9 June 2006
General Assembly
GA/COL/3137

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on

Decolonization

7th Meeting (AM)


Special committee on decolonization stresses need for periodic visiting missions


to Non-Self-Governing Territories

 


Hears Report on Referendum in Tokelau


This morning, the Special Committee on Decolonization adopted without a vote a draft resolution to stress the need to send periodic visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories seeking independence from colonial rule and to call upon the administering Powers of those Territories to fully cooperate with such missions.


By the terms of the draft, the Special Committee further called upon the administering Powers to fully cooperate with the Committee and on the Committee’s Chairman to continue reporting on the results of his consultations with the administering Powers.


Also during the meeting, the representative of Papua New Guinea briefed the Committee on the recent referendum in Tokelau on self-government in free association with New Zealand.  With a very high voter turnout of 95 per cent, 60 per cent of registered Tokelauan voters had cast their ballots in favour of free association with New Zealand, she said, noting that the polling process had been universally praised and very professionally conducted.  Although the vote had fallen short of the required two-thirds majority for a change in status, a better level of awareness of all the issues relating to self-determination had emerged among the people of Tokelau.  She added that the vote was one step in the process towards self-determination and that it was imperative that the United Nations and the Special Committee continue to assist Tokelau.


In other business, the 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 -- agreed to accede to requests for hearings on the question of Puerto Rico, as contained in aide-memoire 03/06/Add.2.


The representatives of Cuba and Iran also made statements.


Also speaking were Committee Secretary Sergei Cherniavsky and Committee Chairman Julian R. Hunte.


The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 June, to take up the question of Puerto Rico and hear petitioners on that subject.


Background


The Committee had before it a draft resolution submitted by its Chairman on the Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories (A/AC.109/2006/L.6/Rev.1).  By the terms of the draft, the Special Committee would stress the need to dispatch periodic visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories in order to facilitate the full implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.


Further, the Special Committee would call upon administering Powers that had not yet done so to cooperate or continue to cooperate with United Nations visiting missions to the Territories under their administration.  It would also request the administering Powers to consider resuming formal cooperation with the Special Committee.  Lastly, the Special Committee would request the Committee’s Chairman to continue consultations with the administering Powers concerned and to report back to the Special Committee on the results of those consultations.


Statements before Vote


Before the Committee took action on the draft on the Question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories (document A/AC.109/2006/L.6/Rev.1), RODOLFO BENITEZ (Cuba) said he was happy to see that the revised draft included several of the amendments proposed by his delegation.  During informal consultations, Cuba had requested detailed information from the Secretariat regarding invitations sent to the Committee by Territories about sending visiting missions and the reasons why some of those missions had not taken place.  Up to now, his delegation had not received that information.  Before it could adopt a final position on the draft resolution, he would like to have all of that information.


The Committee Secretary, SERGEI CHERNIAVSKY, said that in 2000 the Governor of Guam and other elected officials had invited the Committee to hold a regional seminar in Guam, and the information included mention of a visiting mission.  That information was in the Committee’s files and would be made available to delegations.  During 1998, American Samoa had invited the Committee to see how the territory managed its own affairs without specifically using the term “visiting mission”.  The Committee had construed that as an invitation to visit the Territory.  In 1996, Guam’s legislature had adopted a resolution inviting the Committee to send a mission to its Territory.  Because there was never a formal letter, the administering Power did not approve the visiting mission.  He said that an inspection of the files had not turned up a direct letter to the Committee from the Government of the United States Virgin Islands.  The administering Power responded directly to the territorial government, not to the Committee, and said that it disapproved such missions.  There were also references in the files to seminars where Territories had given indications that they wanted to receive visiting missions.  Those were not formal invitations, however.  Because some of the files went back to the early 1990s or earlier, such information would continue to be shared with the Committee.


JULIAN HUNTE ( Saint Lucia), the Chairman of the Special Committee, said that most if not all instances where visiting missions had not gone to the Territories were due to the fact that the administering Power had not approved the mission.


The Special Committee then adopted the draft without a vote.


Statements after Vote


RODOLFO BENITEZ ( Cuba) said the resolution should have indicated the Special Committee’s concern over cases where Non-Self Governing Territories had welcomed missions but due to the lack of cooperation from administering Powers those missions were not able to be sent.  He noted the case of New Zealand.


Administering Powers had an obligation to receive missions.  He called on those administering Powers that had not cooperated with visiting missions to in fact do so.  Visiting missions were important tools for assessing situations in the Territories and helping people in those Territories to determine their future status.


Statement on Referendum in Tokelau


MATHILDA TAKAKU (Papua New Guinea), recapping some of the activities leading up to the referendum in Tokelau on self-government in free association with New Zealand, said it was important to note that the General Fono (Tokelau’s national representative body) had agreed that an overall majority of two thirds or 66 per cent of the valid votes cast would be required for a change in Tokelau’s status.  In her country’s view, such an extremely important question could not have been resolved under a lesser threshold.  Ultimately, with a very high voter turnout of 95 per cent, 60 per cent of registered Tokelauan voters cast their ballots in favour of free association with New Zealand.


She said the entire polling process had been universally praised and very professionally conducted.  Although not meeting the required two-thirds majority for a change in status had left the majority of Tokelauans deeply disappointed, a better level of awareness of all the issues relating to self-determination had emerged among the people of Tokelau.  The international community could be assured that the efforts put into the referendum process were not a wasted opportunity but one which could be built upon.


She said the vote was also seen as one step in a process towards self-determination.  While the Tokelauan Council for Ongoing Government requested that New Zealand leave the referendum package on the table for possible future consideration, two of the three atolls, Fakaofo and Nukunonu, had now decided that they wanted to revisit the self-determination issue before the current New Zealand Government completed its term in 2008.  She said she looked forward to hearing of any possible new developments on the Tokelau issue from the Ulu-o-Tokelau and the New Zealand Administrator, when they joined the Committee meeting later in the month.  She noted with gratitude the Chairman’s and the Committee’s continued commitment towards Tokelau.  It was absolutely imperative that the United Nations and the Special Committee continued to assist Tokelau.


Statements after Vote on Visiting Missions


Returning to discussion on the draft on sending visiting and special missions to Territories, HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran) noted that the fourth paragraph of the revised draft did not include an insert about increasing public awareness that Member States had approved during the Special Committee’s formal session.


Mr. HUNTE took note of the omission and said the insert would be included in next year’s draft.


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For information media • not an official record