12 October 1998


Press Release
GA/SPD/136



FOURTH COMMITTEE CONCLUDES DEBATE ON DECOLONIZATION MATTERS

19981012

The United States delegation should study carefully the draft resolution on Guam and begin the process of consultation with the people of that Territory, the representative of Papua New Guinea said this afternoon as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its discussion of decolonization matters.

He said that contrary to what the representative of the United States had recently told the Committee, the text had not been considered in isolation of the two main parties -- the United States and Guam. It had been seen as the start of an innovative process rather than an end in itself.

The representative of Morocco said that although tribal groups in Western Sahara were recognized by the United Nations and should have been recognized in the 1974 census, the other party to the conflict had refused for years to accept or resolve that problem. Morocco hoped that progress would be made through a referendum held in accordance with the Houston agreements, but the other side rejected such initiatives. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should protect Saharawi refugees who made up one-third of Western Sahara's population, and were kept in camps by force.

Regarding his country's position on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), he said Morocco had already contributed tens of thousands of dollars to help MINURSO carry out its mission to facilitate peace. With regard to demining, Morocco continued its cooperation to fulfil without discrimination its obligations, as spelled out in the Houston agreements.

The representative of Spain said that the aspirations of the people of Gibraltar were not the sole factors or recipes for decolonization. The question of Gibraltar was one of territorial integrity, and should not be grouped together with other Territories where the goal of self-determination was paramount. In the case of Gibraltar, the decolonization process would only continue when Spain's territorial integrity was restored.


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He said Gibraltar was a colony of the United Kingdom and the people living there now were descendants of the colonizing country because the indigenous people had been expelled. The situation in Gibraltar was comparable to that of Hong Kong and Macao. Moreover, Spain regretted the fact that the Chief Minister of Gibraltar had rejected outright a Spanish proposal for a resolution to the problem.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Chile, Brazil (on behalf of MERCOSUR), Haiti and Ghana. The representatives of the United Kingdom and Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday 13 October to take action on several texts related to decolonization.


Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its discussion of decolonization issues. (For background on documents before the Committee see Press Release GA/SPD/133 issued 5 October.)

CELSO AMORIM (Brazil) speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) as well as Chile and Bolivia, said the important question of the Malvinas or Falkland Islands had yet to be resolved by Argentina and the United Kingdom. Brazil had been gratified by the recent reciprocal bilateral relations between the two countries and was particularly happy about the upcoming visit of the Argentine Prime Minister to Great Britain.

Brazil had also noted with satisfaction the two countries' efforts regarding the conservation of fisheries and resources, and exploration of oil in the southwest Atlantic, he said. In light of such progress, Brazil was confident that a peaceful resolution would be reached through further negotiation and dialogue.

JUAN EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile) said that his delegation welcomed the political process underway in New Caledonia and commended the Government of France and the relevant parties in that Territory for the conclusion of the Noumea Accord and for France's attitude of cooperation with the Special Committee on decolonization in the course of the year. That was in addition to the traditional cooperation that New Zealand had extended to the Special Committee in its capacity as administering Power for Tokelau.

He said his delegation also welcomed the information provided by the Secretary-General on the negotiations between Indonesia and Portugal on East Timor. The Secretary-General had also provided information on the important progress in the identification process in Western Sahara. It was hoped that it would be possible to resolve the pending issues as soon as possible so that the referendum in that Territory could be held without further delay.

On the Latin American region, he reiterated Chile's conviction that a peaceful and negotiated solution between Argentina and the United Kingdom to the special situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) was the sole course to be followed, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions.

He said Chile strongly supported the proposal by the Acting Chairman of the Special Committee -- contained in the annex to document A/AC.109/L.1886 of 11 August -- that the Special Committee should convene a meeting in the near future to carry out a critical review of its work and draw up a plan for its future activities. The administering Powers and interested Member States would be invited to participate. At that meeting, various issues and proposals would be considered, some of which were mentioned in that document.


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JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said the decolonization process was not yet completed, but that it was not an impossible task to resolve the question of each and every one of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories as expeditiously as possible in a peaceful and amicable manner. All were aware that the remaining Territories ranged from very difficult and sensitive situations, including the cases of Palestine, Western Sahara, and East Timor, to not so complicated ones, such as the Virgin Islands, Bermuda and St. Helena. However, there must be goodwill and cooperation from all sides, and especially from the remaining administering Powers and other Governments that had an interest in the future of these remaining territories.

Exemplary cooperation had been shown in the last two years by two Administering Powers of New Zealand and France with their Territories of Tokelau and New Caledonia, he said. Papua New Guinea was pleased to note the progress made in implementing the Matignon Accords, culminating in the recent Agreement of the Noumea Accords.

He said the United Nations should continue to monitor developments in New Caledonia until implementation was complete and self-determination had been achieved. Papua New Guinea also believed some progress had been made for the people of Guam, but much more needed to be done between the Territory and its administering Power, the United States.

Contrary to what the representative of the United States had told the Committee, the resolution had not been approved in isolation of the two main parties -- the United States and Guam, he said. The resolution had been seen as the start of a new and innovative process rather than an end in itself. Papua New Guinea therefore appealed strongly to the United States to study the resolution carefully and begin the process of consultation with the people of Guam, with, of course, the involvement of the United Nations through the Fourth Committee.

With the full cooperation of the other Administering Powers, there must be visiting missions to all Territories to ascertain the full wishes of the peoples, he said. Alternatively, there must be legitimate acts of self- determination, be it through free and fair referendums or other means which would allow the Special Committee on decolonization to begin to think about de-inscribing some of those Territories.

