17/02/2005
Press Release
GA/COL/3108


Special Committee on

Decolonization

1st Meeting (AM)


WAYS MUST BE EXPLORED TO ACCELERATE DECOLONIZATION PROCESS, SPECIAL COMMITTEE TOLD


Committee Elects Officers for 2005, Approves Organization of Work


The decolonization process, which was enormously influential in determining the political shape of the world and the membership of the United Nations, required further exploration of ways to accelerate the self-governing status of the 16 remaining Territories, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today, as the Special Committee on Decolonization opened its substantive session.


Ms. Fréchette reminded the Special Committee, formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, that the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001 to 2010), had called on the United Nations to ensure that the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories were kept fully aware of the political status options available to them, namely free association, integration with another State or independence.


The Decade’s midterm review offered the Special Committee and the administering Powers several opportunities, including revitalized dialogue aimed at formulating strategies for cooperation and stepped up efforts to inform the Territories’ peoples of their right to determine their own future freely, she said.  As the session opened, a PacificregionTerritory -– Tokelau -- was preparing for the decision on its future in an act of self-determination.  The case was an example of cooperation and political will by the representatives of the people of the Territory and the administering Power, New Zealand, she said.


Julian R. Hunte (Saint Lucia) took his seat as Committee Chairman for 2005, following elections, as well, of two Vice-Chairmen and one Rapporteur, respectively, as follows:  Orlando Requeijo Gual (Cuba); Luc Joseph Okio (Congo); and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria).  He assured members that, in his service to the Special Committee, which had been interrupted when he was called to serve as his country’s Foreign Minister and President of the General Assembly, he was firmly determined to ensure that the work was carried out efficiently and with resounding success.


He also welcomed two new members to the Special Committee -– Timor-Leste and Dominica.  It was particularly poignant for the Committee to have Timor-Leste as a new member since it had been directly involved in the country’s struggle for self-determination.  Both States had contributed greatly to the work of the United Nations and decolonization, and he looked forward to their contributions.  By becoming new Special Committee members, they had clearly demonstrated that Member States valued the Special Committee’s work tremendously and considered the fulfilment of the goals of the Second Decade to be of high importance.


Decolonization issues “have been with us for far too long”, he stressed.  Without implementation by Member States of United Nations’ resolutions and decisions in that regard, “we will continue in a never-ending spiral of inaction, to return the following year to begin again, without regard for whether the recommendations were carried out the year before”, he said.  He would keep uppermost in his mind that self-determination meant the ability of a people to determine their own future and to govern themselves without external interference.


Despite doubts in some quarters, outgoing Special Committee Chairman, Robert Guba Aisi (Papua New Guinea) said the Special Committee was well and growing in numbers.  Many had said that decolonization was a bygone issue.  The Special Committee must work to make that a reality in the Second Decade, and it must carry the banner for those remaining on the list.  Last year, his delegation had made some concrete suggestions to “think outside the box” to advance the Committee’s work.  They had been bold suggestions, and some progress had been made, albeit small.  This year, the Special Committee could prioritize its work by “clustering” the remaining Territories into three categories.


In other business today, the Special Committee approved its organization of work (document A/AC.109/2005/L.2).


The Special Committee was established by the General Assembly in 1961 to examine application of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, by which Member States proclaimed the need to bring colonialism to a speedy end, and to make recommendations on its implementation.  In 1963, the Assembly approved a list of 64 Territories to which the Declaration applied.  Now, just 16 such Territories remain, with France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States as administering Powers.


The 16 Territories remaining on the list are:  Western Sahara, American Samoa, Guam, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Tokelau, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.


Statements were also made today by the representatives of Syria, Cuba, Republic of the Congo, China, Indonesia, Dominica, Fiji, Bolivia, Iran, Timor-Leste, and New Zealand.


The Special Committee on Decolonization will meet again at a date and time to be announced.


Background


The Special Committee on Decolonization, formally known as 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 open its 2005 substantive session.


Statements


Opening the meeting, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette noted that, while the success of the decolonization process had had an enormous impact on the political shape of the world and the United Nations membership, it was an unfinished process.  Ways to accelerate the decolonization of the remaining 16 Territories needed to be explored.  The Plan of Action for the Second Decade called on the Special Committee to ensure that the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories were kept fully aware of the political status options available to them, namely free association, integration with another State or independence.


The midterm review of the Second Decade offered the Special Committee and the administering Powers a number of opportunities, she said.  They included revitalized dialogue and open exchange of views to formulate strategies for cooperation and stepped up efforts to inform the peoples of the Territories of their right to determine their own future freely.  The session opened as one of the PacificregionTerritories was starting to prepare for the decision on its future in an act of self-determination.  The case of Tokelau was an example of cooperation and political will exercised by the representatives of the people of the Territory and the administering Power, New Zealand.


