3 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SPD/342

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

Sixty-first General Assembly

Fourth Committee

3rd Meeting (PM)


FOURTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP QUESTION OF WESTERN SAHARA; SPEAKERS URGE INTENSIFIED


EFFORTS TO BREAK IMPASSE, NOTE RELEASE OF MOROCCAN WAR PRISONERS, OTHER GAINS


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its consideration of decolonization items this afternoon, with many speakers addressing the question of Western Sahara.


The representative of Algeria said that the “occupying Power” of Western Sahara remained determined to prevent by force the people of that Non-Self-Governing Territory from exercising their right to self-determination.  The hopes raised by the 1997 Houston Accord to facilitate a referendum on self-determination and the “Baker plan” (Council resolution 1495 of 2003) had been dashed by the occupying Power’s fear of the outcome of a free referendum which, no doubt, would not be in its favour.  Morocco now tried to replace the referendum with the so-called “plan of internal authority”, as if the Territory were no more than “a mere Moroccan province”.


He said that a solution to the matter should guarantee the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people through a free referendum, with independence among the options.  He called upon the international community and the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities and to reject any approach that would seek to deny the Saharawi people the inalienable right to self-determination.  In the absence of any new development, Assembly resolution 60/114 remained fully valid and relevant.


Addressing the same matter, South Africa’s representative said the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic was a member of the African Union.  Many African countries had joined in recognizing the Territory’s independence.  At the same time, Morocco was also a friendly African country.  He hoped that those two African nations would find a way to resolve their differences -- differences that remained a challenge for the continent.


Morocco had yet to accept the “Baker plan” unconditionally, he added.  It was clear that the impasse between Morocco and the Saharawi people would remain unresolved until the Saharawi people were able to use their right of self-determination, in the form of a referendum that had been endorsed in the Peace Plan.  Anything short of the exercise of the right of self-determination would not be acceptable.  Concerned over the non-compliance by Morocco with the resolutions and decisions of the United Nations, he called on both the Government of Morocco and the Saharawi People represented by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) to redouble their efforts to find a way out of the impasse.


The representative of Senegal noted positive steps in the situation around Western Sahara, including the nomination of Peter van Walsum as the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, active cooperation of the parties with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in identifying unexploded mines and the release of the Moroccan prisoners of war.  He said the search for a solution on Western Sahara must be carried out in a stable environment and that such a solution remained dependent on an understanding between Morocco and Algeria.   Morocco had repeated its willingness to embark on frank dialogue to achieve a realistic solution to the question.  There was a need to preserve the sovereignty of Morocco and continue dialogue to reach a solution on a consensus basis, he said.


Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dominica’s representative said that the unfinished business of decolonization was a reflection of the establishment of artificial borders, with little regard for the people, during the period of “chattel slavery and plantation economies”.  As CARICOM States had emerged from that scenario, they continued to advocate the development of full self-government for the remaining seven Territories of the region, which had official status in CARICOM.


He said that, as the small island Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific participated in United Nations regional economic commissions, modalities should be developed for the Caribbean Territories’ participation in programmes of the Economic and Social Council.  The administering Powers should work with the Special Committee in initiating a case-by-case work programme for each small island Territory, as had been called for by the General Assembly.


The representatives of the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, China, Indonesia, Namibia, Iran, Botswana, Fiji, Venezuela, Congo, Gabon and Uganda also spoke.


Representatives of the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan spoke in exercise of their right of reply.


The Fourth Committee will meet again tomorrow at 3 p.m. to hear petitioners and representatives of the Non-Self Governing Territories.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its debate on all decolonization issues.  Reports before the Committee are summarized in yesterday’s Press Release GA/SPD/341.


The Committee also 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.


In his report to the Council of 13 October 2005 (document S/2005/648), the Secretary-General stated that Peter van Walsum, his Personal Envoy, had just begun his first visit to the region.  He informed the Council that he had appointed Francesco Bastagli as the new Special Representative for Western Sahara and head of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to replace Alvaro de Soto.


The Secretary-General also noted that, on 18 August, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) had released the remaining 404 Moroccan prisoners of war, who were then repatriated to Morocco.  Regarding Western Saharan refugees, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had increased regular field visits to all refugee camps in the Tindouf area. The number of assisted beneficiaries had been reduced to 90,000 from 158,000 as of 1 September 2005.  International assistance would be required to improve the health of the refugees, despite increased donor support to more than $5 million.


