6 June 1997


Press Release
GA/COL/2961



SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION AFFIRMS IMPORTANCE OF ITS REGIONAL SEMINARS, IN DRAFT REPORT APPROVED THIS MORNING

19970606
Among Texts Approved, Committee Addresses Questions Of Gibraltar, New Caledonia, Information on Decolonization

Regional seminars organized by the Special Committee on decolonization continue to be an important and effective instrument for the discharge of its mandate and in ascertaining the views and wishes of the peoples of the Non- Self-Governing Territories, according to a report on the seminars approved by the Special Committee this morning.

The report, which also addressed recent investigations of the seminars by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, said the seminars had become particularly important in the absence of formal cooperation by three administering Powers -- France, United Kingdom and United States. They had become "the only available means to ascertain the views and wishes of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories".

The Special Committee said the Office of Internal Oversight Services had exceeded its mandate in its investigation and that its conclusions had been "unbalanced and unjustified". It said that since there had been no misuse or mismanagement of funds, the Oversight Office should have limited itself to that aspect of its investigation.

Also this morning, the Special Committee, acting without a vote, approved draft resolutions on the questions of New Caledonia and Western Sahara, as well as on the dissemination of decolonization information transmitted from Non-Self-Governing Territories, and the United Nations decolonization programme.

By the draft on decolonization information, approved as orally amended, the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Department of Political Affairs would be requested to continue disseminating, particularly to the Territories, material on the issue of self-determination. They would also be asked to maintain a working relationship with the appropriate regional and intergovernmental organizations, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions.


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By the terms of another draft resolution, the Special Committee asked the administering Powers to transmit to the Secretary-General information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories under their control as prescribed in Article 73 e of the Charter, within a maximum of six months following the end of the territories' administrative year.

The Secretary-General was urged to maintain the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs and all its functions pertaining to the Special Committee and to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) of the General Assembly, under another draft resolution approved today.

By a draft resolution on New Caledonia, approved as orally amended, the Special Committee urged all the parties to maintain their dialogue in a spirit of harmony. It invited them to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians.

Also this morning, the Committee agreed to a request for a hearing by a petitioner from the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Addressing the Committee on the question of Gibraltar were the representative of Spain and the Chief Minister of Gibraltar. A representative of the Frente POLISARIO spoke on question of Western Sahara.

Statements were made by the representative of Cuba, Iran, Antigua and Barbuda, Côte d'Ivoire, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Mali, as well as by a representative of DPI.

The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 9 June, to begin consideration of the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.


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 consider a draft report by its Chairman on the Committee's regional seminars, as well as draft resolutions on the dissemination of information on decolonization, the question of New Caledonia, and on information on Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted by administering Powers under Article 73 e of the Charter. The Committee was also to consider the question of Gibraltar and to hear a petitioner on the question of Western Sahara.

The report of the Chairman of the Special Committee on its regional seminars (document A/AC.109/2085) underlines their importance as an instrument for the effective discharge of the Special Committee's mandate. That was particularly so in the absence of formal cooperation by three administering Powers -- France, United Kingdom and United States. Under such circumstances, the seminars had become "the only available means to ascertain the views and wishes of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories".

The draft report cites General Assembly resolution 51/224 of 27 March, reaffirms that such United Nations visiting missions are an effective means to ascertain the situation in those Territories, and requests the assistance of the administering Powers and the Territories' elected representatives.

Regarding a report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (document A/51/486), which the Committee first considered on 24 February, the Chairman's report states that the Oversight Office exceeded its mandate and that its conclusions had been "unbalanced and unjustified". Since there had been no misuse or mismanagement of funds, the Oversight Office should have limited itself to that question. The Special Committee would continue its dialogue with the administering Powers to ensure their full cooperation, particularly by facilitating the dispatch of United Nations visiting missions to the Territories. (For background on the Oversight Office report, see Press Release GA/COL/2960 of 30 May.)

