|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Identify Possibilities for Change while Promoting Decolonization Priorities,
Secretary-General Says in Message to Caribbean Regional Seminar
QUITO, 28 May ‑ In a message to the Caribbean Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged participants to review recent developments as well as trends that are likely to influence developments in the upcoming period.
The three-day Seminar, held under the theme “First Quarter Review of Developments and Trends” in Quito, Ecuador, provided an opportunity for representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to share their concerns with the United Nations Special Committee on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Civil society, non-governmental organizations and experts were also expected to convey their views on the way forward for the decolonization process.
Ambassador Diego Morejón-Pazmiño (Ecuador), Chairman of the Special Committee, extended his sincere thanks to the Government and people of Ecuador for hosting the Seminar for the second consecutive year.
This Seminar also provides a unique opportunity to mark the annual Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which “strengthens our commitment and resolve to strike down colonialism in all its aspects”, he stressed in his opening remarks.
RICARDO PATIÑO AROCA, Foreign Minister of Ecuador, opened the Caribbean Regional Seminar and welcomed participants, recalling that “according to the Special Committee on Decolonization, today there are about 2 million people living in territories designated under a non-autonomous regime”. At the same time, he recalled “the need to study, on a case-by-case basis, to unravel the complex reality of these last ‘fringes of history’”.
He recalled that at the meeting last yearthere were a lot of difficulties with the decolonization process, while reiterating that this historic movement of liberation of peoples has proved unstoppable. He said that the colonial problem persisted and noted the apparent difficulty in establishing the difference between “native population and settler population”. He also manifested his wish that the decolonization process be strengthened as a manifestation of peoples’ autonomy.
The Minister pointed out the most recent case in the Special Committee’s agenda, the incorporation of French Polynesia to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. He further stated that the Government of Ecuador had always defended Argentina’s claim over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands*.
DIEGO MOREJÓN-PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), Chairman of the Special Committee, highlighted the importance of engaging in an open dialogue, formal or informal, with the administering Powers, and considering the characteristics of each case to identify specific cases where the number of Territories on the list could be reduced. He also referred to recent developments in some Territories, such as Anguilla, Cayman Islands, United States Virgin Islands and Saint Helena.
In reference to the participation of the Territories in regional organizations, he called for the Special Committee to be more proactive in order to comply with the General Assembly’s request “that the participation of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the work of relevant meetings and conferences of the agencies and organizations be facilitated so that the Territories can benefit from the related activities of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system”.
He expressed his intention to ensure that the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system were more involved in the work of the Special Committee and actively participated in regional seminars and its annual meetings. He also proposed that future regional seminars include in their agenda the issue of scholarships offered to students from the Territories in order to provide constant monitoring of offers and uses of study opportunities. He concluded by pointing out the re-inscription of French Polynesia and the new challenges faced by the Special Committee, which required renewed impetus to tackle the task of putting an end to colonialism.
First Quarter Review by Caribbean and Pacific Non-Self-Governing Territories
KEDRICK PICKERING, representative of the British Virgin Islands, noted that while the Territory’s relationship with the administering Power was stable and not problematic, it could be enhanced, and welcomed the 2012 White Paper on the Overseas Territories. In his view, the Special Committee should set specific achievable goals, taking into account the particularities of each Territory, in order to further advance the decolonization process in all the Territories.
SALESIO LUI, Ulu-o-Tokelau, welcomed the Secretary-General’s statement at the opening meeting of the Special Committee, in February 2013, and the Seminar’s theme. He proposed to “distinguish between Territories that have demonstrated close support from their administering Powers from those that have yet to develop such a relationship”. He shared two suggestions to enhance the work of the Special Committee.
First, it should actively explore the needs of each of Territory and see whether their capacity to engage internationally was limited or compromised by virtue of their current political status, he said. Tokelau had not been able to obtain membership of, inter alia, the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the small island developing States. Secondly, the Special Committee should revisit the three self-determination options so the Territories could understand them and make them real and relevant within the evolving global landscape. He added that Tokelau’s prospects had been encouraged by two key factors: its determination to improve the quality of life for its people, and the continuing support from the Government of New Zealand.
EDWARD A. ALVAREZ, representative of the Government of Guam, presented the Guam Commission on Decolonization’s efforts in reinforcing public awareness, finding creative ways to raise funds for the Territory’s education programme and the importance of public outreach, as the Commission continued to meet with and speak to public high schools, civil society organizations and cultural groups in reinforcing the correct messaging to the masses.
In conclusion, he proposed that “the Electoral Office of the Department of Political Affairs begin to supply information on the political status options, since the lack of such information impedes the Territories from understanding more about the three status options”. He also proposed that the General Assembly endorse a work programme for the decolonization of each Territory.
He called on the Special Committee to implement the recommendations of the General Assembly, including the earlier ones, as a matter of urgency, “otherwise, the role of decolonization will fade into lesser importance, and the tendency to legitimize the unequal territorial relationships may be too difficult to resist”.
PETER CLEGG, expert, presented a paper on the nature of the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Caribbean Overseas Territories. The United Kingdom Government had faced a number of challenges in regard to its Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, including dealing with problems resulting from corruption allegations in the Turks and Caicos Islands; addressing the economic fragility in several Territories; and overcoming an underlying fractiousness between the United Kingdom and the Overseas Territories which had developed in the recent past. The United Kingdom’s role in the Territories had become more assertive. “This obviously has implications ‑ in the short and medium term ‑ for the Territories’ capacity to achieve autonomy and possibly full decolonization,” he added.
WILMA E.REVERON-COLLAZO, expert from Puerto Rico, stated that since the adoption of resolution 748 (VIII), Puerto Rico had held four consultations on its political status ‑ in 1967, 1993, 1998 and 2012 ‑ which had six common characteristics. She presented the results of the last plebiscite and the proposal to conduct another plebiscite, as well as the assumptions on which the proposal was based. She further noted that education under the control of a non-interested party like the United Nations should be a pre-condition for any exercise of self-determination.
PETER WRIGHT ( New Zealand) said his Government valued the close relationship with the Special Committee, and his country was aware of the problems that Tokelau faced owing to its remoteness and to climate change. New Zealand had made great efforts to improve the transport and budget assistance. It had also made progress on a solar energy project as well as in education.
The first day of the Caribbean Regional Seminar generated a significant discussion on the role of the Special Committee, the self-determination process and options, education programmes, the conduct of self-determination referenda, visiting missions to the Territories and dialogue with the administering Powers. Seminar participants heard follow-up statements by the representatives of Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Fiji, as well as by some representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories, experts and observers. Comments and responses will inform the report to be drafted during the Seminar.
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