The Secretary-General informed the Security Council that the exchange of family visits between the Territory and the Tindouf refugee camps had not resumed, although Polisario Front and Algeria had approved a plan of action in January 2005.  Of the estimated $3.1 million required for the programme, $2.1 million had been provided by Finland, France, Ireland, Sweden and United States.


A decision was made later in the year to restructure MINURSO, with the aim of strengthening the Mission’s military component’s capacity to monitor the 1991 United Nations-brokered ceasefire and military agreements.  The restructuring exercise began in September 2005 and a new concept of operations came into effect on 1 October 2005.


On 28 October, the Security Council adopted resolution 1634 (2005), by which it extended the mandate of MINURSO until 30 April 2006 and welcomed the appointment of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum.


In his report of 19 April 2006 (document S/2006/249), the Secretary-General informed the Council that the question of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara remained stalled.  Morocco continued to reject a referendum on the issue of independence, but advocated talks on the autonomy status of the region.  Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, asserted that implementation of either the Peace Plan or the Settlement Plan was the only way forward, as both were supported by the Security Council and both provided for self-determination, through a referendum with independence as one of the options.


On military matters, violations by both parties between 14 October and 15 March had fallen by nearly 50 per cent since the previous reporting period, with eight new violations by Morocco and four by Polisario Front.  On 3 November, the Polisario Front had signed the Geneva Call’s (international humanitarian organization) “Deed of commitment” banning mine use by non-State actors.  Family visits between the Territory and the Tindouf refugee camps had resumed, with 610 persons having taken the weekly United Nations flights between the Territory and the camps, as of 15 March.  The restructuring of MINURSO had created a joint operations centre and a joint mission analysis cell, which had enhanced integration of the Mission’s civilian and military activities, streamlined data collection and improved management.


The Secretary-General informed the Security Council that in his 18 January 2006 briefing to that body, his Personal Envoy had concluded that the Council was firm in its opinion that it could only contemplate a consensual solution to the question of Western Sahara.  From that, he had deduced that there were only two options: indefinite prolongation of the current deadlock in anticipation of a different political reality or direct negotiations without preconditions between parties, which would provide for self-determination.


The Secretary-General stated that he concurred with his Personal Envoy that the Council could not allow the status quo to continue, as prolonged deadlock could lead to a deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara, as signalled by continued demonstrations and charges of human rights abuses.  He urged that the Council help to restart negotiations, implement capacity-building measures, including the organization of seminars on non-political topics, and extend MINURSO’s mandate until 31 October 2006.


On 28 April 2006, the Security Council adopted resolution 1675, by which it extended the mandate of MINURSO until 31 October 2006.  However, the Secretary-General sent a letter, dated 26 June 2006 (document S/2006/466), to the President of the Security Council stating that resolution 1675 had not referred to any of his recommendations to jumpstart talks that would break the deadlock on the question of Western Sahara.  In her reply (document S/2006/467), dated 30 June 2006, the President of the Council had stated that the Secretary-General’s suggestion to use the next four months to prepare a more substantial resolution had been brought to the Council’s attention and that members had taken note of the information expressed in Mr. Annan’s letter.


Statements


SAKEENA ALAM ( United Kingdom) said her country’s policy towards its Overseas Territories rested on the basis that it was the citizens of each Territory who determined whether they wished to stay linked to the United Kingdom.  Every help and encouragement was given to those Territories that wished to proceed to independence, where that was an option.  The consultation process between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories continued and the eighth annual meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council would be held in London in November.  That meeting would be an opportunity for discussion on a range of issues, including the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Overseas Territories, constitutional modernization and good governance.  Discussion also continued between United Kingdom’s officials and representatives of Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.


She said that a new Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution had come into force on 9 August.  Negotiations on the new Constitution for Gibraltar had been completed, and the text would be put to the people of Gibraltar in a referendum, soon.  Her Government continued to support its Overseas Territories, with a focus on raising local capacity and promoting sustainable development, and the efforts to strengthen relations with the European Commission and to improve access to trade, in line with economic and developmental aid provisions of the 2001 Overseas Association Decision of the European Union-Overseas Countries and Territories.


