17 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/SPD/405

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

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fourth Committee

11th Meeting (PM)


UNABLE TO REACH CONSENSUS, ASSEMBLY’S FOURTH COMMITTEE

 

POSTPONES ACTION ON DRAFT DECOLONIZATION RESOLUTION

 


Meeting Suspended After Challenge to Proposed Revision in Text;

United Kingdom Says New Wording is ‘Back-Door’ Effort to Change Principle


The General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to take action on one of the two decolonization-related draft texts it had not yet acted on.  Unable to reach consensus, the Committee voted to suspend its proceedings, and will return to the issue on Monday, when it will also begin its consideration of questions related to information.


The text before the Committee today -- an omnibus draft resolution on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, contained in report of the Special Committee on Decolonization (document A/63/23) -- included a new phrase in its second operative paragraph that had proved controversial when the other decolonization drafts were acted on by the Fourth Committee earlier this week.


The United Kingdom had introduced an amendment (document A/C.4/63/L.6) to delete the disputed phrase, “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty”.  After a lengthy procedural discussion, the Committee decided to adjourn the meeting by a show of hands vote of 75 in favour to 54 against, with 1 abstention.


The representative of the United Kingdom said the new language qualified the principle of self-determination on issues of decolonization, in a way that caused grave concerns.  His delegation, therefore, proposed that the phrase “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” be removed, and the text returned to the language that had commanded consensus last year.  He said self-determination was a fundamental principle enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law.  While the Charter did not elaborate on, nor further define, the principle, or how it was to be enacted, that had been done through various international instruments and practices, particularly in relation to decolonization.  None of those legal instruments, resolutions or judgments indicated that the right of self-determination was not applicable in instances where there was a dispute over sovereignty –- and had, in some cases, given primacy to that right over other international legal principles.


The Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization said that the report which included the omnibus draft resolution had been available to all United Nations Members since June, had been accessible through the United Nations documents system since August, and that any concerns could have been brought to the Committee’s attention “at any time”.  None were received, he said.  He further emphasized that the language in question had been carefully discussed in the Special Committee, and was consistent with previously adopted resolutions.


Stressing that his legal career had taught him that “bad cases made bad law”, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said the case before the Committee was a bad case.  His country was not in favour of any introduction of further impediments to the concept of self-determination.


Statements were also made by the representatives of France, Brazil (for the Southern Common Market, MERCOSUR), New Zealand, Guatemala, Morocco, Syria, Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Iran, Pakistan, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Chile, Bolivia, Saint Lucia, and Antigua and Barbuda.  During the procedural discussion, there were also comments from the representatives of Jamaica, Sudan and Egypt.


The Fourth Committee is expected to resume consideration of the omnibus resolution on Monday, 17 October at 3 p.m.  At that time, it is also expected to take action on a draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (A/C.4/63/L.5) and to begin its consideration of questions relating to information, which was originally scheduled for today, with an address by, and interactive discussion with, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to take action on the draft resolution before it on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, which is contained in report of the Special Committee on Decolonization (document A/63/23, p. 64).  (For further details of the text of the draft, see Press Release GA/SPD/400 of 10 October).


The Committee was also expected to act on an amendment to part A operative paragraph 2 of that text (document A/C.4/63/L.6).  By the amendment, the words “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” would be deleted from operative paragraph 2, so that it now reads:  “Also reaffirms that, in the process of decolonization, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right, as recognized under the relevant human rights conventions.”


Also today, the Fourth Committee was to begin its consideration of questions relating to information.  It had before it the Secretary-General’s report (document A/63/258), updating the reports submitted to the Committee on Information at its thirtieth session, held from 28 April to 9 May, 2008.


According to the Secretary-General’s report, the Department of Public Information continued to highlight priority issues in the areas of peace and security, development and human rights.  It paid particular attention to promoting the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the sixtieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping.  The network of United Nations information centres, services and components played a key role in this effort.  Better equipped and better trained, they are now increasingly integrated with the United Nations country teams.


The report describes activities undertaken in the first half of 2008 by the Department, through its three subprogrammes:  strategic communication services; news services; and outreach and knowledge-sharing services.


