Committee's work.

The note by the Committee Chairman (document A/AC.109/L.1856) recalls that in 1996 the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance had considered the question of integration of the Subcommittee with the Special Committee on the basis of the recommendation of the Special Committee's open-ended working group. The Special Committee had approved the recommendation that the proposal be examined further during its 1997 session. "The general thrust of the proposal will help streamline the work of the Committee, avoid duplication and enhance its efficiency", the note states.

Regarding allocation of agenda items, the note says that the Fourth Committee decided to defer consideration of the matter relating to the questions of small Territories until March, and that was confirmed by the Assembly. Pending the outcome of the consultations between the Special Committee and some administering Powers with good offices of the Chairman of the Fourth Committee, the Special Committee should take into account the developments related to those consultations in its work during the current session. Allocation of items which will be taken up at the Committee's plenary and/or in the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance would be made pending a decision of the Special Committee on the issue of integration of the two bodies.

The note states further that the Chairman will hold consultations on the order of priority to be given for consideration of items in the plenary meetings as well as on specific activities envisaged under the Plan of Action


Decolonization Committee - 4 - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. In the meantime, it is suggested that the Special Committee should conduct its substantive work according to the schedule of meetings as approved by the Assembly's fifty-first session, as follows: plenary meetings in February/June, as required, and up to 20 meetings (6-8 meetings a week) in July; and the subsidiary bodies would hold 15 meetings (1-4 meetings a week) in May/June.

The Special Committee on decolonization, also known as the Committee of 24, was established pursuant to Assembly resolution 1654 (XVI) of 27 November 1961 to examine the application of the 1960 Declaration on decolonization and to make recommendations on its application. As of January, the Special Committee was comprised of the following 22 members: Chile, China, Congo, Cote 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 Special Committee's subsidiary bodies are the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance and the open-ended working group.

Message of Secretary-General

MARRACK GOULDING, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, declaring open the 1997 session of the Special Committee on decolonization on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the Committee had, in more than 36 years, contributed to many peoples' attainment of their right to self- determination and independence. Its affirmation of that right had enhanced the endeavours of the Organization to ensure respect for human rights all over the world. Many countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas had become independent and joined the United Nations due to the work of the Committee.

The remaining 17 Territories on the Committee's agenda, the Under- Secretary-General continued, fell into different categories. Some were economically and socially advanced, with constitutional rights, while others lacked development and suffered from geographical isolation and natural disasters. "Your Committee will, I know, maintain its efforts to attain the goal of eradicating colonialism by the year 2000", he said.

While appreciating the administering Powers' efforts to fulfil their obligations towards those Territories, the Under-Secretary-General said that the United Nations had the responsibility of ensuring that the Territories' peoples enjoyed the right to self-determination. That did not mean that the United Nations tried to impose any choice on them or to undermine the efforts of the administering Powers of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. On the contrary, the Special Committee's responsibility was to help both the peoples and the administering Powers.


Decolonization Committee - 5 - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

"The right to self-determination, as elaborated through the practice of the United Nations, gives the people the freedom to choose to be independent, to be associated with another State or to integrate with another State", he said, adding that the people should be helped in deciding what was best for their future.

He expressed the hope that the consultations between the administering Powers and the Special Committee on decolonization, scheduled to be reconvened tomorrow, 17 January -- under the chairmanship of Alounkeo Kittikhoun (Lao People's Democratic Republic), the Chairman of the Assembly's Fourth Committee -- would lead to greater understanding among the participants. Those Powers' cooperation with the Special Committee on decolonization would help the United Nations achieve its goals regarding the remaining Territories. The specialized agencies and other United Nations bodies should increase their help to the Territories' peoples. There was a particular need to support the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in the execution of its mandate on the holding of a free and fair referendum in what was the largest Territory on the Special Committee's agenda.

Statement by Committee Chairman

UTULA UTUOC SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), the Chairman of the Committee, said the Special Committee on decolonization would spare no efforts in seeking the cooperation of the administering Powers to achieve the goal of eradicating colonialism by the year 2000. The fulfilment of the United Nations objectives depended on the cooperation of the administering Powers. Unfortunately, the Committee had not been able to receive their full cooperation in recent years. The deferral of the adoption of the resolutions on the particular question by the Fourth Committee at the fifty-first Assembly session was done on the understanding that Member States would like to see a cooperative relationship between the Special Committee and the administering Powers.

He said that, as the Committee went into informal consultations with the administering Powers tomorrow, it would do so in good faith as well as being guided by the wishes of the peoples of the Territories. He expressed hope that an understanding would be reached not only regarding pending resolutions before the Assembly but also with regard to the overall concern to improve the administering Powers' cooperation with the Committee, in order to enable all parties to fulfil the mandates of Assembly resolutions, such as 1514 (XV) and 1541 (XV), as well as resolution 43/47 of 22 November 1988 to eradicate colonialism by the year 2000.

