SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION WOULD URGE SECRETARY-GENERAL TO MAINTAIN ALL FUNCTIONS OF DECOLONIZATION UNIT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT

30 May 1997
GA/COL/2960

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION WOULD URGE SECRETARY-GENERAL TO MAINTAIN ALL FUNCTIONS OF DECOLONIZATION UNIT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT

30 May 1997


Press Release
GA/COL/2960


SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION WOULD URGE SECRETARY-GENERAL TO MAINTAIN ALL FUNCTIONS OF DECOLONIZATION UNIT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT

19970530 Under Provisions of Draft Introduced by Papua New Guinea; Syria Calls It 'Precautionary' Text To Stress Importance of Decolonization Matters

The Secretary-General would be urged to reconsider his decision announced on 17 March with regard to the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs, under the provisions of a draft resolution introduced by the representative of Papua New Guinea at a meeting of the Special Committee on decolonization this morning.

By other terms of the draft, the Secretary-General would be urged to maintain the Unit and all its functions pertaining to the Special Committee on decolonization and the General Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).

Vadim Perfiliev, Director, General Assembly Affairs Division of the Department of Political Affairs, said the Secretary-General had not taken any decision on the Unit. The letter contained a proposal to create a General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services Department. The servicing of the First (Disarmament and International Security), Second (Economic and Financial), Third (Humanitarian, Social and Cultural), Fourth (Special Political and Decolonization) Committees as well as the Economic and Social Council would be concentrated in the proposed department, he said.

The representative of Syria said the draft was "a precautionary resolution" to remind the Secretariat of the importance of decolonization matters and the need to retain the Unit on Decolonization.

The draft was introduced following the Committee's discussion of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the investigation into seminars of the Special Committee. Also making statements under that item were the representatives of Iran, India, Mali, Fiji, Chile and Portugal.

The report of the Chairman on the Special Committee's regional seminars was also introduced by him. Several speakers questioned whether a summary of the Oversight Office report should be annexed to the Chairman's report.

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Although the Oversight report had not found any violations of United Nations rules or regulations, they said, it had overstepped its mandate in questioning the usefulness of the seminars and did not reflect the views of the Committee.

Also this morning, a representative of the Department of Public Information, Mian Qadrud-Din, introduced a report on the Department's dissemination of information on decolonization. Statements on the matter were made by the representatives of Syria, Iran and Cuba. A representative of the Department of Political Affairs and Secretary to the Special Committee, Amer Araim, also spoke on the Department's activities on decolonization matters.

Speaking on visiting missions were the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Tunisia, Cuba, India, Iran, China Cote d'Ivoire and Chile.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee welcomed Bolivia as a new member of the Special Committee.

The Special Committee will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal.

Committee Work Programme

The Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, also known as the Special Committee of 24, met this morning to consider the following items: question of the dissemination of information on decolonization, including the observance of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of All Colonial Territories Fighting for Freedom, Independence and Human Rights; information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter; the sending of visiting missions to Territories; and a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on its investigation into five seminars held by the Committee. According to the report of the Oversight Office (document A/51/486), the Office found no evidence of a violation of United Nations rules and regulations in its examination of the seminars organized by the Committee. However, the Office said the efficient and effective use of funds to hold them at a time of financial crisis should be considered objectively and independently. A review of the seminars' agenda items and reports demonstrates they are largely duplicative. Site selection seems to have little impact on participation of the Territories affected, and in recent years their participation has never exceeded 30 per cent. Although 17 Territories have been concerned by the seminars, six attended the June 1996 seminar; five attended in June 1992; and only four took part in each of the other four seminars. The Office agreed with the Department of Political Affairs, which raised with the Special Committee the question of whether the seminars should be held given the Organization's current financial crisis. It joined the Department in asking the Special Committee to reconsider holding the Pacific Regional Seminar at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, from 12 to 14 June. The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Oversight Office that he had repeatedly asked the Special Committee's Chairman and bureau to consider cancelling the seminar. However, his suggestion was rejected by the Committee, some of whose members questioned the legitimacy of the Secretariat making such requests. The seminar cost was estimated at $135,900. The Office conducted its inquiry following information that the Special Committee may have misused United Nations funds meant for a seminar in Trinidad and Tobago in July 1995. It found that the funds had been spent according to relevant rules and regulations and that the seminar had been authorized by the General Assembly. The Office reviewed expenditures and examined the purpose, costs and results of the five seminars held since 1990 at an estimated cost of $625,000. They were held from 9-11 May 1990 in Port Vila, Vanuatu; 19-21 June 1990, \ Bridgetown, Barbados; 17-19 June 1992, Saint George's, Grenada; 8-10 June 1993, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; and 3-5 July 1995, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

