Efforts to see the process of decolonization through to its conclusion should be redoubled, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, as the 1999 session of the Special Committee on decolonization began this morning.
In the penultimate year of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism -- aimed at achieving complete decolonization by the end of the year 2000 -- United Nations system bodies, international financial institutions and administering Powers should continue to assist the Special Committee, he stressed.
The Special Committee had helped to bring to life the United Nations Charter's principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, he continued. More than 80 nations, whose peoples had formerly been under colonial rule, had joined the United Nations as sovereign States since 1945.
Currently, 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained, inhabited by some 2 million people, Peter Dickson Donigi (Papua New Guinea) said after his election this morning as Chairman. The Committee's work was urgent and relevant. Inadequate political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never delay the process of decolonization.
The challenge now was to speed up the decolonization process by strengthening dialogue between administering Powers and the people of the Territories, he said. As for the Special Committee itself, it must devise practical and innovative strategies to justify its existence beyond the year 2000.
__________ * This meeting is numbered 1st meeting of the 1999 session in order to harmonize the numbering of the Committee's meetings with the system used by most United Nations bodies.
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Also this morning, the Special Committee re-elected Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla (Cuba) and Moctar Ouane (Mali) as its Vice-Chairmen; and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) as its Rapporteur.
Before the Special Committee adopted its work programme, the representative of Indonesia objected to including East Timor on the agenda. Recognizing the ongoing tripartite dialogue, the General Assembly had, for years, deferred the issue. The latest round of talks, held a few weeks ago, had yielded substantial progress.
The representatives of New Zealand, Fiji, Chile, Syria, Argentina and Cuba also spoke.
The Special Committee will meet again at a time to be announced in the Journal.
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.
It had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/AC.109/1999/L.1) drawing attention to resolutions and decisions of the fifty-third General Assembly which are relevant to its work; and a note by the Chairman on the organization of work (document A/AC.109/1999/L.2). Annexed to that is a list of pending matters for consideration by the Special Committee during 1999 and a tentative programme of work for 1999.
The Special Committee was created via resolution 1654 (XVI) of 1961 to examine and make recommendations on the application of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
Currently, its members are: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Statement by Secretary-General
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the decolonization movement had brought about one of the century's signal transformations. The Special Committee on decolonization had helped to bring to life the United Nations Charter's principles of "equal rights and self- determination of peoples". The Special Committee had been established in 1961 to examine and make recommendations on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Thirty years later, the Assembly had adopted a plan of action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism aimed at achieving complete decolonization by the end of the year 2000. United Nations system bodies and international financial institutions should continue assisting the Committee in achieving that goal.
Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last year, the international community had reaffirmed the right of a people to be the master of its own destiny, he said. Administering Powers should work closely with the Special Committee and the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to help them reach a full measure of self- government and realize their aspirations.
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More than 80 nations whose peoples had been formerly under colonial rule had joined the United Nations as sovereign States since 1945, he said. Many other Territories had achieved self-determination through political association or integration with other States. There had been great progress. As the century drew to a close, and in the penultimate year of the Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, efforts to see the process through to its conclusion should be redoubled.
Election of Officers
The Special Committee then unanimously elected the following officers: Peter Dickson Donigi (Papua New Guinea), Chairman; Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla (Cuba) and Moctar Ouane (Mali), Vice-Chairmen; and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), Rapporteur.
Statement by Committee Chairman
PETER DICKSON DONIGI (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that with the existence of 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories inhabited by close to 2 million people, the Special Committee's work remained relevant, urgent and necessary. The challenge ahead was to speed up decolonization through the process of delisting, within the context of Article 73 of the United Nations Charter. That should be done through a series of initiatives designed to strengthen the dialogue with the administering Powers and the people of the Territories. They must be designed to bring about purposeful and concerted action for ensuring that the people of the Territories obtained the assistance they required in political education, transparency, good governance and socio-economic development.
The inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying the process of decolonization, he continued. Therefore, one of the Committee's tasks was to identify, devise and propose flexible, practical and innovative approaches, so as to justify its continued existence beyond the year 2000. He hoped that, as new approaches to dealing with the issues concerned with the Committee's mandate were being developed, the administering Powers would renew constructive dialogue and participation in the Committee's work. He was encouraged by the promising developments in some of the Territories, particularly in East Timor.