Its strategic communication services used thematic campaigns to focus on:  the sixtieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping (oriented around a year-long observance that was launched on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on 29 May 2008); ending sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel; United Nations peacekeeping operations; the Millennium Development Goals; the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); climate change; the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights; the Rwanda Outreach Programme; and the Secretary-General’s campaign to end violence against women. 


The Department also increased its promotion of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and, through the United Nations Communications Group, it set up a working group on communications aspects of the “Delivering as One” United Nations’ pilots.  It also strengthened the communications capacity and introduced the use of new information and communications technologies in the United Nations information centres.


In terms of its news services, the report says the Department further expanded its media services, widening the daily delivery of news and information products via radio, television and print media.  Most notably, there was a marked increase in the use of the United Nations website over the past six months, with a growing number of visitors viewing it as an essential resource for news and information.  There was an upsurge in the use of video materials.  In June 2008, the Department launched the “UNifeed” service on the web, to enable broadcasters to easily download broadcast-quality video for immediate use.  The launch of a branded United Nations television channel on YouTube was scheduled for August.


The Department continued to pursue a two-pronged approach aimed at delivering its radio programming to the broadest possible range of audiences.  On one hand, it worked to expand its partnerships with international broadcasters in the six official languages, as well as in Portuguese and Kiswahili.  On the other, it relied on the Internet as an effective means of bringing audio content to its listeners around the world, in part through the launch of a redesigned United Nations Radio website in seven language versions:  Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese.


As part of its efforts to enhance performance of the United Nations News Centre in all official languages, the Department also launched a redesigned French version of the site, in April, while work continued on the development of similar redesigns in other official languages.  The English site registered more than 1 million unique visitors in April.  Other forms of news distribution featured on the UN News Centre, such as Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds, also showed steady growth.  Subscribers to the associated e-mail news alerts service continued to grow, reaching 54,000 (English and French).


According to the report, the Department continued to provide fast, accurate, balanced and comprehensive coverage through its press releases of all open intergovernmental meetings, as well as press conferences, at Headquarters and in other locations.  In the first six months of 2008, it produced a total of 2,113 such releases (8,732 pages) in English and French.  Over the past year, the Department held separate structured group discussions with key users of United Nations press releases -- Member States, the media and non-governmental organizations -- to solicit views on restructuring and updating the press release database, so as to make its website more user-friendly and to improve its access and search functions.


The Department worked in close cooperation with non-governmental organizations and civil society to expand its outreach and promotional activities.  Using the Internet and videoconferencing, it was able to connect with an ever increasing number of young people in a dialogue on issues that matter most to them.  It also undertook an outreach programme on Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to break the silence on slavery and to educate present and future generations about the causes, consequences, lessons and legacy of that 400-year-long trade.


The report notes that the Department has proposed to build upon the extensive academic outreach potential inherent in the UN Chronicle by phasing it into a journal entitled “UN Affairs”, with a pilot edition scheduled to be available in October 2008.  The Department would also launch, this year, an online version of the Yearbook of the United Nations.  An important new three-tier policy-pricing policy for United Nations publications was also introduced by the Department, which, while retaining the current level of pricing in developed countries, would allow for more affordable pricing in developing and least developed countries.


The Committee also had before it a report on the thirtieth session of the Committee on Information (28 April to 9 May 2008) (document A/62/21 (Supp.)), which contains two draft resolutions:  draft resolution A, on information in the service of humanity; and draft resolution B, on United Nations public information policies and activities.


Action on Draft Text


The Committee first took up the “omnibus” draft resolution VI on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, which is contained in the report of the Special Committee on Decolonization (document A/63/23, p. 64), along with the amendment to part A operative paragraph 2 of that text (document A/C.4/63/L.6).


JOHN SAWERS (United Kingdom), making a general statement and drawing the Committee’s attention to part A operative paragraph 2 of draft resolution VI, said the phrase “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” was new language in that paragraph of this year’s draft.  It qualified the principle of self-determination on issues of decolonization in a way that caused grave concerns.  His delegation proposed that those words be removed to return the text to the language that had commanded consensus last year.


