2 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SPD/341

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

Sixty-first General Assembly

Fourth Committee

2nd Meeting (PM)


DECOLONIZATION UNITED NATIONS SUCCESS STORY, BUT TASK NOT YET COMPLETE,


FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD AS DEBATE BEGINS

 


The cause of decolonization had been one of the defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century, the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told today as it began its general debate on decolonization issues.


In his opening remarks, Chairman Madju Raman Acharya ( Nepal) said the sterling work accomplished by the Special Committee on Decolonization, established in 1961 to monitor implementation of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, had been one of the hallmarks of the United Nations.  Yet, the task of decolonization was not yet complete, as there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the United Nations list.  “We must continue with our common endeavour, in the spirit of cooperation among all parties involved to bring an end to colonialism in the shortest possible time,” he said.


Even as the challenges faced by the United Nations system in completing the decolonization process remained formidable, they were in no way insurmountable -- as long as implementation of the decolonization mandate became a priority of the international community, the Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Anthony B. Severin(Saint Lucia), said.  The Special Committee, however, could not implement the decolonization mandate alone.  Implementation must be a collaborative effort by the wider United Nations system, the administering Powers, the international community and the people of the Territories themselves.


“The General Assembly must take a qualitative leap from merely focusing on the updating of language on decolonization to promoting the implementation of resolutions on decolonization, which have been so carefully recommended by this Committee,” he said.  “It is only through implementation of these resolutions that the United Nations can fulfil its mandate to ensure the decolonization of the remaining 16 territories listed.”


In the ensuing debate, most speakers welcomed progress made in the decolonization process and agreed that the process was one of the success stories of the Organization.  Cuba’s representative, however, pointed out that more than half of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010) had passed, and that many of the objectives had not been realized.  The attempts made by some countries to question the validity of the decolonization cause were unacceptable.  Certain administering Powers continued to refuse to cooperate with the Special Committee, thereby disregarding their obligations derived from the United Nations Charter and numerous Assembly resolutions.


Addressing the question of Tokelau, one of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the representative of New Zealand, that Territory’s administering Power, said that, although Tokelau’s 11 to 15 February referendum on self-government in free association with New Zealand had had a “remarkable” turnout of 95 per cent, votes in favour had fallen just short of the two-third majority threshold required, with 60 per cent of the voters supporting self-government in free association with New Zealand.


She said that, since the referendum, Tokelau’s Council for Ongoing Government had conducted meetings with the three village councils and the General Fono [the island’s representative body], to consider the referendum result and decide on Tokelau’s future course of action.  Tokelau had recently indicated its intention to schedule a second referendum for November 2007.  New Zealand would continue to work with the people of Tokelau as they travelled along that path.


Addressing the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the representative of Brazil, speaking on behalf of MERCOSUR and associated States, said the General Assembly had described the question as a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom that should be resolved in negotiations.  The resolution mentioned that both parties should take into account the interests of the people of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), excluding the principle of self-determination.


He was convinced that the process of self-determination, as one of principles in the Declaration on Decolonization in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), was the correct way to decolonize countries.  As such, it was only applicable to people who were oppressed, rather than to those descendants who had been transplanted by the occupying Power, as had happened in that case, where the principle of territorial integrity should be applied.  Any attempt to wholly or partially break the territorial integrity principle would be incompatible with Charter of the United Nations.


In her right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom stated that there were no doubts about the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), and there would be no discussion over that sovereignty until such time as the islanders requested it.


In other business, the Committee granted 44 requests for hearings relating to the questions of Gibraltar, Guam, New Caledonia and Western Sahara.


Representatives of Egypt and Guyana (on behalf of the Rio Group) also spoke.  The Special Committee’s report was introduced by that body’s Rapporteur, Bashar Ja'afari ( Syria).


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Tuesday, 3 October, to continue its debate on decolonization issues.


Background


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual debate on decolonization issues this afternoon, it had before it the 2005 report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/60/23).  The report recalls that the Special Committee was established by the General Assembly in 1961, in order to examine the application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of December 1960, and to make recommendations on the progress of the implementation of the Declaration.