ASIM IFTIKHAR AHMAD (Pakistan) supported the recommendations of the Special Committee’s report (document A/61/23), recalling, particularly, the responsibility of administering Powers to create conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories that would enable their people to exercise freely their inalienable right to self-determination.  He welcomed the presence of some administering Powers in the work of the Special Committee and called on others for formal participation.


He urged specialized agencies and international institutions to increase their assistance to the Territories.  He supported recommendations by the Special Committee to improve efforts for the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization, with particular emphasis on options for self-determination, to be made available to the people of the Territories.


While achievements on decolonization had been made, progress in recent years had slowed.  Implementation was key, and required a coordinated response from the United Nations system and administering Powers, he said.  Hopefully, the Plan of Implementation of the Decolonization Mandate (2006-2007) would be considered earnestly by all.  Citing the cooperation of the Government of New Zealand with regard to Tokelau as exemplary, a similar hope should also be visible to all other people under colonial domination and foreign occupation.


The General Assembly had reaffirmed continually that there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental human right.  Regarding Western Sahara, Pakistan supported a peaceful settlement that would provide for self-determination.  Recent events in the Middle East had shown that lasting peace could not be achieved in continued suppression of the legitimate right of self-determination of the Palestinian people.  The Security Council had recognized the legitimate right of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan was in a composite dialogue with India to address all outstanding differences, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.


KPK KUMARAN ( India) said that the Special Committee on Decolonization could require a further decade to complete its work, unless it intensified efforts to eradicate colonialism within the agreed 2001-2010 period.  While progress had been made in removing more than 80 countries from the list, 16 areas still remained on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.


He said that the Committee’s approach must be a blend of urgency and activism on the one hand, and sensitivity and circumspection on the other, first taking into account the special needs of the people in the Territories.  It was important to eschew a “one size fits all” approach and, instead, adopt a case-by-case approach with a view to making progress in each Territory.  Dissemination of relevant information to the people of the Territories regarding available options was crucial, as they may be unaware of their legitimate political options.  Visits of United Nations missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories and the conduct of regional seminars by the Special Committee were also important tools to improve the spread of information.  He called on administering Powers to extend their full cooperation to the Special Committee in facilitating such visiting missions.


He also called on the administering Powers to assist the Special Committee in devising tailored action plans for the decolonization of certain Territories in their quest for self-determination, citing the February 2006 referendum in Tokelau on the political status option as an example.  He further supported concentrated efforts to produce a plan of implementation for the wider United Nations system, aimed at completing decolonization by 2010.


YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) said that the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Tokelau had had the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination through a referendum in February.  Another people, the last territory to be decolonized in Africa, still waited to exercise that right.  Their right to self-determination had been trampled on by inaction of the “occupying Power.”  That Power remained determined to prevent the Saharan people from exercising their right to self-determination by force.  The hopes raised by the 1997 Houston Accord to facilitate a referendum on self-determination and the “Baker plan” (Council resolution 1495 of 2003) had been dashed by the occupying Power’s fear of the outcome of a free referendum which, no doubt, would not be in its favour.


He said that Morocco now wished to lure the international community away from international law and to erase all of the rights previously gained by the Saharan people and recognized by the international community, replacing that with the so-called “plan of internal authority”, as if the territory were not more than “a mere Moroccan province”.  That idea was still-born.   Morocco exercised terror, resulting in violations of human rights and torture and it was seeking to carry out its actions behind closed doors.  It had done so by censoring local media and prohibiting access to outside organizations and officials.


A solution to the matter should guarantee the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people through a free referendum, with independence among the options, he said.  His country continued to fully support the Peace Plan, which was the optimum solution to the conflict.  He called upon the international community and the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities and to reject any approach that would seek to deny the Saharawi people their inalienable right to self-determination.  In the absence of any new development, Assembly resolution 60/114 of December 2005 remained fully valid and relevant.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that the historic 1960 decolonization Declaration had served to vigorously accelerate decolonization across the world.  With the support and assistance of the United Nations, historic achievements had been made in the process of decolonization, marking a success of the Organization.  However, there were still 2 million people living in 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  In 2000, the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism had been declared and, in 2005, the World Summit Outcome document had reiterated the necessity to “respect the right to self-determination of people which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation”.