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Statements

MIAN QADRUD-DIN, Director, Promotion and Public Services Division, Department of Public Information (DPI), introduced its report. He said the Department's multimedia activities covered a wide range of issues on decolonization, including wide coverage of events related to the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (1990-2000). The adoption of resolution 51/147, on dissemination of information on decolonization, had been reported in the Department's daily news programmes used by broadcasting organizations worldwide, as well as in DPI's press releases.

During the reporting period, the Department had issued a total of 21 press releases in English and French on decolonization issues as part of its regular coverage of United Nations activities, he continued. The press releases were issued to the media, distributed electronically to the United Nations Information Centres and Services and posted on the United Nations Home Page on the Internet.

The UN Chronicle, published quarterly in English and French, had regularly covered major decolonization developments and the work of the Special Committee and of the General Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), he said. The situation in Western Sahara was also covered regularly. A pamphlet for school children titled "Everything you always wanted to know about the United Nations", included a section on decolonization, the work of the Trusteeship Council and how the world had been changed in the last 51 years. Other DPI publications, "UN In Brief" and "What's the United Nations", carried sections focusing on the Trusteeship Council and decolonization.

The Department's various radio programmes, in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, covered decolonization issues, he said. Topics included the work of the 1996 session of the Special Committee, the Assembly's resolution concerning the situation of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and its call on administering Powers to facilitate political education programmes in the dependent Territories. The weekly radio news-magazine programme, "UN Caribbean News Round Up", featured three segments on decolonization issues: the future of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, including the seven remaining Territories in the Caribbean; an important Caribbean Community (CARICOM) stand on decolonization of the Territories; and a CARICOM request for the administering Powers to assist representatives from the seven remaining Territories in the Caribbean to attend a regional seminar on decolonization in Antigua and Barbuda in May.

He said United Nations activities on decolonization were televised and disseminated through feeds and dubs made available to networks and other television stations worldwide and through packages of television news and video highlights provided to international news syndicators. The DPI

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Audio/Visual Library made tapes and cassettes available to organizations and delegates. The half-hour television programme "World Chronicle" had featured the Chairman of the Decolonization Committee, Utula Utuoc Samana in May.

The worldwide network of 65 Information Centres and six Information Services and eight United Nations Offices continued to distribute DPI information materials on decolonization to the local media, non-governmental organizations and educational institutions, he said. Where appropriate, they also included such information in their briefings on the United Nations work and accomplishments and in their periodic newsletters.

FAROUK AL-ATTAR (Syria) said a recent article in the UN Chronicle had attacked the Special Committee's seminars and described them as a waste of resources and as unnecessary. How could DPI advocate decolonization issues when one of its publications criticized the work of the Special Committee? he asked.

He said the Department was also undergoing a complete restructuring to the point where it might no longer be a programme. Instead, it might be changed to a media office to serve the press. What would the Department's future role be on decolonization, given those changes? he asked.

Mr. QADRUD-DIN said that the editor of the UN Chronicle had been notified of the response to the article and the Department would be considering its action.

In reply to the second question, he said proposed changes in the structure of DPI were part of system-wide reforms and he was not yet in a position to say what the future would hold. The DPI worked under General Assembly resolutions. It had a responsibility to carry out those mandates and would continue to do so, regardless of its structure.

During the recent meeting of the Committee of Information, Member States had made many statements which reflected their views on the proposed restructuring, he said. The Committee's resumed session in September would consider the reform and restructuring proposals.

JALAL SAMADI (Iran) said he would like a response from DPI regarding the article on the seminars in the UN Chronicle.

Turning to another topic, he said that according to the latest figures, some 30 million people a month were visiting the United Nations Home Page on the Internet. However, while there was a wide range of information on decolonization in such DPI outlets as its press releases and in radio programmes, there was no concentrated information about decolonization on the United Nations Home Page. Other issues were covered in a more concentrated manner.

