The goal of eradicating colonialism by the year 2000 should continue to guide the work of the Special Committee on decolonization, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning, as he addressed the opening of the Special Committee's 1998 session.
The peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories should be assisted in their selection of what was best for their future, he said. The right to self-determination included the right of peoples to choose to be independent, to be associated with another State or to integrate with another State. Therefore, no formula should be imposed on the Territories.
He called on the specialized agencies and other organizations within the United Nations system to step up their assistance to the peoples of those Territories. He also drew attention to the needs of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which was executing its mandate with regard to the largest Territory that remained on the Special Committee's agenda.
In his statement following his re-election as Chairman of the Special Committee, Utula Utuoc Samana (Papua New Guinea), said that as long as there were Non-Self Governing Territories and peoples, the Committee's task remained unfinished. "We do not accept the often not so subtle suggestion that the era of colonialism is over", he said.
He went on to say that most of the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories were small islands, which suffered handicaps as a result of the interplay of such factors as size, remoteness, geographical dispersion, vulnerability to natural disasters and natural and human resources. Those factors, however, should not serve as a pretext for denying the people of the remaining Territories their right to self-determination.
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Also this morning, the Special Committee elected Bruno Rogriguez Parrilla (Cuba) and Moctar Ouane (Mali) as Vice-Chairmen, and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) as Rapporteur.
Before the Special Committee adopted its organization of work, the representative of Indonesia objected to the inclusion in the Committee's agenda of the question of East Timor. He said the people of East Timor had already exercised their right to self-determination, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions. He stressed the importance of continuing the tripartite talks between his country, Portugal and the United Nations to achieve progress in finding a just solution to the question.
The representative of Portugal, however, said the people of East Timor had not exercised their right to self-determination. The question of East Timor had remained on the Committee's agenda for years and there was no reason to remove it at this time. He reaffirmed his country's commitment to the success of the talks.
Statements were also made by the representatives of New Zealand, Grenada, Tunisia, China, Iraq, Syria, Argentina, Bolivia, and the Russian Federation.
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 (Special Committee on decolonization) met this morning to elect officers and consider its agenda for the current session.
The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General (A/C.109/L.1870) containing resolutions and decisions of the fifty-second General Assembly concerning general implementation of the Declaration, as well as specific territories and items considered by the Special Committee in 1997.
A note by the Committee Chairman on the organization of work (A/C.109/L.1871) recommends to the Special Committee that the Subcommittee on Small Territories, Petitions, Information and Assistance be terminated and its work be taken up at the plenary. It further recommends that the Working Group on procedural and other matters be replaced by an open-ended bureau. Annexed to the note is a list of pending matters for consideration by the Special Committee during 1998, including, among others, the situation of East Timor, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gilbralter, New Caledonia and Western Sahara.
The Special Committee was established pursuant to Assembly resolution 1654 (XVI) of 27 November 1961 to examine the application of the 1960 Declaration and to make recommendations on its application. As of 1 January 1998, the Special Committee was comprised of the following 25 Members: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, China, Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, St. Lucia, Sierra Leone, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela and Yugoslavia.
Statement by Secretary-General
In an opening address to the Committee, Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said the Committee had made a lasting contribution to the guiding principles of international law concerning the inalienable right of peoples to self- determination.
For almost four decades, the Committee had contributed to the independence and right to self-determination of many peoples, he said. Those efforts had consistently upheld the highest principles of the Charter and enhanced the commitment of the United Nations to ensure respect for human rights all over the world. The remaining 17 Territories on the Committee's agenda represented complex challenges to the United Nations. Some had advanced economically and socially, while others had been constrained by lack of development, or had suffered from natural disasters.
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The goal of eradicating colonialism by the year 2000 should continue to guide the Special Committee's work, he said. The main task of the United Nations was to live up to the trust bestowed upon it and to assist both the peoples of the Territories and the administering Powers in fulfilling their common aims. The right to self-determination had been established as the right of peoples to choose to be independent, to be associated with another State or to integrate with another State. Therefore, there was no formula that should be imposed.
The peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories should be assisted in their selection of what was best for their future, he continued. He called on the specialized agencies and other organizations within the United Nations system to step up their assistance to the peoples of those Territories. In addition, he drew special attention to the needs of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which was executing its mandate with regard to the largest Territory remaining on the Special Committee's agenda.
Statement by Chairman
UTULA UTUOC SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said he was honoured to take on the position of Chairman, which had become a unique and unprecedented forum for the representatives of the Non- Self Governing Territories to freely speak their minds. The Committee looked forward to solving the problems of decolonization and achieving the goal of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism -- proclaimed in 1988, to eliminate colonialism by the year 2000.
With the attainment of independence by the great majority of colonies, the traditional concept of colonialism had been downgraded, he said. Nevertheless, there were still 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories. Most of them were small islands, which suffered handicaps arising from the interplay of such factors as size, remoteness, geographical dispersion, vulnerability to natural disaster and natural and human resources. Those factors, however, should not serve as a pretext for denying those people their right to self- determination. As long as there were Non-Self Governing Territories and peoples, the task of the Committee remained unfinished. "Therefore, we do not accept the often not so subtle suggestion that the era of colonialism is over", he said.
