SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CONCLUDES 1997 SESSION

16 September 1997
GA/COL/2973*

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CONCLUDES 1997 SESSION

16 September 1997

Press ReleaseGA/COL/2973*

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CONCLUDES 1997 SESSION

19970916

Administering Powers were urged to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples in Territories under their administration to their natural resources, by the terms of one of three proposals approved by the Special Committee on decolonization this morning, as it concluded its work for the year.

By the terms of a resolution on foreign economic interests impeding the implementation of the Declaration on decolonization, the administering Powers were requested to protect the property rights of the peoples in the Territories. Furthermore, they were called upon to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevailed in the Territories.

By the other text approved, as orally revised, which relates to the implementation by specialized agencies of the Declaration on decolonization, administering Powers were requested to facilitate the participation of appointed and elected representatives of the Territories in relevant meetings and conferences of the specialized agencies. The Special Committee requested the specialized agencies to review conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories so as to take measures to accelerate their economic and social progress. Statements on a new provision in the text were made by the representatives of Cuba, Russian Federation, Chile, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tunisia.

In another action, the Special Committee approved a decision by which it reaffirmed its strong conviction that military bases and installations in Non-Self-Governing Territories could constitute an obstacle to the exercise by the peoples of those Territories of their right to self-determination. The Special Committee reiterated its strong views on the withdrawal of the bases and installations. It urged the administering Powers concerned to continue to take all necessary measures not to involve those Territories in any offensive acts or interference against other States. The representative of the Russian Federation expressed reservation about the draft text, stating that it did not reflect the situation existing in the Territories.

__________ * 1482nd meeting was a closed one.

Decolonization Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

In another action, the Special Committee agreed to circulate a petition by Citizens and Friends of Monserrat requesting assistance by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for victims of the recent volcanic eruptions on the island.

Also this morning, the Special Committee elected a new Rapporteur, Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), to replace Farouk Al-Attar (Syria) who died recently. At the outset of the meeting, a minute of silence was observed in memory of Mr. Al-Attar. Tributes were paid by members of the Committee with the Chairman stating that Mr. Al-Attar's contribution to the Committee's work was a demonstration of his personal commitment to the right of colonial peoples to self-determination and independence.

Special Committee Work Programme

The Special Committee on decolonization met this morning to consider all outstanding matter before it and close its 1997 session.

Volcanic Eruption in Montserrat

UTULA U. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, expressed deepest sympathy to the Government and people of Montserrat on the loss of lives and material damage resulting from the recent series of volcanic eruptions. The Special Committee had received a petition from the Citizens and Friends of Montserrat, dated 6 August, containing requests for action by United Nations bodies to alleviate the suffering of the refugees there. That petition had been circulated to members of the Special Committee in aide- mémoire 17/97.

Both the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had already offered assistance to the victims of the eruptions, he continued. He requested and was granted the Special Committee members' approval to transmit copies of the petitions to the UNHCR and the UNDP for their consideration.

The Governor of Montserrat had not handled the emergency well, the Chairman said. Even the British media had criticized the lack of determination to rebuild the northern region of Montserrat. The events in Montserrat, the widespread criticism of the conduct of the Governor, and the calls for international support all corroborated the Special Committee's position that it should be actively involved in monitoring the situation in Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Some media representatives promulgated the idea that the Organization should not intervene in the Territories, he continued. Yet, the peoples of the Territories, as well as their democratically elected leaders, urged the Special Committee to be actively involved. He hoped that the Government of the United Kingdom would present full information to the Secretary-General, as stipulated under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter, on the developments in Montserrat and other Territories, in order to enable the Special Committee to fully examine their situations.

PATRICK ALBERT LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda) said he would convey the sentiments expressed in the meeting to those who had submitted the petition. His country was less than 40 miles from Montserrat. States members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had tried to absorb the flow of those leaving Montserrat due to the volcanoes.

His country's population had already increased some 5 per cent due to the influx from Montserrat, he continued. Estimates were that the eruptions

Decolonization Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

would continue for another five years. Accommodating a population increase of 5 per cent put severe strain on national infrastructures, particularly for a developing country. Nevertheless, every effort had been made to accommodate the refugees: in housing, in schooling the children, and in all other respects.

