03/07/2001
Press Release
GA/COL/3057



Special Committee on

Decolonization

10th Meeting (AM)


DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SEEKS DIALOGUE FOR PEACEFUL PROGRESS

TOWARDS ACT OF SELF-DETERMINATION IN NEW CALEDONIA


Other Texts Address Military Activities, Notably in Small Island

Territories, and Economic Interests of Non-Self-Governing Peoples


The Special Committee on decolonization concluded its current session this morning with the adoption, without a vote, of two resolutions and one decision.


By a resolution on New Caledonia, the Committee urged all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia, to maintain, in the framework of the Noumea Accord, their dialogue in a spirit of harmony.  [The Noumea Accord was signed on 5 May 1998 between the representatives of New Caledonia and the French Government.]


In addition, the Committee invited all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options are open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians according to the letter and spirit of the Accord, which is based on the principle that it is for the populations of that Territory to choose how to control their destiny. 


The Committee, by a resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, decided to follow the situation in the Territories so as to ensure that all economic activities there are aimed at strengthening and diversifying their economies in the interest of their peoples, including the indigenous populations, and at promoting the economic and financial viability of those Territories.


Also, the Committee called on the administering Powers concerned to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevail in the Territories under their administration and to promote in each Territory a fair system of wages applicable to all the inhabitants without any discrimination. 


Further, the Committee urged the administering Powers concerned to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples of the Territories to their natural resources and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources, and requested the administering Powers to take all necessary steps to protect the property rights of the peoples of those Territories.


As it adopted a decision on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration, the Committee deplored the continued alienation of land in colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories, particularly in the small island Territories of the Pacific and Caribbean regions, for military installations. 


The Committee once again called on the administering Powers concerned to terminate military activities and to eliminate military bases in compliance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.  In addition, it reiterated that the colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories and adjacent areas should not be used for nuclear testing, dumping of nuclear wastes or deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.


Further, the Committee reaffirmed its strong conviction that military bases and installations in the Territories could constitute an obstacle to the exercise by the people of those Territories of their right to self-determination and reiterated that existing bases and installations should be withdrawn.


Addressing the Committee this morning were the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Congo, Russian Federation, Cuba, Fiji and Grenada.  Also, the Committee heard from Roch Wamytan, on behalf of Front de libération nationale Kanak socialiste (FLNKS). 


In his closing remarks, Acting Committee Chairman Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue (Côte d’Ivoire) said that, during the session, the Committee had once again been guided by a spirit of constructive cooperation, with delegations making special efforts not only to complete the established programme of work, but also to discuss new ideas and to improve the Committee’s effectiveness.  The Committee had adopted one decision and nine resolutions by consensus.  It had also adopted a unanimous resolution on Puerto Rico.


Central to the Committee’s work had been the valuable contribution of the representatives and peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, he continued.  Clearly, the views of the Territories must be fully taken into account in any programme of work for the future.  He hoped that the Committee’s working relationship with all the administering Powers would be further strengthened in order to allow for constructive dialogue and real progress in the consideration of the Territories’ needs and wishes.


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.  It was also expected to take up economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration, and the draft report of the Committee.


On the question of New Caledonia, the Committee had before it a draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2001/L.14), submitted by Fiji and Papua New Guinea.  By its terms, the Committee would urge all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia, to maintain, in the framework of the Noumea Accord, their dialogue in a spirit of harmony.  [The Noumea Accord was signed on

5 May 1998 between the representatives of New Caledonia and the French Government.]


Also, the Committee would call on the administering Power to transmit information regarding the political, economic and social situation of the Territory to the Secretary-General.


In addition, the Committee would also invite all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination, in which all options are open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians according to the letter and spirit of the Accord, which is based on the principle that it is for the populations of that Territory to choose how to control their destiny. 


A draft resolution, submitted by the Acting Chairman, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/AC.109/2001/L.9), would have the Committee decide to follow the situation in the Territories so as to ensure that all economic activities there are aimed at strengthening and diversifying their economies in the interest of their peoples, including the indigenous populations, and at promoting the economic and financial viability of those Territories.


Also, the Committee would call on the administering Powers concerned to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevail in the Territories under their administration, and to promote in each Territory a fair system of wages applicable to all the inhabitants without any discrimination. 


