21/02/2001
Press Release
GA/COL/3040



Special Committee on

Decolonization

1st Meeting (AM)


SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE ELECTS BUREAU; HEARS FROM SECRETARY-GENERAL


Secretary-General Kofi Annan, addressing the opening 2001 session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, said that the full implementation of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples had still not been achieved, but the Committee had advanced the issue and ensured that it remain firmly on the United Nations agenda. 


The Secretary-General highlighted the Special Committee’s initiatives to reinvigorate its working methods, as well as the steps it had taken towards renewing dialogue with the administering Powers on the preparation of individual work programmes for specific Territories.  The Committee had agreed last year to prepare such programmes for American Samoa and Pitcairn.  It had also prompted the administering Powers to ensure the participation of representatives of the Territories concerned at every stage of the discussions.  The General Assembly had called for the full cooperation of the administering Powers.  


The representative of Fiji underscored the sensitive nature of decolonization.  Many Committee members had been colonized, and therefore knew that the decolonization process required the highest level of skill and diplomacy, especially with regard to approaching administering Powers.  He warned against aggressiveness, which could terminate dialogue, which was a most important aspect of the process. 


The Committee had not had full cooperation from the administering Powers, the representative of Grenada asserted.  Hopefully, there would now be a meeting of minds leading to concrete results by the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.  The Assembly’s decision to declare a second decade indicated that there was still much to be done towards eradicating colonialism. 


Also today, the Committee elected the following officers:  Julian Robert Hunte (Saint Lucia) as Committee Chairman; Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue (Côte d’Ivoire) and Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla (Cuba) as Vice-Chairmen; and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) as Rapporteur.  The Committee also adopted its programme of work and timetable for 2001, and decided to establish a working group under the leadership of outgoing Committee Chairman, Peter Donigi (Papua New Guinea), to continue consultations with the administering Powers in order to finalize the work done in previous years as soon as possible.  Members would be informed of the composition of the working group in due course, the Committee Chairman said.


On behalf of the Committee, he accepted the invitation by the Cuban Government to host the 2001 regional seminar, in Havana.  The Committee


authorized the Chairman to hold appropriate preparatory consultations for the seminar.  It also authorized Rafael Dausa Cespedes (Cuba), Chairman of the coordinating committee established last year, to continue to review all issues related to the convening of joint meetings between the Special Committee and the Economic and Social Council.


Following his election as Chairman, Mr. Hunte said that the Assembly’s declaration last December of a second international decade was aimed at completing the action plan of the first decade.  It was more evident now that the mission of decolonization remained “unfinished business”.  In the new millennium, efforts must be intensified to find solutions to remedy the democratic deficits that had characterized the often complex political dependency arrangements in Non-Self-Governing Territories -– arrangements which had not complied with the international community’s minimum standards of full and absolute political equality. 


Statements were also made by the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Iran, Syria, Indonesia, Venezuela and Ethiopia.  The representative of New Zealand, an administering Power, also spoke.


The Special Committee will meet again at a time to be announced in the United Nations Journal.


Background


The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples held the first meeting of its 2001 session this morning, to elect officers and consider its organization of work for the current session.


The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General drawing attention to the resolutions and decisions of the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly relevant to the Committee’s work (document A/AC.109/2001/L.1).  It also had before it a Chairman’s note on the organization of work (documents A/AC.109.200/L.2), with a list of pending matters for consideration by the Special Committee during 2001 and a tentative programme of work and timetable. 


The Special Committee was created by General Assembly resolution 1654 of 1961 to examine and make recommendations on the application of the

1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and to make suggestions and recommendations on the progress and extent of the implementation of the Declaration.  The 17-member Special Committee was expanded to 24 members in 1962 and the size of its membership has varied since. 


Its current membership is as follows:  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; Tunisia; United Republic of Tanzania; Venezuela and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. 


      Statement by Secretary-General


Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that although the full implementation of the objectives of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples had not been achieved, there had been some progress thanks to the efforts of the Special Committee of 24.


Speaking at the opening of the Committee’s 2001 session, he observed that the session coincided with the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, and said he hoped that this would add impetus to members’ work. The Decade, proclaimed by the General Assembly, provided a framework for the continued decolonization activities of the Special Committee.  The activities of the Committee ensured that the issue of decolonization remained firmly on the agenda of the Organization.


