DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE BEGINS SERIES OF MEETINGS, ADOPTS TEXT ON PUBLICITY FOR DECOLONIZATION, HEARS STATEMENTS ON GIBRALTAR19980629
The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples this afternoon adopted without a vote a draft resolution on the question of dissemination of information on decolonization.
By the terms of that text (document A/AC.109/L.1872), the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information were requested to take into account the suggestions of the Special Committee to take measures through all the media available, including publications, radio and television, as well as the Internet, to give publicity to the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization.
The resolution also approved the activities of the two Departments in the field of dissemination of decolonization information. It considered it important to continue its efforts to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization, with particular emphasis on the options of self-determination available for the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Action on a second draft resolution, on the question of information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations, was postponed.
Also this afternoon, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Peter Caruana, asked how long it took to acquire the rights given to colonial people by the United Nations Charter?
In a statement to the Committee, he said that other ex-colonial peoples had exercised their right to self-determination after a much shorter time. Why should Gibraltar be the only one which needed to be assessed for the merit of its claim to self-determination for its inhabitants?
Spain did not have, nor could it have, a formal role in Gibraltar's decolonization since the Territory's future status was a matter exclusively for the administering Power and for the people of Gibraltar. Spain's new
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statement of adherence to the principle of consent in December 1997, while falling short of recognizing Gibraltar's right to self-determination, was nevertheless a welcome first step in the right direction.
However, Spain could not preach democracy to the world and deny it to the people of Gibraltar, he added. Adherence by Spain to the principle of consent, must be followed by understanding that consent be respected and exercised freely. Sincere commitment to the principle of consent meant allowing Gibraltar to develop freely and without political, economic, social or cultural constraint.
The representative of Spain said that the recovery of sovereignty over Gibraltar was a goal that his country could not renounce. Spain claimed the restoration of sovereignty over "the Rock", which it was forced to cede by the Treaty of Utrecht, and also held a claim over the Isthmus, over which there was no recognizable sovereignty. Gibraltar could be either British or Spanish but any other jurisdiction was unacceptable.
Statements were also made by representatives of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Department of Political Affairs.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow to begin consideration of the question of Western Sahara, followed by the question of East Timor.
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 met this afternoon to consider developments in Gibraltar, Western Sahara, East Timor, the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands and New Caledonia. It would also consider American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands. Before the Committee are Secretariat working papers on those Territories.
After the adoption of its agenda, the Committee considered the question of Gibraltar. Also, two draft resolutions were presented on the question of dissemination of information on decolonization (A/AC.109/L.1872); and information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter (A/AC.109/L.1873). Further, the Committee considered the question of sending visiting missions to Territories and requests for hearing.
Also scheduled for the Committee's consideration are the following questions: economic and other activities affecting the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories; military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in the Non-Self-Governing Territories; the report of the Pacific Regional Seminar on Small Island Non-Self-Governing Territories held at Nadi, Fiji, from 16 to 18 June 1998; the report of the open-ended Bureau; the Special Committee's decision of 15 August 1991 concerning Puerto Rico, hearing of petitioners; and the implementation of the Declaration by the Specialized Agencies.
The working paper on Gibraltar (document A/AC.109/2112) says that the May 1997 United Kingdom strategic Defence Review White Paper placed renewed emphasis on the rapid deployment of British forces in response to crisis and said that Gibraltar provides an independent forward operating base for British forces in the Mediterranean and serves as a transit base for vessels en route to the Middle East and elsewhere.
Commenting on deliberations by the United Nations, the report states that the Committee considered the question of Gibraltar in June 1997 and acceded to Spain's request to participate in discussions. At that meeting, the Committee decided to continue its consideration of Gibraltar at its 1998 session, subject to any directives that the General Assembly might provide at its fifty-second session and, to facilitate consideration of the question by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), to transmit the relevant documentation to the Assembly. In October, the Committee adopted the draft decision entitled the Question of Gibraltar. By that decision, the Assembly would urge the Governments of Spain and the United
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Kingdom to continue negotiations towards a definitive resolution of the question.
In December 1997, the report says, the Assembly adopted decision 52/419 by which it stipulated the establishment of a negotiating process aimed at overcoming all differences between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar and at promoting cooperation on a mutually beneficial basis, with both sides accepting that the issues of sovereignty would be discussed. The British Government would fully maintain its commitment to honour the wishes of Gibraltar's people. Also, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Spain and the United Kingdom would hold annual meetings alternately in each capital -- the most recent of which was held in London on 22 January 1997.