The Committee would call once again on all governments that have not yet done so to take legislative, administrative or other measures in respect of their nationals and the bodies corporate under their jurisdiction that own and operate enterprises in the Territories that are detrimental to the interests of the inhabitants of those Territories, in order to put an end to such enterprises.


Further, the Committee would urge the administering Powers concerned to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples of the Territories to their natural resources and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources.  It would request the administering Powers to take all necessary steps to protect the property rights of the peoples of those Territories.


In addition, the Committee would invite all governments and the United Nations system to take all possible measures to ensure that the permanent sovereignty of the peoples of the Territories over their natural resources is fully respected and safeguarded, and would appeal to the mass media, trade unions and non-governmental organizations, as well as individuals, to continue their efforts to promote the economic well-being of the peoples of the Territories.


Also before the Committee was a draft decision, submitted by the Acting Chairman, on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration (document A/AC.109/2001/L.10).  The text would have the Committee urge the administering Powers concerned to continue to take all necessary measures not to involve those Territories in any offensive acts or interference against other States.


The Committee would deplore the continued alienation of land in colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories, particularly in the small island Territories of the Pacific and Caribbean regions, for military installations.  It would once again call on the administering Powers concerned to terminate military activities and to eliminate military bases in compliance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly. 


In addition, the Committee would reiterate that the colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories and adjacent areas should not be used for nuclear testing, dumping of nuclear wastes or deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.


Further, the Committee would reaffirm its strong conviction that military bases and installations in the Territories could constitute an obstacle to the exercise by the people of those Territories of their right to self-determination, and reiterate that existing bases and installations should be withdrawn. 


After adopting its agenda, the Special Committee took up the question of New Caledonia and heard a petitioner from that Non-Self-Governing Territory.


Petition


ROCH WAMYTAN, President of the Front de libération nationale Kanak socialiste (FLNKS), noted that the 1998 Noumea Accord rested on the real will of the indigenous Kanak people, reduced to a majority in their own homeland through a policy of organized immigration, to begin turning the page on colonization to share and build a common future with other communities living in the territory.


Since the elections of 9 May 1999, there had been difficulties and delays in the implementation of the decolonization process, he said.  The new territorial government had violated the agreement, which stipulated an end to the marginalization of the indigenous Kanak people and to depriving them of their right to participate in managing their homeland.


He said that the FLNKS's majority partner in government, the Rassemblement pour la Caledonie dans la Republique (RPCR), had allied itself with the Kanak dissident group FCCI to gradually exclude the FLNKS from the management of New Caledonia's affairs.  The French Government, hiding behind its role as neutral arbitrator, had also failed to respect the principles of collegiality, consensus and shared responsibilities.


Because of the difficulties, he said, there had been significant delays in reconstructing the electorate, protection of the local population, and signs of local identity.  There were two interpretations regarding the electorate.  The FLNKS believed the right to vote should be restricted to those living in New Caledonia in 1988, their descendants and those arriving between 1988 and 1998   who could prove 10 years of residence.  However, the RPCR wanted voting rights accorded to all people with a 10-year residency.


He said the difficulties had eroded the confidence of the local population, who were tired of waiting for implementation of the Noumea Accord.  They indicated the need for constant vigilance to ensure the proper implementation of the agreement.  In two years, the people of New Caledonia would mark 150 years of the French presence.  The FLNKS's aim remained independence, the cause for which many of its militants and leaders had died.  There was no other option; neither integration, nor association with the administering Power, nor even the so-called "third way" proposed to the people of Western Sahara by the United Nations.


The FLNKS, representing the Kanak people who comprised almost 100,000 of New Caledonia's total 200,000 population, was the main nationalist organization, he said.  The Territory had tremendous natural resources, including nickel and cobalt today, and possibly oil and gas discovered as a result of the exploitation of the continental plateau.  While those resources could not but incite the covetousness of the great economic and financial Powers, their exploitation by the indigenous population would form the basis of political emancipation.


JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea), noting Mr. Wamytan’s reference to dissatisfaction with the slow movement of the decolonization process, asked what proportion of the new government the FLNKS held.  How many ministerial portfolios did it have?


Mr. WAMYTAN said the FLNKS had held four of the 11 seats in the first government formed on 28 May 2000.  In the new government, formed after last May’s elections, that ratio had not changed.


