28/06/2001
Press Release
GA/COL/3054



Special Committee on

Decolonization

7th Meeting (AM)


SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CALLS ON NEW ZEALAND AND UN AGENCIES


TO CONTINUE ASSISTANCE TO TOKELAU


Also Adopts Resolution on Other Non-Self-Governing Territories


This morning, the Special Committee on Decolonization, adopting a resolution on Tokelau without a vote, called on New Zealand –- the administering Power -- and the United Nations agencies to continue their assistance to that Territory, as it further developed its economy and governance structures with the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution.


The Committee also welcomed the assurance of New Zealand that it would meet its obligations to the United Nations with respect to Tokelau, and abide by the freely expressed wishes of the people of that Territory regarding their future status.


Addressing the Committee, the Ulu of Tokelau said that a framework of confidence and trust had emerged, in which all three partners -- Tokelau, New Zealand and the Special Committee -- could work with mutual respect for one another in an encouraging and nourishing atmosphere.  That environment sought creative and innovative solutions that suited the particular circumstances and characteristics of Tokelau now and in the future.


The Administrator of Tokelau said that when it was appreciated that the Territory was made up of just three villages, it would be also be appreciated that it would be unrealistic to set up the normal paraphernalia of Statehood in Tokelau.  There were practical questions.  What was it that a community of

1500 could realistically do?  What was it that they controlled?  How many things could they do well and succeed?  How would Tokelau’s economy be appropriately sustained from the outside?


He said all indications were that “we are working towards a partnership involving new types of arrangements for managing a relationship of this special constitutional type”.


Also acting without a vote, the Committee adopted a two-part resolution on the questions of the Non-Self-Governing Territories of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.


In doing so, the Committee called on the administering Powers to enter into constructive dialogue with the Committee before the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly to develop a framework for the implementation of provisions of Article 73 e of the Charter and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to the Colonial Countries and Peoples for the period 2001-2010.


The Committee also called for an enhanced and constructive dialogue between the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the concerned territorial Governments to bring about the needed changes to meet the highest standards of transparency and information exchange in order to facilitate the removal of those Territories from the list of jurisdictions classified as tax havens.  The administering Powers were requested to assist those Territories in resolving the matter.


Further, the Committee called on the administering Powers, in cooperation with the respective territorial Governments, to continue to take all necessary measures to counter problems related to drug trafficking, money laundering and other offences.  In addition, it invited the United Nations system to initiate or continue to take all necessary measures to accelerate progress in the social and economic life of the Territories.


The Executive Director of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, informed the Committee that the date of the scheduled vote in Guam on the preferences of the colonized people for a decolonization status was to be held on September 7, 2002.  Self-determination was not simply about the colonized conducting an opinion poll on what status they preferred.  It required the administering Power’s active support, engagement and acknowledgement that the people’s expression of will had meaning, and would be honoured.  Decolonization required the engagement of both the colonizer and the colonized. 


Statements were also made by the representatives of Syria and Venezuela, and the representative of Papua New Guinea introduced the text on Tokelau.


The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 29 June to consider the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and the sending of visiting missions to Territories and Gibraltar.


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 met this morning to consider the question of New Caledonia, for which it had before it a draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2001/L.14). 


The Committee was also expected to take into consideration the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands.


Statements


LELAND R. BETTIS, Executive Director, Guam Commission on Decolonization, informed the Committee that the date of the scheduled vote in Guam on the preferences of the colonized people for a decolonization status was to be held on September 7, 2002.  The fact that a people who identified themselves as Chamorro -- after centuries of colonial subjugation in their small island -- even existed as an identifiable group was remarkable.  The fact that the Chamorros of Guam did exist as a people, however, was a testament to their tenacity and endurance.  While today they were citizens of the United States by virtue of the laws of the United States and that country’s interests in their island, they also had a right to decolonization.  The laws of Guam provided for a process that solicited the views of the colonized people of Guam on their preferred decolonized status.


Guam had long attempted to engage the administering Power on the issue of the island’s status, he said.  At best, Guam had been “engaged” in discussions that have resulted in little substantive progress.  At other times, the issue had been effectively ignored.  Since 1998, there had been no Washington response to the issue of Guam’s desire for a change in its colonial relationship with the administering Power.  