By the draft resolution on dissemination of decolonization information (document A/AC.109/L.1857), the Special Committee would approve activities in that sphere by the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Department of Political Affairs. The two departments would be asked to: continue using all available media to give publicity to the United Nations decolonization efforts; continue disseminating, particularly to the Territories, basic material on the issue of self-determination; maintain a working relationship with the appropriate regional and intergovernmental organizations, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions; and encourage involvement of non-governmental organizations in the dissemination of information on decolonization. The draft resolution was submitted by the Chairman.


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By the Chairman's draft resolution on information from Non-Self- Governing Territories (document A/AC.109/L.1858), the Special Committee would ask the administering Powers concerned to transmit to the Secretary-General the information prescribed in Article 73 e of the Charter, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories, within a maximum of six months following the end of the Territories' administrative year. It would also ask the Secretary-General to ensure that adequate information is drawn from all available published sources in the preparation of the working papers relating to the Territories.

By a draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/L.1861), sponsored by Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the Special Committee would urge all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia and building on the positive outcome of the mid-term review of the Matignon Accords, to maintain their dialogue in a spirit of harmony. It would also invite all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self- determination in which all options are open and would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians according to the letter and the spirit of the Matignon Accords.

A Secretariat working paper on the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2074) provides an update on political and economic developments in the Territory. It states that the two principal political groupings in New Caledonia are the Rassemblement pour la Caledonie dans la Republique (RPCR) and the Front de liberation nationale kanake socialiste (FLNKS).

According to the paper, the leadership of the FLNKS had reaffirmed its willingness to pursue discussions with the other parties to the 1988 Matignon Accords, which provide for a 10-year period of economic and social development, with a self-determination referendum to be held in 1998. During the development period, efforts were being concentrated on effecting a more equitable economic distribution among the Territory's three provinces and on providing education and training to enable the Kanaks to participate equally in its economy and government.

The FLNKS considered it important that all concerned parties, including the numerous smaller parties, should reach a negotiated solution regarding the Territory's future status prior to the referendum. After the 1998 referendum, that negotiated solution would allow for shared sovereignty with France and the eventual full exercise of its attributes of sovereignty on the basis of a timetable for relinquishment of authority which would remain to be determined.

According to the working paper, the RPCR believes that agreements between it and the FLNKS should open up a new period of stability for New Caledonia. The RPCR holds that the institutional solution negotiated by the three parties to the Matignon Accords, which would be submitted for the


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approval of New Caledonians by a ratification referendum, should institute a sovereignty shared between the French Republic and the Territory which would enable New Caledonia to assert its specific identity while respecting the State's own areas of competence.

By a draft resolution, sponsored by Papua New Guinea, on United Nations decolonization programme (document A/AC.109/L.1862) the Secretary-General would be urged to avail the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs of all necessary and adequate financial, human and technical resources. He would also be urged to maintain the Unit and all its functions pertaining to the Special Committee on decolonization and to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) of the General Assembly.

Regional Seminars

UTULA U. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Special Committee Chairman, introduced a revised draft report on the Committee's regional seminars. As agreed at the Committee's previous meeting on 30 May, a 17 March letter from the Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had been annexed to it.

[In that letter, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Karl Paschke states that, following his discussions with the Special Committee, he had concluded that perhaps the OIOS had not done a good job of explaining its intentions and goals in agreeing to undertake the inquiry into regional seminars at the request of the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. One of the rationales behind the creation of OIOS had been to demonstrate to world opinion that the United Nations was serious about the efficient and effective use of limited resources.

Mr. Paschke takes issue with the observation of some delegations that the OIOS seriously violated its bounds or overstepped the limits of the resolution under which it was created. That was certainly not its intention, he writes. Nowhere in its report did the OIOS question the mandate of Member States or pass judgement on the underlying political issue.]

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) asked for clarification regarding the nature of the persons from Falklands/Malvinas Islands who would participate during the Committee's consideration of the report on that Territory. As in the past, such persons should be petitioners and not representatives of the Territory.

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Committee Chairman, agreed that, as on previous occasions, they would be petitioners.

The Special Committee then approved the draft report and authorized its Chairman to transmit it to the President of the General Assembly.


