8 October 2007
General Assembly

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

Sixty-second General Assembly

Fourth Committee

2nd Meeting (PM)



Settlement of Long-Standing Dispute over Western Sahara Dominates

Discussion, Triggered By Restart of Negotiations This Summer in New York

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate on decolonization issues, with a particular focus on the question of Western Sahara, buoyed by recent negotiations in Manhasset, New York, that ended years of deadlock between the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro, also known as the Frente POLISARIO.

Western Sahara is one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories to be considered by the Committee during the General Assembly’s sixty-second session, and those negotiations -- overseen by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum -- were perceived by many Committee members today as a positive step in bringing a just, durable and mutually acceptable solution.  Tokelau was also cited by Member States as an example of “tangible progress”, as it prepares to undertake a referendum on self-determination later this month.

In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad (Sudan) said that, although it was true that a majority of the world’s population was no longer under colonial rule, the Committee’s task was not yet complete, as there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining.  “The Committee must continue with its common endeavour in the spirit of cooperation among all parties,” he said.

The recent breakthrough on the question of Western Sahara, for instance, led Member States to call on each other to support the Manhasset negotiations, including the representative of Guinea-Bissau, who appealed to the higher interests of parties involved in those negotiations, while urging that “nothing must be said or done in the Committee that could jeopardize the process” currently under way.  The Committee Chairman bore a special responsibility of fostering an atmosphere of cooperation, he added.

The Committee would consider the question of Western Sahara in the context of a new political process following Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) -- adopted in April -- which had ended a deadlock lasting since 2003, said the representative of Morocco.  In addition, Morocco itself had presented its “Proposal for the Negotiation of a Statute of Autonomy for the region of Sahara” to the Secretary-General in April, which had given birth to new dynamics.

Algeria’s representative, whose country had participated in the Manhasset talks at Mr. van Walsum’s invitation, expressed solidarity with the Saharawi people in their efforts to exercise their right to self-determination.  Achieving the decolonization of Western Sahara was a test of the credibility of the United Nations and obligatory passage for the realization of even bigger ambitions.

Also speaking today was Margaret Hughes Ferrari ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Chairman of 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 -- who reminded the Fourth Committee that creative ways to complete the decolonization task must be sought.

“Our work in the area of decolonization must represent a good-faith effort to focus on practical, tangible results tailored to individual Non-Self-Governing Territories recognizing, in particular, that there is no magic formula of ‘one-size fits all,’” she said.  “Different territories have different needs and expectations and should be considered on a case-by-case basis.”

The representative of China noted that, in recent years, the Committee had succeeded in strengthening its links with Non-Self-Governing Territories, and he looked forward to even closer cooperation between administering Powers and the United Nations in resolving outstanding issues.

Representatives of the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Rio Group), Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated states), Senegal, Mozambique, Angola, Iran, Fiji and Honduras made general statements.  The 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 was introduced by that body’s Rapporteur, Bashar Ja’afari ( Syria).

The representatives of the United Kingdom, Morocco and Algeria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 October, to continue its debate on decolonization issues.


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual debate on decolonization issues this afternoon, it had before it the 2007 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/62/23).

At its sixty-first session in 2006, the Assembly adopted resolution 61/130 and requested the Special Committee to continue to seek the immediate and full implementation of the Declaration and those actions approved by the General Assembly regarding the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism in all those Territories that have not yet exercised their right to self-determination.  In addition to resolution 61/130, the Assembly adopted 11 other resolutions and a decision relating to specific items considered by the Committee in 2006, which are listed in the report.

The report says that the Special Committee intends, during 2008, to pursue its efforts in bringing a speedy end to colonialism and fulfil its responsibilities under the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, as well as to implement its plan of action.  The Special Committee will continue to monitor the political advancement of each Territory towards self-government.  Of particular note to the Special Committee in its current session are preparations by New Zealand and the territorial Government of Tokelau for a referendum scheduled for October.