Failure to tackle the issues concerned with its mandate would only reflect negatively on the Committee's ability to come to terms with its mandate, he said. Such a failure might very well make the Committee redundant or irrelevant in the overall scheme of things at the United Nations in the new millennia.
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Organization of Work
The CHAIRMAN drew attention to the fact that, according to the tentative timetable annexed to his note on the Committee's organization of work, every effort would be made to conclude the work by Friday, 9 July, with the exception of the last item: "implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies". The Committee would consider the item immediately after the consideration of the question by the Economic and Social Council.
KRISTIARTO S. LEGOWO (Indonesia) said that, concerning the organization of work, he wanted to draw attention to the fact that the General Assembly had, since its thirtieth session, deferred the issue of East Timor, in recognition of the progress made in the tripartite dialogue. He also drew the Committee's attention to the fact that, only a few weeks ago, the last round of the tripartite dialogue had been held. The talks had been substantive and progress had been made on a number of issues. Those talks were proceeding on the right track. In view of the above, the inclusion of the item on the Committee's agenda would not contribute to the efforts to find a lasting and internationally acceptable solution through the tripartite dialogue. Therefore, he objected to its inclusion and asked that the objection be reflected in the official records of the Committee.
TREVOR HUGHES (New Zealand) congratulated the Chairman on his election and assured him of his delegation's participation and full support.
SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji) congratulated the Chairman on his election and expressed confidence that he would guide the Committee to success in 1999. He extended appreciation to last year's acting Chairman, Cuba's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, and other members of the Bureau, and assured the Bureau of his country's support in 1999.
JUAN EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile) congratulated the newly elected Bureau and expressed appreciation for efforts made during 1998. Chile would do its utmost to help the Special Committee achieve its goals.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) wished the Bureau success in discharging its duties and thanked Ambassador Parrilla for his leadership in 1998. He expressed gratitude for the statement delivered by the Secretary-General who, with the United Nations Secretariat, had greatly assisted the Committee in discharging its mission and had contributed to successes achieved during the last period. The Committee's responsibilities in 1999 were considerable and Member States were hoping it would be able to finish its noble task in the best possible way.
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The CHAIRMAN said the delegation of Argentina had asked to participate as an observer. The Committee agreed.
MATEO ESTREME (Argentina) said that the Chairman's professional accomplishments were well-known and that his skills would help the Special Committee put an end to the problem of decolonization. He thanked Ambassador Parrilla for the transparency, flexibility and dynamism he had displayed during 1998. Argentina appreciated the importance of the Special Committee's work, and stood ready to back it unreservedly.
The Committee then unanimously adopted its organization of work for 1999.
BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that 38 years had gone by since the establishment of the Special Committee. While much progress had been made, certain States continued to create obstacles to the full realization of the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples. Also, not all of the administering Powers had acceded to participating in a constructive dialogue with the Committee. As a clear signal of its determination to achieve its mandate, the Committee had decided to take a hard look at its work and the areas where improvements should be made. He hoped that would contribute to the work of the Committee.
In addition, he said, the documents from its last session might serve as benchmarks for delegations as the Committee took up its work. He hoped that the recommendations on regional seminars, along with others deemed to be pertinent, would be taken into account to make the seminars more effective. Lastly, he reaffirmed his delegation's resolve to contributing to make the work of the Chairman and the Committee a success.
The Committee decided to take into account, when it embarked on the preparation for the next regional seminar -- to be held in the Caribbean region -- the related recommendations -- made during the 1998 Pacific Regional Seminar held in Fiji -- contained in documents A/AC.109/2121 and A/53/23 (Part I).
The CHAIRMAN drew the Committee's attention to the non-paper submitted by the Acting Chairman, which had been prepared in accordance with the decision of the Committee taken at its 1500th meeting on 12 August 1998. That non-paper contained new elements concerning assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations. He suggested that those new elements be taken into consideration for possible inclusion in the text of the future resolution of the Committee on the subject.
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He also drew attention to a paper submitted by the Acting Chairman which was annexed to document A/AC.109/L.1886. It was suggested that informal consultations on the subject should be conducted as early as possible in the year to enable the Committee to convene a meeting in the near future to carry out a critical review of its work and to draw up a plan for its future activities. In that regard, he suggested that informal consultations on the paper be held in March.
With regard to invitations extended to it, the Committee decided to authorize the Chairman to hold consultations, as appropriate, concerning its participation or otherwise in those and other meetings, and concerning the level of representation when accepting invitations.
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