25 September 2000


Press Release
GA/SPD/182



FOURTH COMMITTEE BEGINS DEBATE ON DECOLONIZATION QUESTIONS

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Despite a constructive spirit of dialogue, some administering Powers continued to refuse to form a serious relationship with the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and to place obstacles in its way, the representative of Cuba told that body, as it met this morning to begin its general debate on decolonization questions.

He said much had been made of the small size and population of many of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and of their lack of natural resources. However, Cuba could not agree with that view, because all people deserved the right to self-determination, regardless of their geography, size or population. It was also unacceptable that some administering Powers wished to undermine the right to self-determination by introducing new formulas or by simply changing the description of the Territories under their dominion. Administering Powers continued to carry out military activities and irrational economic exploitation of such Territories. In particular, Cuba once again reiterated its solidarity with the Puerto Rican people.

The representative of the United States expressed the hope that in the coming year, the Committee would focus on the listed Non-Self-Governing Territories and not be sidetracked by other issues. For certain Territories administered by the United States, the term “non-self-governing” was of questionable applicability, when they were able to establish their own constitution, to elect their own public officers and to have representation in Washington, D.C. Since there were varied paths to development, the mere presence of outside military and economic interests in those Territories was not a detriment to the peoples concerned. Instead, it was often the basis of partnership.

Morocco’s representative reiterated his country’s position that the Fourth Committee was not competent to consider the question of Western Sahara. Morocco had recovered its southern provinces, called Western Sahara, following the opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice and the Madrid agreements ending the Territory’s colonial status. The self-determination referendum had been initiated by Morocco alone and was aimed at allowing the Saharawi people to express their will about their future. Implementation of the referendum was at a serious impasse, due to questions relating to the identification process, repatriation and other issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report.


Fourth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/SPD/182 3rd Meeting (AM) 25 September 2000

The representative of Algeria called upon the Special Committee to use its political and moral authority to ensure that the peace process in Western Sahara led to self-determination. That process had been stalemated for several months, despite the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy. The huge number of appeals by prospective voters who had been rejected by the Identification Commission of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was a major cause of the current situation. But, the Settlement Plan remained the sole process for the just resolution of the Western Sahara conflict.

Also this morning, the Committee elected Jelena Polic (Croatia) and Julian Vassallo (Malta) Vice-Chairs, and Shingo Miyamoto (Japan) Rapporteur.

Other speakers this morning were the representatives of Papua New Guinea, China, New Zealand, Colombia (on behalf of the Rio Group), Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)) and Yemen. The representative of the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Also speaking this morning, was the Chairman of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Rapporteur of that body, who introduced its report.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 26 September, to continue its general debate on decolonization questions.



Fourth Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/SPD/182 3rd Meeting (AM) 25 September 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to complete the election of its officers and to begin its general debate on decolonization issues.

Before the Committee was the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/55/23, Parts I and II) covering that body’s work in its 2000 session.

According to Part I of the report, the Special Committee continued the critical review of its work and initiated discussion on the case-by-case work programmes for each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. It held a series of informal consultations on the matter with the administering Powers concerned, with a view to improving cooperation between the Committee and the administering Powers. The Special Committee recommended that the General Assembly declare the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and approved a resolution to that effect.

The report states that during 2000 the Special Committee and the administering Powers concerned agreed to prepare work programmes for American Samoa and Pitcairn. It was also agreed that the administering Powers would ensure the participation of representatives of these Non-Self-Governing Territories at every stage of the discussions. The Special Committee will keep under continuous review any developments concerning each Territory and review the compliance by Member States, particularly the administering Powers, with the relevant decisions and resolutions of the United Nations.

The Special Committee will continue to conduct seminars for the purpose of receiving and disseminating information on the situation in Non-Self-Governing Territories, in order to facilitate implementation of its mandate, the report says. It will hold a seminar in the Caribbean region in 2001. It will also seek the implementation of General Assembly resolutions calling upon the administering Powers to cooperate with the Special Committee by inviting United Nations visiting missions to Territories under their administration. The Special Committee continues to attach the utmost importance to the dispatch of visiting missions as a means of collecting adequate and first-hand information on conditions in the Territories and on the wishes and aspirations of the peoples concerning their future status.