The Special Committee, also according to the report, continue to conduct regional seminars to assess, receive and disseminate information on the situation in the Territories.  Its next seminar is planned for the Pacific region in 2008.  It will also continue to seek the cooperation of the administering Powers in facilitating United Nations visiting and special missions to the Territories to collect first-hand information on conditions in the Territories and on the aspirations of the peoples concerning their future status.  Such regional seminars and visiting missions present opportunities to mobilize world public opinion to assist the people of the Territories in bringing about a speedy end to colonialism.  The Special Committee also intends to develop, together with the Department of Public Information, programmes aimed at Territories that have requested information about self-determination options.

In its focus on the specific problems of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Special Committee says in its report that it will continue to recommend measures to facilitate a sustained and balanced growth of the Territories’ fragile economies, through increased assistance in the development of every sector of their economies.

The Special Committee recommends that the Assembly renew its appeal to the administering Powers to take all necessary steps for the implementation of the Declaration, and request those administering Powers that have not yet done so to become involved with the work of the Special Committee in the discharge of its mandate.  It also recommends that the Assembly continue to invite administering Powers to allow representatives of the Territories to participate in the discussions of the Fourth Committee.  It also recommends that the General Assembly make adequate provision to cover the activities envisaged by the Special Committee for 2008.  Should any additional provisions be required over and above those included in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2008-2009, proposals for supplementary requirements would be made to the Assembly.

The report also outlines the Special Committee’s consideration for specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2007 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; information from Non-Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter and on specific territories, including Gibraltar, New Caledonia, Western Sahara, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, Tokelau, and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

[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.]

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/62/65).  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 E/2007/47.

[Document E/2007/47 describes programmes offered to several territorial Governments by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), including through the UNDP’s United Nations Volunteers, as well as by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).  Those include projects to raise the capacity of territorial Governments to manage disaster and risk reduction and programmes to promote economic activity.  It also describes the ILO’s work promoting the application of international labour standards in those territories where such conventions are applicable, and in reviewing the functions of labour departments in various Non-Self-Governing Territories.]

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/62/68), covering the period 24 March 2006 to 28 March 2007The report lists 59 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 Algeria, Argentina, United Kingdom and the United States.

The committee had before it an addendum to the report (document A/62/68/Add.1), as well as the 59 requests for hearings relating to Gibraltar, Guam, Western Sahara and New Caledonia.

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/62/67), which includes information on geography, history, population and socio-economic and educational conditions in 16 such Territories.  In the case of Territories under the administration of New Zealand, 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.

The Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara (document A/62/128), which summarizes the reports he submitted to the Security Council from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007 on the matter.

The report states that the Secretary-General appointed Julian Harston of the United Kingdom, as his Special Representative for Western Sahara.  The Secretary-General invited representatives of the Government of Morocco, Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) and neighbouring countries Algeria and Mauritania, to meet with his Personal Envoy at the Greentree Estate in Manhasset, New York, on 18 and 19 June.  During the discussions, the parties had reiterated their commitment to the process and had appeared determined not to be the cause of a breakdown of the negotiations.  Although they had both confirmed their respect for the principle of self-determination and accepted Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) as the mandate for the negotiations, their positions had remained far apart on the definition of self-determination.  As of the date of the report, the parties had agreed that the process of negotiations would continue in Manhasset in the second week of August.

Opening Statement

Committee Chairman ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD ( Sudan) 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 with Regard to the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, nearly all of the world’s population was no longer under colonial rule.

He said that the “sterling work” of the Committee of 24, as the Special Committee on Decolonization was also known, had been one of the hallmarks of the United Nations success since its inception at the end of the Second World War.  The Committee had carried out its mandate in many ways, such as through sending missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories; analysing information submitted under Article 73 e of the Charter; hearing petitioners; formulating proposals and carrying out actions mandated by the General Assembly in the context of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism; and other efforts.

The task was not yet complete, as there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the United Nations list.  The Committee must continue with its common endeavour in the spirit of cooperation among all parties.