In 1991, according to the report, the Assembly endorsed a plan of action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, which would include the organizing of seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific regions to review progress achieved and the dispatch of visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  At its fifty-fifth session, in 2000, the Assembly declared the period 2001 to 2010 the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, and called on Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the plan of action.


At its sixtieth session, in 2005, the Assembly adopted resolution 60/119 and requested the Special Committee to continue to seek suitable means for the immediate and full implementation of the Declaration.  In addition to resolution 60/119, the Assembly adopted 11 other resolutions and a decision relating to specific items considered by the Committee in 2005.


Regarding future work, the report says that the Special Committee intends, during 2007, to pursue its efforts in bringing a speedy end to colonialism, and to pursue other efforts to accelerate the implementation of its plan of action.  The Special Committee will continue to keep the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories under review, examining the impact of developments on the political advancement of each Territory.


The report states that the Committee is particularly encouraged by the excellent cooperation of New Zealand and Tokelau at every stage of the negotiations, in preparation for the exercise of the right of self-determination by the people of Tokelau that was held in February 2006.  It is also greatly encouraged by the growing interest and participation by the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the regional seminars, and the Special Committee will continue to conduct seminars for the purpose of assessing, receiving and disseminating information on the situation in the Territories.  The next seminar is planned for the Caribbean region in 2007.


According to the report, the Special Committee will continue to seek the cooperation of the administering Powers in dispatching United Nations visiting missions as a means of collecting first-hand information on conditions in the Territories and on the wishes of peoples for their future status.  Given the importance of disseminating information on decolonization, the Special Committee will continue to disseminate information on its activities and on the Territories, in an effort to mobilize world public opinion to assist the people of the Territories to bring about a speedy end to colonialism.  It also intends to develop, together with the Department of Public Information, programmes aimed at Territories that have requested information on self-determination options.

In its focus on the specific problems of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the report states that the Committee will continue to recommend measures to facilitate a sustained and balanced growth of the Territories’ fragile economies, through increased assistance in the development of all economic sectors and an emphasis on diversification.


According to the report, the Special Committee recommends, among other things, that the General Assembly renew its appeal to the administering Powers to take all necessary steps for the implementation of the Declaration; request those administering Powers that have not done so to become involved in the Special Committee’s work; and continue to invite the administering Powers to allow representatives of the Territories concerned to participate in the discussions of the Fourth Committee.  It also recommends that the Assembly make adequate provisions to cover the Special Committee’s activities in 2007.  Should additional provisions be required over and above proposed programme budget for the biennium 2007-2008, proposals for supplementary requirements would be made to the Assembly for its approval.


The report also outlines the Special Committee’s consideration of specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2006 session, including on the dissemination of information on decolonization; visiting missions to Territories; economic and other activities that affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self Governing Territories; implementation of the decolonization Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and associated international institutions; information from Non-Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter; and specific territories.


[Under Article 73 e, Member States with responsibilities for the administration of Territories whose peoples have not yet attained self-government agree to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on the socio-economic and educational conditions in those Territories, other than trusteeship Territories falling under Chapters XII and XIII.]


Chapter XII of the report contains draft resolutions recommended by the Special Committee to the General Assembly.


The Fourth Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/61/62).  It contains a list of the agencies and institutions that were invited to submit information on their efforts to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions.  Summaries of the replies received from those bodies are contained in document A/2006/47.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/61/66), covering the period April 2005 through March 2006.  The report lists 58 Member States and the Holy See as having offered to make scholarships available to inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  From the current period, it describes offers and awards from Argentina, Cuba, Japan and United Kingdom.


According to the report, applications for scholarships received by the United Nations Secretariat are simultaneously transmitted to the offering States for consideration, and to the administering Powers for information.  In the period covered by the report, the Secretariat received one request from a student for information on the availability of scholarships.  The student was not an inhabitant of a Non-Self-Governing Territory.


