5 July 2000


Press Release
GA/COL/3030



SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE ACTS ON THREE TEXTS; HEARS SPEAKERS ON QUESTION OF GIBRALTAR

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The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples took action on three draft resolutions this morning as it held the fifth meeting of its resumed annual session.

By the terms of a draft relating to dissemination of decolonization information, the General Assembly would approve the activities in that field undertaken by the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs. That text, submitted by the Chairman, was approved without a vote.

Also acting without a vote, the Special Committee approved a draft on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter. By that text, the Assembly would reaffirm that, in the absence of a General Assembly decision that a Non-Self-Governing Territory has attained a full measure of self-government in accordance with Chapter IX of the United Nations Charter, the administering Power concerned should continue to transmit information under Article 73 e with respect to that Territory.

The Special Committee also approved, again without a vote, a text by which the Assembly would stress the need to dispatch periodic visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories to facilitate the full, speedy and effective implementation of the Decolonization Declaration with respect to those Territories.

In other business this morning, the Special Committee took up the question of Gibraltar. That Territory’s Chief Minister told the Committee that his government sought dialogue with Spain, but that the dialogue must be structured to give the Territory's people, as the primary interested party, a proper voice. It was therefore wrong for the Special Committee to continue, year after year, to recommend to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) a decision that called for bilateral dialogue between the United Kingdom as the administering Power, and Spain, the territorial third party claimant.

He said it was wrong because Spain derived from such bilateralism comfort for its thesis that Gibraltar's was not a case for decolonization by self- determination of the Territory's people, but rather a bilateral sovereignty dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain in which Gibraltar's people had no rights. The decision was also pointless because such bilateral talks had made no


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progress since they commenced in 1984 and had not taken place since 10 December 1997.

The Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar recalled that in previous appearances before the Special Committee, he had primarily criticized the colonial Power for putting its own national interest above its duty to safeguard the rights of the colony and its people. However, the Special Committee had been just as unresponsive to the concerns of Gibraltar's people. For more than 30 years, it had listened politely and then decided to continue consideration of the question the following year. The Committee's mandate called for it to be proactive, to listen to the people's wishes and to suggest initiatives.

Spain's representative said her country’s position on Gibraltar remained unchanged. It viewed Gibraltar as a colony in the process of decolonization and would never give up trying to recover sovereignty over the Territory. Its claim referred both to the Rock, ceded under the Treaty of Utrecht, as well as to the isthmus, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom. The dispute over Gibraltar could only be resolved through dialogue between the United Kingdom, as the colonial Power, and Spain, within whose territory the colony was situated.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Syria and Cuba.

Representatives of the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs also addressed the Special Committee.

The Special Committee on Decolonization will meet again at 3 p.m. today, to begin consideration of the questions of Western Sahara and East Timor.



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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 take action on a number of draft resolutions.

Before the Special Committee was a draft resolution submitted by the Chairman on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2000/L.4). By that text, the General Assembly would approve the activities in the field of dissemination of information on decolonization undertaken by the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs.

By the terms of a text on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter (document A/AC.109/2000/L.5), also submitted by the Chairman, the Assembly would reaffirm that, in the absence of a decision by the General Assembly itself that a Non-Self-Governing Territory has attained a full measure of self-government in terms of Chapter IX of the United Nations Charter, the administering Power concerned should continue to transmit information under Article 73 e of the Charter with respect to that Territory.

Also by that text, the Assembly would decide that, subject to any General Assembly decision, to continue to discharge the functions entrusted to it under resolution 1970 (XVIII) in accordance with established procedure.

The Special Committee also had before it a draft submitted by the Chairman on the question of sending visiting missions to territories (document (A/AC.109/2000/L.6). By that text, the Assembly would stress the need to dispatch periodic visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories in order to facilitate the full, speedy and effective implementation of the Decolonization Declaration with respect to those Territories.

Also before the Special Committee were Secretariat working papers on Gibraltar (A/AC.109/2000/10) and Western Sahara (A/AC.109/2000/7). Other working papers related to the Department of Public Information's report on dissemination of information on decolonization from June 1999 to May 2000 (document A/AC.109/2000/19) and the Secretary-General's report on information from Non-Self- Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter (document A/55/77.

Statements

PETER CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said that while Spain asserted that the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht denied the Territory the right to self- determination, the United Kingdom, which had asserted before the General Assembly in 1969 that the Treaty of Utrecht did not affect that right, now asserted that Gibraltar's right to self-determination was "curtailed" by the Treaty so as to exclude the possibility of independence and free association. Whatever might be the proper interpretation of the Treaty, it was incapable of displacing the right to self-determination of the people of Gibraltar, a right that was enshrined in the United Nations Charter and that was in accordance with other overriding modern international legal principles.