He said self-determination was a fundamental principle enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law.  The codifying of self-determination as a principle of international affairs dated from the early twentieth century, and, most significantly, from the 1945 Charter.  While the Charter did not elaborate on, nor further define, the principle, or how it was to be enacted, that had been done through various international instruments and practices, particularly in relation to decolonization.  Among those were:  General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960, Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People; General Assembly resolution 1541 (XV); common Article 1 (1966) of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV) of 1970, known as the “Friendly Relations” declaration.  The principle of self-determination was also reflected in international practice and jurisprudence, including the International Court of Justice’s 1975 advisory opinion on Western Sahara.


None of those legal instruments, resolutions or judgments, he went on, indicated that the right of self-determination was not applicable in instances where there was a dispute over sovereignty, and in some cases, they had given primacy to the right over other international legal principles.  Thus, the Committee should be asking –- at a minimum -– why there was an attempt to restrict and qualify the rights now, and in the context of the resolution.  The language was not relevant to the resolution, as there were no sovereignty disputes in any of the eleven Territories that were the subject of the resolution.  That fact alone should, he stressed, lead delegations to question why that language was included.  He suggested there seemed to be an attempt to introduce that language through a “back door”, in order to gradually broaden the restriction of self-determination to other disputes.


While there were sovereignty issues raised in relation to two of the United Kingdom’s overseas territories –- Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands -- he said his Government’s position was clear:  it tried to address the matters bilaterally with Spain and Argentina respectively.  A move now to introduce a restriction to the principle of self-determination by the Committee could have wider ramifications.  He asked the Committee to consider what implications it might have for the people of Western Sahara, as well as the Palestinian people –- particularly the impact of such a restriction on the latter’s right to self-determination, should Israel make a sovereignty claim to the West Bank and Gaza.


Urging the Committee to go back to the consensus language adopted last year, he said his country was not trying to change the resolution adopted last year.  It wanted to maintain consensus and return to that language.  He further said that his delegation appreciated the explanation of the procedures of the Special Committee of 24, which had been provided in a letter by that body’s chair earlier this week.  That letter did not address the issues his delegation was now raising, however, and it was entirely appropriate to raise concerns about a draft resolution proposed by a subsidiary body to the Fourth Committee in the Fourth Committee itself.  His delegation remained open to discussing the consensus with the Special Committee of 24 as a whole.


R.M. MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), Chairman of the Special Committee (of 24)on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People, said that the draft  -- draft resolution VI -- had been discussed intensively through informal consultations of his Committee during the first week of June 2008, and was then endorsed by consensus.  Throughout the process, the Committee had maintained an open approach and was ready to engage all interested parties in the process of dialogue and consultations.


The Special Committee had frequently called on the administering Power to participate in the work of the Committee, including in the process of consultations on the different draft resolutions considered by the Committee.  However, such participation had not been at the level of the Committee’s expectations, in the case of some administering Powers.  He said the Special Committee “sincerely hoped” that the situation would change, so that all concerns and eventual proposals could be considered at the appropriate time and at the appropriate forum.


The report of the Special Committee, which included the present “omnibus” resolution, was available to all United Nations Members since 30 June 2008, and had been accessible through the United Nations documents system since 8 August 2008.  He said that any concerns could have been brought to the Committee’s attention at any time, but none were received.


The Committee emphasized that the content of operative paragraph 2 under section A of the draft resolution was carefully discussed through the aforementioned process, he said.  That paragraph was consistent with the many previously adopted by the General Assembly and the Fourth Committee, as well as the final documents in different Regional Seminars on Decolonization.  He concluded by saying that all member of the Fourth Committee were invited to take the above mentioned considerations into account, and it was the hope of the Special Committee that the draft resolution would obtain the consensus support of the Committee.


Ms. DE MONTCLAUR ( France) said her delegation supported the amendment proposed by the United Kingdom, which would bring the language of the text back to that which had achieved consensus in the past.


PIRAGIBE DOS SANTOS TARRAGÔ (Brazil), speaking for the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said the omnibus draft resolution put forward an idea of self-determination that had no limitations.  The proposed amendment did not recognize the indispensability of special and particular situations where there were sovereignty disputes.  In those circumstances, the States concerned were urged to find a negotiated solution.  The United Nations specifically distinguished situations in which there were sovereignty disputes.  For that reason, he said the Committee should honour the consensus reached by the special body on the issue, the Committee of 24, which was indicated in its report in the omnibus resolution.