JULIAN R. HUNTE (Saint Lucia) said that 2005 marked a significant benchmark in the decolonization process, as the convergence of two important activities should shed considerable light on how far the self-determination process had advanced, thus far, and how much remained to be done, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.  The first was the five-year review of the Millennium Declaration, and the second was the five-year review of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, which was designed to assess the “state-of-play” in the decolonization process.


He said that implementation of the General Assembly’s resolutions and decisions both by Member States and the United Nations system itself would ensure success in bringing to fruition the United Nations unfinished decolonization agenda.  The extensive decolonization prescriptions continuously reaffirmed in United Nations resolutions covered matters such as political education programmes on the options of political equality, assistance to the Territories from the wider United Nations system, visiting missions, the human rights dimension of self-determination, repatriation of natural resources to the Territories, and more.  He recalled the decades-old Assembly mandate for a transfer of powers to the territorial governments -- a call that still resonated from many of those governments in recent constitutional processes.


Over the years, the peoples of the Territories had also called for the Committee’s engagement with other United Nations bodies, such as the Electoral Unit, the Committee on Human Rights, the regional commissions, and others in utilizing their expertise in facilitating relevant aspects of the decolonization mandate, he said.  But, if the insufficient implementation of the mandates over the last 15 years was any indication, the Committee would have to undertake innovative measures to bridge the information gap on the situation in the Territories, to engage the wider United Nations system to fulfil its mandate of assistance to the Territories, and to put in place a sustainable approach to the attainment of the full measure of self-government for the remaining 16, mostly small-island Territories.


He said that those issues “have been with us for far too long”, and it must be emphasized that the responsibility of Member States and the United Nations machinery did not end with the adoption of resolutions on decolonization; considerable attention must also be paid to implementation.  Otherwise, “we will continue in a never-ending spiral of inaction, to return the following year to begin again, without regard for whether the recommendations were carried out the year before”, he said.  He would keep uppermost in his mind that self-determination meant the ability of a people to determine their own future and to govern themselves, without external interference.  He sought the support of his colleagues in taking the Committee in “a new and more proactive” direction, with the fundamental aims of heightening awareness of the peoples of the Territories and Member States alike, and achieving the goals set by the General Assembly.


Outgoing Chairman of the Special Committee, ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea), welcomed new members, noting that, despite doubts in some quarters, the Special Committee was well and growing in numbers, including in its ranks the newest United Nations Member.  His country’s commitment to the Special Committee was well known.  On specific Territories in the South Pacific subregion, he would continue to assist the bureau where necessary.  Last year, his delegation had made some concrete suggestions to “think outside the box” to advance the Committee’s work.  They had been bold suggestions, and some progress had been made, albeit small.


He called on the Special Committee to prioritize its work, including by clustering the remaining Territories into three categories.  The case of Tokelau was a good one, and demonstrated that decolonization could be done.  Tokelau was on the path to the final act of self-determination, the process having been made easier by the full cooperation of its administering Power, New Zealand.  The other three cases were also achievable within the decade, but the full cooperation of the administering Powers, indigenous peoples and the Committee was needed.  For the first cluster, he recommended that United Nations visiting missions be prepared to visit the Territories as soon as possible.  Those visits should be mandated to collect information, as well as be consultative in nature.  For the second cluster of territories, progress depended on the cooperation of all actors and allowances must be made with regional initiatives.  The third cluster of Territories, which had sovereignty disputes, were more complicated and might take longer to consult.


Many said that decolonization was a bygone issue, he said.  The Special Committee must work to make that a reality in the Second Decade.  The Committee must continue to carry the banner for those remaining on the list.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), directing his initial remarks to the outgoing Committee Chairman from Papua New Guinea, noted that Papua New Guinea had made sincere efforts for more than 20 years to implement the United Nations’ declaration on self-determination for the Territories on its list.  That country’s efforts, including several seminars, had been crowned with success.  Dominica would also be taking part in the Committee’s work, and he was very moved by the presence of Timor-Leste.


As one of the Committee’s oldest members, he said he recalled the early requests for help in “finding freedom” from the people of Timor-Leste.  He was proud now that Timor-Leste was part of the Committee, and he hoped that others would be able to occupy their rightful seats as well.  He also welcomed the delegation of Bermuda, and he respected the choice that country had made in cooperating with the administering Power.  Despite the very busy schedule, he was optimistic that advances would be made in dealing with the very important question of Tokelau, to which he attached great importance.


ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) also welcomed the new memberStates, as well as Bermuda’s delegation, and he, too, paid special tribute to the outgoing Chairman.  These days, there was much talk about revitalizing the United Nations and the challenges ahead, but he was particularly struck by the fact that little had been said in that connection about decolonization.  The matter had been ignored in expert reports, which were supposed to be guiding the Organization in the right direction.  Hopefully, that omission would be corrected and the question of decolonization would appear, as it should, in the Secretary-General’s report to be submitted next month.  The peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories had placed trust in the Committee, which must discharge its commitments to them.