LUC JOSEPH OKIO (Congo), noting that Mr. Wamytan had concluded his petition with a call for vigilance by the United Nations, said that only with the Organization's help could obstacles to the decolonization process be avoided.  He sought clarification of problems relating to eligibility for voting rights.


Mr. WAMYTAN said some 9,000 people had been left out of the 1998 referendum and subsequent provincial elections.  They had the right to condemn France before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, for their exclusion.


Action on Drafts


The Special Committee then took up the draft resolution on New Caledonia contained in document A/AC.109/2001/L.14.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said the draft was basically the same as that of previous years.  It contained some technical updates and took into account recent developments.  The delegations of France and New Caledonia had been consulted and they had no problems with the draft.  It was hoped that members would approve it by consensus.


The Special Committee then approved the text without a vote.


Next, the Committee turned to the draft resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and the draft decision on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration (document A/AC.109/2001/L.9).


VLADIMIR ZAEMSKY (Russian Federation) said his delegation’s position differed from those of others on some issues before the Committee.  However, he did not wish to obstruct consensus on the texts.  At the same time, the Committee should not be surprised when, during action on the texts in the Assembly’s Fourth Committee next fall, his delegation would abstain on one of the texts and vote against the other.  He requested that the Committee bear that in mind.


The Committee adopted, without a vote, the resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Next, it adopted, also without a vote, the decision on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration (document A/AC.109/2001/L.10).


The Committee then adopted the report of its session, as contained in documents A/AC.109/2001/L.15 and Corr.1, by consensus.  It also approved the text of the future work of the Committee and authorized the Rapporteur to include it in part I of the report to the Assembly.


In his closing remarks, the Acting Committee Chairman, BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), said that, during the session, the Committee had once again been guided by a spirit of constructive cooperation, with delegations making special efforts not only to complete the established programme of work, but also to discuss new ideas and to improve the Committee’s effectiveness.  The Committee had adopted one decision and nine resolutions by consensus.  It had also adopted a unanimous resolution on Puerto Rico.


Central to the Committee’s work had been the valuable contribution of the representatives and peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, he continued.  During the session, the Committee benefited from the presence of a record number of participants from the Territories at its regional seminar held in Havana, Cuba.  Clearly, the views of the Territories must be fully taken into account in any programme of work for the future.


The Committee, he said, had repeatedly emphasized that in order for it to carry out its mandate successfully, it required the cooperation of the administering Powers.  He hoped that the Committee’s working relationship with all the administering Powers would be further strengthened in order to allow for

constructive dialogue and real progress in the consideration of the Territories’ needs and wishes.  In that regard, the recent meetings held by members of the Committee with the representatives of Tokelau and New Zealand had been particularly inspiring. 


Encouraged by those meetings, the Committee looked forward to a greater involvement of all the administering Powers, informally and formally, in the progressive work of the Committee, he said.  In that respect, the Committee was awaiting the response of the United Kingdom and the United States on the modalities for continuing the informal dialogue begun last year on Pitcairn and American Samoa.  He emphasized that any exercise undertaken must include the representatives of the Territories in every step of the process. 


RODOLFO BENITEZ VERSON (Cuba) said that although much remained to be done to achieve the goals of the Second Decade to Eradicate Colonialism, a step forward had been taken at the current session.  He encouraged those administering Powers who had not done so to cooperate with the Committee in its work.  He thanked all those who had expressed kind words with regard to the holding of the Caribbean Regional Seminar in Havana.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) congratulated the Acting Chair for ably guiding the Committee and thanked all those who had addressed the session.  The Committee, in the new Decade, must be innovative in order to progress in its work and must be critical and self-examining, in the light of changes and reforms in the Organization.  One of those innovations had been to look at the Territories on a case-by-case basis.  In the past week, the Committee had examined the situation of Tokelau with the full cooperation of New Zealand. 


The Committee, he said, would continue to consult the representatives of Pitcairn and American Samoa in order to take the cases of those Territories forward.  He called for the full and formal cooperation of the administering Powers to make progress in the goals and mandate of the Committee.


AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) thanked the Chairman for the manner in which he conducted the work of the Committee and for finishing its work ahead of schedule.


LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada) congratulated the Chairman for his work.  How could the Committee get the administering Powers to sit down and work together to conclude the remaining business of the Committee? he asked.  The matter of consensus by compromise was essential in multilateral diplomacy. 


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