His country's citizens had embraced those from Montserrat for humanitarian reasons, not for any claim for notoriety, he said. However, the country's financial reserves were strained. For Antigua and Barbuda to continue its effort to provide aid to Montserrat, the Organization's assistance was required.

In addition to the loss of human life, Montserrat was losing other forms of life, he continued. It was one of the two islands of the Caribbean with native fauna dating back to the pre-Columbian period, he continued. Now, it looked like that fauna might completely disappear.

Draft text on Foreign Economic Activities

Under the item activities of foreign economic and other interests which impede the implementation of the Declaration on decolonization, the Committee had before it a paper by the Secretariat containing amendments to a Chairman's text (document A/AC.109/L.1864) on the matter. The paper had been agreed upon during consultations between the Chairman and the European Union, approved by the open-ended bureau and recommended for adoption by the Special Committee.

Under its provisions, the Special Committee would reaffirm the right of peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination in conformity with the United Nations Charter and the General Assembly Declaration on decolonization, as well as their right to enjoyment and disposal of their natural resources.

The Special Committee would affirm the value of foreign economic investment in the socio-economic development of the Territories. It would reaffirm the responsibility of administering Powers to promote political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Territories and the legitimate rights of their peoples over their natural resources. Furthermore, the Special Committee would reaffirm its concern about exploitation of those natural resources to the detriment of the interests of the people.

By the terms of the draft text, administering Powers would be urged to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee their inalienable right to their natural resources and to control the future development of those resources. They would be requested to protect the property rights of the people of those Territories. They would also be called upon to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevailed in the Territories and to promote a fair system of wages applicable to all inhabitants without discrimination.

Decolonization Committee - 4 - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

Governments would be called upon by the Special Committee to take measures to end operations of their nationals and corporate bodies in Non- Self-Governing Territories that were detrimental to the interests of the inhabitants. In addition, governments and United Nations organizations would be invited to ensure that permanent sovereignty of the peoples of those Territories over their natural resources was fully respected and safeguarded.

In addition, the Secretary-General would be requested to continue to inform world public opinion of any activity that affected the exercise of the right of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination. The Special Committee would appeal to the media, trade unions and non- governmental organizations, as well as individuals, to continue their efforts to promote the economic well-being of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The Special Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

Draft Text on Military Activities in Territories

A draft decision on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration (document A/AC.109/L.1865) would have the Special Committee reaffirm its strong conviction that military bases and installations in the Territories could constitute an obstacle to the exercise by the peoples of those Territories of their right to self- determination, and would reiterate its strong views that existing bases and installations, which impeded the implementation of the Declaration on decolonization, be withdrawn. The Special Committee would urge the administering Powers concerned to continue to take all necessary measures not to involve those Territories in any offensive acts or interference against other States.

By other terms of the draft decision, the Special Committee would reiterate its concern that military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers might run counter to the rights and interests of the colonial peoples concerned, especially their right to self-determination and independence. Once again, it would call upon the administering Powers to terminate such activities and to eliminate such military bases in compliance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.

The Special Committee would reiterate that the colonial and Non-Self- Governing Territories and areas adjacent to them should not be used for nuclear testing, dumping of nuclear wastes or deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Further by the text, the Special Committee would deplore the continued alienation of land in colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories, particularly in the small island Territories of the Pacific and Caribbean

Decolonization Committee - 5 - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

region, for military installations. The text states that the large-scale utilization of the local resources for that purpose could adversely affect the economic development of the Territories concerned. The Special Committee would take note of the decision of some of the administering Powers to close or downsize some of those military bases in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Secretary-General would be requested to continue to inform world public opinion of those military activities and arrangements.

The Special Committee approved the draft decision without a vote.

OLEG N. SCHERBAK (Russian Federation) said that, as his delegation had done in the past, it did not support the consensus on the draft decision. The draft was too general in character and did not correspondent to the real situation in a majority of the Territories. His delegation had wished for postponement of action on the draft for further consultations.

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said the reservation expressed by the representative of the Russian Federation would be reflected in the Committee's records.