For a process of decolonization to be meaningful, an administering Power’s active support was crucial, he continued.  Self-determination was not simply about the colonized conducting an opinion poll on what status they preferred.  It required the administering Power’s active support, engagement and acknowledgement that the people’s expression of will had meaning and would be honoured. Decolonization required the engagement of both the colonizer and the colonized. 


The Committee, he said, was well aware of the impact of the administering Power’s assimilationist immigration policies, the holding of significant strategic properties, such as an overwhelming majority ownership of Guam’s only harbour, and its continuing undemocratic decision-making powers over expansive areas of the daily lives of the people.  Colonialism was not a latent misfortune.  Colonial rule -– undemocratic processes which did not take account of the views of the people concerned –- was inherently a violation of basic human rights.  As such, colonialism did not just exist, it actively attacked the fabric of the community and of individual existence. 


PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea) introduced the draft resolution entitled the question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/200/L.12).


By the terms of that draft, submitted by Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the Special Committee would take note of Tokelau’s desire to move at its own pace towards self-determination.  It would also note the special challenge, inherent in the situation in the Territory -- the smallest of the Non-Self-Governing Territories -- and how the exercise of its inalienable right to self-determination might be brought closer by meeting that challenge in an innovative way.


By further terms, the draft would welcome the assurance of the Government of New Zealand that it would meet its obligations to the United Nations with respect to Tokelau and abide by the freely expressed wishes of the people of the Territory with regard to their future status.


By other terms, the Committee would call upon the administering Power and the United Nations agencies to continue their assistance to Tokelau, as it further developed its economy and governance structures within the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution.  The Committee would also decide to continue examination of the question of Tokelau, and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its fifty-seventh session.


MR. DONIGI informed the Committee that on Monday and Tuesday of this week, the working group had met with the Ulu of Tokelau, Aliki Faipule Kuresa Nasau and Administrator of the Territory, Lindsay Watt.  The meeting was productive and fruitful and set the tone for future negotiations.  He noted that there appeared to be a desire by the Committee to establish work programmes based on the peculiarities of the Tokelau.


He said that compared to last year’s resolution, the changes in this year’s text were significant.  He then outlined the changes to both the preambular and operative sections of the text.


In closing, he underscored that it should be recognized that not all territories were at the same stage of development, and consequently, the “one size fits all approach cannot be applied”.  He recommended that the text be adopted without a vote.


ALIKI FAIPULE KURESA NASAU, Ulu of Tokelau, said there was an understanding and acknowledgement of the concrete situation in and the particular characteristics of the Territory by the Special Committee.  What had emerged this week was a framework of confidence and trust.  A framework in which all three partners -- Tokelau, New Zealand and the Special Committee -- could work with mutual respect for one another in an encouraging and nourishing atmosphere.  That environment sought creative and innovative solutions that suited the particular circumstances and characteristics of Tokelau, now and in the future.


He said the Territory was not just approaching the self-government/self-determination question with only the free association option in mind.  It was also looking at the full integration option in order to make an informed and educated choice.  Self-determination would not necessarily be achieved by a sudden vote on the existing three options.  What had gone on previously was a long process of elimination and negotiation with the administering Power on the merits and demerits of free association and integration options.


He said the Territory had noted with appreciation the serious intent with which the administering Power had taken on its responsibilities.  New Zealand had demonstrated its commitment to follow the Tokelau process.  It had committed resources and ongoing material support for the Modern Housing Project and the establishment of the Tokelau Trust Fund.  That was very supportive and the Territory wished to register its deep appreciation for such continuing support. The depth of understanding of the Territory’s situation by Lindsay Watt, the Administrator, had also contributed immensely to the success of the Tokelau process.


He said during the last few days he had seen and experienced a closing of the gap.  Tokelau and New Zealand had consistently worked closely together in that process.  The atmosphere afforded by the talks on a work programme/Plan of Action for Tokelau had put a human face on the Special Committee and not that of a distanced and cold bureaucracy.  Self-determination for Tokelau was about dealing with the struggles and search for humanity.  It was about finding a place in the sun, a struggle for survival and a place for growth.  He invited the Committee to come to his territory and see for itself “so that we can get to know each other”. 