Introduction of Report

BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria), the Rapporteur of the Special Committee on Decolonization, introducing that body’s report (document A/62/23), said that, in 2007, the Special Committee had continued to analyse developments in the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  During its regular sessions and the Caribbean Seminar in Grenada, its work had benefited from the participation of representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories, three of the four administering Powers and non-governmental organizations and experts.

He said that, in chapter I, the report addressed the pivotal role that must be played by administering Powers in making progress towards complete decolonization in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The Special Committee recognized the exemplary cooperation of New Zealand with the Special Committee’s work regarding Tokelau.  A mission would be dispatched later this month to observe the Tokelau referendum on self-determination.  The report also noted the importance of its visiting missions to these Territories.

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

Statement by Chairman of Special Committee

MARGARET HUGHES FERRARI ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that that body’s main goal was the implementation of the various resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in the context of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism in the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It was essential for the Special Committee to keep its responsibilities towards those Territories at the heart of all its efforts.

Decolonization was among the most successful mandates of the United Nations, and it must remain a high priority of the Organization, seeking creative ways to complete the task, she said.  One example of tangible progress was Tokelau, which in close cooperation with the administering Power, New Zealand, was in the final stages of preparing a referendum scheduled for later this month.

She said that the implementation of the decolonization mandate could only be successful with true collaboration between the United Nations, administering Powers and the people of the Territories, themselves.  Also, the peoples in question must have information on the full range of decolonizing options, and, for its part, the Special Committee would continue to support them in that regard.  She drew attention to a leaflet called “What the United Nations can do to assist Non-Self-Governing Territories”.  Published earlier in the year, the leaflet was a “useful step” on various United Nations activities in support of the Territories and their inhabitants and was featured on the United Nations decolonization website.  She thanked the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs for their help in producing that publication.

She added that, in June, the Special Committee had held a “fruitful” substantive session, and had convened a Caribbean regional seminar from 22 to 24 May in Saint George’s, Greneda.  It strove to produce more action-oriented draft resolutions, in particular with regard to the “omnibus resolution” on 11 of the 16 Territories.  The Special Committees must represent a good faith effort to focus on tangible results while recognizing that there was no magic formula of “one fits all”.  Different territories have different needs and expectations, and should be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Indeed, well into the second half of the Second International Decade, Member States must make every effort to make progress towards eradicating colonialism.

The way forward should encompass improved cooperation with administrating Powers, she said, adding that she looked forward to the “important” act of self-determination in Tokelau later this month, when a referendum on the question of self-government in free association with New Zealand would be held.  She wished the people of Tokelau well and thanked New Zealand for being a genuine and committed partner in the exercise.  In closing, she encouraged the Special Committee, the Fourth Committee and the General Assembly to make every effort to fulfil their responsibilities towards the Non-Self-Governing Territories and their peoples.


JUAN ISIDRO MARTINEZ ( Dominican Republic), speaking on the behalf of the Rio Group, reiterated the Group’s support for the process of decolonization and the right to self-determination.  The results of the Committee’s work had been appreciable, but the status of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories showed that its work was not yet done.  The Rio Group reaffirmed its commitment to the objective of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and expressed hope that the administering Powers would provide the necessary information to the Committee.

He expressed the Group’s support for the Department of Public Information’s work in promoting the Decolonization Declaration.  It also welcomed the publication, entitled “What the United Nations Can Do to Assist the Non-Self-Governing Territories”.

In addition, the Rio Group supported a resumption of talks between Argentina and the United Kingdom, aimed at finding a peaceful, lasting solution to the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).  Regarding the small islands that comprised the majority of the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, he hoped that the Committee could continue to improve their fragile economies.  On the question of Western Sahara, hoped the Saharawi people would be able to achieve self-determination, and he welcomed the progress achieved by Peter van Walsum, Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara.  The recent meetings in Manhasset had given rise to interesting prospects.  He affirmed the Group’s commitment to the elimination of colonialism, and urged all administering Powers to work with the Committee.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that helping colonial countries and peoples to exercise their right to self-determination was a cardinal goal of the United Nations.  There were still 2 million people living in 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, and the outcome document produced at the 2005 Summit had reiterated the need to “respect the right to self-determination of people which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation”.  It was the duty of Member States to attach importance to the rights and interests of the people of those Territories, and to help them exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Declaration.