Implementation of Declaration by Specialized Agencies

The Special Committee then turned to a draft resolution on implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies. Among the provisions of that text is a request that the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, as well as international and regional organizations, examine and review conditions in each Territory, so as to take appropriate measures to accelerate progress in the economic and social sectors of the Territories.

Under other terms of the draft, the Special Committee would request the specialized agencies to strengthen existing measures of support and assistance to the Territories, in order to accelerate social and economic progress in the Territories. Administering Powers would be requested to facilitate the participation of representatives of the Territories in meetings and conferences of the United Nations system, under other provisions.

Also, the text would have the Special Committee recommend that all governments intensify their efforts to accord priority to the question of providing assistance to the peoples of the Territories.

Further by the draft, the Special Committee would recommend that executive heads of the specialized agencies formulate concrete proposals for the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and submit those proposals to their governing and legislative organs.

Decolonization Committee - 6 - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

PEDRO NUÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) reviewed for the Special Committee aspects of the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council held in Geneva in July. He said the unique difficulties faced by Non-Self-Governing Territories due to size, lack of resources, and environmental vulnerability had been considered. On 23 July, Cuba's delegate had represented the Special Committee and submitted a draft resolution addressing, among other issues, the need to increase efforts by the specialized agencies to implement the Declaration, as well as the importance of accelerating measures that promoted economic and social progress in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The resolution on implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies had been approved at the Council by a recorded vote of 28 in favour and 18 abstentions.

The Chairman noted that the open-ended bureau meeting had on 15 September recommended to the Special Committee inclusion of the following additional operative paragraph, to be inserted as operative paragraph 9:

"9. Requests the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system concerned to provide information on the following:

i) environmental problems facing the Non-Self-Governing Territories;

ii) the impact of natural calamities such as hurricanes, volcanoes, beach erosion, and droughts on those Territories;

iii) the ways and means to assist the Territories to fight drug trafficking, money laundering and other illegal and criminal activities; and

iv) the illegal exploitation of marine resources of the Territories and their utilization for the benefits of their peoples.

Mr. SCHERBAK (Russian Federation) said that at the July session of the Council, his delegation had abstained in the vote on the draft resolution. He expressed reservations regarding the amendment being considered. Introducing the amendments to the Special Committee a month and a half after the Council session was not proper procedure. He said he recognized the importance of the problems of environmental protection, the negative impact of natural disasters and other problems facing the Territories. However, consideration of those issues must take place in approved procedures. The amendments being proposed should be considered in the Special Committee's next session. If they were then approved, the text could be submitted to the Council's next session.

WALDEMAR COUTTS (Chile) said he supported the proposal put forward by the representative of the Russian Federation. He shared the representative's apprehension about the procedure and believed greater review of the proposed addition was merited.

Decolonization Committee - 7 - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that problems on the agenda of specialized committees of the Council were relevant to the Special Committee. He had no reservation to requesting the Council to provide the Special Committee with information during the session. Accordingly, he asked the representatives from the Russian Federation and Chile to accept the proposed paragraph.

Consideration of the problems of drug trafficking and marine resources should not be postponed, he continued. They were connected to sustainable development. Referring to them in the context of the draft did not have unforeseeable consequences.

ROSLYN LAUREN KHAN-CUMMINGS (Trinidad and Tobago) said more time should be spent on refining the language of the amendments.

The CHAIRMAN said that due to time constraints, technical language revisions should now be suggested.

Mrs. KHAN-CUMMINGS (Trinidad and Tobago) suggested technical revisions.

Mr. COUTTS (Chile) said it was not timely to revise the text at the present moment.

Mr. NUÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said he agreed with the proposal made by Trinidad and Tobago. He suggested that the Committee could proceed by approving the paragraph and take note of reservations expressed.

Mr. SCHERBAK (Russian Federation) said that there were technical and substantive problems in the text. In Geneva, many delegations had abstained on the draft and explained their position by the fact that the Organization's specialized agencies must fulfil the functions laid down for them in the Charter. Questions linked to decolonization were not part of the work of the specialized agencies.