The Committee should consider the political situations and socio- economic progress of Non-Self-Governing Territories even though many of them were small islands or suffered from lack of resources or natural calamities, he continued. The Committee was not trying to choose the political future of


Decolonization Committee - 6 - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

the people of the Territories, but helping them to do so in accordance with their own wishes. The task of the Committee was to help the colonial peoples in fulfilling their right to self-determination and independence. "Recent developments in the international community affirmed that a free and fair electoral process is one of the pillars of democracy. The same should be applied to the Non-Self-Governing Territories in accordance with the customary rules and legal norms of the international community."

The administering Powers, he said, should invite the Committee to be involved in the electoral process in the Territories, answer the questions of the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Information and Petitions and accept visiting missions in order to get first-hand information in the Territories. The Committee would be hearing petitions, disseminating information and submitting recommendations to the Assembly and the Security Council on decolonization.

Other Statements

R.M. MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said he regretted the inclusion once again of the so-called question of East Timor in the Committee's agenda. As his Government had reiterated in previous years, the people of East Timor had already exercised their right to self-determination more than 20 years ago in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, terminating over four centuries of colonial rule. The process had been witnessed by scores of foreign diplomats and international media representatives.

It was also a matter of record that during the decolonization process, the United Nations and the Special Committee had been kept informed of the situation in East Timor, he said. It had become clear to an increasing number of Member States and the international community at large that Indonesia's role regarding its twenty-seventh province had been one of contributing towards the accelerated development of East Timor in all spheres of life as well as the protection and promotion of human rights. Therefore, in Indonesia's view, "East Timor had long ceased to be an issue of self- determination or decolonization".

It was high time that the Committee decided that the inclusion and discussion of East Timor in its programme of work could serve no useful purpose and was contrary to the will of the people which had been reaffirmed in every subsequent Indonesian general election, the last one being held in 1992, he continued. The Committee should assess objectively the historical process, the geo-political, cultural, economic and social realities pertinent to the East Timor issue that the majority of the East Timorese people had exercised their right of self-determination by choosing independence through integration with Indonesia.


Decolonization Committee - 7 - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

In addition, the consideration of the item did not contribute anything significant to the ongoing tripartite dialogue between Indonesia and Portugal held under the Secretary-General's auspices, he said. It would undermine the Secretary-General's efforts to seek a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the question of East Timor. He would therefore request delegations to support the tripartite dialogue as a viable mechanism leading to fruitful and positive results. In view of the above, Indonesia objected to the inclusion of the item in the Committee's agenda and requested that the objection be reflected in the Committee's official record.

JALAL SAMADI (Iran) said he hoped that under the leadership of the new Chairman the Committee would fulfil its mandate. Noting that the Committee would begin informal consultations with the administering Powers, he said he looked forward to solving the issues related to the remaining Territories. With the use of new approaches, the bureau should make the best efforts in 1997 to fulfil its mandate. He assured the Bureau of his full cooperation in the Committee's work.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) welcomed the presence of administering Powers such as Portugal and New Zealand, adding that two other such Powers should similarly cooperate with the Special Committee on decolonization.

ANTONIO NORONHA GAMITO (Portugal) said General Assembly resolution 37/30 on the question of East Timor had asked the Committee to keep the situation in the Territory under consideration and requested the Secretary-General to initiate consultations with all parties directly concerned to seek ways of achieving a comprehensive settlement on East Timor. The territory had been established as a Non-Self-Governing Territory by resolution 1542 (XV) of 15 December 1960. Due to that status, the Territory had always been inscribed on the Committee's agenda.

As a result, he continued, the question had been discussed every year by the Committee, which had decided at its last meeting to inscribe the issue of East Timor on its 1997 agenda. Moreover, the Assembly had not taken any decision to ask the Committee not to include the question of East Timor in its agenda or not to discuss it. A discussion on East Timor would enable the Committee to submit a report to the Assembly's fifty-second session, which had included the question in its provisional agenda.

He said the Secretary-General annually asked Portugal to provide information, as stipulated in article 73 of the United Nations Charter. Portugal had always complied with the requests, confirming its status as the Territory's administering Power despite being de facto impeded from effectively exercising its administration. An alteration of the framework within which East Timor had been considered at the United Nations would


Decolonization Committee - 8 - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

introduce an unwanted element of disturbance and interfere with the mandate of the Committee.

EL WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia) said the work of the Committee was at a crucial juncture, since the administering Powers were ready to begin dialogue, which he hoped would be fruitful. The interest of the peoples in the Non- Self-Governing Territories should guide the work of the Committee.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) assured the Chairman of his full cooperation and reiterated his country's solid commitment to the cause of decolonization. It had pledged itself to that commitment for many years. He was, therefore, prepared to achieve progress on the path to decolonization.