He said that the Special Political and Decolonization Committee shouldered major responsibility, and had made vigorous efforts in that regard.  In recent years, the Fourth Committee had strengthened its links with Non-Self-Governing Territories by various means.  He looked forward to closer cooperation between administering Powers and the United Nations.  China had always supported the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories in their efforts to exercise their right to self-determination, and it would continue to take an active part in the work of the Committee, so as to fulfil the historic mission entrusted to it.

EL MOSTAFA SAHEL ( Morocco) said the Committee would once again deal with the “ Sahara issue”.  Its consideration would take place in the context of a new political process of negotiation, following Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), which had ended a deadlock that had lasted since 2003.  In addition, Morocco itself had presented its “Proposal for the Negotiation of a Statute of Autonomy for the region of Sahara” to the Secretary-General in April, which “gives birth to new dynamics”.

He said Morocco had been willing to put a definite end to the Sahara issue, despite concerns over regional security and stability, and despite its quest for territorial integrity, after being divided into many “zones of occupation” by two colonial Powers.  In doing so, the country had spared no effort to cooperate with the United Nations to reach a final settlement of that dispute, whose “artificial and anachronistic character was known to everyone”.  The initiative -- an autonomy statute -- had been the result of wide national consultation, encompassing all the national political parties, as well as the representatives of the Sahara population, and had started in November 2005.  The autonomy statute would be submitted to the populations concerned for a referendum, in keeping with the principle of self-determination and the provision of the United Nations Charter.

The new political settlement process opened great hopes for the countries of the region, he said.  Morocco welcomed the fact that the process had been implemented through the holding of two rounds of negotiations, in June and August, under the auspices of the Secretary-General.  The negotiations following resolution 1754 (2007) had rectified an injustice by giving the population a legitimate right to participate in negotiations, through its representatives, on the future of the region.  The consideration of the Sahara issue by the Fourth Committee should be done in the spirit of consensus and responsibility, and not give in to “sterile polemics” and “useless overstatements”.  He called on concerned parties to preserve the consensus.

He said that the terms of consensus were within reach, and logically presupposed the following:  a resolution in line with recent developments in the Security Council, which avoided jeopardizing current dynamics or altering terms of reference of ongoing negotiations.  Such a resolution must comply with the terms and spirit of resolution 1754 (2007).  It must avoid legitimizing rigid positions and consecrating outdated references, or resorting to previous proposals whose “obsolete character had been clearly established”.  Morocco was willing to work for the adoption of a consensual text, in line with resolution 1754 (2007), while fully supporting the negotiations engaged in Manhasset, which were to resume in the coming months.

FEDERICO PERAZZA ( Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, renewed the group’s support for Argentina and that country’s legitimate right to sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands.  Noting the joint communiqué by the Presidents of States parties of MERCOSUR at its twenty-third meeting in June, he reaffirmed the regional interest in the resolution of the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom, according to the resolutions of the United Nations and the declarations of the Organization of American States (OAS).  He emphasized the wish that Argentina resume bilateral negotiations.

The Argentine claim is a just one, he said.  The sole parties of this sovereignty dispute were Argentina and the United Kingdom, and the only way to achieve a solution was through negotiations between them.  The question of the Malvinas Islands was a sovereignty dispute and not a question of self-determination.

YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) reaffirmed support for the Committee’s work until the complete abolition of colonialism, noting the price his country has paid in ending colonialism.  He expressed solidarity with the Saharawi people in their efforts to exercise their right to self-determination.   Algeria has not stopped its endeavour to achieve a peaceful conclusion of the process of decolonization in Western Sahara, and had participated in all efforts to promote a just, durable and fair solution.

He said he welcomed the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 1754 (2007) in April and the launch of the process of direct negotiations in Manhasset between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO.  He expressed gratitude for the work of Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy.  The Security Council, by calling for unconditional negotiations, had clearly rejected the false claim of one of the two parties to predetermine, in its favour, the framework, basis and result of the negotiations.