In highlighting initiatives to reinvigorate the Committee’s working methods, he stated that it was agreed last year that a work programme would be prepared for American Samoa and Pitcairn, and that the administering Powers would ensure the participation of representatives of the territories concerned at every stage of the discussions.


He expressed the hope that the administering Powers would respond soon with specific work programmes for those Territories and that the Special Committee, with the cooperation of the administering Powers, would initiate in-depth consultations on the Territories in the coming months.


He concluded that, with the goodwill of all concerned, it would be possible to further advance the implementation of the 1960 Declaration and all the other relevant resolutions on decolonization.  


Statement by Chairman


JULIAN ROBERT HUNTE (Saint Lucia), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, as contained in the United Nations Charter, had served as a guiding principle in the ongoing self-determination process.  The General Assembly had been true to that commitment with its historically active approach to the successful self-determination of more than 80 former territories since World War II.  As a result of that consistent effort, only 17 territories remained on the list, and many of those were small island territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.  As the Committee considered the critical issues related to self-determination of the larger territories, it must be reminded that the smaller ones also required the same vigor, initiative and resources.


He said it was more evident now than ever that the mission of decolonization remained unfinished business.  In the new millennium, efforts must be intensified to find solutions to remedy the democratic deficits that characterized the often complex political dependency arrangements in the Non-Self-Governing Territories –- arrangements which did not comply with the minimum standards of full and absolute political equality as mandated by the international community.  Towards that goal, the Assembly last December created the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism to complete, and in many cases, to begin again, the work of the action plan of the first International Decade.


Implementation of the previous action plan and of the resolutions on decolonization had fallen far short of what was envisaged, he said.  For example, comprehensive research on the constitutional, political and economic developments in those Territories had not been initiated, despite its inclusion as a goal of the action plan.  As Chairman, he would emphasize implementation of relevant Assembly resolutions and integrate into the Special Committee’s work the necessary regional expertise to advise on the specific nature of those dependency arrangements.  Those required in-depth analysis in order to enable the Committee to recommend to the Assembly concrete actions to resolve the dependency dilemma.


In order to accomplish its formidable task, he went on, the involvement of the administering Powers was important.  He would accelerate the ongoing informal dialogue with those States, but it was also time for them to resume formal cooperation with the Special Committee.  The Committee had taken considerable steps to reform its operations during the 1990’s, including eliminating its subcommittees and updating of its resolutions.  The resumption of the tripartite dialogue between the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the representatives of the territories would contribute to the Committee’s success, along with the more active involvement of the specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations system.  The Committee’s task, however formidable, had the sound legislative underpinning of the international community.  Its members looked forward to working with the Secretary-General in furtherance of the attainment of self-determination for the people of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories. 


He then adjourned the meeting to allow for the Secretary-General’s departure.


Discussion


Upon its resumption, the Committee turned its attention to the programme of work and timetable for 2001 (document A/AC.109/2001/L.2). 


DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that among the important issues before the Committee was the question of the South Pacific territory of Tokelau, for which his country was the administering Power.  As such, it remained fully committed to fully abiding by the expressed wishes of the people of Tokelau, thereby meeting its United Nations obligations.  It was also fully committed to cooperating with the Special Committee in discharging its important responsibilities.  Hopefully, the programme of work could be finalized by end of the year, as called for by the General Assembly at its last session.  


JIMMY URE OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said he had taken particular note of today’s statements by the Secretary-General and the Chairman.  It was heartening to hear that both were fully committed to the cause of decolonization and the work of the United Nations in that matter.  Of particular note had been the call for cooperation with the administering Powers in discharging that mandate.  His delegation had accepted the good words paid to his Permanent Representative as the former Chairman, and would support the new Chairman in discharging his mandate in the new decade, and especially this year, as the Committee acts to fulfil the initiatives begun last year.


VLADIMIR F. ZAEMSKIY (Russian Federation) said he was convinced that it would be possible to fulfil the Committee’s mandate by continuing the efforts of the previous Chairman, Peter Donigi (Papua New Guinea), who had pioneered many important improvements deserving further development.  His delegation was ready to cooperate constructively with the new Chairman.