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Dissemination of Decolonization Information

MIAN QADRUD-DIN, of the Department of Public Information (DPI), drew attention to concerns which had been raised during the previous meeting of the Special Committee about an article which, as it turned out, had actually appeared in the Diplomatic World Bulletin, which was not a United Nations publication. There had also been some confusion over whether that article had been discussed on the World Chronicle programme, which was not the case. He said DPI was in no position to comment on a similar article which had appeared in The New York Times.

JALAL SAMADI (Iran) said there should be a break with the past in the wording of the draft resolution on dissemination of information on decolonization. Its operative part should read that the Special Committee "takes note" of the relevant activities of DPI and the Department of Political Affairs.

PATRICK ALBERT LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda) said the phrase "further encourages" should be inserted instead.

Mr. SAMADI (Iran) said more activities were required from the DPI. There was a need to deviate from past formulations.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said the operative paragraph should be revised.

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Committee Chairman, said that, on the basis of an agreement reached by the representatives of Iran and Antigua and Barbuda, the phrase "takes note" would replace "approves".

The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution, as orally amended, without a vote.

Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Committee Chairman, expressed appreciation for the timely submission of information by the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Special Committee approved the draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories without a vote.

Question of Gibraltar

The Special Committee had before it a Secretariat working paper on the question of Gibraltar (document A/AC.109/2084), which discusses political development in the Territory, as well as its economic and social and


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educational conditions. It indicates that the General Assembly, on 13 December 1996, noted the agreement between Spain and the United Kingdom to establish a negotiating process aimed at overcoming all differences between them over Gibraltar and at promoting mutually beneficial cooperation on economic, cultural, touristic, aviation, military and environmental matters. The Assembly also noted that the Foreign Ministers of Spain and the United Kingdom had held annual meetings alternately in each capital, and urged both Governments to continue their negotiations with the aim of reaching a definitive solution.

According to the paper, general elections were held in Gibraltar on 16 May 1996, with 88 per cent of registered voters participating. The Gibraltar Social Democratic Party won eight seats in the Territorial Legislative Assembly and the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party obtained seven seats. Peter Caruana, the Gibraltar Social Democratic Party leader, obtained 8,561 votes and was appointed Chief Minister of Gibraltar.

The positions of the parties on the future status of the Territory are also described in the working paper. The Foreign Minister of Spain had told the General Assembly in September 1996 that one of his Government's priority objectives was the decolonization of Gibraltar. He said Spain would carry out, with the greatest flexibility and fairness, negotiations with the United Kingdom, with the clear aim of moving forward towards the restoration of Spain's full territorial integrity, while generously safeguarding the interests of the colony's population.

According to the paper, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, David Davis, told the Assembly had stated that his Government stood by its commitment to the people of Gibraltar in the preamble to its 1969 Constitution. The British Government would not enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.

The position of the territorial government is expressed in a 29 January statement by Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Mr. Caruana. He said Gibraltar was not engaged in a quest for sovereign independence and sought to maintain its political ties with the United Kingdom. The Government of Gibraltar sought good-neighbourly relations and mutual cooperation with Spain. It sought a dialogue with Spain in which Gibraltar could be present in its own right with its own voice. He said Gibraltar and its citizens wanted to participate in the new Europe of the future.

PETER CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said that since 1992 the irrefutable arguments in favour of Gibraltar's rights had been presented to the Special Committee on decolonization and to the Fourth Committee. He now sought a clear and unequivocal declaration that the people of Gibraltar had


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the same right to self-determination as those of any other Non-Self-Governing Territory. The main obstacle to the exercise of that right came from Spain, which asserted that Gibraltar should be restored to it, despite the unanimous opposition of the people of Gibraltar. Spain pursued its position by invoking the principle that there could be no partial or total disruption of the territorial integrity and political unity of a sovereign State, which would mean that Gibraltar had no right to self-determination.

He said that Spain had based its erroneous contention entirely on operative paragraph 6 of Assembly resolution 1415/15 of 1960. However, an objective analysis of that paragraph showed that what it meant was that the principle of self-determination could not be used by the people of an existing territory of a Member State to secede from it. In other words, self- determination could not be used to remove a territory from within a sovereign State. If such dismemberment were to take place, the United Nations would not recognize it unless there was an internationally accepted agreement between the parties. The application of the principle of self-determination to Gibraltar could not result in the partial or total disruption of Spain's territorial integrity, because Gibraltar ceased being Spanish in 1704 and was ceded in perpetuity by Spain to the United Kingdom in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.