As a party to the Moroccan-Saharawi negotiations, he said he gave full support to the efforts of the United Nations.  The Saharawi people should enjoy adequate international protection from the “ferocious repression” they were facing.  He called on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to assume its responsibilities by publishing the report of its mission to Western Sahara and by ensuring that its recommendations were implemented.  The blackout in the occupied territories of Western Sahara should be lifted.  Saharawi refugees in Algerian territory should not become a bargaining chip.  Achieving the decolonization of Western Sahara was a test of the credibility of the United Nations and obligatory passage for the realization of even bigger ambitions.

PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said the Committee had been called on, once again, to consider the sensitive and complex situation in the Western Sahara, with its attendant social and humanitarian concerns.  Senegal, which was united to Morocco through age-old ties, and had excellent relations with other countries throughout the region, supported any initiative that promoted a just, durable and mutually acceptable resolution to the problem.  Senegal also supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to bring the concerned parties to the negotiating table.  However, only sincere and genuine negotiations would lead to a solution.  In that regard, Senegal believed that Morocco’s initiative for negotiating that region’s autonomy was in keeping with international law and the right to self-determination.

He said that the negotiations that had taken place in New York in June and August, in accordance with Security Council 1754 (2007), represented a “new breath of hope” for those who had suffered as a result of the deadlock.  At this critical time, during which the international community was well focused on a positive outcome to that dispute, Senegal urged all concerned parties to demonstrate restraint and to avoid verbal escalations.  Despite the difficulties, Senegal also urged those parties to chart a path to a just and lasting solution, built on a ceasefire, as well as a mutual drive to resolve ongoing humanitarian questions, such as the need to free prisoners of war.  He hoped the parties involved would acquire the political will needed to pursue the intertwining issues of peace, cooperation and development in the region.

JAIME VALENTE-CHISSANO ( Mozambique) welcomed the talks between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO in New York earlier this year.  Hopefully, those talks would bring a durable, just and fair solution to the question of Western Sahara.  He also expressed the hope that the efforts of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would achieve the ultimate goals of decolonization set out by the United Nations.  He urged the international community to take the opportunity afforded by the current situation to fulfil resolution 1513 (2003) and commended the work of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy on the question of Western Sahara.

TETE ANTONIO (Angola), aligning himself with the statement by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), welcomed any attention given to economic activities and other acts, which damaged the interests of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  In adopting resolution 2189 (XXI) during its twenty-first session, the General Assembly had acquired a tool for preserving the resources of the Territories.  In line with that, Angola supported the provision of training activities for the Territories, which helped them prepare for the future.

On the question of Western Sahara, he noted the effort of the United Nations to search for a solution as quickly as possible.  The importance Senegal attached to the question had been highlighted by its President during the recent General Assembly debate.  At a time when referendums on self-determination were common, it was logical for the people of Western Sahara to also enjoy that right.  Angola welcomed the work of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy in pursuing that goal, and indeed, the start of direct negotiations was welcome, as was the involvement of neighbouring actors, Mauritania and Algeria.  The country also welcomed resolution 1754 (2007), in which the Security Council asked the concerned parties to engage in negotiations in good faith.  Indeed, the Organization must send a clear message to the parties, by adopting a resolution which spoke to a just, durable and mutually acceptable solution.  Angola supported the draft resolution to be submitted to the Committee and hoped it would meet the approval of all delegations.

HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran) stressed that the issue of decolonization should remain a priority of the United Nations.  Having assisted millions of people in gaining their independence, decolonization was a success story for the Organization, yet the work of the Special Committee remained unfinished.

He said that the free flow of information into and from the Non-Self-Governing Territories was urgently needed by the inhabitants of colonial countries.  Without sufficient information provided to the people of colonial countries, and without raising awareness among them, decolonization would not succeed.  The visiting missions were useful tools, and significantly enhanced the capacity of the United Nations.  Thus, they should continue to be held on an annual basis in the Territories.  Because of the lack of cooperation of an administering Power, however, the Committee of 24 had been unable to hold its 2007 regional seminar in one of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  He thanked the people of Grenada for allowing the seminar to take place in their country.

