4 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SPD/343

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

Sixty-first General Assembly

Fourth Committee

4th Meeting (PM)


FOURTH COMMITTEE HEARS FROM DELEGATES, TERRITORIAL REPRESENTATIVES, PETITIONERS


AS IT CONTINUES CONSIDERATION OF DECOLONIZATION ISSUES

 


Discussions Focus on Conditions in Gibraltar, Guam, Western Sahara


The questions of Gibraltar, Guam and Western Sahara were the focus of discussions this afternoon as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its consideration of decolonization issues, hearing from Member State and territorial representatives as well as petitioners from those Non-Self-Governing Territories.


On the question of Gibraltar, the Committee heard Chief Minister Peter Caruana said it constituted a normal case of decolonization in accordance with the inalienable right of the Territory’s people to self-determination.  As such, self-determination was the only principle applicable in the decolonization process although Spain had persisted in the view that Gibraltar’s decolonization could only be brought about by the United Kingdom’s transfer to itself of sovereignty over the Territory.  The decolonization process of a colonial people in a listed Territory could not be hijacked in pursuit of a territorial sovereignty claim.  Gibraltar had concluded constitutional talks with the United Kingdom and agreed to a new constitution that maximized its self-government and on which Gibraltarians would hold a referendum.


While noting the United Kingdom’s recognition that the referendum would constitute an act of self-determination, he disagreed profoundly with its position that the Treaty of Utrecht curtailed the Territory’s right to independence.  The new constitution would result in decolonization since it would bring Gibraltar into a non-colonial relationship with the United Kingdom.  The trilateral process of dialogue on 18 September involving Gibraltar, Spain and the United Kingdom had reached “excellent agreements” for all sides settling long-standing issues including the Gibraltar airport, telecommunications, cross-border fluidity and the pension rights of cross-border Spanish workers.  The new Trilateral Forum had replaced the Brussels process and there was no prospect of sovereignty negotiations resuming under the bilateral Brussels Declaration of 1984. 


Spain’s representative said that neither the agreements reached in the Forum nor the Constitutional Decree, which remained to be promulgated by the Government of the United Kingdom, would alter his country’s position or Gibraltar’s colonial status.  They would not imply a change in the doctrine of the United Nations regarding the aim to achieve decolonization of the Territory.  The Constitutional Decree, which gave Gibraltarians greater control over their situation, had no impact on the Territory’s international status and claims that it could be removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories was a “chimera” as it remained a colony.  Dialogue and negotiations were the only way to resolve the matter and Spain maintained its sovereignty claim. 


Also addressing the Committee were six petitioners from Guam, who advocated against the continued militarization of the Territory by the United States.  More than one third of the island remained militarily occupied and the Chamoru people were increasingly concerned that the administering Power had attempted to undermine –- if not eliminate -– the decolonization process over the last 20 years.  Speakers denounced the lack of Chamoru involvement in any decision-making processes or strategic plans that had a significant impact on the island.


The petitioners called on the Fourth Committee to recommend to the General Assembly the adoption of a resolution condemning Guam’s militarization as a breach of duty on the part of the administering Power.  They also asked the United Nations to urge the United States to pay war reparations, clean up toxins on the land and in the water supply, pay adequate compensation for the land it was using and fulfil its treaty obligations to provide adequate information on the Chamoru right to decolonization.


Four petitioners on the question of the Western Sahara called attention to the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Territory, the situation in the refugee camps and the fact that the promise by the United Nations of a referendum 15 years ago had been broken.  However, one petitioner said the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) was disintegrating because its raison d’etre was bound up in the cold war.  The Territory was quintessentially Moroccan and Morocco was establishing expanded autonomy, which was accelerating POLISARIO’s disintegration.