According to the report, the Special Committee will continue to pay special attention to the specific problems of the small island Territories, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories. In addition to general problems facing developing countries, those island Territories also suffer handicaps arising from the interplay of size, remoteness, geographical dispersion, vulnerability to natural disasters, fragility of ecosystems, constraints in transport and communications, great distances from market centres, a highly limited internal market, lack of natural resources, weak indigenous technological capacity, the acute problem of obtaining freshwater supplies, heavy dependence on imports and a small number of commodities, depletion of non-renewable resources, migration, particularly of individuals with high-level skills, shortage of administrative personnel and heavy financial burdens.

The Special Committee will continue to recommend measures to facilitate a sustained and balanced growth of the fragile economies of those Territories and increased assistance in the development of all the sectors of their economies, with particular emphasis on programmes of diversification, the report adds. The focus should remain on issues such as: environmental problems; the impact of hurricanes, volcanoes and other natural disasters, beach and coastal erosion, and drought; drug trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities; and the illegal exploitation of marine resources. It is the Special Committee’s intention to continue to follow closely the implementation of the decolonization Declaration by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations.

According to Part II of the report, the Special Committee considered the question of East Timor at its sixth meeting, on 5 July, and granted hearings from petitioners from the Territory. It also considered the question of Gibraltar and heard statements by the Territory’s Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Regarding New Caledonia, the Special Committee considered that Territory and heard statements by representatives of the Front de libération nationale Kanak socialiste and the President of New Caledonia.

At the Special Committee’s eleventh meeting, on 12 July, it approved a revised resolution introduced by the representative of Papua New Guinea, the report says. With regard to Western Sahara, it granted a request for hearing to a representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO).

According to the report, the Special Committee took up the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands on 18 February and 28 March. The delegations of the United Kingdom and the United States, the administering Powers concerned, did not participate. However, as a result of informal consultations with the Special Committee, both administering Powers reaffirmed their desire to continue an informal dialogue with the Special Committee on the question of those Territories.

The report says that the Special Committee heard statements by representatives of the United States Virgin Islands and the Citizenship Commission of Saint Helena. At its ninth meeting, on 11 July, it heard statements by the Lieutenant Governor of Guam and a representative of the Guam Commission on Decolonization. During its consideration of the question of Tokelau, it heard a statement by the Administrator of that Territory.

During its consideration of the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the Special Committee heard statements by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, as well as several petitioners from that Territory. The representative of Chile introduced, on behalf of Bolivia, Chile, Cuba and Venezuela, a draft resolution on the item.

Election of Officers

JELENA POLIC (Croatia) was elected Vice-Chairperson by acclamation, after her nomination by the representative of Belarus.

JULIAN VASSALLO (Malta) was then elected as Vice-Chairman by acclamation after being nominated by the representative of Spain.

SHINGO MIYAMOTO (Japan) was then elected to the post of Rapporteur by acclamation, after being nominated by the representative of Bolivia.

Statements

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, then introduced the report of the Special Committee. The report, he said, continued to examine the implementation by Member States, and in particular the administering Powers, of relevant resolutions on decolonization. The Special Committee gave particular attention to small territories. Visiting missions were stressed as being valuable, as was providing information to the international public. Also examined in the report were military activities in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and the implementation of the plan of action of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. A second such decade, extending from 2001 to 2010, was proposed.

PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea), the Chairman of the Special Committee, reflected on past progress and future plans. He noted major efforts to revitalize relations with administering Powers and improved ties with representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. In spite of the progress made since the 1960 adoption of the Declaration, the process was not complete until colonialism had ended. That would require the cooperation of the administering Powers, which has been granted fully by France and New Zealand regarding the Territories of New Caledonia and Tokelau, and Portugal regarding East Timor. Pragmatic dialogue was being pursued with the United Kingdom and the United States. In the past year, a wide range of issues had been discussed at length at the Pacific Regional Seminar, focusing on the difficulties of small island Territories.

Urging the membership of the Fourth Committee to support the Special Committee’s further work, he said that a Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would be recommended to the General Assembly. The importance of completely ending colonialism was recognized at the Millennium Summit, in a Declaration known as resolution 55/2.