KIRSTY GRAHAM ( New Zealand) said the language pertaining to the right to self-determination was a very important issue, as it was one of the fundamental precepts of the Organization.  The declaration was enshrined in the Charter and should not be qualified, and nobody should suggest that just conditions could exist.  She said it was unfortunate and unacceptable that the phrase “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” was inserted into operative paragraph 2, and she asked that that phrase be removed, so that the Committee could return to the consensus text of last year.


MÓNICA BOLAÑOS-PÉREZ (Guatemala), speaking on behalf of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, said her delegation wished to adopt the draft recommended by the Special Committee, and regretted that that was not the consensus view.  As had been indicated, the omnibus draft resolution before the Special Committee had been adopted by consensus.  Her delegation believed that deleting the phrase at issue would mean mistakenly enshrining the principle of self-determination in reference to all countries under consideration by the Special Committee, including those that had been explicitly defined as “special” because they involved sovereignty disputes.  Indeed, [clause 6 of] the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples stated that “any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.


Further, she added, the current language in draft resolution VI was in keeping with many decisions adopted by the General Assembly and the Fourth Committee, and with the language used in many of the reports of regional seminars held by the Special Committee.  For that reason her delegation and those for which it spoke opposed the proposed amendment.


SAADIA EL ALAOUI ( Morocco) said her delegation would not have spoken, were it not for the need to clarify references to the nature of the question of Western Sahara.  She said it was a regional issue, and a conflict left over from the days of the cold war.  Furthermore, Morocco had completed decolonization of the region in 1975, and the debate today did not in any way involve the matter of Sahara, as the Security Council was calling on the parties to find a mutually agreeable solution.


MANAR TALEB ( Syria) observed, concerning the draft resolution, that the Fourth Committee was based on two principles, the first being self-determination and the second being territorial unity.  He said it was, therefore, necessary to define the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on that basis.  Those principles were referred to in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in resolution 1514, and he said the second operative paragraph of today’s draft had not created any new concepts, but rather underscored the concepts previously adopted by the General Assembly.


He suggested that the language not be deleted, and said that it was important to continue to refer to those two principles whenever possible, so long as no essential or substantive change occurred in the status of the territories.  He said the report submitted had been prepared through a long of process of negotiation.  It had been possible for any delegation not satisfied with any formulation contained in the report to evoke its preoccupations and concerns, especially since the Fourth Committee had called upon the administering Powers to join in the negotiations, but that had not happened.  The report had been available in all six languages for a long time.


GUSTAVO ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay), saying his delegation supported the statement made on behalf of MERCOSUR, underlined the fact that the draft text had been adopted by the Special Committee in June, and was in full keeping with many other resolutions addressing the decolonization issue that elaborated respect for the territorial integrity of States.  His delegation, therefore, believed the Committee should consider the text that had been approved by the Special Committee, under whose purview decolonization issues were addressed.


DIEGO LIMERES ( Argentina) stressed that the text had been adopted on 11 June by the Special Committee and included in its report, which had, in turn, been introduced to the Fourth Committee on 6 October.  It also repeated previous language that had been used in the past.  Further, the drafting of operative paragraph 2 clearly recognized the importance of self-determination in the decolonization process, while also recognizing special cases in which sovereignty disputes -- that were recognized by the international community –- existed.  While it did not specifically refer to the question of the Malvinas Islands, the paragraph under consideration contained several principles that should be preserved.  The General Assembly had clearly intended to safeguard those special colonial situations involving a sovereignty dispute like the Malvinas Islands, and the Special Committee’s work was to respect and consider those safeguards.  He underlined that the case of the Malvinas Islands had been clearly defined by the General Assembly and the Special Committee, as just that kind of case in which negotiations between the two parties –- the United Kingdom and his Government –- should be undertaken, while keeping in mind the desires of the inhabitants themselves.


He said the United Kingdom had failed to comply with all of the provisions involved in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.  That was very serious, given the United Kingdom’s status as the administering Power of a number of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Furthermore, the precepts of the Special Committee should be fulfilled, and the Committee should not give way to the interest of any individual Power.


JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said he recognized and supported the role of the Special Committee on Decolonization.  To eradicate colonialism entirely, he supported the principle of self-determination explicitly mentioned in the draft resolution known as the “omnibus” resolution, in particular in section B.  Section A, which contained operative paragraph 2, was an example of the very careful consideration that the Special Committee had brought to those subjects.  That case-by-case approach kept in mind the diverse nature of situations in Non-Self-Governing Territories, and operative paragraph 2 was in keeping with the previous observations of the General Assembly.