Other petitioners included Joseph Bossano, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, as well as representatives speaking on behalf of:  the Chamorro Nation; Organization of People for Indigenous Rights; Guahan Indigenous Collective; International People’s Coalition against Military Pollution; National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum; Chamoru Cultural Development and Research Institution; United States Western Sahara Foundation; Teach the Children International; and Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, 5 October, to hear some 30 petitioners on the question of Western Sahara and 1 on the question of New Caledonia.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization issues this afternoon, when it heard petitioners and representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Statements by Member States


JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said agreements had recently been reached in the Forum for Dialogue on Gibraltar.  There was also a Constitutional Decree in Gibraltar that remained to be promulgated by the British Government.  Neither of the two acts would alter Spain’s position or the colonial status of Gibraltar, nor imply a change in the doctrine of the United Nations regarding the aim to achieve decolonization of the Territory.  However, a new era had finally begun that would help to create a climate conducive to a solution to the question of Gibraltar between Spain and the United Kingdom.


He said that the Constitutional Decree, which had not yet entered into force, had been claimed as the conclusion of the decolonization process, allowing the people of Gibraltar to attain the highest degree of self-government.  According to a United Kingdom representative, the promulgation would take place after a referendum in the Territory.  The Decree, which gave Gibraltarians greater control over their situation, was simply an improvement, but did not impact on the Territory’s international status.  The claim that Gibraltar could be removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories was a chimera as it remained a colony. 


As for recent agreements reached in the Forum for Dialogue on Gibraltar, he said they concerned the use of the airport and the pensions of former Spanish workers living on Gibraltar as well as improvements to roads and telecommunications.  The agreements had been adopted without prejudice to the respective positions on sovereignty.  The Forum had an open agenda and any of the parties could raise a matter, but there was no obligation to attain a result.  The matter of colonization had not been addressed in the Forum.  Spain had opted for cooperation and understanding in order to improve the quality of life both on Gibraltar and in the surrounding area.  Dialogue and negotiations were the only instruments to resolve the matter and Spain maintained its claims of sovereignty. 


Statements by Representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories


PETER CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said the Territory was a normal case of decolonization in accordance with the inalienable right to self-determination of its people.  As such, self-determination was the only principle applicable in the decolonization process.  It was an unsustainable misconception to seek to apply the principle of territorial integrity to any process of decolonization especially that of Gibraltar.  Spain had persisted in the view that Gibraltar’s decolonization could only be brought about by the transfer to Spain by the United Kingdom of Gibraltar’s sovereignty, and that Gibraltar’s people had no right to self-determination despite Gibraltar being listed as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  It was Spain’s position that the principle of territorial integrity actually had priority over, displaced and defeated the principle of self-determination. 


He said it was important not to confuse issues relating to decolonization on the one hand, and sovereignty disputes on the other.  Decolonization and sovereignty were different things.  The decolonization process of a colonial people in a listed Territory could not be hijacked in the pursuit of a territorial sovereignty claim.  However, developments in the last year had made it possible for the United Nations no longer to concern itself with Gibraltar’s decolonization process.  The Territory had concluded its constitutional talks with the United Kingdom and had agreed to a new constitution for itself that maximized its self-government.  Under the new constitution, legislative and executive competence had been vested in the Gibraltar Parliament and Government, respectively, in all matters except defence, external affairs and some aspects of internal security.  There would be a referendum for Gibraltarians on the new constitution.  The United Kingdom had recognized that the referendum would constitute an act of self-determination.  Anyone was welcome to send or attend as an observer.


Disagreeing profoundly with the United Kingdom position that the Treaty of Utrecht curtailed Gibraltar’s right to independence, he said the new constitution would bring about decolonization since it would bring the Territory into a non-colonial relationship with the United Kingdom.  The separate issue of Spain’s sovereignty claim, however, remained intact.  The cessation of transmission by the United Kingdom of information under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter and thus Gibraltar’s de-listing was a matter for the General Assembly.  The statement by the Chairman of the Special Committee on 6 June on that matter was incomplete in that it was based on the misconception that there was no valid means of decolonization other than independence, free association or integration.  That was incorrect.  If United Nations criteria for the cessation of transmission of information obligations and de-listing were to exclude the acceptance of Gibraltar’s new constitution by its own people as insufficient, then those criteria were out of date.


He said the new trilateral process of dialogue involving Gibraltar, Spain and the United Kingdom on 18 September had reached “excellent agreements” for all sides settling long-standing issues including the Gibraltar airport, telecommunications, cross-border fluidity and the pension rights of cross-border Spanish workers.  Those questions did not relate to sovereignty.  Finally, the annual General Assembly consensus decision on Gibraltar did not reflect actual reality.  The new Trilateral Forum had replaced the Brussels process and there was no prospect of sovereignty negotiations resuming under the bilateral Brussels Declaration of 1984.  Gibraltar had rejected that process since 1988 and would never be content with it.