He said numerous resolutions and covenants imposed upon all United Nations Member States the obligation not to oppress and harass Non-Self-Governing Territories. Spain was persistently and systematically in breach of those obligations. That harassment did not just involve false propaganda, but also unnecessary delays in crossing the international frontier between Spain and Gibraltar and the use of spurious pretexts such as drug smuggling and money laundering to justify the unjustified and unjustifiable. Spain also interfered with the development of Gibraltar's telephone services by obstructing the expansion of its telephone numbering plan and mobile phone network.

The Government of Gibraltar was not afraid of, and positively sought, dialogue with Spain, he said. However, dialogue about Gibraltar must be structured so as to give the people of Gibraltar, as the primary interested party, a proper voice in the form of their elected leaders and government. It was therefore wrong for the Special Committee to continue, year after year, to recommend to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) a decision that called for bilateral dialogue between the United Kingdom as the administering Power, and Spain, the territorial third party claimant.

He said it was wrong because Spain derived from such bilateralism comfort for its thesis that Gibraltar's was not a case for decolonization by self- determination of the Territory's people, but rather a bilateral sovereignty dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain in which Gibraltar's people had no rights. It was also pointless because such bilateral talks had made no progress since they commenced in 1984. Indeed, such meetings had not taken place since 10 December 1997.

It would be wholly wrong and inappropriate, he said, for any of the 17 Non- Self-Governing Territories to be delisted without the consent of their peoples, and other than in the context of decolonization of the Territory consequent upon the exercise of their right to self-determination by the people of the Territory. Such delisting would be tantamount to the Special Committee comprehensively adjudicating against the Territory on the question of the existence of their right to self-determination.

J. J. BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, said that the Socialist and Liberal parties would not support constitutional changes which did not produce a change in the international status of Gibraltar as a Non-Self- Governing Territory and which did not remove it from the list of such Territories monitored by the Special Committee.

He noted that in contrast to the government's position that Gibraltar's decolonization was a matter to be negotiated between the United Kingdom and Spain, last year's regional seminar in St. Lucia had recommended that the Special Committee continue to encourage those negotiations within the Brussels process aiming at achieving a solution to the question of Gibraltar in accordance with the relevant decisions of the United Nations.

The Special Committee should reject the view of the St. Lucia Seminar, he said, and recommend that the Fourth Committee not repeat the consensus decision again this year. Since the last Brussels meeting in December 1997, the United Kingdom had so far failed to reply to Spain's proposals for Gibraltar's decolonization.

He recalled that in previous appearances before the Special Committee, he had primarily criticized the colonial Power for putting its own national interest above the sacred duty to safeguard the rights of the colony and its people. However, the Special Committee had been just as unresponsive to the concerns of Gibraltar's people. Every year, it listened politely and then decided to continue consideration of the question the following year. That had been going on for more than 30 years in Gibraltar's case. The Committee's mandate called for it to be proactive, to listen to the people's wishes and to suggest initiatives.

SILVIA CORTES (Spain) said that her country’s position on Gibraltar had not changed -- Gibraltar was a colony in the process of decolonization, which would take place with respect to the national unity and territorial integrity of Spain, in accordance with, among others, resolutions 1514 (XV), 2353 (XXII) and 2625 (XXV) of the General Assembly. Spain would never give up trying to recover sovereignty over Gibraltar. Its claim referred both to the Rock, ceded under the Treaty of Utrecht, as well as to the isthmus, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom -- a fact that had never been recognized by Spain.

She recalled that the present inhabitants of Gibraltar were descendants of those brought in by the colonial Power, after the local population was expelled. As had been mentioned before, that conflict between two members of the United Nations could only be resolved through dialogue between the two parties: the British, as the colonial Power, and Spain, within whose territory the colony was situated. Her Government was willing to continue working with the Special decolonization Committee on the matter, as part of the aim of achieving a world free of colonialism.

The Special Committee then decided to continue consideration of the question of Gibraltar at its next session.

As it took up the question of dissemination of information on decolonization, BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Cote d'Ivoire), Acting Committee Chairman, called on a representative of the Secretariat to make a statement.

SUSAN MARKHAM, Chief, Promotion and Planning Service, Department of Public Information, said that the Department's present report covered its activities between June 1999 and May 2000 to publicize the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization. The Department's information activities gave special attention to the situation in East Timor in view of the developments there. It also continued to promote the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (1990 to 2000) through publications, radio, television, the Internet and the mass media.