The administering Power's position regarding the Territory during the period under review has not changed, the report notes. The United Kingdom states that its sovereignty over Gibraltar was clearly established in the Treaty of Utrecht and that it stands by its commitment to Gibraltar's people. Its Government will not enter into any arrangements which would put Gibraltar's people under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes. Continued dialogue with Spain, however, is important. Within that framework, the Governments of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar have engaged the Government of Spain in talks to improve cooperation on mutual issues.
Gibraltar does not consider itself part of Spain, the report says. Therefore, the principle that self-determination is not available to the people of a territory that is actually an integral part of a Member State does not apply. It is recognized that the current arrangements affecting dependent Territories need modernization and that tailor-made formulas for each Territory are necessary. Gibraltar will table proposals aimed at removing the remaining colonial features of its relationship with the United Kingdom. Under those proposals, it would remain in a close political and constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom and under British sovereignty. If this were to be accepted by Gibraltar's people, it would amount to a non-colonial relationship and an effective exercise of self-determination.
The Spanish position revolves around its claim for both the Rock and Strait of Gibraltar, the report comments. It recalls the contents of article X of the Treaty of Utrecht under which the United Kingdom would be required to give priority consideration to Spain, were it to decide to give up Gibraltar. That clause not only excludes independence, but also prohibits any other formula that Spain might not have endorsed. Spain points out that relevant Assembly resolutions show that the restoration of the territorial integrity of the State implied the decolonization of Gibraltar. It recalls that since 1973 the Assembly has been constantly urging bilateral negotiations with a view to ending a situation which affects both the United Kingdom and Spain. The Spanish Government continues to advocate dialogue, and is
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determined to pursue constructive negotiations that would lead to a settlement of the question.
Commenting on Anglo-Spanish negotiations, the report notes that the process established by the Brussels Joint Communiqué of 27 November 1984 continued during the period under review. A formal meeting was held at the level of foreign ministers, in Madrid, in December 1997, where Spain made a formal offer to the British Government. A statute was proposed for Gibraltar that includes: extending the democratic rights and freedoms set out in the Spanish Constitution to Gibraltar, which has them in similar form in its own Constitution; determining the powers that would be accorded to the government of Gibraltar in line with the definition of the powers that autonomous cmmunities may assume under article 148 of the Spanish Constitution; and providing for self-government institutions to be organized for the Territory, including a special system for the judiciary.
Further information about the statute is detailed in the report along with accounts of social, economic and political developments in the Territory.
PETER CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said Spain maintained that because Gibraltar was taken from her by the British it was still Spanish territory -- Gibraltarians had no rights to self-determination. The people of Gibraltar found the Spanish position incomprehensible. How long did it take to acquire the rights given to colonial people by the United Nations Charter? Other ex-colonial people had exercised the right to self-determination after a much shorter tenure, namely the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Caribbean countries. Why then should the colony of Gibraltar be any different? Why should it be the only one which needed to be assessed for the merit of the claim to self-determination for its inhabitants?
He said Gibraltar had a thriving, self-sufficient economy which welcomed 6 million tourists a year and operated one of the most strictly regulated offshore financial service centres in the world. Its port operated one of the world's most strategically located ship repair facilities and was the biggest bunkering port in the Mediterranean. Gibraltar was rapidly expanding into new areas of manufacturing and telecommunications activity, and last week, Europe's most modern wine bottling plant was inaugurated on the Territory. The fast-dwindling British military presence constituted no more than 6 per cent of the Gibraltar's economy. The Chief Minister repeated his invitation to members of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) to visit the Territory to assess it for themselves. If there were any members of the Committee who doubted what he said, he urged them to come and see for themselves.
He said Gibraltarians were seeking decolonization through modernization of their constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom in a manner which would result in a non-colonial situation that retained political and
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constitutional links with that country. Decolonization in the manner proposed, or any other, would not put an end to the Spanish sovereignty claim. Gibraltar did not seek to turn its back on Spain since that country would always be its neighbour and was also part of the European Union. Spain, however, had no formal role in Gibraltar's decolonization nor could it have such a role. The Territory's future status was a matter exclusively for the administering Power and the people of Gibraltar.