Those administering Powers that did not cooperate with the Committee of 24 should do so, he said, also underlining their obligation to regularly transmit statistical and other information on conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible.  They also had an obligation to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the peoples of those Territories.  Additionally, the natural resources of those Territories were the heritage of their peoples.  Military installations and the activities of some administering Powers that harmed the rights and interests of the local population were a major concern; the views of the peoples must be fully respected by administering Powers.

MASON F. SMITH ( Fiji) said there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was a fundamental human right.  All available options for self-determination were valid, as long as they were in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned and were in conformity with the clearly defined principles contained in the United Nations Charter.  Many of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories were small, remote islands in the Caribbean and Pacific, with low population bases, limited natural resources and vulnerability to natural disasters.  Fiji reaffirmed its conviction that territorial size, geographic isolation and limited resources should not inhibit the peoples of those Territories from exercising their right to self-determination.  It was the responsibility of administering Powers to create conditions in those Territories to enable their peoples to exercise that right.

In relation to Territories in the Pacific region, he said that Fiji supported the wishes of the people of American Samoa to initiate a process of negotiation with the United States Congress for a permanent political status.  In terms of the Chamorro people of Guam, Fiji supported their expressed will not to be removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories pending the self-determination of the Chamorro people, and hoped that the administering Power would establish programmes to promote their economic development.  As for New Caledonia, Fiji commended France’s efforts in the economic, social and cultural development initiatives in the Territory.  New Zealand, as the administering Power of Tokelau, was commended for its cooperation with that small-island Territory towards its decolonization.

He said that Fiji strongly supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara, and called on the United Nations and all concerned parties to continue to deploy all efforts towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.  Finally, Fiji supported calls for negotiations between concerned parties to allow for a definitive and peaceful solution of the question of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands.  Formal and informal contacts between the Special Committee on Decolonization and administering Powers must continue, as they had proven to be valuable vehicles for improving cooperation in the development of work programmes for the decolonization of specific Territories.   Fiji also supported the dispatch of visiting missions.

IVAN ROMERO-MARTINEZ (Honduras), expressing support for the statements by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the Rio Group, commended the Special Committee’s work and noted its importance for international peace and security and the self-determination of peoples.  He noted Honduras’ contributions to United Nations peacekeeping missions and expressed support for efforts to achieve international peace and dialogue.  He also expressed support for all efforts to protect the human rights and human dignity of people around the world and the hope that the Committee’s work should culminate in respect for all people regardless of their race, colour or religion.

ALFREDO LOPES CABRAL ( Guinea-Bissau) said that a few decades ago, his people took the floor as petitioners, but thanks to the support of the Fourth Committee, Guinea-Bissau had been able to achieve independence.  In that same manner, the Committee was called upon to contribute to the quest for the sovereignty and freedom of other peoples.  The Chairman of the Committee bore the responsibility of fostering an atmosphere conducive to cooperation.  Words, when uttered with an intention of honestly bringing about a successful resolution to a problem, should be given full attention.

He welcomed Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) with regard to Western Sahara, which demonstrated a sense of responsibility towards maintaining international peace and security, and he called on the Committee to assist in that endeavour.  As everyone knew, the parties involved must be encouraged to break their deadlock and to demonstrate a spirit of innovation in arriving at a solution.  In turn, nothing must be said or done in the Committee that could jeopardize the process in any way.  He also welcomed the meetings that had taken place in Manhasset, and hoped that that dynamic would continue.  Higher interests should guide those involved in the negotiations.  He encouraged Committee members to act in step with Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), and not shy away from exerting pressure on the parties involved, especially in helping to ensure that the promising démarche would lead to self-determination through free expression.

Rights of Reply

The representative of the United Kingdom, exercising the right of reply to remarks made by the representatives of the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Fiji on the issue of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said the position of the United Kingdom was well known.  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.