FAROUK AL-ATTAR (Syria) said the Committee's work was at a crucial stage. He hoped that the administering Powers would cooperate with the Committee to promote its work so that the Committee could conclude its task and put an end to colonization.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said his position on East Timor was well known and reiterated his objection to the discussion of the matter in the Committee.

EDUARDO TAPIA (Chile) said his delegation viewed dialogue with the administering Powers as a long-term process, which would not yield immediate results. Dialogue was the only way to ensure progress that would enable the United Nations to meet its goals by the year 2000. The Special Committee could move ahead, when it had the administering Powers' cooperation.

JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said he looked forward to the coming dialogue between the Committee and the administering Powers. He welcomed the example set by New Zealand, as an administering Power.

Mr. GAMITO (Portugal) said the decolonization of East Timor had not been completed and one Member State was illegally occupying the Territory in violation of relevant resolutions of the Assembly and the Security Council. The current situation was abusive and violated the fundamental rights of its inhabitants and could not be invoked to justify the abandonment of the question by the Special Committee. Despite its modest outcome, that process of dialogue, under the auspices of the Secretary-General, must continue. Portugal's policy towards East Timor was guided by the objective of concluding the decolonization of that Territory on the basis of the United Nations doctrine of self-determination, on human rights and democracy.

CHEN QINGHONG (China) expressed hope that the Special Committee on decolonization could step up its work, continue calling on the administering Powers to cooperate with its mandate to ensure complete decolonization and


Decolonization Committee - 9 - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

ensure that non-self governing peoples had the chance to exercise their right to self-determination.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Cote d'Ivoire) said he was pleased that the administering Powers were willing to cooperate to find ways and means leading to the decolonization of the remaining 17 Territories. He would cooperate fully with the Committee during the session.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said he had explained his position in that forum at length and saw no need to do so again.

SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji) expressed his commitment to the Committee's cause and said he would assist in its work.

The Chairman, Mr. SAMANA, recognized the presence of New Zealand in the meeting and noted the example it had displayed by its cooperation with the progress being made in the decolonization process.

Organization of Work

Mr. SAMADI (Iran) said there was a proposal for the integration of the Special Committee and the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions Information and Assistance. A decision on the matter had been deferred. He was in favour of the proposal with the understanding that the integration would not be at the cost of any diminution of the Subcommittee's mandate. All the issues before the Subcommittee were related to the small Territories. Noting that the Subcommittee had itself been the result of integration of two subcommittees, he expressed the hope that any decision on integration of the Special Committee and the Subcommittee would contribute to the streamlining of the work of both bodies. However, their mandates should not be reduced.

The Committee Chairman said the proposal to integrate the Special Committee on decolonization and the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Information and Petitions aimed at enhancing efficiency since the same members sat in both bodies. The proposal would take into account the need to ensure that the bodies' subject matter did not suffer as a result.

Mr. ROSARIO (Cuba) said the Committee and the Subcommittee could be integrated. However, he would comment further on the matter at a more appropriate time. Since the issue of seminars on decolonization in Latin America had not been included clearly in the relevant document, he asked whether the issue had been dealt with adequately in another agenda item. He would be satisfied with such an arrangement. If not, he would seek a clarification.


Decolonization Committee - 10 - Press Release GA/COL/2955 1466th Meeting (AM) 16 January 1997

He said that the Office of Internal Oversight Services had issued a report on the holding of regional seminars on Non-Self-Governing Territories, such as the one held in Trinidad and Tobago in 1995. Portions of that report, especially on the Committee's work, were offensive. The Committee should include the consideration of the report in its agenda.

The Committee Chairman endorsed Cuba's proposal.

AMER ARAIM, Committee Secretary, said the Committee could consider the Oversight Office report when it took up the question of the holding of seminars. It was up to the Committee to decide to include the seminar in its programme for 1997.

Mr. ROSARIO (Cuba) said the Oversight Office should be treated by the Committee as a separate agenda item from the question of the regional seminars. The issue of whether or not to hold a regional seminar was for the Committee to determine and had nothing to do with the Oversight Office.

The Chairman said that the Oversight report would be included in the Committee's 1997 agenda.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) reaffirmed that his earlier intervention had not only been a declaration of general principles, but had also been specifically targeted at the Committee's programme of work.

The Committee adopted its programme of work for 1997.

The Chairman, Mr. SAMANA, informed the Committee that the Chairman of the Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) would convene the informal meetings of the Special Committee and the administering Powers of the United States and the United Kingdom tomorrow afternoon. All Members of the Special Committee were invited to attend.

* *** *