The process of decolonization had become tangled up with sovereignty disputes, he said.  In such cases, the principle of territorial integrity applied.  As had been indicated by Brazil, Guatemala and others, attempts aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country was incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.  He said he supported draft resolution VI in the terms it reflected, without accepting any change or amendment.


AMIR HOSSEIN HOSSEINI ( Iran) said members of the Special Committee had always been open to dialogue related to its mandate.  Previous reports of the Committee had indicated that its members had frequently called on the administering Powers to take a more active role and help in drafting of resolutions related to various aspects of the Committee’s work.  However, with few exceptions, that Committee had not received a satisfactory response so far.  He reaffirmed support to what was endorsed by the Special Committee and expressed the hope that the draft resolution now before the Fourth Committee would be adopted by consensus.


FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan) said that the important draft resolution had traditionally been approved by consensus, but the addition of new language in this year’s draft unfortunately jeopardized that consensus.  The implications of the new language had not been adequately explained, and views were divergent.  The Committee should revert back to the agreed-upon language of previous years and if that consensus were achieved, he felt his delegation could go along with it.


RODRIGO MALMIERCA DÍAZ ( Cuba) said his delegation supported the draft in its current form, and hoped the text could be approved by consensus in the Fourth Committee.  It had been adopted by consensus in the Special Committee, and there had been plenty of time for its consideration; his delegation believed any resolution or decision from that body should be taken fully into account.  Indeed, Cuba was against any attempt to undermine the Special Committee.


One of the fundamental ways the Special Committee considered the Non-Self-Governing Territories was through its regional seminars, he added.  Many resolutions of the General Assembly, including 1514 (XV), stated that “any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.  He noted the parties involved in a sovereignty dispute had been consistently called to engage in negotiations to resolve that dispute.  He once again called for a negotiated response in those cases.  His delegation did not support the amendment, and would vote in favour of the draft text as currently written.


Mr. TURAY ( Sierra Leone) said his delegation supported the amendment proposed by the United Kingdom.  If the draft were adopted in its current form, the text would be inconsistent with the United Nations Charter.  He stressed that further time should be given for consultations.


CAMILLO GONSALVES ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), stressing that his legal career had taught him that “bad cases made bad law”, said the case before the Fourth Committee was a bad case.  As a matter of principle -- and due to its former status as a colonial territory and as a member of the Special Committee –- his country was not in favour of any introduction of further impediments to the concept of self-determination.  Noting that none of the 11 Territories addressed in the omnibus draft resolution were subject to sovereignty dispute, he said, this was not the time nor the place for this battle to be fought.  Nevertheless, he added that he recognized the fears of those countries and Territories who were threatened by other, more powerful States, and said the interest of those countries should be covered by the current resolution.


Acknowledging that he himself feared the Caribbean was becoming the political battleground of certain States, he said that “when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled”.  He was also aware of the potential mischief that could result if the resolution was written was approved –- and of the mischief that might result if it was defeated.  Thus, he asked that voting be deferred so that the legitimate concerns of both sides could be addressed.


The Chair, noting the proposal to defer action, asked if any delegation wanted to comment on that proposal.


ALFREDO LOPES CABRAL ( Guinea-Bissau) asked if the Chair had invoked rule 116.  The Chair confirmed he had.  Mr. CABRAL suggested that the rule was incorrect and asked if the proposal had been to suspend the debate or to defer action.


Before the Chair could answer, JORGE TAGLE ( Chile) said his delegation believed that that matter, as had been noted by a number of other speakers, had been discussed not only today, but for a matter of months.  He said it was useful for action to be taken now.


Asked if he opposed the proposal by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the chairman said he did not.


HUGO SILES ALVARADO ( Bolivia) said the days and months of work done by the Special Committee had afforded many opportunities for participation by Member States.  Thus, Bolivia reaffirmed support for the Special Committee’s decision; it felt that action should be taken, and it opposed the motion by the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


DONATUS KEITH ST. AIMEE ( Saint Lucia) said he supported the proposal by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


TUMASIE BLAIR ( Antigua and Barbuda) moved that the Committee act on the proposal by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


On a point of order, RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica) said that the ambassador of Guinea-Bissau was correct, and rule 116 should not apply in this case.  As he had understood it, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had moved to defer action, but that should not go to a motion.  It was normal that if a number of delegations asked for more time, there was no reason why they should not be given it.