He said it was the duty of Member States to attach importance to the rights and interests of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories and help them to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.  The Special Committee shouldered major responsibility and had made vigorous efforts in that regard.  In recent years, the Special Committee had strengthened its links with Non-Self-Governing Territories by various means.  He looked forward to closer cooperation between the administering Powers and the United Nations.  China had, all along, supported the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories in their efforts to exercise their right to self-determination and would continue to take an active part in the work of the Special Committee.


SANGA PANGGABEAN ( Indonesia) said it was clear that decolonization had grown increasingly complex and required new and innovative solutions.  Although Indonesia supported the view that each decolonization scenario had special characteristics, progress on the 16 remaining Territories remained slow.  Implementation had not been fully carried out, and analysis of the Territories had shown that there was an information deficit.  He called on States to heighten the awareness of available options among the peoples of the Territories.


He said that decolonization remained a political process requiring the will of the international community for continued progress.   Indonesia would like to see cooperation between agencies, in terms of educational and human resources development programmes, which would help implement decolonization steps.  He expressed hope that the Committee would find ways to cooperate with the specialized agencies of the United Nations.


The 2006 referendum in Tokelau had been “a spark of light to be encouraged”, and a better awareness of issues had emerged as a result among the people of Tokelau, he said.  In that regard, he noted with interest the scheduling of a second referendum for November 2007.   Indonesia attached great importance to the annual regional seminar, which had engendered a productive exchange of views on challenges faced by people of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and he appreciated the Government of Fiji’s hosting of the Pacific regional seminar in November.   Indonesia placed importance on the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.  The international community should bring the decolonization process to a successful conclusion and commit to making the twenty-first century free from colonialism.


KAIRE MBUENDE ( Namibia) said that decolonization was one of the success stories of the United Nations, through the work of the Special Committee and the decolonization Declaration.  It was surprising that decolonization was still being discussed in the twenty-first century and that a second decade had had to be declared.  Sadly, it did not seem that the promise of eradicating colonialism by the year 2010 would be fulfilled.  That was an indictment of the United Nations and the Member States.  He called on the administering Powers of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to speed up the process of granting independence and self-determination to the people of those Territories.  He had noted with concern that not all the administering Powers had regularly provided the information required by the provisions of Article 73 e of the Charter.


He said that Namibia’s independence had been a product of concerted efforts by many countries and organizations, particularly the United Nations.  His country had vowed not to rest until colonialism was wiped from the face of the earth.  He was seriously concerned about the current developments concerning the question of Western Sahara.  The inalienable right to self-determination was not negotiable.  That position had been adopted by the African Union and accepted by the United Nations.  His country encouraged the strengthening of MINURSO to enable it to continue monitoring the ceasefire and human rights violations in Western Sahara.  He also called for urgent implementation of all Council and Assembly resolutions, with the aim of holding a free and fair referendum in that Territory.


PAUL BADJI (Senegal) said that, despite the deadlock on the situation of Western Sahara, Senegal was pleased to note positive steps, including the nomination of Peter van Walsum as the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, the appointment of a new Head of MINURSO, the active cooperation of the parties with MINURSO in identifying unexploded mines, the release of the Moroccan prisoners of war and progress made in restructuring MINURSO.  There was also an understanding shared by the international community to find a solution to the question of Western Sahara.


He said that the search for a solution to Western Sahara must be carried out in a stable environment, and any solution remained dependent on an understanding between Morocco and Algeria.  Warning against any attempt to prolong the deadlock, he said that maintaining the status quo was not an option.  The international community must help break the impasse and avoid the possibility that the region yield to the pull of instability.


The Secretary-General’s Envoy should help to find a dynamic political compromise, he said.  Senegal would follow with interest the next round to begin in the region, and anticipated the Envoy’s tangible contributions to the process.  Those gains should enable the Security Council to make appropriate and constructive decisions on the question of Western Sahara, with achievable goals.  Senegal welcomed the position of Morocco, which had repeated its willingness to embark on frank dialogue to achieve a realistic solution to the question.


He said that the human element was one that Senegal could not ignore.  His country had been encouraged by the exchange of family visits, and hoped that MINURSO would conduct other such efforts.  There was a need to preserve the sovereignty of Morocco and continue dialogue to reach a solution on a consensus basis.  He appealed to the international community to hold a debate, aimed at finding innovative ways towards a solution to the long-standing conflict.  Hopefully, the Committee would continue to strengthen the peace dynamic and encourage all parties to find a speedy solution.