She said the Department was cooperating with the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in preparing for the first anniversary of the popular consultation in East Timor in August 2000. The Secretary-General's statements, including to the Special Committee and his message for the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, beginning May 2000, had been highlighted to the local press and distributed by hard copy as well as on the Internet.

Each issue of the UN Chronicle quarterly magazine had featured articles relating to decolonization, she said, while the Radio Service continued to cover various related aspects in its news bulletins and current affairs magazine programmes in all official languages and some non-official languages. Decolonization-related activities within the Organization continued to be televised and disseminated through feeds and dubs made available to networks and other television stations, and through packages of television news and video highlights provided to news syndicates.

She said that the global network of United Nations information centres, services and United Nations offices employed their full range of information tools to keep the public well informed about developments relating to East Timor and other Non-Self-Governing Territories. Many information centres had arranged briefings and debates, given speeches and lectures, prepared articles and responded to criticism and in general devoted considerable efforts to the East Timor issue. Although that had been the dominant issue, some centres had also focused on decolonization in general.

MARIA MALDONANDO, Chief, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, noted that the Special Committee had been working to establish a Web page on decolonization. Of particular concern was keeping the page updated, especially with information that might be of direct interest to the peoples of the Non-Self- Governing Territories. Decolonization activities were otherwise not widely publicized.

She said that in May this year, the regional seminar in Majuro, the Marshall Islands, had provided the Department with the opportunity to disseminate information and expand contacts in the Pacific region. Participants had been particularly appreciative of the paper presented by the Rapporteur of the Special Committee on the role of the Committee.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) noted that no representative of the Department of Public Information had been present at the regional seminar in the Marshall Islands as there had been in St. Lucia last year. He hoped that the Department would make efforts to cover future seminars.

Action on Texts before Committee

Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Cote d'Ivoire), Acting Chairman, then drew the Special Committee's attention to the draft resolution contained in document A/AC.109/2000/L.4.

The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

It then considered the draft resolution contained in document A/AC.109/2000/L.5 and approved that text without a vote.

The Special Committee then took up the draft resolution contained in document A/AC.109/2000/L.6, which it also approved without a vote.

JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in decolonization over the past decade and at the bloodshed in East Timor in 1999. Papua New Guinea hoped that East Timor could now move ahead through legal processes into a period of rebuilding. Papua New Guinea noted that the administration in East Timor had entered into agreements with Australian companies to seek and exploit offshore natural resources. The administration should make

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information on those agreements available, especially concerning the resulting benefits.

He noted the progress made toward reconciling the differences between the remaining administering Powers and the Special Committee, and hoped that progress would result in the swift, formal adoption -- with the agreement of those Powers, especially the United States and the United Kingdom -- of a work programme for the eventual decolonization of each remaining Non-Self-Governing Territory on a case- by-case basis. Work on American Samoa and Pitcairn had already begun, while work on New Caledonia, Tokelau, East Timor and Western Sahara had started earlier.

In addition, he said, the Government of Papua New Guinea supported the establishment of a Second Decade for the Decolonization of the remaining 17 Non- Self-Governing Territories. It thus supported the decision by the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement calling for a new decade dedicated to the eradication of colonialism.

RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said that decolonization had been one of the Organization's major achievements. However, the world was far from achieving full decolonization. Near the end of the decolonization decade, 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained. The small population of some Non-Self-Governing Territories was often used as a pretext for not granting them self-determination, but such discriminatory criteria could not be supported. Self-determination should be granted regardless of population size, geographical location or natural resources.

Regarding the Special Committee's working methods, he said there were sometimes shortcomings that were beyond its control. It was up to the administering Powers, some of which continued to refuse to enter into serious dialogue with the Special Committee and to place obstacles in its path. Some of them continued to fail to provide timely information on Non-Self-Governing Territories as required by Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter.

He said that some administering Powers continued to exploit the natural resources of Non-Self-Governing Territories in flagrant violation of the relevant resolutions. Regional seminars had been a significant instrument of the Special Committee, making it possible to highlight the uncooperative attitude of some administering Powers and to develop the conceptual framework of the Special Committee's work.

For many years now, the Cuban and other delegations had been pressing the issue of independence for Puerto Rico in the Special Committee. Cuba unswervingly supported the independence of its Puerto Rican brothers who had not lost their Caribbean and Latin American identity despite their longstanding domination by the administering Power.

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