He said he had clearly expressed his willingness to meet the Spanish Foreign Minister and hold dialogue in an attempt to break the sterility of the current impasse. Such dialogue must attempt to take the historical tension and mistrust out of the relationship. It must seek to bring about mutual cooperation and good-neighbourliness in economic, environmental, social, cultural, judicial and law enforcement matters. In such dialogue both parties should be able to acknowledge their respective positions and differences on the many dividing issues. More importantly, they should be able to explore the possibilities for a new and better relationship. While falling considerably short of recognizing Gibraltar's right to self-determination, the new statement of adherence by Spain to the principle of consent on 10 December 1997, was, nevertheless, a most welcome first step in the right direction.
He said Spain could not preach democracy to the world, and deny it in its most basic manifestation to the colonial people of Gibraltar on its own doorstep. In welcoming the adherence by Spain to the principle of consent, it must follow that consent be exercised freely and respected. It could not be exercised under duress or under the effect of actions by Spain that were intended to coerce a particular objective. Sincere adherence to the principle of consent meant that Spain must allow Gibraltar to develop freely and without political, economic, social or cultural constraint.
JAVIER PEREZ-GRIFFO (Spain) said that the purpose of the appearance before the Special Committee of the Chief Minister and his predecessors had clearly been to try and reverse the course of United Nations doctrine on the Question of Gibraltar. There was an established United Nations doctrine on the issue of Gibraltar and as a mandatory reference point there were many resolutions, including specific ones that were relevant to the issue.
The recovery of sovereignty over Gibraltar was a goal that Spain could not renounce, he said. Spain claimed the restoration of sovereignty over the Rock, which it was forced to cede by the Treaty of Utrecht, and also held a claim over the Isthmus, over which there was no recognizable sovereignty. Gibraltar may be British or Spanish but any other jurisdiction was unacceptable.
He said that even in the absence of dialogue, Spain continued to advocate dialogue and a negotiation of the status of Gibraltar. The Spanish
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Foreign Minister had expressed his willingness to meet with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar over the issue.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ-PARILLA (Cuba), acting Chairman, then said that the Special Committee would continue consideration of the item at its next session. In that connection, he suggested that in order to facilitate consideration of the item at the Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), all relevant documentation should be transmitted to the fifty-third session of the General Assembly.
He then introduced the next item on the agenda, dissemination of information on decolonization and invited the representative of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) to make a statement on its report.
SUSAN MARKHAM of the DPI, said that the report covered the activities undertaken by the Department between May 1997 and June 1998. The Department's multimedia activities covered a wide range of decolonization issues. It also continued to provide coverage of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (1990-2000).
She said that the UN Chronicle, a quarterly magazine of the United Nations, regularly covered major developments in the field of decolonization, including the work of the General Assembly's Fourth Committee. The forthcoming revised edition of Basic Facts would contain an updated chapter on the activities and achievements of the United Nations in the area of decolonization.
During the reporting period, the United Nations Radio and Central News Service covered various issues concerning decolonization and related matters in news bulletins, weekly current affairs magazines and weekly regional magazine programmes, she said. They were produced in official and non-official languages for worldwide dissemination. The Service also provided five feature programmes on decolonization and related issues in various languages.
She said that during the reporting period, decolonization-related activities within the United Nations system were televised and disseminated to networks and other television stations and through packages of television news and video highlights provided to international news syndicators.
Throughout the year, United Nations information centres around the world contributed to the dissemination of decolonization information in the context of promoting a better public understanding of the Organization's work, she said. The information centres in Jakarta and Lisbon provided logistical and information support to the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor on his visits to Indonesia and Portugal. The centre in Lisbon
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also assisted the Secretary-General's Envoy to Western Sahara with information and logistical support on his visit to Portugal.
She said that to promote awareness of United Nations decolonization activities among the non-governmental organization community, the Department continued to disseminate information materials to each of the 1,550 non-governmental organizations associated with it. The Public Inquiries Unit responded to 160 queries and complied with requests for information on decolonization through the dispatch of such materials as handouts, publications, pamphlets, booklets and brochures. The Unit responded to many inquiries through e-mail.
By the terms of the draft (document A/AC.109/L.1872), the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information were requested to take into account the suggestions of the Special Committee to take measures through all the media available, including publications, radio and television, as well as the Internet, to give publicity to the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization.