ALI ABOLHASSANI ( Iran) said that, because the peoples of colonial lands were entitled to decide their own future, the issue of decolonization should remain on the agenda of the United Nations as one of its priorities.  No one could or should undermine the success of the United Nations in helping millions of people under colonization attain their right of self-determination.  Such a success could not be fully accomplished, however, while millions of people still lived under the bleak shadow of colonialism.  Colonial peoples had the right to access information and should enjoy access to the necessary information about the decolonization process through various traditional and modern communication technology, such as radio, television and the Internet; that was the obligation of the administering Powers.  The visiting missions provided the United Nations with effective means to evaluate the situation in Non-Self-Governing Territories and, therefore, should continue.


He said that the administering Powers were responsible for promoting the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and to safeguard their natural resources and cultural heritage.  Any activities by administering Powers aimed at the exploitation of the Territories’ marine, natural and human resources should take into account the interest and the concern of the peoples, including the indigenous populations.  The administering Powers should also take all necessary steps to protect the property rights of the people of those Territories, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Organization.  Military installations and activities of some administering Powers in Non-Self-Governing Territories that harmed the rights and interests of the peoples concerned were also a major concern.


SAMUEL O. OUTLULE (Botswana), associating himself with the statement of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said his country had celebrated four decades of freedom and democracy last Saturday.  Not a single bullet had been fired to attain its independence.  Similarly, it was possible for the people of Western Sahara to achieve a just, peaceful and durable political settlement.  He encouraged them to persist in demanding their inalienable right to determine their destiny.  “We refuse the passage of time to blur our collective memory regarding the history of the people of this Territory and their quest for freedom.  We call, therefore, upon the Kingdom of Morocco to allow the people of Western Sahara to exercise the right to determine their future.”  The 1975 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice had stated that “the materials and information presented to it do not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the Territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or Mauritania”, he recalled.


He said that the principal organs of the United Nations, namely the Assembly, the Security Council and the International Court of Justice, had pronounced themselves on the matter in very clear terms.  Above all, Africa’s principle position remained valid.  The fact that the resolutions of the African Union and the United Nations had not been implemented should not justify acceptance of the status quo.  The blueprint for the peaceful resolution of the matter was the settlement plan.  Failure to implement that plan would be tantamount to betrayal, not only of the people of Western Sahara, but also of the principles on which the Organization was founded.  The right of the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration with Morocco did not pose a threat to anyone, he stressed.


SIMIONE ROKOLAQA ( Fiji) agreed with previous speakers that work on the decolonization process was far from over and that it was crucial for the United Nations to redouble its efforts to accelerate decolonization efforts in the remaining 16 Territories.  Self-determination was a gradual process that should involve continuous dialogue between administering authorities and the people of the Territories.  The decolonization process should also include the political, economic and social empowerment of the inhabitants of the Territories.  It was important, therefore, to create conditions of stability and respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination.  Fiji continued to support visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories as a catalyst for decolonization.  He commended New Zealand for facilitating the February 2006 referendum held in Tokelau, which had reflected the will of the people.


He said that regional seminars were another effective tool, and Fiji had agreed to host the Pacific Regional Seminar in Nadi, in November 2006.  There, participants would review progress made in the implementation of the Plan of Action of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.


On the question of Western Sahara, he said it was urgent to resuscitate the dialogue between the parties concerned to prevent further deterioration of human rights abuses.  Fiji continued to support the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara, and called on the parties to revive talks in order to achieve a mutually accepted political solution.  The situation in Western Sahara would remain unresolved until the parties cooperated and the free choice of its people was acknowledged.


FRANCISCO JAVIER ARIAS CARDENAS ( Venezuela), associating himself with statements made on behalf of the Rio Group and MERCOSUR, said his country’s people had suffered the consequences of colonialism.  It had gained independence through the sacrifices of its people and the example set by Simon Bolivar.  Efforts must be consolidated, in order to ensure that the Territories under foreign domination would be able to achieve their right to self-determination and independence from foreign Powers.  That principle guided his country’s contributions to the Organization in that regard, in particular to the Fourth Committee and the Special Committee.