The representative of Morocco was saddened by the tone adopted by the representative of Algeria in his statement, which seemed to indicate a separate approach and appeared to set the two sides apart.  While Morocco’s statement had been a dignified and measured attempt to find a common solution, Algeria’s statement showed that that country had not evolved from its position of more than 30 years ago.  The United Nations had placed confidence in Morocco’s proposal of a settlement to the question, which Morocco duly submitted to the Secretary-General in 2004.  Algeria, on the other hand, sought to perpetuate the obstacles.

He said that the majority of the population from that region resided in southern Morocco, while those residing in the camps of Tindouf, in Algeria, were considered a minority.  Thus, Algeria had never had the authority to speak on behalf of the majority, and had never been considered the “sole representative” of the people of the Sahara.

Regarding the question human rights, he said, if there was ever a situation to be condemned, in would be in Tindouf, where people were deprived of freedom, as reported by non-governmental organizations concerned with such matters.  Algeria, therefore, was not in position to speak on human rights, having been responsible for the disappearance of more than 5,000 people.  Furthermore, that country had refused requests by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to meet and work transparently regarding those efforts.  Two reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme concerned themselves with the seizure of aid in Tindouf.  As for the characterization of Morocco as an occupying Power, neither the Secretary-General nor the Security Council had ever referred to Morocco as such.

In reply, the representative of Algeria asked if the area being discussed was a part of Morocco or a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  He said the Saharawi people were attacked by Morocco and that it was now an occupying -- or colonial -- Power.  While Morocco would like to deny that fact, subterfuge and ploys could not conceal the reality that this was a new incidence of colonialism, which would only end when Morocco withdrew and allowed the people of that Territory to exercise their right to self-determination.  Calling the Moroccan representative’s statement an example of bad faith, he noted that resolution 1754 (2007) was respected by everyone.   Morocco called for nothing to distort that resolution, yet it was indeed doing so.  Resolution 1754 took note of both proposals from Morocco and Frente POLISARIO and urged the parties to negotiate without preconditions.   Morocco was a “serious violator” of resolutions and, once again, remained faithful to its past in that respect.  While the Moroccan representative said today that the POLISARIO did not represent the Saharawi, in Manhasset, it had been their sole representative.  The two parties should agree to listen to each other, consider proposals from the other side and cooperate with the Personal Envoy, he said.  He noted the constructive attitude of the representative from the Frente POLISARIO, and contrasted that with the “closed” attitude of Morocco.

Turning to human rights, he suggested that the representative of Morocco was “dumping” the image of human rights violator on Algeria -- an image, which was, in fact, its own.   Morocco would eventually have to answer for the current situation in Western Sahara.

The representative of Morocco said the Security Council had commended Morocco’s initiative and had only mentioned the POLISARIO’s proposal in passing.  Countries, therefore, could draw their own conclusions as to the hierarchy placed by the Security Council with regard to the two proposals.  In fact, the POLISARIO proposal was only submitted the day before the negotiations.  Morocco, today, sincerely welcomed the fact that the Saharawi people, who were the region’s legitimate representatives, envisaged a diplomatic solution.  Yet, the majority of the Saharawis did not live in the Tindouf camps; they lived in southern Morocco.  Any democratic solution could not neglect that majority.  Morocco talked of autonomy as a solution to the question of Western Sahara, and seriously considered that solution with the Saharawi population.  There had been no talk of anything else.

In reply, the representative of Algeria said those remarks reflected the “general incoherence” of the Moroccan démarche.  While the selective reading of resolution 1754 (2007) by the Moroccan representative had suggested there was a hierarchy of proposals, none existed in the resolution.  The resolution had simply taken note of both proposals.  Two proposals were on the table -- and had been on the table in Manhasset.  He could not follow the argument made by Morocco; the Saharawi proposal could not be “hidden”.  He asked why Morocco would be afraid of voting and allowing the Saharawi people to express what they wanted.  He reiterated the fact that Western Sahara was not a Moroccan territory and should be allowed to choose its future.

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For information media • not an official record