The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter (document A/61/70).


Transmissions under Article 73 e include information on geography, history, population and socio-economic and educational conditions.  In the case of Territories under the administration of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, annual reports include information on constitutional matters.  Additional information on political and constitutional developments on Tokelau was given by the representative of New Zealand during a meeting of the Special Committee.  An annex to the report contains the dates of information transmitted to the Secretary-General in 2005 and 2006.


The Secretary-General recommends that the information received from the administering Powers be used by the Secretariat to prepare working papers for discussion by the Special Committee on Decolonization at its annual session.


The Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara (document A/61/121), which summarizes the reports he submitted to the Security Council from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 on the matter.


Opening Statements


MADJU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said the cause of decolonization had been one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century.  Due to the untiring efforts of the United Nations, particularly its Special Committee on Decolonization, only a small part of the world’s population remained under colonial rule.  The sterling work accomplished by the Special Committee, established in 1961 to monitor implementation of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to colonial Countries and Peoples, had been one of the hallmarks of the United Nations.


He said the Committee had carried out its mandate in many ways, such as through sending missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories; analysis of information submitted under Article 73 e of the Charter; the hearing of petitioners; formulating proposals and carrying out actions mandated by the Assembly in the context of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010); and other efforts.


“Colonialism is an anachronism,” he quoted the Secretary-General.  The task of decolonization was not yet complete, as there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the United Nations list.  “We must continue with our common endeavour, in the spirit of cooperation among all parties involved, to bring an end to colonialism in the shortest possible time.”


Introduction of Report


BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria), the Rapporteur of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, introducing that body’s report (document A/61/23), said that, during 2006, the Special Committee had continued to analyse developments in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It had benefited from the participation of representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories, from two of the four administering Powers -- France and New Zealand -- as well as from non-governmental organizations.


He said that, in chapter I, the report addressed the pivotal role of the administering Power in making progress towards granting complete decolonization.  The Special Committee had recognized with appreciation the continuing “exemplary” cooperation of New Zealand.  The report also noted the cooperation of the United Kingdom in facilitating the special mission to the Turk and Caicos Islands.  However, the United Kingdom and the United States had not formally participated in the work of the Committee.  The Committee noted that its visits to the Non-Self-Governing Territories were of immeasurable value.


The specific recommendations of the Special Committee in view of the constitutional, political, economic, social and public information related developments pertaining to the Non-Self-Governing Territories were presented in the form of draft resolutions in chapter XII of the report, he said.


ANTHONY B. SEVERIN (Saint Lucia), Chairman of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, said that, even as the challenges faced by the United Nations system in completing the decolonization process remained formidable, they were in no way insurmountable -- as long as implementation of the decolonization mandate became a priority of the international community.


Reporting on the Special Committee’s activities during 2006, including on a special mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands, he said the Committee had supported collaboration between the Special Committee and the relevant human rights bodies.  It had also called for similar collaboration between the Committee and United Nations bodies dealing with indigenous issues and racial discrimination.  It had also asked the Department of Public Information to intensify its efforts to disseminate information to the territories, as a lack of information there on the decolonization process continued to be an obstacle to the realization of self-determination.  The Committee had once again called for the initiation of a case-by-case examination of each territory that would include the territorial government, the administering Power and the United Nations.


He said that, while the referendum held in Tokelau on the political status option of free association did not meet the 66 per cent threshold, the 60 per cent favourable vote had been encouraging.  He looked forward to further dialogue with New Zealand, whose behaviour continued to be “exemplary”, and the continued support of the United Nations system, as the political leadership of Tokelau had already scheduled a new referendum for 2007.  Due to difficulties in Timor-Leste, the pacific regional seminar scheduled for May had had to be postponed.  The Government of Fiji had offered to host the seminar in November.