He said his country rejected outright any form of colonial domination and promoted the right of all peoples to freely choose their systems of governance.  All States had the duty to respect that right.  He welcomed the adoption of resolution 59/136, which reaffirmed the need to end colonialism, racial discrimination and violations of human rights and called on the administering Powers to ensure that the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories would be able to fully exercise their right to self-determination.


The people of Non-Self-Governing Territories also had inalienable rights regarding ownership to their natural resources and to the future exploitation of those resources, he said.  The Malvinas (Falkland Islands), Georgia del Sur (South Georgina) and Sandwich del Sur (South Sandwich Islands) were part of the sovereign territory of Argentina.  There was no need to refer to the principle of self-determination, as the original population had been supplanted by the occupying Power.  The Assembly had, therefore, rejected inclusion of that principle in 1985.  Puerto Rico had not achieved its independence.  In that regard, he called for implementation of mechanisms that guaranteed full participation of all the Puerto Rican people to determine their future.


CRISPIN S. GREGOIRE ( Dominica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the work of the United Nations in the area of decolonization remained incomplete.  Article 73 b of the Charter required administering Power to develop self-government in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Unfortunately, insufficient attention and resources had been devoted to that goal.  The unfinished business of decolonization was a reflection of the establishment of artificial borders, with little regard for the people, during the period of “chattel slavery and plantation economies”.  As CARICOM States had emerged from that scenario, they continued to advocate the development of full self-government for the remaining seven Territories of the region, which had official status in the CARICOM.


He said that the small island Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific participated in United Nations regional economic commissions, among other things.  In that light, CARICOM was in favour of developing modalities for the Caribbean Territories’ participation in programmes of the Economic and Social Council.  Despite the fact that the midway point of the Second Decade had passed, the level of political and constitutional advancement in the Non-Self-Governing Territories remained insufficient.  The Plan of Action of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism had called for analytical studies on the political conditions in the Territories.  While the annual Secretariat reports on each territory provided useful statistical and other information, more in-depth political analysis was required.


The relevant administering Powers should work with the Special Committee in initiating a case-by-case work programme for each small island Territory, as had been called for by the Assembly, he said.  He also fully endorsed the Plan of Implementation of the Decolonization Mandate 2006-2007 prepared by the Chairman of the Special Committee and contained in document A/60/853.  That Plan targeted eight areas of focus and identified actions to be undertaken by the relevant United Nations bodies, administering Powers and experts.  CARICOM also reaffirmed its continued support for the early achievement of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara, and called for the full implementation of the Peace Plan.  On the issue of contemporary decolonization, the international community could, and must, do better.  He emphasized, in that regard, that the longstanding mandate could only be carried out if there was a concerted effort at implementation of those actions, to which the Assembly had already agreed.


LUC JOSEPH OKIO ( Congo) said that his country’s contact with representatives of Territories under colonial domination had made it possible for it to appreciate the aspirations of those whose fate depended on the Committee.  Those aspirations were rooted in the 1960 Declaration.  The right to self-determination of the Non-Self-Governing Territories had also been reaffirmed in the Millennium Declaration.  Still, decolonization work remained unfinished, mainly due to the specific nature of those Territories still under domination.  Sixteen Territories cherished the desire to exercise self-determination, and it was the responsibility of the international community to respond positively to those aspirations.


He said that the Second Decade covering the 2001-2010 period was under way, however, colonialism, even as an anachronism, persisted.  Efforts should be redoubled to intensify the dissemination of information for those still living under domination.  Visiting missions to Bermuda in May 2005, and to the Turks and Caicos Islands in April 2006, had revealed a lack of information and awareness among the populations about their options for self-determination.  There was a need to make populations aware of their rights.


Nothing could be achieved without the full cooperation of the administering Powers.  It was with them, and not against them, that necessary changes should be made regarding the universal achievement of human rights, he said.  His country called for increasing cooperation between the Committee and the administering Powers, noting that there were encouraging signs.  Implementation of resolutions was necessary, as was the need to find consensus, whenever possible.  Regular follow-up on actions of the Committee was also needed, along with the development of innovative strategies to allow the United Nations to ensure that remaining Territories achieved self-determination.  Plans to appoint an independent expert to follow the situation in the Territories and take stock of implementation deserved careful consideration.


DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic was a member of the African Union.  Many African countries had joined in recognizing its independence.  At the same time, Morocco was also a friendly African country.  He hoped that those two African nations would find a way to resolve their differences -- differences that remained a challenge for the continent.  The Peace Plan, prepared by former United Nations Special Envoy for Western Sahara James Baker, had provided a fair way of addressing the matter and remained the “optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties”, as the Security Council had confirmed.  The Special Envoy had stated that, since the Council was firm in its opinion that it could only contemplate a consensual solution to the question of Western Sahara, he did not see how he could draft a new plan to replace the Peace Plan.


Mr. Kumalo recalled that the Secretary-General had stated that a new plan would be doomed from the outset and rejected by Morocco, unless it excluded the provision for a referendum with independence as an option.  The United Nations could not endorse a plan that excluded a genuine referendum, while claiming to provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  Morocco had yet to accept the “Baker Plan” unconditionally.  It was clear that the impasse between Morocco and the Saharawi people would remain unresolved until the Saharawi people were able to exercise their right of self-determination in the form of a referendum, as endorsed in the Peace Plan.  Anything short of the exercise of the right of self-determination would not be acceptable.


His delegation was concerned over Morocco’s non-compliance with the resolutions and decisions of the United Nations, he said.  The consensus resolution 60/114 had yet to be implemented.  He was pleased that POLISARIO had continued to maintain its support for the Peace Plan and had released, unconditionally, the remaining Moroccan prisoners of war.  In March, 216 prisoners had been pardoned in Morocco, including 30 Saharawi activists; however, the long-sought freedom of those prisoners had been accompanied by a violent response against those who had celebrated their release.  He called on both the Government of Morocco and the Saharawi people, represented by the liberation movement, the Polisario Front, to redouble their efforts to find a way out of the impasse.


MICHEL REGIS ONANGA NDIAYE ( Gabon) attached great importance to multilateralism in international relations, calling the United Nations the only universal organization that represented all peoples.  While the United Nations had achieved success in its decolonization efforts, particularly in Africa, it was crucial for it to pay attention to implementation; otherwise, it faced the risk of declaring a third international decade on decolonization.


He said it was important to focus efforts on the provision of information and training in the Territories, particularly to help the peoples achieve economic and social progress.  Gabon supported the creation of a mechanism that would allow the annual review of the application of General Assembly recommendations regarding the Plan of Action for the Second Decade.


Regarding Western Sahara, he noted that little progress had been made, despite the efforts of the Secretary-General and, most recently, of his Envoy, Peter van Walsum, to find a political solution.  Initiatives launched by Morocco that ensured adherence to the concept of unity would help ensure its territorial integrity.  The international community should be aligned with the current situation, daily taking stock of progress.  To break the deadlock, full cooperation among all parties was now more necessary than ever.  He believed that the various parties must “turn differences into factors of convergence”, in order to achieve peace in the region.


NORAH L. KATABARWA ( Uganda) said it was a sad comment that, in the twenty-first century, there were still peoples and territories that could not exercise the same rights enjoyed by the full members of the United Nations.  It was incumbent on those who had once been under the same yoke of colonialism to add their voices to those of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and peoples in asking for the speedy implementation of their self-determination.


She supported the rights of the people of the Western Sahara, in accordance with the various resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, and commended the Secretary-General for his continuous efforts to find a durable solution for the Saharawi people to attain their aspirations for full political equality and self-determination.  She called upon the concerned parties to cooperate with the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to resolve the long-standing issue.


Rights of Reply


The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply to the statement made by the representative of Venezuela regarding the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said her country’s position on the matter was well known and had most recently be expressed in a letter from the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Secretary-General on 27 April.  Her country had no doubts about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), and there could be no negotiations on the matter until such time as the population of the islands so wished.


The representative of India, responding to Pakistan’s remarks, said that the statement contained an “unwarranted and out-of-place” reference to Jammu and Kashmir.  Pakistan’s representative was trying to divide the ranks of those who supported the sovereignty of Lebanon and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  India’s speaker assured his country’s friends in the Middle East that Pakistan would not succeed in making India swerve from its policy.


The Representative of Pakistan, in his right of reply, said that, regarding the issue of self-determination of people of Kashmir, his delegation had stated the facts.  With regard to the Middle East question -- the question of Palestine -- he had also stated the facts.  The delegate of India, however, had completely misconstrued his delegation’s statement.


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For information media • not an official record