Living up to its mandate, the Committee would continue to keep its approach and method of work under constant review in order to adjust to the changing circumstances and to improve its efficiency, he continued. The Committee had in recent years demonstrated a practical and flexible approach to its work, which was evident in its report to the General Assembly in 1997. The decolonization process in the remaining Territories would be greatly enhanced if the Committee were to receive the full and formal cooperation of the administering Powers concerned. Regular contacts and consultation between
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the Committee and the Permanent Missions of the administering Powers in New York would further expedite the work of decolonization.
He said that if colonialism were to be eradicated by the year 2000, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system must formulate programmes that would promote the economic and social development of those Territories, so their peoples could exercise their legitimate rights. As for the current financial situation of the United Nations, he said the Committee would do its utmost to achieve economy in its activities without hurting the interests of the peoples concerned. The economic and ideological support for the decolonization programme and the Special Committee had been overwhelming and the Assembly had reaffirmed the political nature and substance of the decolonization programme.
MICHAEL JOHN POWLES (New Zealand) offered congratulations to the Chairman on his reappointment and said that, during his term, New Zealand greatly appreciated the Committee's efforts and consideration of the people of Tokelau. His country would cooperate fully with the Committee on that issue.
LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) said the Special Committee would continue to prosper under the Chairman's leadership. The Secretary-General's statement before the Committee reaffirmed the United Nations commitment to the Committee and its support for decolonization. The Committee had contributed greatly to changing the geopolitical landscape of Africa, Asia and many other areas of the world.
Seventeen Territories still lacked the ability to determine how they would be governed and they had great need of United Nations attention, he continued. The Committee must ensure that every opportunity was given to those Territories to attain self-determination . The mandate of the Committee would remain unfulfilled until every Territory attained the means of determining their own fate and future.
He was very concerned that, in some quarters, the Special Committee was considered irrelevant. The General Assembly had repeatedly indicated that the Committee still had unfinished business and the Committee intended to accomplish that business. "Give us the tools and we will finished the job", he said.
EL WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia), welcoming the re-election of the Bureau, said that under the chairmanship of Papua New Guinea the Special Committee had achieved great progress in the eradication of colonialism.
HU ZHAOMING (China) said under the Bureau's leadership fresh results would be achieved. He believed in the just cause of decolonization and would continue to assist the Committee in achieving its decolonization goals.
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ROKAN HAMA AL-ANBUGE (Iraq) said, as an original member of the Special Committee, his country was concerned about achieving the Special Committee's goals. He stressed the importance of maintaining the Decolonization Unit as part of the Department of Political Affairs and urged the Bureau to follow up on that issue.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) stressed his country's determination to support the aims of the Special Committee until the goals of decolonization were reached. Referring to the Secretary-General's earlier statement, he stressed that the Committee would not intervene in the Secretary-General's work, but would support his actions to encourage progress in the Committee's work.
OSVALDO NARCISO MARSICO (Argentina) pledged his country's continued support to the Committee's work
ALBERTO SALAMANCA (Bolivia), also welcoming the re-election of the Bureau, said the Committee would continue to contribute to making the end of colonialism a reality.
ANTONIO GAMITO (Portugal) stressed the remarkable role played by the Committee in bringing about self-determination. He pledged to continue to support the Committee's indispensable work.
Organization of Work
As the Committee took up its organization of work, MARTY MULIANA NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) strongly objected to inclusion of the item of East Timor on the Committee's agenda. He said the people of East Timor had already exercised the right to self-determination under relevant United Nations resolutions. He called on the international community to support the integration of the people of East Timor.
Since 1993, Indonesia had supported United Nations efforts to find a just solution to the question of East Timor, he said. Outlining the progress made in talks on the issue, he said the tripartite talks between Portugal, Indonesia and the United Nations had entered a new phase, with the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, Jamsheed Marker. It was, therefore, important to sustain the talks to achieve progress in finding a just solution to the question. In light of the fact that the General Assembly had again deferred consideration of the item during the recent regular session, he stressed that the inclusion of it in the Special Committee's work would serve no purpose, but would undermine the tripartite talks.
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Mr. GAMITO (Portugal) said the Committee had for years taken up the question of why the people of East Timor were not allowed to exercise their right to self-determination. The Committee had been requested to keep the situation under consideration by the General Assembly and there was no reason to abandon that issue during the current session.
Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said the realities continued to be overlooked on the issue of East Timor. Portugal, after poorly administering East Timor, had relinquished its power over the area years ago. The people of East Timor had reaffirmed their wishes through elections for more than two decades. It was time that the Committee strike it from its agenda.
Mr. GAMITO (Portugal) said the decolonization of East Timor had not been completed, because one Member State had illegally occupied that Non-Self- Governing Territory in violation of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. It was the firm commitment of Portugal to contribute to the success of the East Timor negotiations between the Secretary-General and Indonesia.
OLEG SCHERBAK (Russian Federation) congratulated the Chairman and the Vice-Chairmen on their election and said their re-election testified to the effort to continue the positive changes that had occurred in the Committee. He hoped that the open-ended Bureau would ensure that the Committee members received early information and notice of dates for the meetings, to ensure the efficiency of the Committee's work.
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