In his national capacity, he continued, he was concerned about pressures on certain Territories that were being called tax havens, but could also be called financial service centres. It was good to suppress money laundering and other illegal activities. However, the notion that those financial centres were necessarily harmful because of their tax policies remained to be shown. He asked whether it should be accepted that tax competition was harmful, and wondered who the winners and losers were and who would decide international taxation standards. Proposals for a global tax cartel needed to be looked at critically. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations should not force other nations and territories to join such a cartel; their right of choice should be protected in that matter.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that while the First International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism had ended with encouraging achievements, the goal of decolonization inscribed in relevant United Nations resolutions remained an urgent and heavy task for Member States. On 20 July 2000, the Special Committee had passed a resolution proposing that the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly declare the decade from 2001 to 2010 to be the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. China warmly endorsed that proposal and called on the administering Powers, the United Nations and the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to enter into more effective cooperation to allow those peoples to exercise their right to self-determination.

The dissemination of information on decolonization and regional seminars on the topic should continue to be further enhanced, in order to determine the will of those peoples. In that regard, the full cooperation of the administering Powers with the United Nations was crucial. They should ensure that the peoples of the Territories knew all their rights, provide timely information for such purposes, adopt a more active attitude and accept United Nations visiting missions to Territories under their administration. China called upon the administering Powers to take effective measures to promote coordinated economic and social development in those Territories, while protecting their natural and human resources.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that the goal of eradicating colonialism had not met all expectations. The accession of East Timor to self-determination nearly a year ago could not hide the fact that 16 other Non-Self-Governing Territories remained under colonial administration and needed the help of the Special Committee and the Fourth Committee to realize their right to self- determination. The decolonization Declaration, whose fortieth anniversary was being celebrated this year, was a sort of second charter for the United Nations and the launching of a Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism was appropriate and necessary. To ensure its success, it was necessary to draw the correct lessons from the just-ended First International Decade.

He said the people of Western Sahara had relied on the Fourth Committee and the Special Committee throughout their struggle for self-determination. The Special Committee must use its political and moral authority to ensure that the peace process in that Territory led to the conclusion pursued by the United Nations. However, the optimism created by the Houston agreements had given way to increasing doubts about the implementation of the Settlement Plan for Western Sahara. The peace process was experiencing its most serious setbacks since its launching. The process had been stalemated for several months, despite the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy.

The huge number of appeals by prospective voters who had been rejected by the Identification Commission of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was a major cause of the current situation, he said. The more than 130,000 appeals created a practical problem for the Commission, which had been invested with the authority of the Secretary-General and the Security Council. The Settlement Plan remained the sole process for the just resolution of the Western Sahara conflict. Algeria was confident that it could be put back on track and that the consequent self-determination referendum would inevitably be held. Algeria invited the two parties to the conflict to cooperate with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in order to find solutions to the obstacles in the Western Sahara situation. The frequent postponements had been disappointing and were keeping the people of Western Sahara from achieving their legitimate right to self-determination. Algeria had always supported their right to determine their own destiny.

MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) supported the proposal for a Second Decade to Eradicate Colonialism. Also he reported on the development of self-government in Tokelau. He emphasized the special challenges in that effort, given the small size and isolation of the islands. A means to provide a national voice was a priority. Tokelau’s message, endorsed by the Joint Committee, was that the basis of its governance, economy, and self-determination should be the villages.

There were, however, some functions that needed to be based nationally, he said. For that reason, the framework for governance known locally as the “modern house” project had developed in conjunction with a Joint Committee, comprised of Tokelau’s six senior elected leaders, the Tokelau Public Service Commissioner, and the Administrator. The three communities in Tokelau were, that very week, considering the Joint Committee’s recommendations under the following headings: governance framework, management and operational structures; employer responsibility (under which Tokelau would manage its human resources and the New Zealand State Services Commissioner would cease to be the employer of the Tokelau Public Service); capacity development; and a sustainable development plan.

The collaborative nature of the venture had been acknowledged by the Special Committees resolution in July, he said. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had representatives in Tokelau to aid with sustainable development and observe the current consultations. New Zealand was providing substantial additional funding through official development assistance. However, any discussion of a time-frame for the Tokelau process needed to take into account Tokelau’s desire to move at its own pace towards an act of self-determination.

RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories had remained practically unchanged for many years. Despite undeniable achievements, the goal or eradicating colonialism would have to wait a little longer. Much had been made of the small size and population of many of the Non- Self-Governing Territories and of their lack of natural resources. Cuba could not agree with that view, because all people deserved the right to self-determination, regardless of geography, size, population or other such criteria. It was also unacceptable that some administering Powers wished to undermine the right to self- determination by introducing new formulas or by simply changing the nomenclature or description of the Territories under their dominion

Noting that the Committee’s effectiveness did not depend on the efforts of members alone, he said that in spite of a constructive spirit of dialogue, some administering Powers continued to refuse to have a serious relationship with the Committee and to place obstacles in its way. It was difficult to recall the last visiting mission, which was the ideal means of gathering information on conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Moreover, some administering Powers continued to refuse to transmit information under Article 73 (e) of the United Nations Charter, while at the same time carrying out military activities and irrational economic exploitation of the Territories under their control. Cuba called upon all delegations to support the draft resolution on the Second International Decade recommended by the Special Committee.

For many years, Cuba and other delegations had promoted the issue of self- determination for Puerto Rico in the Special Committee, he said. Cuba once again reiterated its solidarity with the Puerto Rican people, who had maintained and defended their identity as a Latin American and Caribbean people. Cuba was also satisfied to see East Timor exercise its right to self-determination in the August 1999 referendum. Cuba hoped that existing agreements on Western Sahara would be implemented and fully supported the right of Argentina with regard to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Cuba would continue to collaborate with the Committee until decolonization was achieved, according to the mandate conferred by the General Assembly.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia), on behalf of the Rio Group, appealed to the administering Powers to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of non-self- governing peoples to their natural resources and their right to freely establish and retain control over the future development of those resources. Another important goal was to keep the Territories and adjacent areas free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

He said that the May 2000 regional seminar held at Majuro in the Marshall Islands had allowed Committee members an open and participatory setting to gather valuable information for the future work of the United Nations. The Rio Group attached great importance to such seminars and to other mechanisms of the Special Committee. Among its other conclusions, the seminar had reiterated that the specific characteristics of the Non-Self-Governing Territories should not prevent their populations from exercising their inalienable right to self-determination.

The Rio Group viewed with concern, he said, the continued violence occurring in East Timor, in particular the recent attacks on refugee camps in West Timor, where three officials of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had lost their lives. The Group supported measures taken by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) aimed at reinforcing the direct participation of the territory’s people in its administration, which should lead to democratic elections next year. The international community must continue its support for that process, in order to guarantee the future development of the people of East Timor.

He said the Rio Group acknowledged the important work being done by the United Nations in the case of Western Sahara. After many years of effort, the Saharawi people must be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination through the holding in the near future of a free and impartial referendum in which the Territory’s inhabitants could express their choice about their future. The Rio Group also shared the view that Argentina and the United Kingdom should resume their negotiations aimed at finding, at the earliest possible date, a just and lasting solution to the colonial dispute over sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil), on behalf of the countries of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), firmly supported the declaration of a second decade for the eradication of colonialism. In this regard, he noted MERCOSUR’s declaration of the legitimate claims of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas. In the South Atlantic, he said, a colonial situation still remained in those islands. The two parties should resume negotiations in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). WILLIAM MARSH (United States) noted that much progress in decolonization had been achieved during the past century. Although the standards applied in resolution 1514 were too narrow, the United States offered support to countries which chose independence. However, for those that did not choose independence, the United States supported a full measure of self-government, if that was what they chose. Self-determination included the options of integration and free- association, but was not limited by them.

He called on members of the Committee to respect the choices made by the residents of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. No single standard of decolonization applied to every Territory. Indeed, for Territories administered by the United States, the term “Non-Self-Governing” was of questionable applicability to those who were able to establish their own constitution, who elected their own public officers, who had representation in Washington, D.C. and who chose their own economic path.

Since there were varied paths to development, he said, the mere presence of outside military and economic interests in Territories was not a detriment to the peoples concerned. Instead, it often represented partnership. Each case should be considered on its own merits. Over the past year the United States sought to engage the Special Committee and answer questions regarding American Samoa and other Territories. It hoped that, in the coming year, the Committee would focus on the Territories on its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories and not be sidetracked by other issues.