On a point of order, Mr. CABRAL ( Guinea-Bissau) said that, even if the Committee were to agree that article 116 could apply, he would have to call the attention to the fact that the Chairman was wrong in not applying article 116.  Should the Committee agree that it was, then in addition to the proposer of the motion two delegates were permitted speak in favour of it and two against, after which the motion should be immediately put to the vote.


The Chair responded that the Committee had no option but to address motions of order when they came up.  He indicated that the representative of Guinea-Bissau had not actually asked for the floor, but had made a point of order, which was why the Chair had been obligated to give the floor to him immediately.  If the person making the motion and putting forward the proposal had been asked a couple of times whether that was really the motion he was putting forward, the Chair said that he could not change the motion.  He said the Chair itself was not able to cancel a proposal once it had been made.  There being two in favour and two against, he said he intended to now put the proposal to the vote as to whether to put forward or adjourn the debate.  As the vote was now open, he said, the floor would not be given to anyone at that time, according to the rules.


Mr. CABRAL ( Guinea-Bissau) said that rule 127 indicated that a proposal needed to put be forward for a vote in this manner.


Mr. SAWERS ( United Kingdom) asked if the debate was being closed, or if the meeting was being suspended for consideration.  He understood that the proposal was for a suspension of the meeting.  If so, he said rule 119 should apply, and he asked for clarification.


KHALID M. ALI (Sudan) asked what the Committee was voting on, pointing out that postponing the meeting for further consultation did not fall under rule 116.


The Chair proposed that the Committee be practical, and stressed that he himself had asked for clarification twice on the proposal from the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


Mr. GONSALVES ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that, having heard the arguments for and against, he had asked, as a member of the Special Committee, that voting be postponed, so that concerns on both sides could be addressed.  He acknowledged that he had incorrectly cited rule 116 and apologized.  He then asked to suspend the meeting under rule 119.


After a brief adjournment, the Chair said that he had spoken with the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who, it was agreed, had originally cited rule 116.  He noted that after the representative had spoken, it had been suggested by another delegation that rule 119 was being invoked.


Mr. GONSALVES said again that he had requested not to continue the debate, by suspending the meeting.  Neither rule 116 nor rule 119 applied.  In fact, rule 118 did.  If that was done -- and “cooler heads prevailed” -- the Committee could return to the draft text at a later date.  He again requested that the meeting be suspended, this time under rule 118.


The Chair, responding to a request to speak, said he could not allow any speakers.  He said that as he understood it -- and before the floor was opened to any other delegation -- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had asked for the meeting to be suspended according to rule 118.  In response, Mr. GONSALVES agreed.


The Chair then asked Mr. Cabral of Guinea-Bissau if he had any questions on that point, while stressing he would not give the floor to anyone to make further arguments.


Mr. CABRAL said he took the floor in respect to principles of procedure.  He said he was entitled to speak on behalf of the proposal or against it.


The Chair said, however, that “the maker of the proposal was master of the proposal”, and according to rule 118, any speaker could move to suspend the meeting.  At such a point, a vote had to be taken and no arguments could be made.


MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said that if the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was moving to strike his proposal under 116 and 119, then rule 122 should apply, and the representative had to be asked if he were withdrawing his proposal under those rules.


The Chair then said that current proposal was under rule 118.  He said he had opened the voting on the first proposal under rule 116, and asked if there was consensus that the proposal under 116 be withdrawn.  Noting that there was, he asked if the same proposal under rule 119 could be withdrawn by consensus.  Noting that it could, he said the Committee had to proceed without debate to vote on the proposal under rule 118.


Action on Proposal to Suspend


Before taking that vote, he said that the Committee was voting on the proposal to suspend the meeting.  Those voting in favour would be voting for suspension.  Those voting against would be voting for continuation of this “fascinating discussion”.


By a show of hands vote, the Committee then decided to adjourn the debate with 75 in favour to 54 against, with 1 abstention.


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For information media • not an official record