The Special Committee could not implement the decolonization mandate alone, he said.  The implementation of that mandate must be a collaborative effort by the wider United Nations system, the administering Powers, the international community and the people of the territories themselves.  Those people must be armed with information on the full range of options open to them.  As Chairman, he had prepared a plan of implementation of the decolonization mandate, contained in document A/60/853-E/2006-75.  The plan sought to provide for independent expertise to furnish important critical and comprehensive independent analysis of the situation on the ground in the various territories.


In conclusion, he said: “The General Assembly must take a qualitative leap from merely focusing on the updating of language on decolonization to promoting the implementation of resolutions on decolonization, which have been so carefully recommended by this Committee.  It is only through implementation of these resolutions that the United Nations can fulfil its mandate to ensure the decolonization of the remaining 16 territories listed.”


Statements


AMR ELSHERBINI ( Egypt), affirming the United Nations role in eliminating colonization, said that the colonization question needed serious work to assure the respect of people’s rights to freedom, independence and self-determination.  Particular attention was needed in providing assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Moreover, countries should commit themselves to provisions of the Charter, the decolonization declaration and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Second, the international community must also affirm the right of people under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination, as noted in resolution 55/146, declaring the 2001-2010 period as the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.  Further, attention was needed in increasing awareness of the role of the United Nations to eradicate colonialism, and in advancing the effectiveness of the dispatching missions by the Special Committee to Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Recalling Article 73 e of the Charter, he said efforts to reaffirm the responsibility of the administering Power were needed in providing comprehensive information on the overall political, economic and legislative situation in the territories under its administration.  In addition, it was important to focus on the right of colonial peoples to exploit their natural resources according to their interest, and express concern about any activities that aimed to use those resources in a different manner.  That also applied to cultural heritage.  The United Nations system should increase all efforts aimed at achieving the economic and social development of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Finally, he reaffirmed Egypt’s commitment to support all efforts to eradicate colonialism, adding that his country looked forward to a day when the Palestinian people had recovered their rights and established their own independent, viable, sovereign State.


GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that, since its creation, one of the main goals of the United Nations had been the endeavour to enable the peoples of the world to exercise the right to self-determination.  The decolonization process of the Organization had been one of its major successes.  The Special Committee had been the United Nations driving force in the decolonization process.  However, with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining, the United Nations had yet to attain its goal of total eradication of colonialism. The Rio Group called upon the administering Powers to adopt the necessary measures for the decolonization of each of the Territories mentioned in the list, taking into account their particular characteristics.

He said the Rio Group strongly supported such activities of the Special Committee as the annual assessment of the political, economic and social situation in each of the Territories, the holding of seminars, the visiting missions and the annual recommendations to the Assembly.  It was essential that the recommendations in its report be implemented, and he called on the administering Powers and interested States to take action to that effect without delay.   The Group also attached great importance to the dissemination of information on decolonization.


Addressing pending colonial issues, he said Argentina and the United Kingdom should resume negotiations in order to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution to the sovereignty dispute relating to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgias (Georgias del Sur) and South Sandwich Islands (Sandwich del Sur).  Regarding the small island Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific, it was necessary to continue adopting measures to facilitate the sustainable and fair growth of their economies in order to advance the decolonization process.  The Group reaffirmed the responsibility of the United Nations with regard to the exercise by the Saharawi people of their right to self-determination.  It fully supported the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Peter Van Walsum, and called on the parties to cooperate with the United Nations and among themselves, in order to bring an end to the present deadlock.


ILEANA NUNEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) said more than half of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism had passed, but many of the objectives had not been realized.  The list of Non-Self-Governing Territories had barely changed.  The attempts made by some countries to question the validity of the decolonization cause and the very existence of the Special Committee were unacceptable.  Certain administering Powers continued to refuse to cooperate with the Special Committee, thereby disregarding their obligations derived from the United Nations Charter and numerous Assembly resolutions.  The positive results of the close relationship between New Zealand and the Committee had proven how much could be achieved when a spirit of cooperation prevailed.  One of the most successful practices of the last few years had been the sending of visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  She stressed the need to continue those missions on a regular basis.