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) reiterated his country’s unchanged position that the Fourth Committee was not competent to consider the question of Western Sahara. Morocco had recovered its southern provinces, called Western Sahara, following the opinion of the International Court of Justice and the Madrid agreements, which had ended the colonial status of Western Sahara. The self-determination referendum had been initiated by Morocco alone and was aimed at allowing all Saharawi people to express their will about their future. Implementation of the referendum was at a serious impasse, due to questions relating to the identification process, repatriation and other issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report. It should be recalled that the original principle involved allowing the participation of all Saharawis, as adopted by the tribal chiefs at a Geneva meeting in 1990 and as expressed in the identification criteria.

A great number of Saharawis had subsequently been taken off the lists of voters, he noted. It must be remembered that Morocco was also devoted to the aims of the referendum. But, it could not be arbitrarily applied and must be implemented in conformity with the relevant agreements. Irregularities had stained the identification process, including various subterfuges to rule out some candidates. No distinction had been made between those who had and had not been included in the census to determine those eligible to participate in the referendum.

He said some tribal chiefs who had previously petitioned on behalf of the other side and who had since returned to Morocco would appear before the Committee to describe the conditions in which the identification process had been conducted and the reasons for the rejection of most of Morocco’s candidates. That was the reason for the high number of appeals presented to the Identification Commission. It should be possible for a higher body to re-examine each appeal.

With regard to repatriation from the Tindouf refugee camps, he said Morocco was deeply concerned about the destiny of those Saharawis who had been stripped of their rights. Some non-governmental organizations and diplomats had seen and lived in those concentration camps in the face of delays and uncertainty about the outcome of the referendum. The international community should mobilize support for the rights of Saharawis living outside Western Sahara. Morocco hoped the Committee would not shut its eyes to the problems that continued to multiply and would ensure that there was no confusion, as the Secretary-General continued to seek an end to the artificial tensions that threatened stability in the region.

Mr. HAMED MOHAMMED OBAIO (Yemen) said that decolonization had been one of the most singular achievements of the twentieth Century. Yet, the process remained slow for some remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories. The further cooperation of the international community was needed to give self-determination to those territories. Regardless of the size and other particularities of the Territories under consideration, all peoples deserved respect for their basic freedoms.

His country, he said, was ready to cooperate on work to eradicate the remnants of colonialism and so supported the recommendation for a Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. And it called for full compensation and reparation for losses due to foreign occupation, including loss of cultural heritage. He further supported fact-finding missions to the Territories, the provision of necessary support, and the creation of special programmes in order to best assist those regions. He hoped the Special Committee would, in addition, continue to receive financial support for its work, and called for participation, coordination and cooperation from the entire international community in its work.

Ms. SMITH (United Kingdom), exercising the right of reply to statements made by the representatives of Cuba and Brazil concerning the Falkland Islands, said that her country’s position on the matter had been stated many times, most recently before the Plenary of the General Assembly on 21 September.

ELHASSANE ZAHID (Morocco), referring to the list of petitioners from Western Sahara to be heard by the Committee, requested that the qualifications of petitioners for Morocco be included on the list. They included two heads of tribes who had participated in the identification process on behalf of the other side, but who had since returned to Morocco. They also included women’s representatives from the Tindouf camps and a professor, who was responsible for human rights questions in the French Senate. He asked which department was responsible for issuing passes to petitioners and for how long the passes were valid.

MOHAMMED SATTAR, Committee Secretary, said the procedure was for the Secretariat to request the passes from the protocol office. The passes were issued only for the duration that the petitioners were being heard -- in this case, two days -- unless the Committee granted extra time. Other than that, the decision was not made by the Secretariat of the Fourth Committee.

Mr. ZAHID (Morocco) said some petitioners had been going around with passes beyond the period of their hearings. How was it possible for them to have passes throughout the year? Were there permanent petitioners? Was there only one department responsible for issuing the passes?

Mr. SATTAR, Committee Secretary, said the Secretariat would look into the matter. Petitioners would have only 10 minutes to speak.

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