LINDSAY WATT, Administrator of Tokelau, said two days ago both the Territory and New Zealand anticipated that the self-determination was most likely to be a confirmation of a position that had been reached at a designated point along the path.  It was a confirmation of governance systems that Tokelau had worked out internally while taking into account the positions reached with its partner.


He said all indications were that “we are working towards a partnership involving new types of arrangements for managing a relationship of this special constitutional type”.  There were practical questions:  what was it that a community of 1500 could realistically do?  What was it that they controlled?  How many things could they do well and succeed?  How would Tokelau’s economy be appropriately sustained from the outside?


He believed the validity of those questions would be evident when members viewed a documentary video presentation entitled “Our Small World”, that had been prepared by a New Zealand producer with a reputation for in-depth thoughtful work. When it was appreciated that the Territory was made up of just three villages, it would be also be appreciated that it would be unrealistic to set up the normal paraphernalia of Statehood in Tokelau. 


He said a core principle was that an external support structure should be an extension of Tokelau’s self-government, and should be linked productively into the village and the national structures as they took shape under the Territory’s modern housing project.  A practical requirement for Tokelau was that there should be some facility in Wellington that served as a coordinating point and similarly for agencies of New Zealand in terms of their involvement with the territory.  Such a facility would assist the further development of links between Tokelau and the administering Power.


He said every encouragement was being given to take a “whole of government” approach, with the emphasis on the deployment of resources to an identified need, irrespective of where those resources resided, in ways that promoted local initiative.  There was also a wider dimension to the arrangements that were coming into place to creatively support and sustain Tokelau’s development.  One such arrangement was the launch in Wellington in May of a “Friends of Tokelau” entity –- an organization comprised of people who might wish to lend support at this critical point to the Territory’s development.


Most importantly, it had been encouraging to see how the Modern Housing Project was enabling Tokelau to tap into the skills of its New Zealand-based community of some 5,000 people.  “Indeed we may be well on the way to giving practical meaning to the concept of the ‘oneness of all Tokelauans’ wherever they live”, he said.  There might be 8,000 or more altogether.


Action on Draft


The draft resolution on the question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/200/L.12) was then adopted without a vote.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that he had listened with great interest to the speeches of the Ulu and the Administrator of Tokelau, and was impressed by the sincere spirit of cooperation between both parties.  It confirmed that that was the way to conduct a dialogue on the issue.  It proved that once there was a real interest on the part of the parties to find a solution to the issue, the Committee came forward and gave them its support.  He was impressed by the way the Ulu had defined the issues of importance to his people. 


At the same time, he said that he was impressed by the way the Administrator had also expounded on the different concerns that he thought would promote the work of the Committee regarding Tokelau.  He especially appreciated the understanding of the Government of New Zealand of the needs of the people of Tokelau, their aspirations and their right to self-determination.


DOMINGO BLANCO (Venezuela) thanked the representative of Tokelau for the detailed information he had presented, which made it possible for the Committee to achieve progress in the working paper on that Territory.  He also thanked the Administrator for his participation in the session.  He exhorted all parties to continue to work with the Committee as they had done so until now, as that was the best way to find durable solutions to the issues of decolonization.


The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on the questions of the Non-Self-Governing Territories of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.


The representative of Papua New Guinea informed the Committee that since last year, the Working Group had not made any progress with respect to American Samoa and Pitcairn.  Only one meeting had been held with the United Kingdom on Pitcairn and two meetings had been held with regard to American Samoa.  Not all Non-Self-Governing Territories were in the same level of development.  The one-size-fits-all approach could not be applied to all Territories.  The Working Group on Pacific Territories had made some progress on Tokelau.  Progress on other Territories could only be made if the administering Powers came forward and engaged in dialogue. 


He believed that only by developing work programmes on a case-by-case basis with the cooperation of the administering Powers could progress be made.  He urged

all administering Powers who had not cooperated with the Committee in the past to come forward and begin a dialogue with it.


The representative of Syria said there were 11 Territories mentioned in the resolution and he would join consensus on its adoption.  However, the situation of each of those Territories had its particular characteristics.  Through cooperation with the administering Powers, the Committee could find quick solutions in some of the cases.  Others required more careful consideration.  He also urged the administering Powers to cooperate and engage in a constructive dialogue.


The Committee adopted the text without a vote.


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