The resolution also approved the activities of the two Departments in the field of dissemination of decolonization information. It considered it important to continue its efforts to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization, particularly on the emphasis on the options of self-determination available for the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Action on a second draft resolution, on the question of information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations, was postponed. By that text (document A/AC.109/L.1873), reaffirmed that, in the absence of a decision by the General Assembly itself that a Non-Self-Governing Territory had attained a full measure of self-government in terms of Chapter XI of the Charter, the administering Power concerned should continue to transmit information under Article 73 e of the Charter with respect to that Territory.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said that it seemed many people were unaware of the decolonization process. Was the information disseminated by the Department reaching national audiences and was it having any impact?
Ms. MARKHAM said that the Department disseminated information to radio and television stations as well as to newspapers and other print media in the normal way.
Mr. HALDER (Fiji), referring to the internet, said that many people in the developing countries had no computers and those that did had no access to the internet. How could they receive information on decolonization activities?
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Ms. MARKHAM said that the question was quite specific and she would have to get back to the Fiji representative with the specific answers.
The acting CHAIRMAN then introduced a second draft resolution, on the question of information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations. By that text, (document A/AC.109/L.1873), reaffirmed that, in the absence of a decision by the General Assembly itself that a Non-Self-Governing Territory had attained a full measure of self-government in terms of Chapter XI of the Charter, the administering Power concerned should continue to transmit information under Article 73 e of the Charter with respect to that Territory.
MARIA MALDONADO, Department of Political Affairs (DPA), said that the Department had endeavoured to collect and prepare information on decolonization issues and had sought the cooperation of the administering Powers. It had answered queries and provided information to governments, territorial governments, schools and organizations and individuals. The Department had also disseminated information through the personal contacts of its political officers with leading experts on Non-Self-Governing Territories and with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with decolonization issues. In close cooperation with the Department of General Assembly Affairs and the DPI, it had ensured that documentation on decolonization issues was widely circulated, particularly at regional seminars away from Headquarters.
She said the DPA was also cooperating with the DPI in the preparation of the relevant chapters for the 1997 Yearbook of the United Nations. The Yearbook chapter on decolonization covered such issues as the Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and included information on action taken by the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. The DPA would also maintain contact with regional and intergovernmental organizations in the Caribbean and the Pacific regions to seek information and their insights on problems affecting the Territories, given their profound knowledge of their respective regions and the common problems they faced.
The acting CHAIRMAN then introduced a draft resolution on the question of dissemination of information on decolonization contained in document A/AC.109/L.1872. The Committee agreed to waive the 24-hour requirement for submission of any proposals under rule 78 of the General Assembly's rules and procedures.
In the absence of objections to the waiver of the 24-hour requirement, the resolution was adopted.
The acting CHAIRMAN then introduced a draft resolution on the question of information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations contained in document A/AC.109/L.1873.
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He said the Committee appreciated receipt of information from administering Powers under Article 73 e of the Charter which was very important in enabling the Committee to have a thorough consideration of the situation in those Territories.
JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) drew the attention of the Committee to the Secretariat working papers on East Timor and New Caledonia. While there was some information from the administering Power in the case of East Timor, there was none in the case of New Caledonia. He said the French Government should provide the information, particularly in the light of the Noumea Accords.
HU ZHAOMING (China) also said it was important that the French Government provide the Committee with information on the situation in that Territory.
The acting CHAIRMAN said he had been holding consultations with administering Powers on the question of sending visiting missions to Territories. Additional time was needed in order to conclude those consultations successfully. He therefore proposed that consideration of that item be postponed to a later stage of the Committee's work.
On other matters, he drew attention to requests for hearing which had been circulated in aides-memoires 9/98 to 11/98 relating, respectively, to the questions of Western Sahara, East Timor and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
SOERYO LEGOWO (Indonesia) requested that the Committee record his delegation's objection to the inclusion of East Timor in its consideration. East Timor had decolonized itself when the administering Power had abandoned the Territory after failing to control a civil war there. The majority of the Territory's people had decided to integrate themselves with the Republic of Indonesia.
Mr. NEVES (Portugal) said that the majority of East Timorese referred to by the representative of Indonesia were in reality 37 people handpicked by the Indonesian authorities.
The CHAIRMAN said that the reservations expressed by the representative of Indonesia would be reflected in the record. The question of requests for hearing was then postponed.
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