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He said he had spoken to the Assistant Secretary-General of Public Information, Samir Sanbar, who had told him that other departments supplied DPI with the information which it then posted on the Internet. He added that as decolonization was one of the most important United Nations achievements, detailed, concentrated information on it should be included on the Home Page.

Mr. QADRUD-DIN, replying, said he would look into the question and report back at the Committee's next meeting. As regards the United Nations Home Page on the Internet, his understanding was that discussions were continuing on the subject, and he would therefore take note of the comments made.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) said there had been some questions regarding information dissemination on decolonization. It was hard for his delegation to understand that a United Nations publication, the UN Chronicle could make those comments. It would be fair for a future issue of the publication to fairly reflect comments made by the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Karl Paschke, at his meeting with Committee members. The substantive activities of the Committee should be on the Internet. The application of new technologies should be reflected in a draft resolution on information dissemination.

Mr. QADRUD-DIN said he had taken note of the comments.

AMER ARAIM, of the Department of Political Affairs and Secretary of the Special Committee, said the coverage of the last three open meetings of the Special Committee as well as the Caribbean Regional Seminar held in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda from 21 to 23 May, had provided the international community with an insight into the work of the Special Committee. There was also a press statement by the Chairman of the Special Committee in advance of the Caribbean Regional Seminar.

He reviewed the provisions of the most recent General Assembly resolution 51/147 on dissemination of information on decolonization adopted on 13 December 1996. He said that since the beginning of the year, four press releases had been issued. One was issued before the Caribbean Regional Seminar; two others covered the conclusion of the seminar and had been distributed to members of the Committee. Continuing its past practice, the Department of Political Affairs cooperated with DPI in the preparation of relevant chapters for the 1996 Yearbook of the United Nations relating to Non- Self-Governing Territories. The Caribbean Regional Seminar provided an excellent opportunity to the Special Committee to disseminate information on decolonization. The Committee's work was becoming a subject of great interest to academia, the general public and individuals

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The regional seminars provided a unique opportunity to accomplish several major tasks at one time which helped the Secretariat to collect up-to- date information on the political and constitutional developments in the Territories, he said. The Department of Political Affairs took particular care to reply to individual requests for information on the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization, although those requests seemed to have diminished in recent years.

He said the Department maintained regular and fruitful contacts with regional and intergovernmental organizations, both in the Caribbean and the Pacific regions, especially with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Eastern Caribbean Development Bank and the South Pacific Forum. The input of those organizations enabled the Department to undertake thorough analysis of the problems faced by those Territories. That became even more important in the absence of up-to-date information on the Territories from some of the administering Powers. He assured the Committee that the Department would make every effort to fulfil its mandate within diminished resources and the Organization's financial constraints.

Week of Solidarity with Colonial Peoples

UTULA UTUOC SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that since the dates for the Week of Solidarity were close to the holding of the Caribbean Regional Seminar, a special observance was arranged on 23 May. He had made a statement on that occasion which had been reproduced in a DPI press release issued on 28 May and circulated at the outset of the meeting. Statements had also been made by the representative of the host country, Antigua and Barbuda, as well as by the representatives of Portugal, the only administering Power which participated in the seminar, Indonesia, the Minister of Montserrat, representatives of the Caribbean Community, Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization and the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights.

Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that while receipt of information from administering Powers was appreciated, not all the Powers had done so. It was deemed highly important that such information was received to enable the Special Committee to thoroughly consider the situation in the Territories.

Mr. SAMADI (Iran) said without information from the Non-Self-Governing Territories the Special Committee could not carry out its functions. He emphasized that the administering Powers should provide up-to-date information on time as established in the United Nations Charter.

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Visiting Missions

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Special Committee Chairman, said the Committee was hopeful that the administering Powers would enter into a formal dialogue with it on the important issue of visiting missions. The administering Powers should proceed to discuss arrangements for such missions and subsequently invite the Committee to enable it to fulfil its mandate.

He noted that in the past, administering Powers had told the Committee that the elected representatives of the Territories were happy with the status quo. The democratically elected representatives of the Territories had informed the Caribbean Regional Seminar of the attachment to their rights to self-determination and their request that the Special Committee be involved. Those representatives had issued a statement welcoming the active role played by the Committee in their respective Territories. He said the statement would be annexed to his report.

JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) hoped the administering Powers would now work with the Committee as they had indicated in the informal consultations. The message which came out in the last Caribbean Regional Seminar was that the views of the peoples of the Territories on their future were not properly communicated to the Special Committee. The representatives of Montserrat had indicated at the seminar their wish to meet Committee missions to express their views.

EL WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia) said the Committee should urge the administering Powers at the next informal consultation to cooperate with it on the dispatch of visiting missions. The consultations should take place in June, he added.

Mr. RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) expressed concern about the positions of some of the administering Powers mentioned in draft resolutions on visiting missions. He said the views went far beyond what their representatives had indicated during the informal consultations.

The CHAIRMAN said the report on visiting missions was a draft and the issues raised by Cuba would be dealt with.

SANKURATHRIPATI RAO (India) said his delegation agreed with the Chairman's report. The Committee should work towards fulfilling the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territories. He noted the importance of dispatching visiting missions.

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Mr. SAMADI (Iran) hoped that the administering Powers would cooperate in the sending of visiting missions. At the last seminar, the representatives of the Territories had stressed the need for the missions to enable them to discuss their views on their future. The missions were one important means to ascertain the aspirations of the people.

CHEN QINGHONG (China) said her delegation was keen on receiving information on the situation in the Territories and to ascertain their political will. Consultations with the administering Powers on the subject of visiting missions should continue.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Cote d'Ivoire) said he was convinced nothing could be done in the Committee without frank and sincere cooperation from the administering Powers. Therefore, ways had to be found to convince the Powers of their important role. It was also in their interest to allow Committee members to go into the field and see for themselves the latest developments. Often, there was a disparity between reports by groups from the Non-Self- Governing Territories and what the Committee heard in New York from the administering Powers. An open and sincere discussion should allow the administering Powers to express exactly what they felt about the Committee. There was often a great deal of misunderstanding about the Committee's work, when it was really just trying to fulfil the mandate given to it by the General Assembly.

WALDEMAR COUTTS (Chile) said the visiting missions were a very important way to help the Committee carry out its mandate. He supported proposals for the Committee to consult with the administering Powers before the next session.

Report on Seminars

The CHAIRMAN introduced his report on the regional seminars (document A/AC.109/2085), which includes a summary the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on its investigation into the seminars.

Mr. AL-ATTAR (Syria) said he did not see why the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services should be adopted as it did not represent the views of the Committee.

The CHAIRMAN said the Special Committee was considering the report of the Chairman.

Mr. SAMADI (Iran) said the report in question should be considered as a report of the Chairman, because the Office of Oversight Services had issued its report under another agenda item and it had been considered in an earlier informal meeting.

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The Special Committee needed a meeting to discuss the issues raised in the Oversight report, he said. That report had concluded clearly that there had been no violations of the Organization's rules or procedures in the holding of the seminars. However, the Office had raised questions about their usefulness, although it had no prerogative to do so. Only the Committee could decide on such matters.

The Oversight Office had no representatives at the recent seminar in Antigua and Barbuda, which had been very useful, he said. It had gone into political matters which were beyond its mandate. The agenda item dealing with the Oversight Office report should be changed to "Report of the Chairman".

Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said that the letter by the Under-Secretary- General for Internal Oversight Services, Karl Paschke, should not be annexed to the Chairman's report because it had been discussed in an informal meeting. The Office had overstepped its mandate and was starting to question the General Assembly mandates given to the Special Committee.

He said he had attended the recent seminar in Antigua and Barbuda and he believed the seminars were vital to the Committee's work. The visiting missions were one way to determine the accuracy of developments in the Territories. For example, the recent visiting mission to New Zealand and Tokelau had enabled members to see for themselves the actual situation on the ground and therefore enabled them to discuss developments more accurately.

VADIM PERFILIEV, Director, General Assembly Affairs Division, Department of Political Affairs, said his office had been in discussions with Mr. Paschke's office and its role was to continue to be the best possible link between the Committee and the various parts of the Secretariat. Those parts of the Chairman's report which reflected Mr. Paschke's ideas and the Oversight Office report could be adjusted with the material received by his office concerning his informal meeting with the Committee in February and with the ideas in his 14 March letter to the Committee Chairman. There were as yet no verbatim records of the informal meeting.