Petitioners on Question of Gibraltar


JOE BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, recalled that 40 years ago, the Committee had opposed a referendum organized by the United Kingdom on Spanish proposals for Gibraltar to be decolonized through integration with Spain.  The 1967 referendum had massively rejected Spain’s proposals and the Committee had told the colonial Power to ignore the will of the people and pursue negotiations with Spain.  In order for the Committee to evaluate progress towards achieving a full measure of self-government, the United Kingdom must provide a report on what it proposed to do about the draft constitution it had negotiated with the people of Gibraltar.


He said a leaflet from the Department of Public Information (DPI) provided the “clearest possible guidelines” on how the decolonization process should be conducted.  It made “crystal clear” that an act of self-determination meant that the people of the colony would decide the future status of their homeland.  That leaflet had been reproduced and distributed to every family in Gibraltar.  The British Government had publicly stated that the vote in the proposed referendum, to be held later in the year, would constitute an act of self-determination.  If the new constitution was accepted, would they tell the United Nations that Gibraltar had been decolonized?  That was not about to happen and instead, the very opposite was taking place.  The British Government had once again “cooked up” a decision that left the door open for future negotiations with Spain to settle the decolonization of Gibraltar. 


The United Kingdom had stated that, because it had abstained from voting on resolution 1541 in 1960, it was not bound by it, he said.  However, it was bound by the United Nations Charter and resolution 1541 merely explained the Charter.  The only principle applicable to decolonization was the right to self-determination.  Events in the near future would bring the United Kingdom inevitably to a point where it would have to upset Spain and defend Gibraltar’s decolonization or be shown not to be delivering on its promise.  The United Kingdom should be telling the Committee what steps it would take to complete the decolonization process and seek to involve the United Nations.  To do that, it must tell Spain that it had no role whatsoever to play in Gibraltar’s decolonization.  “Tripartite goodies” from Gibraltar’s neighbour were no substitute for decolonization. 


Petitioners on Question of Guam


GUAHU SI JULIAN AGUON, Chamoru Nation, said the indigenous people of Guam, the longest-colonized island in the Pacific Ocean, were preparing for the United States military realignment in the region that sought to homeport 60 per cent of its Pacific fleet in and around the island starting next year.  With no input from the Chamoru people and as part of its realignment plan, the United States would flood Guam with 55,000 people.  The Navy had recently suggested that six more nuclear submarines would be added to the three already stationed in Guam and there was talk of developing a global strike force.  That build-up complemented the Air Force and Navy forces already occupying one third of the island and the influx would have devastating consequences on the Chamoru people, who comprised only
37 per cent of the 171,000 people living in Guam.


There had been no social or environmental impact study to assess the burdens of the build-up and it was reasonable to think that Guam would suffer similar problems of rape and violence as had Okinawa, he said.  Guam officials were waiting with bated breath to learn whether any of the $10.3 billion settled upon would be spent on Guam’s infrastructure as virtually every public sector in Guam was threatened with privatization.  Public education was under duress and the burden on the school system was compounded by the United States’ failure to compensate Guam for shouldering the costs of its free association compacts with Micronesian States.  What was happening today was like an awful re-run of the Second World War.  There was no free press on Guam and its people were not unified around the military build-up.  The island needed help to attract international attention.  The Committee should pass a resolution condemning the massive military transfer and build-up of Guam as a grave breach of duty on the part of the administering Power.


KERRI ANN NAPUTI BORJA, Organization of People for Indigenous Rights, said the aggressive campaign by the United States to institute political and military superiority in the Pacific after the Second World War had resulted in land confiscations that had claimed more than 50 per cent of the land and created reservations for the Chamorro people.  The unilaterally passed congressional Guam Organic Act, which had made the island’s inhabitants United States citizens in 1950, had also legitimized United States ownership of confiscated lands.  It was a sad commentary that the administering Power, year after year, abstained from voting or voted against United Nations resolutions addressing the question of Guam.