The doctrine of the United Nations and of international law was that the right to self-determination applied to all Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list, he said. Gibraltar was one of the remaining 17 Territories on that list. The Special Committee and the General Assembly had declared that in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination. Self-determination was the opposite of territorial restitution. Gibraltar, which undoubtedly was a colony, could only be decolonized through self-determination. International law clearly stipulated that there could be no exceptions to that principle.

While there were many factors that could obstruct full independence, those factors should not be allowed to undermine the right of the peoples of the Territories to self-determination, or be used as a rationale to maintain colonial situations, he said. Difficulties in exercising the right must not be confused with the existence of the right. In all discussion aimed at resolving those obstacles, the wishes of the people of Gibraltar had to be respected.

Any dialogue should recognize Gibraltar's right to represent its own position in its own right, and with a distinct voice, he said. Dialogue exclusively between Spain and the United Kingdom implicitly denied the existence of the principal party -- namely, the colonized people of Gibraltar. The people of Gibraltar, therefore, urged the Special Committee to stop recommending annually that the United Kingdom and Spain engage in dialogue only between themselves, "aimed at overcoming all the differences between them


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over Gibraltar". The Committee had been calling for such dialogue for over 30 years, but had never pronounced itself with respect to the position of the people of Gibraltar on that matter.

JAVIER PEREZ-GRIFFO (Spain) said he was appearing before the Special Committee to repeat his Government's position on Gibraltar, whose reintegration into Spain was a constant aspiration. The Spanish claim was supported by all its citizens and referred to the rock itself, as well as to the isthmus which was gradually and illegally occupied by the United Kingdom throughout the nineteenth century.

Raising the issue of the validity of the Utrecht Treaty and the limitation of British sovereignty, he said that sovereignty had been derived from Article X of the Treaty, which also stated that Spain would have first option of recovering the territory if the United Kingdom disposed of it. The Treaty also stated clearly that Gibraltar might be British or Spanish, and that any other option would be excluded. In addition, successive General Assembly resolutions had established the full applicability of the principle of territorial integrity in the decolonization of Gibraltar.

The British-Spanish negotiating process was the proper way to put an end to the colonial situation of Gibraltar, he said. Since 1973, the Assembly had repeatedly invited such negotiations. In 1984, both countries agreed to establish a negotiating process to overcome differences on a mutually beneficial basis. Those negotiations began in 1985 and had continued ever since, and the Spanish Government hoped they would put an end to the dispute.

He said the representatives of the Gibraltan authority had participated as part of the British delegation until 1988, when they decided to leave the negotiations. Spain had always regretted their retreat into isolation, because the negotiating forum was the place in which they should present their views. Spain had no intentions that were harmful to the people of the colony of Gibraltar. It believed that a negotiated solution to the dispute would lead to the restitution of the territorial integrity of Spain.

The Committee decided to continue consideration of the question at its next session, subject to any directives which the Assembly might wish to give at its fifty-second session.

Question of New Caledonia

SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji), introduced the draft resolution on New Caledonia. He said the Committee needed to be mindful to its overall responsibility in ensuring that independence came about in situations such as the one in New Caledonia. The working paper and the draft resolution must be given serious consideration, and the Committee must take account of the concerns of the South Pacific Forum and the people of New Caledonia.


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JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) called on the Special Committee to approve the draft resolution without a vote. Next year, there would be a referendum in New Caledonia on self-determination. The draft resolution sought to urge the continuation of the work being done there. France had a role to play in the region, and his Government was encouraged by what it was doing in the Territory, as well as by the dialogue and progress being made in New Caledonia. SIDIKI LAMINE SOW (Mali) asked what was meant by the reference to "provincial authorities" in operative paragraph 7 of the draft resolution.

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Committee Chairman, said the phrase referred to the territorial authorities.