The CHAIRMAN said that his report reflected the views of Members States that the Oversight Office had gone beyond its mandate, so it was only fair that such positions were made very clear and properly reflected. It was also important that Mr. Paschke's views were reflected. Therefore, he was proposing that both reports be discussed together.

Mr. AL-ATTAR (Syria) said the discussion should be postponed until members had time to consider the Chairman's report which should be global and comprehensive. He would prefer that its conclusions were discussed after the Committee had met with Mr. Paschke. The report should also include the Secretariat's position.

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Mr. RAO (India) said the seminars were legal and authorized by the Assembly, but members must take into account the view of the Office of Internal Oversight Services in its discussions. He referred to the second paragraph of the Chairman's report which, he said, reflected the political framework of the seminars. He also referred to the ninth paragraph, which states that the Committee should continue its dialogue with the administering Powers to ensure their full cooperation, particularly by facilitating United Nations visiting missions to the Territories, and therefore would be ready to review the role of the seminars.

The seminars were not organized for a theoretical purpose, he said. Each Non-Self-Governing Territory had its own dynamics and the Chairman's consultations took notice of such realities. The seminars were both a means of communication and a way of determining realities on the ground. The Oversight Office had its own mandate -- to examine the money aspect. It was an office of the Secretariat and did not create political frameworks. The Special Committee's sensitivity to the Office's report and Mr. Paschke's views were both healthy and appropriate. The Office was an innovative internal mechanism and his delegation respected its mandate regarding the value for money aspect.

He said that although the Oversight Office report never said the Committee had violated any rules in holding the seminars, to the extent that the Office had exceeded its own mandate, members had the right to say "that is a political sphere and you do not belong there". The Office should recast certain paragraphs in its report and leave out the political aspects, he added.

SIDIKI SOW (Mali) said there should be a meeting with the Under- Secretary-General and the reports should be published in the working languages.

SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji) said there was no need for another meeting with the Under-Secretary-General.

Mr. COUTTS (Chile) said he supported the Chairman's conclusions on the report.

Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said consideration of the Under-Secretary- General's letter should be deferred to allow Committee members to reflect upon its contents.

Mr. AL-ATTAR (Syria) said the decision on the matter should be postponed.

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Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) introduced a draft resolution he had circulated to Committee members by which the Secretary-General would be urged to reconsider his decision announced on 17 March regarding the Decolonization Unit of the Secretariat. By the terms of the draft the Secretary-General would further be urged to maintain the Unit and all its functions pertaining to the Special Committee, as well as to the Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) in the Political Affairs Department.

Mr. PERFILIEV, Director of the General Assembly Affairs Division of the Department of Political Affairs, said the Secretary-General had not taken any decision on the Unit. In the letter referred to, the Secretary-General was communicating a proposal to create a Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services and to concentrate in the Department the servicing of the First (Disarmament and International Security), Second (Economic and Financial), Third (Humanitarian, Social and Cultural), Fourth (Special Political and Decolonization) Committees as well as the Economic and Social Council.

He added that the Secretary-General would inform the United Nations membership about his proposals.

Mr. AL-ATTAR (Syria) said the draft was "a precautionary resolution" to remind the Secretariat of the importance of decolonization matters and the need to retain the Unit on Decolonization.

Mr. SAMADI (Iran) enquired about the future of the staff dealing with decolonization matters.

Mr. PERFILIEV, Director of the General Assembly Affairs Division, said the Special Committee was serviced by Conference Services, General Assembly Affairs and the Department of Political Affairs. He again said that the United Nations membership would be advised on the reform proposals affecting the departments. He said the Secretary-General had not made any decision on the Decolonization Unit.

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that he had not received any response from the Secretariat on questions he had raised about the future of the Unit with regard to the proposed reforms.

ANTONIO GAMITO (Portugal) proposed that the draft's provision requesting the Secretary-General to reconsider his decision announced on 17 March should be deleted. He said the Special Committee should delay action on the draft.

The Special Committee CHAIRMAN said the matter would be further discussed at the Committee's next meeting.

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For information media. Not an official record.