She said a process of interim political status with limited internal self-government had been initiated after the locally mandated 1987 plebiscite, which had resulted in commonwealth status, a choice by registered United States voters.  The resulting draft Guam Commonwealth Act had been rejected by the United States Congress in 1997 because of provisions on Chamorro self-determination, controls over local immigration and other aspects of United States control over the Territory.  Military personnel and their families were eligible to vote in local elections.


Following the failure of the commonwealth proposal, the territorial Government had begun a decolonization process by enacting into law a Chamorro Registry that set the registration mechanism for the self-determination vote, she said.  However, there had been little progress towards the exercise of Chamorro self-determination.  The stated position that the term “non-self-governing” was inappropriate for those who could establish their own constitution did not reflect the reality.  The right to elect a non-voting United States-paid delegate to the United States Congress did not equate with political freedom.  A resolution was required by which the General Assembly would reaffirm that the Guam question was one of decolonization to be completed by the Territory’s Chamorro people.


VICTORIA LOLA M. LEÓN GUERRERO, Guahan Indigenous Collective, said her homeland was in grave danger as young Chamoru doctors, teachers and future leaders left the island to be replaced by United States marines, military aircraft and submarines and foreign construction workers.  The exodus could be ended by including in the draft resolution that the United States military build-up on Guahan was a direct impediment to decolonization and the right of indigenous Chamorus to decide their own future.  The island’s natural resources were its people’s most precious asset.  Every effort must be made to educate the people about community involvement in decision-making, which would impact on their survival.


She said the legacy of the Second World War had led to the toxic pollution of the land and surrounding waters by nuclear and other carcinogenic waste.  There was a shortage of competitive jobs for young Chamoru people.  The United States Department of Defence had unveiled its plan to move 8,000 marines and their
9,000 dependents from Okinawa and Japan to Guahan, which would have a great impact on the island’s current population and change its cultural, political, social and ecological environment.  The draft resolution should therefore include a provision that military activities and arrangements by the colonial Power impeded the implementation of the decolonization declaration.


SABINA FLORES PÉREZ (Guam), speaking on behalf of the International People’s Coalition against Military Pollution (IPCAMP), said the recent United States military build-up on Guam posed the latest threat to human rights.  The estimated influx of 35,000 military personnel, dependents and administrative staff would alter the island’s demographics and political atmosphere.  The build-up would transform Guam into a forward base with the planned expansion of runways and wharf storage facilities and the establishment of a global strike force.  Unilateral decisions about the island’s future were being made primarily outside Guam, without the people’s participation or consent, which signified the exploitation of its political status as a colony.


She noted that Guam’s strategic interest had evolved since 1898 when its harbour represented a key nodal point linking United States mercantile interests with Oriental economic possibilities.  Under that colonial context, water, land, culture and the spirit of the Chamoru people were being stripped away.  The Fourth Committee should include in the draft resolution on the question of Guam encouragement to the administering Power to fund Guam’s decolonization process and clean up toxic military sites among other things.


TIFFANY ROSE NAPUTI LACSADO, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), said United States cultural hegemony had created ripples throughout the Chamoru diaspora and did not allow for the survival of Chamoru language and traditions.  An entire generation was living with the legacy of pillage that their parents and grandparents had faced in the Second World War, which had robbed generations of their most basic right:  access to their language and traditions.


Erased from collective memory was the fact that the United States, by signing the United Nations Charter, was obligated to ensure Guam’s self-determination and decolonization, she said.  The psychosocial impact of the military was nothing less than total dependence.  It plagued the Chamoru’s land, bloodline, mind and spirit.  The United Nations should become a more active participant in Guam’s decolonization process and the Fourth Committee should take direct action to stop the military occupation of Guam by engaging directly with the Guam Commission on Decolonization office and grass roots groups.  The sum effect of United States cultural hegemony and militarism was to permanently deny Chamoru people their right to self-determination.


FANAI CASTRO, Chamoru Cultural Development and Research Institute, quoting from a history of the Chamoru, said it was a testimony to how they had survived despite hundreds of years of colonization, genocide and war.  However, that history was now threatened by the “worldwide western hegemony”.  The testimonies presented today were stories that had too often been kept out of sight.  More than anything, the Chamoru sought an end to the chaos of war as they had been victimized for too long. 