BERTRAND FILS-AIMÉ (Haiti) said that ever since its independence in 1804 and despite its isolation, Haiti had always striven to create an America free of colonialism. The Trinidadian historian C.L.R. James, in his work The Black Jacobins, had underscored that in December 1815, the then Haitian President, Alexandre Petion, had given money, weapons and a printing press to help the illustrious Simon Bolivar in his campaign which had resulted in the independence of the Five States of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. He added that in 1812, at the battle of New Orleans, a contingent of


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150 soldiers from Haiti had contributed to the American victory over the English forces.

Haiti, he said, had followed carefully the contribution of the representative of the United Kingdom before the Fourth Committee on 5 October and had no reason to doubt her good faith when she had indicated that her delegation had always taken seriously its commitments towards the Non-Self- Governing Territories and that the United Kingdom was ready to consider any proposal on the future of the peoples of those Territories as decided by those peoples themselves.

He said that the process of self-determination belonged exclusively to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and neither to the administering Powers nor to those pursuing a personal agenda. The right to freedom and self-determination implied the right to adequate food, health and education, as well as the right to protect one's environment and cultural identity.

JACK WILMOT (Ghana) said it was regrettable that as the next millennium approached, and 38 years after the adoption of United Nations resolution 1514 (XV) on the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained on the agenda of the Committee. Ghana appreciated and acknowledged the significant achievements of the international community towards the eradication of colonialism in accordance with the Declaration, and was conscious of the importance of continuing its effective implementation, taking into account the target date set by the United Nations to eradicate colonialism by the year 2000.

He said Ghana supported the recommendations made in the report of the Special Committee on decolonization. Those recommendations clearly postulated the inalienable rights of the Non-Self Governing Peoples. They also postulated the responsibilities of the administering Powers with regard to the socio-economic development of the Territories, preservation of their identities and cultures, the pursuance of activities that would protect the environment of the Territories, and the adoption of measures to counter problems related to drug trafficking, money laundering and other offenses.

In that connection, he said, the administering Powers owed the international community a duty under Article 73 e of the Charter to provide an update on information and reports, including reports on the wishes and aspirations of the peoples of those Territories regarding their future political status as expressed in free and fair referendums, and other forms of popular consultation. They also owed a duty to assist United Nations visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, to ascertain first hand the situation in those Territories.

He said that Ghana endorsed all resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Special Committee, calling on administering Powers to give


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consideration, in all their actions, to the human rights as well as the political and socio-economic interests of the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Ghana also urged all Member States to contribute to the efforts of the United Nations to make the next century completely free of colonialism. It invited the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations to help accelerate the socio-economic development of those Territories.

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) said the problem of Western Sahara was not one of decolonization but one of territorial integrity. Tribal groups in Western Sahara -- such as the Saharawi -- were recognized by the United Nations and should have been recognized in the 1974 census. The other side had refused for years to accept or resolve that problem. Morocco hoped that -- through a referendum that would take place in a normal way and in accordance with the Houston agreements -- progress would be made, but the other side rejected such initiatives, as well as the identification of the various tribal groups. Morocco had tried to act in good faith after Houston. The other side clung to the first identification criteria of the 1974 census.

There should be a free, democratic referendum without any type of pressure, he said, and the outdated framework for dialogue should be abandoned. The settlement should be swiftly tackled by both sides. Six years had been lost on the problem.

He asked how the international community could remain silent in light of the ongoing abuses directed towards the Saharawi refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should remain vigilant and protect the refugees living in camps in no man's lands who were kept there by force.

Morocco's position on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was clear, he said. His country had already contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the maintenance of MINURSO to help it carry out its mission to facilitate peace. With regard to demining, Morocco continued its cooperation to fulfil the obligations spelled out in the Houston agreements without discrimination. Morocco called on the United Nations to help resolve the situation of the refugees, which made up almost one-third of the population of Western Sahara.

CARLOS MORALES (Spain) said his country had not changed its position regarding Gibraltar. The aspiration of the peoples was not the sole factor or recipe for decolonization. The question of Gibraltar was one of territorial integrity, and it should not be grouped together with other Territories where the peoples' goal of self-determination was foremost.

In the case of Gibraltar, the decolonization process would only continue when Spain's territorial integrity was restored, he said. Gibraltar was a colony of the United Kingdom, and the peoples living there now were descendants of the colonizing country, because they had forced out the


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indigenous peoples. Therefore, it was unacceptable and contradictory to use the Committee's definition for decolonization, for it would only perpetuate such colonialism.

He compared the situation in Gibraltar to Hong Kong and Macao, and said either Gibraltar would remain a colony of the United Kingdom or it should be returned to Spain. Moreover, Spain regretted the fact that the Chief Minister of Gibraltar had rejected outright a Spanish proposal for a resolution to the problem without even looking it over or having it explained. He called for dialogue between the two sides to begin.

Right of reply

KATHERINE SMITH (United Kingdom), responding to the statements by the representatives of Cuba, Brazil (on behalf of MERCOSUR) and Chile, said that her delegation's position had been made clear by the United Kingdom's representative during a right of reply in the General Assembly on 23 September. In response to the statement by the delegate of Spain, she said her delegation's position on Gibraltar had also been made clear in the Assembly on the same date by the United Kingdom's representative, who had spoken in right of reply to the Foreign Minister of Spain.

Mr. ZOHAR (Israel), also exercising the right of reply, said that the representative of Papua New Guinea had mentioned Palestine, which was not included in the documentation before the Committee. Palestine was not a colonial question, but a territorial dispute being tackled in the context of the Madrid and Oslo accords with a view to its peaceful resolution. The parties involved would be meeting soon -- under the auspices of the United States -- and there was cautious optimism that they would be successful.

He said that most Palestinians in the territory were living under their own flag with their own legislature, judiciary and police force. The question of Palestine was being discussed elsewhere and need not be raised in the immediate context of decolonization.

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