Mr. SOW (Mali) said that, if that was the case, the paragraph should be reworded to emphasize the nature of the provincial authorities. He proposed that the phrase "provincial authorities" be replaced by "the authorities of the territory".

The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote, as orally amended.

Question of Western Sahara

A Secretariat working paper on the question of Western Sahara (document A/AC.109/2087) reviews reports of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, actions taken by the Council and the General Assembly, and the visit to the region by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy. It also discusses the general situation in the Territory and recent political development, including a letter from the Government of Morocco to the President of the Council, and a letter from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el- Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) to the Chairman of the Special Committee.

The working paper states there had been an intensive effort to break the deadlock in the implementation of the Settlement Plan for Western Sahara. Positive developments had included the release of prisoners and detainees and contacts between the Government of Morocco and POLISARIO. Between 20 August 1996 and 17 March 1997, the Secretary-General submitted four reports to the Security Council on his efforts to overcome the impasse.

In his report of 27 February (document S/1997/166), the Secretary- General conveys his intention to intensify examination of the question and to report to the Security Council before the 31 May expiration of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), according to the working paper. He also states that he is considering further reductions in the staffing of MINURSO and points out that the United Nations cannot compel the parties to honour their commitment to cooperate in implementing the Settlement Plan.


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In considering those reports, the Security Council expressed consistent support for the Secretary-General's efforts. It urged the parties to demonstrate political will, cooperation and flexibility, and to consider additional ways to create confidence and to remove obstacles to the implementation of the Settlement Plan.

The working paper states that the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James Baker III, was well received by the States and parties concerned during his visit to the region from 23 to 28 April. Mr. Baker indicated that the visit was aimed at having a fresh assessment of the situation. In explaining the fact-finding nature of his mission, Mr. Baker had stressed the political and economic importance of resolving the question.

In its letter to the Council (document S/1997/208), Morocco notes that it had repeatedly affirmed its attachment to full implementation of the Settlement Plan, the working paper states. "While Morocco remains committed to the Settlement Plan, the other party is doing its utmost to delay the referendum process and even prevent it from taking place", the Moroccan letter states. The POLISARIO letter describes the suspension of the self- determination referendum as a severe blow to the peaceful resolution of the conflict. The POLISARIO was prepared to continue contributing "so that spectre of war is replaced by the hope of just and definitive peace".

AHMED BOUKHARI, of the Frente POLISARIO, said the decolonization of the Territory had still not reached its logical conclusion. Since entry into force of the cease-fire in 1992, the occupying Power, Morocco, had pursued a policy of obstruction, unilaterally modifying the agreed peace plan to suit its strategy. The self-determination referendum was to have taken place six years ago, and the delay had become untenable. The intransigence of the occupying Power had placed the peace process in a dilemma. Continuation of the cease-fire without the referendum would place the United Nations in an awkward position.

He also drew attention to the illegal agreements Morocco had been signing with member States of the European Union on fishing in Western Sahara waters. Morocco also intended to invite Central European countries to undertake construction work at the port of Dajla. The Special Committee should intervene to dissuade Member States from exploiting the resources of Western Sahara until the dispute over its future was resolved.

He said the appointment of former United States Secretary of State James Baker as the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy had opened up new prospects for resolution of the deadlock. Mr. Baker had recently visited the region, meeting with representatives of POLISARIO and Morocco. As goodwill gesture, POLISARIO had released 84 Moroccan prisoners, but the Moroccan authorities had refused to accept them. Mr. Baker would return to the region so as to make a full evaluation of the situation.


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The next few weeks would be of crucial importance in terms of the viability of the peace process, he said. The United Nations had specific responsibility for the future of Western Sahara and should do every thing possible in a credible manner to ensure the achievement of self-determination by the Territory. Morocco should not be allowed to violate international law and to keep its privileges. The people of Western Sahara would not give up the struggle.

The Special Committee then decided to transmit all its relevant documentation on the question of Western Sahara to the General Assembly.

United Nations Decolonization Programme

It was announced that the following countries had joined in sponsoring the draft resolution on the United Nations Decolonization Programme: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Grenada, Iran, Mali, Saint Lucia, Portugal and Venezuela.

The draft resolution was approved without a vote.

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