|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Special Committee on
1st Meeting (AM)
Decolonization United Nations success story, albeit unfinished one,
Deputy Secretary-General tells special committee
Opening Session, Committee Elects Officers, Adopts 2007 Work Programme
Decolonization -- part of the United Nations’ founding mission -- was a success story, albeit an unfinished one, the Organization’s Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, told the Special Committee on Decolonization this morning, as she opened its current session.
She said that, four decades after adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the international community had a responsibility to bring about a speedy, successful and sustainable solution for the total eradication of colonialism. In order to close that chapter in human affairs, there was a need to focus on pragmatic steps.
One of the most promising opportunities was the Pacific Territory of Tokelau, she said. A referendum last year on self-government in free association with New Zealand, the administering Power, had not resulted in the two-thirds majority required, but another referendum would be held in November. She hoped that the example of Tokelau would inspire other administering Powers and Territories to move towards self-determination for the people in the Territories concerned.
She said cooperation of the administering Powers would be crucial, as they must ensure that the views of the peoples of those Territories were heard. They should take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions. Towards that end, she urged all administering Powers to adopt a constructive attitude. They should do their utmost to muster the political will necessary for implementing the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
In her opening remarks, Chairperson Margaret Hughes Ferrari ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), said colonialism was not yet a relic of the past. The Special Committee had been the conduit through which the Organization had accelerated its assistance to the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories in determining their political future without external interference. The Special Committee must continue its work in a proactive, pragmatic, dynamic and innovative manner if it was to bring about concrete and meaningful outcomes. Better cooperation with administering Powers was essential if such outcomes were to be achieved. In that connection, she referred to the exemplary cooperation with New Zealand, the administering Power of Tokelau.
This was the seventh year of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, she reminded Committee members. Unless the Committee intensified its work to implement the various resolutions and recommendations, more decades would have to be called for. The annual decolonization seminar, this year to be held in the Caribbean, would offer an opportunity to discuss many issues on decolonization, to focus on specific issues of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean, and to hear concerns from representatives of the Territories, as well as the opinions of experts and academics.
Ms. Ferrari was elected Chairperson today by acclamation, along with Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz ( Cuba) and Luc Joseph Okio ( Congo) as Vice-Chairmen and Bashar Ja’afari ( Syria) as Rapporteur.
In congratulatory remarks, the representatives of Congo, Mali, Indonesia, Cuba and Saint Kitts and Nevis expressed the hope that the Special Committee would fulfil its mandate during the last three years of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism by 2010 and emphasized the need to strengthen dialogue with the administering Powers. The Committee should continue to implement its mandate by organizing seminars and visiting missions, as well as by analysing the situation of each Non-Self-Governing Territory on a case-by-case basis.
The representative of Saint Lucia said that her country had held the Committee’s Chair for a number of years. In its “Plan of Implementation for the Decolonization Mandate” it had provided a comprehensive blueprint for the United Nations system to further the decolonization process, recognized by resolution 61/130 as “an important legislative authority for the attainment of self-government for the territories by the end of 2010”. Yet, major elements of the Plan, in particular the studies and analyses on the evolution of self-government in each territory, had gone unimplemented.
She said the development of the case-by-case work plan for each territory had been stalled, due to the backlog of Secretary-General’s reports on the implementation of decolonization resolutions. The United Nations system had not responded effectively to the mandate it had been given. It was not surprising that only Timor-Leste had been decolonized during the 16-year period since the first International Decade. Significant progress could only be made through innovative measures, since it had become clear that the standard method of work had not yielded significant results.
Approving its tentative organization and programme of work and timetable (documents A/AC.109/2007/L.1 and 2), the Special Committee decided that, during March or April, four meetings would be dedicated to the forthcoming Caribbean Regional Seminar. On 24 May, the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories would be celebrated. The annual seminar is traditionally held during that week. Meetings on matters before the Committee would be held during the periods 4 to 7 June and 18 to 29 June.
The Special Committee on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (also known as the Special Committee on Decolonization or the Committee of 24) is the focal point for the implementation of the Declaration on Decolonization. At the time the United Nations was established, there were 72 Non-Self-Governing Territories, along with 11 Trust Territories.
There are currently 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories left on the United Nations decolonization list: Western Sahara, American Samoa, Guam, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Tokelau, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
The members of the Special Committee are: Antigua and Barbuda; Bolivia; Chile; China; Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Cuba; Dominica; Ethiopia; Fiji; Grenada; India; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Mali; Papua New Guinea; Russian Federation; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sierra Leone; Syria; Timor-Leste; Tunisia; United Republic of Tanzania; and Venezuela.
The Special Committee on Decolonization will meet again at a date to be announced.
* *** *For information media • not an official record