Before adopting the amendment, it was important to consult with the agencies themselves on a number of matters, he continued. Did they have the resources, in accordance with their budgets, to carry out the functions being asked of them? Did they have representatives in the Territories who could provide needed information, or would they make their analyses based on press reports? If the latter, the specialized agencies were not needed -- anyone could read the press. Did the Organization's Charter allow specialized agencies to provide information, which would in effect bypass the administering Power? What would be the mechanism of cooperation between administering Powers and the agencies?

In short, he said, the issues being raised were not merely technical. Answers to the above questions must be worked out through serious consideration and analysis.

Decolonization Committee - 8 - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

The CHAIRMAN said the proposed paragraph simply aimed to ask the agencies for information. He then had the amendments proposed by the representative of Trinidad and Tobago read out. In the proposed new operative paragraph 9, part ii) would read:

"ii) the impact of natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanoes, and environmental problems such as beach and coastal erosion and drought, on these Territories;".

Next, a revision proposed by the Chairman was read out. Part iv of the new paragraph would read as follows:

"iv) the illegal exploitation of marine resources of the Territories and the need for the utilization of these resources for the benefit of their peoples."

EL WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia) said he had anticipated that the question would be dealt with quickly, as it was only an elementary demand. He had thought that the problems arising in the Committee were of a different level. The question was technical and related to improving the living conditions of those in the Territories. All of the requests for information in the proposed paragraph fell within the Organization's competence, and obligation to respect the living conditions of populations. He fully supported the amendment.

Acting without a vote, the Committee then agreed to approve inclusion of the new paragraph in the draft text. Next, taking into account reservations raised by members, the Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

Chairman's Closing Statement

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, in a closing statement, said that since its inception, the Special Committee had been guided in its work by the principles enshrined in the Charter, the General Assembly Declaration on decolonization and all other relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions. Referring to the regional seminar held in Antigua and Barbuda last May, he said the process of decolonization had not been completed despite the different perceptions held in some quarters. There were 13 Territories whose peoples had not been able to exercise their fundamental human right -- the right to self-determination.

While maintaining its mandate, he said the Special Committee had taken account of the changing world political climate and had engaged in consultations with the administering Powers (United Kingdom and United States), as well as with the European Union. An important understanding had been achieved with the European Union on a new text of a draft resolution on foreign economic interests in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and he hoped it would be adopted by the Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and

Decolonization Committee - 9 - Press Release GA/COL/2973 1483rd Meeting (AM) 16 September 1997

Decolonization) later in the year. He was convinced that all administering Powers would formally cooperate with the Special Committee in the full discharge of its mandate.

The Chairman then reviewed actions the Committee had undertaken on the decision of the Secretary-General to transfer the Decolonization Unit from the Political Affairs Department to the newly established General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services Department. The concerns of the Committee had been reiterated in many forums, and a resolution had been adopted by the Committee and an administering Power, Portugal, urging the Secretary-General to reconsider his decision. Despite their efforts, the Unit had been transferred while the Secretariat of the Committee on Palestinian Rights had been maintained in the Political Department. "Such selective decisions are beyond comprehension and contradict the very spirit of reform of the United Nations", he stated.

He said that due to the importance of the issue, the Special Committee maintained its position that immediate action should be taken to rectify the situation. He had on 7 September addressed another letter to the Secretary- General requesting a meeting between the Secretary-General and the bureau of the Special Committee and other interested Member States on the subject and was still awaiting an answer. He hoped the Secretary-General would respond to their request "in order to avoid unnecessary conflict and confrontation and to prevent the continuation of the debate" on the issue during the new session of the General Assembly. The Special Committee was "protecting and safeguarding the noble political mandate" entrusted to it by the General Assembly. Its position of principle was being supported by many Member States from all regional groups.

Mr. COUTTS (Chile) said his country was seriously concerned about the transfer of the Decolonization Unit and was undertaking an initiative to have the question debated during the fifty-second General Assembly session.

OSVALDO NARCISO MARSICO (Argentina) reaffirmed his delegation's concern about the matter. It believed that the transfer would undermine the political nature of the work of the Committee. The member countries of the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR) had recently issued a statement expressing their concern on the matter. The text of that statement had been conveyed to the Secretary-General by the Permanent Representative of Uruguay, the group's current Chairman.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.