25 June 2010
General Assembly
GA/COL/3213

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

Special Committee on

 Decolonization

10th Meeting (AM)


Concluding Session, Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Proposing

 

Third International Decade for Eradication of Colonialism

 


Members also Pass Draft Decision Proposing 14 December

As Day to Commemorate Fiftieth Anniversary of Historic Declaration


Concluding its 2010 session, the Special Committee on Decolonization unanimously approved today a draft resolution, which, if adopted by the General Assembly, would pave the way for the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism beginning in 2011, as well as a draft decision by which the Assembly would designate 14 December as the day for commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.


Respectively titled “Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism” (document A/AC.109/2010/L.18) and “Commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (document A/AC.109/2010/L.19), the texts were approved alongside several other draft resolutions, including two concerning the Non-Self-Governing Territories of Tokelau and New Caledonia, respectively, and one providing for the adoption of the report from the recent Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization.


Presenting the draft on Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2010/L.16), the representative of Papua New Guinea recalled that two self-determination referendums had not produced the two-thirds majority needed to pass, leading to a decision by the General Fono — Tokelau’s parliament — to defer any future act of self-determination.  Fiji’s representative, a co-sponsor, said the text called on the Special Committee and United Nations specialized agencies to provide needed assistance to Tokelau as it developed further.


Prior to the draft’s approval, Ulu O Tokelau, titular head of the island Territory, presented its flag to Special Committee Chair Donatus St. Aimee (Saint Lucia), declaring that Tokelau wished to engage in global and contemporary issues with a “distinct voice”.  He said the General Fono would begin to implement the National Strategic Plan for 2010-2015 under the 2010/2011 budget, and would continue to seek the support of the Government of New Zealand in meeting its national vision.


He said the General Fono was focused on pressing needs in the areas of shipping, school and hospital construction, and renewable energy.  Regarding the shipping service that Tokelauans used for travel, for example, he said the MV Tokelau had been forced to restrict itself to only 12 passengers last month, compelling the use of expensive charter vessels.  Tokelau was now working with New Zealand to obtain a replacement vessel before year’s end, he added.


New Zealand’s representative, cautioning that “an appreciable period of time” must be taken before any act of self-determination was undertaken, raised two questions for the Special Committee’s consideration: how would a community as small and isolated as Tokelau realistically function in a globalizing world?  How could resources be provided on a long-term basis to meet the aspirations of the people of Tokelau?


He confirmed, however, that the shipping service, used for travel around the Territory’s atolls, was inadequate and needed improving.  “The Ulu, the senior official accompanying the Ulu and I were heading back from Tokelau on the MV Tokelau.  It took us more than 30 hours in what can best be described as uncomfortable sailing conditions,” he said, adding that several major shipping tragedies in Tonga and Kiribati highlighted the need for full compliance with safety standards.


In response to a question from the representative of Papua New Guinea, who said he had sailed on the MV Tokelau several times on official Special Committee business, said a tender process to find a short-term replacement for the vessel would close on 11 July while a decision was taken on longer-term transport options and an air link to be developed much further down the road.


The representatives of Cuba and Grenada also spoke on the question of Tokelau, each offering the commitment and support of their respective Governments for the Territory’s self-determination efforts.


As the Special Committee took up the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2010/L.9), the representative of Fiji highlighted differences between the present draft resolution and the 2009 version, explaining that the new text contained references to the Territory’s participation at the fortieth summit of the Pacific Islands Forum in Australia, following its accession as an associate member.  The text also welcomed the successful conclusion of the Pacific Regional Seminar, held in Nouméa, New Caledonia’s capital, in May.


Referring to a June ministerial mission of the Melanesia Spearhead Group — comprising Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji — he said it had expressed concern at the slow rate of progress in implementing the Nouméa Accord, the agreement providing for the possible transfer of power from France to New Caledonia and its original population, if they so desired.  He urged all parties to work together to accelerate the pace of progress, noting particular political and capacity-building challenges.  The representative of Papua New Guinea added that he supported the Territory’s request to the Special Committee for legal assistance in developing a constitution.


The Special Committee approved two further drafts following lengthy discussions about suggested changes to each text — in one instance suspending the formal meeting to launch informal consultations — before eventually approving them by consensus, but without the proposed changes.  The first was on implementation of the Decolonization Declaration (document A/AC/109/2010/L.11), and the second on the question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories (document A/AC.109/2010/L.7).


On the first draft, which mandates the Special Committee to develop a programme of work on decolonization, Chairman St. Aimee had proposed changes to provide for a set of indicators or benchmarks that could be applied when assessing progress towards the eradication of colonialism.  Speaking in his national capacity before the Special Committee took up the text, he said the language he had crafted was aimed at providing a greater focus on the Special Committee’s ideas and the means for setting them in motion.


That suggestion met with dissenting views from several delegates, including the representative of the Russian Federation, who voiced her Government’s preference addressing the situation of each Non-Self-Governing Territory on a case-by-case basis.  She said the Chair’s proposals suggested the possibility of additional expenditure, which made it additionally difficult for the Russian Federation to agree.


Also offering opinions on the proposed change were the representatives of Syria, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Papua New Guinea, a large majority of whom asked for a return to the original text in view of the lack of consensus on the Chair’s suggestion.  However, many delegates said they were open to further discussion of the idea at future meetings.


Following the draft’s approval, the Chair said he understood that the Special Committee had acted with the intention of further deliberating on his proposal at some point in the future.  He further remarked that calls for action necessarily entailed financial implications, and it was “faulty logic” to recommend that a Committee develop a work plan without providing the proper means for doing so.


Earlier, several delegates delivered statements on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) since they had not had the opportunity to speak the previous day.


Urging Argentina and the United Kingdom to strengthen their efforts to resolve their prolonged sovereignty dispute over the Territory were the representatives of Paraguay and Peru — who associated themselves with the statement made yesterday on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) — as well as those of El Salvador and Papua New Guinea.  The representatives of Paraguay, Peru and El Salvador stressed that Argentina’s rights in the matter must be taken into proper account, while Papua New Guinea’s delegate called for proper and fair consideration of the interests of both Governments.


The Special Committee then decided by consensus to authorize Bashar Ja'afari (Syria), its Rapporteur, to submit a report on the session directly to the General Assembly for approval.


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For information media • not an official record