Regrettably, he said, the work of the Special Committee had been violated when his delegation, as the only representative from the Eastern European Group of States, had not been consulted with regard to the elections.  He did not wish to over dramatize that point, but preventing his country from participating in the work of the Committee could not be in that body’s interests.  The Chairman should ensure that the principle of consulting with regional groups was strictly abided.


LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) said that one of the greatest achievements of the United Nations was its success in bringing to independence so many former territories.  This decolonization process had written a glorious chapter in the annals of the world body.  The fact that the General Assembly had decided on a second international decade indicated that there was still much to be done in the eradication of colonialism.  He noted that the Committee had not had the full cooperation of the administering Powers and hoped that there would now be a meeting of minds which would lead to concrete results by the end of the second decade.


DORNELLA SETH (Antigua and Barbuda) said that her country was well acquainted with the qualities of the new Chairman and stood ready to render him its full support and cooperation.  She added that special consideration should be given to small island Territories, which were particularly vulnerable.  Her country considered them integral to the political and social fabric of the Caribbean region.  She thanked the former chair, the representative of Papua New Guinea, and pledged her country’s full support in furthering the work of the Committee of 24.


RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) was sure that under the leadership of the new Chairman, the Committee would make major advances in its work.  He expressed the hope that the Second Decade of Decolonization would be more fruitful than the first in terms of achieving concrete results and called on administering Powers who were still not cooperating with the Committee to do so.  He offered to host the next regional seminar on decolonization which would be held in the Caribbean this year, and assured members of a warm and friendly reception from the people of Cuba. 


BERNARD TAHOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that the important role of the Special Committee was to find a solution to the problem of territories still under colonial domination.  It would be unable to do anything, however, without the full cooperation of the administering Powers.  Hopefully, the Chairman would use his experience and skill to convince the administering Powers to cooperate on a formal basis with the Committee in order to find solutions, once and for all.  His delegation could be counted on at all times throughout the process.


CAO QING (China) said China, as always, would support the Committee’s work, as well as that of the Bureau.  He thanked the outgoing Chairman, Mr. Donigi, for his excellent leadership.  He invited the Committee to continue ongoing and frequent consultations with members.


Mr. MOLLAHOSSEINI (Iran) expressed appreciation for the work of the outgoing Chairman and expressed his gratitude to the Secretary-General for his important remarks on the Committee’s work.  He assured the Bureau of his full support and cooperation.  The important task before the Committee could be achieved under the new Chairman’s able guidance.


AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) said he joined the long list of colleagues in congratulating new members of the Bureau and that, hopefully, the Committee would make some tangible progress in the early part of the second decade of the decolonization process.  He thanked the former Chairman for his skill and diplomacy in accomplishing much during his two-year term and for laying the very import foundation in tackling the Committee’s programme of work on a case-by-case basis.

He said that decolonization was a very sensitive issue.  Many members had been colonial countries and knew the process required the highest level of skill and diplomacy in approaching the administering Powers in a manner enabling the Committee to achieve its mandate.  Aggressiveness, however, would terminate dialogue -- a most important aspect of the process. He was confident that further progress would be made under the leadership of the new Chairman.


LOUAY FALLOUH (Syria) thanked members for their expression of confidence in his country by once again electing its representative as rapporteur of the Committee.  He hoped that the new decade would encourage everyone to apply the objectives for which the Committee has been given a mandate.


HAMZAH THAYEB (Indonesia) said that it would be of profound significance to take into consideration the true aspirations of the Territories seeking decolonization and to encourage the full participation of the administering Powers in the process.  Such an approach would lend greater impetus to the Committee’s work.  It was important to ensure that the people were equipped with the full knowledge of the implications of decolonization.  He promised his delegation would fully cooperate in the discharge of the Committee’s mandate.


DOMINGO BLANCO (Venezuela) said the Committee was responsible for one of the most important objectives of the United Nations, which was to free all the peoples of the world.  He called for closer cooperation in the second decade, in the Committee’s efforts to bring about complete decolonization.  He hoped that this would soon be a reality rather than a simple hope.


MEHERET GETAHOUN (Ethiopia) also assured the Chairman of his country’s full cooperation in furthering the work of the Committee.  He looked forward to working with the Chairman.


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