The Special Committee had once again adopted by consensus a resolution acknowledging the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence.  She hoped that the Assembly, in the shortest possible time, would make a comprehensive and detailed review of the question of Puerto Rico.  Also, the attempts to prevent the Saharawi people from exercising their inalienable right to self-determination contravened the spirit of the United Nations Charter and the more than 40 resolutions adopted since 1965.  The Saharawi people were the only people that had the right to decide their future, in a sovereign and free manner, without pressures or conditions of any kind.  Her country also supported Argentina’s legitimate right in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas.  She urged for a negotiated, just and definitive solution to that question in the shortest possible term.


She said the dissemination of information on decolonization was very important, as were the regional seminars on decolonization that were held every year.  According to a report, only 58 Member States had provided scholarships to the youth of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Despite its limited resources, Cuba was host to 620 students of those territories.  The Non-Self-Governing Territories could largely benefit from the specialized agencies of the United Nations.  Only five such agencies had responded to a request by the Secretary-General to submit information of assistance programmes carried out for the benefit of the non-autonomous Territories.  She urged the specialized bodies and agencies of the United Nations to draw up and implement assistance programmes of that kind without delay.


ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said that her country and the United Nations had worked closely since 1946 to support the Territory of Tokelau’s move toward greater self-reliance.  As reported to the Special Committee in February, although Tokelau’s 11 to 15 February referendum on self-government in free association with New Zealand had had a “remarkable” turnout of 95 per cent; votes in favour fell just short of the two-third majority threshold required, with 60 per cent of the voters supporting self-government in free association with New Zealand.  While disappointed with the outcome, Tokelau’s political leadership remained unanimously committed to the goal of self-government -- at both the village and national level.


She said that, since the referendum, Tokelau’s Council for Ongoing Government had conducted meetings with the three village councils and the General Fono [the island’s representative body], to consider the referendum result and decide on Tokelau’s future course of action.  New Zealand had agreed to Tokelau’s request to keep the current “package” of the draft constitution and draft treaty on the table.


She noted the Special Committee’s emissary’s support for that approach, and stressed that, while there would not be a change of status for Tokelau in the immediate future, it should not be ruled out for all time, as the first referendum was a step along the path of self-determination, not a destination.  To that end, Tokelau had recently indicated its intention to schedule a second referendum for November 2007.  New Zealand would continue to work with the people of Tokelau as they travelled along that path.


PIRAGIBE TARRAGO (Brazil) speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries and associated States, said the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas was an issue that had been described in General Assembly resolutions as a special colonial question.  Resolution 2065 (XX) had described the Malvinas question as a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom that should be resolved in negotiations.  The resolution mentioned that both parties should take into account the interests of the people of the Malvinas, excluding the principle to self-determination.


He said that MERCOSUR considered the dissemination of information important, as was increased awareness about United Nations and Special Committee activities.  He was convinced that the process of self-determination, as one of the principles in resolution 1514 (XV), was the correct way to decolonize countries.  As such, it was only applicable to people who were oppressed, rather than to those descendants who had been transplanted by the occupying Power, as had happened in the Malvinas.  To that question, one would apply the principle of territorial integrity.  Any attempt to wholly or partially break the territorial integrity principle would be incompatible with Charter of the United Nations.


He stressed that, in the 21 July 2006 joint communiqué in Córdoba, Argentina, and the Presidents of the MERCOSUR countries, Bolivia and Chile had reaffirmed the legitimate rights of Argentina on the question of the Malvinas, and noted the hemispheric interest in resolving that dispute.  They had sought a speedy resolution to the question.

Right of Reply


SAKEENA ALAM (United Kingdom), exercising the right of reply in addressing remarks made by the representatives of Guyana, Cuba and Brazil on the issue of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said the United Kingdom’s position on the Falkland Islands was well known, and had last been set out in a letter of her country’s Permanent Representative to the Secretary-General in April 2006.  There were no doubts about the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, and there would be no discussion over that sovereignty until such time as the islanders requested it.


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