She recalled that the administering Power, the United States, had promised the United Nations that the self-determination of the Chamoru would not be denied.  The Organization held the power of voice to break the cycle of colonialism and in that noble endeavour the indigenous voice must be an equal one because its heritage was being systematically destroyed for the sake of keeping colonial order.


Petitioners on Question of Western Sahara


CHARLES WILSON, United States Western Sahara Foundation, said that in 1973, the POLISARIO had been established and many words had been spoken about it.  Likewise, many words had been spoken about the 1975 Green March, the declaration of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, the 1991 establishment of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the 2001 Baker Plan.  Many words had also been spoken about James Baker’s resignation in 2004 and about the fact that the United Nations process remained deadlocked.  In fact, there were no new words left to speak and it was therefore time, not for words, but for action; the action of returning the Saharawis to their homeland.  On that issue everyone could agree. 


AYMERIC CHAUPRADE, advocating for Western Sahara, stressed the importance of historical background on the question of Western Sahara as it showed that the Territory was quintessentially Moroccan.  Every State attributed its legitimacy to what had happened in the past.  Morocco was not on the periphery of Europe; rather it was a country in Africa that had reached out to its brothers in the Sahara, and the Moroccan people wished to be reunited.  Was not reunification the primary right of every single people?


There were three geopolitical concerns of terrorism -- crime and immigration from the sub-Sahara to the European Union – which were being studied and States were urging harsh security solutions, he said.  The geopolitical factors were working towards the worst possible outcome -– the danger of an extremist separatist movement.  The POLISARIO was disintegrating because its raison d’etre was bound to the cold war.  Many Saharawi people were in Tindouf, and Morocco was moving to a broader level of self-determination, he said.  Rabat was establishing expanded autonomy, which was leading to the further disintegration of the POLISARIO.  The situation was disturbing with a rotting group of the POLISARIO drifting into transnational criminality.  Illicit flows of men and goods could only be controlled through the State.  There must be reunification.  In the last few years, major States had provided examples of that including Russia, China and India.  Morocco had a legal right to its southern area and enlarged autonomy took the people’s rights into consideration.


NANCY HUFF, Teach the Children International, said she had worked with the Saharawi people for the past seven years and the leaders of the refugee camps had allowed her to distribute gifts to the children there.  Morocco was challenged to allow her to bring those gifts to the children of Morocco and occupied Western Sahara.  If there was corruption, the United Nations should find those responsible.  The Organization should open talks between the Saharawi and Morocco based on the Baker Plan or the Settlement Plan for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  The Fourth Committee should let the Saharawi return to their homeland of Western Sahara as a free people who could govern themselves.


She said she continued to work with United States Senator Jim Inhofe, who had visited the refugee camps and was determined that the Western Sahara issue should be discussed before the United States Foreign Relations Committee.  The United Nations had the power to resolve the situation but the determination to allow a referendum was absent.  The Fourth Committee should provide a framework for a speedy referendum, exert pressure on Morocco to allow it, ensure that Saharawi families left the refugee camps and facilitate more trips to Western Sahara in the interim.


ERIK HAGEN, Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, said the Moroccan State oil company was crystal clear in its intention to speed up exploration in the occupied areas of Western Sahara.  The American oil company Kosmos Energy in contract with the Moroccans had chartered a drilling vessel and planned to drill in Western Sahara by 2007 despite a recent United Nations legal opinion that defined both exploitation and further exploration as illegal.  Getting involved in such commercial activities offered legitimization of the Moroccan presence and the exploitation of natural resources was most likely in violation of international law.


He asked why gigantic vessels loaded with phosphates entered ports in the United States or New Zealand every month while laden with stolen goods from Western Sahara, or why vessels from the Netherlands, Greece or the Republic of Korea were permitted weekly to enter ports in Venezuela, Australia or Japan bearing stolen goods from the Territory.  And why had the European Union entered into a fishing agreement with Morocco, which let its vessels fish within the occupied areas of Western Sahara?  Hardly any State was taking a really proactive role in prohibiting commercial activities in Western Sahara.  The United Nations was strongly urged to look into what could be done to stop the international profiting from the situation.


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