LUC JOSEPH OKIO (Congo) noted that, at the current time, the United Nations membership was focused on the reform of the United Nations system and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  The Special Committee had to remain vigilant regarding the importance of the objectives of the Second Decade.  He appealed to the administering Powers to fully cooperate with the Special Committee to allow it to achieve the objectives of the Decade.  He welcomed the presence of the Committee’s new members, noting that they would add to the quality of its work.


XIE BOHUA (China) congratulated the new chairman and thanked the outgoing chairman for his work.  His delegation would, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, continue to give its full support to the Special Committee’s work.


REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) welcomed the new Committee members, noting that his country had a long history with its neighbour, Timor-Leste.  Bilateral negotiations continued in that regard, based on the principle of reconciliation and a forward-looking policy.  All were aware of the heavy tasks before the Committee, which had less than six years to complete its work.  He welcomed the Chairman’s determination to find practical and innovative ways to move the Special Committee’s work forward.  The Committee should conduct more dialogue with all relevant parties.  The regional seminar provided an opportunity for such dialogue.  In that regard, he welcomed the offer of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to host the forthcoming regional seminar.


At the Organization’s inception, the administering Powers had undertaken the obligation to bring the Territories to an appropriate level of self-government, he said.  Indonesia remained committed to finding a comprehensive solution for the remaining territories.


CRISPIN GREGOIRE (Dominica) said his delegation attached great importance to its admission as a Committee member, and pledged its total cooperation.  He concurred with the Chairman’s focus on implementation of the decolonization resolutions.  Committee members and other United Nations Member States must redouble their efforts to fulfil the goals of the Second Decade in the remaining six years.  He also called on the administering Powers to cooperate with the Committee.  He was very pleased at the presence of Bermuda’s delegation, and hoped the Committee could assist it in evolving a more comprehensive perspective as it moved forward in its quest for self-determination.  He expressed solidarity with the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing territories, and hoped his membership would contribute to their aspirations.  He reiterated the offer made by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to host the annual seminar this year.


SIMIONE ROKOLAQA (Fiji) said his representation on the Committee was an acknowledgement that the aspirations of small-island nations were not mere dreams, but were achievable victories.  No doubt, the new Chairman would introduce ways to further the Committee’s work towards realizing the aim of ending decolonization in its present form.  He welcomed the new members and looked forward to their valuable inputs.


ERWIN ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) said that perhaps the Chairman’s return would result in completing the unfinished business; his innovative approach had Bolivia’s strong support.  He also warmly welcomed the new members.  The work programme must be completed by the end of the year, according to the mandate given the Committee by the General Assembly.  The agenda contained many distinct items, which could greatly influence the working methods and determine what remained to be done to achieving the autonomy of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The Committee would also embark on a midterm review this year, which should heighten awareness of the tasks ahead and spur implementation of the Committee’s and the United Nations’ commitments.


He said it was not possible to continue with “business as usual”; the decolonization process must be accelerated, with only five years left before the end of the Second Decade.  It was not just because of the end of the decade that achievement of results should be hastened, but also because of the Committee’s obligation to “answer the aspirations” of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Tokelau represented the most palpable, concrete example of what the Committee could accomplish in the decolonization process.  He welcomed Bermuda’s delegation, which, he hoped, along with Tokelau, would depart the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Those would be splendid examples of what could be done.


HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran) congratulated the new Chairman and thanked the former Chairman for his contribution to the Committee’s work.  He assured the Committee of its delegation’s full cooperation.


JOSÉ LUIS GUTERRES (Timor-Leste) said it was a great honour to participate for the first time in the Special Committee.  He congratulated the bureau on its dedication to the cause of decolonization.  He also paid tribute to the representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the room.  Their participation was important for the Committee’s success.  He thanked the representatives of countries who had referred to his country for their kind words.  He hoped that the Decolonization Decade would be a success.  He supported the seminar in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


TIM McIVOR (New Zealand) welcomed the new Chairman and paid tribute to the outgoing Chairman, noting his personal interest in Tokelau.  There was no greater commitment than travelling to Tokelau itself.  It had been quite a journey, and he was grateful that the Committee had agreed to schedule the Tokelau item in June.  He hoped New Zealand would not be appearing as administering Power this time next year.


The delisting of the Territory could and should happen, he said.  It was not just a question of an act of self-determination.  New Zealand and Tokelau were working in partnership to build Tokelau’s capacity in a wide range of areas of self-government.  It brought with it a range of actions.  He hoped that the Committee would provide its backing to calls on the international community to contribute to the international trust fund to assist Tokelau as it progressed beyond the act of self-determination.


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