DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CALLS FOR CONTINUING FLOW OF SOCIAL, ECONOMIC INFORMATION FROM NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES19980707
Administering Powers Asked to Cooperate; Statements Heard on Current Situations in Guam, United States Virgin Islands
The General Assembly would reaffirm that administering Powers should continue to provide information on non-self-governing Territories under their administration as stipulated under Article 73 e of the Charter, by a draft resolution approved by consensus this afternoon by the Special Committee on Decolonization.
By the terms of the draft text, submitted by the Chairman of the Special Committee, the administering Powers would be requested to transmit or continue to transmit to the Secretary-General information relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories they were responsible for.
Other provisions of the draft would have the Secretary-General continue to ensure that adequate information was drawn from all available published sources in connection with the preparation of the working papers submitted by the Secretariat on the Territories.
Speaking before the approval of the draft, Bruno Rodriguez-Parrila (Cuba), Chairman of the Special Committee, said he intended, with the consent of the Special Committee, to contact an administering Power (France) to convey concerns expressed by some Committee members about the lack of information on developments in a Territory (New Caledonia) under its administration. He drew attention to the fact that the Special Committee was expected to receive necessary information from that Government on the non-self-governing Territory concerned as stipulated under Article 73 e of the Charter.
Making statements on the draft resolution were the representatives of China and Papua New Guinea.
Also this afternoon, the Special Committee heard statements on the situation in Guam which is administered by the United States. The Vice-Chairman of the Guam Commission on Decolonization said the policies of the administering Power were directly aimed at making the colonial people of Guam -- the Chamorro people -- a minority in their own homeland, in addition
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to direct attacks on their culture, language and control over their limited resources.
Commenting on his statement were the representatives of China and Papua New Guinea.
Another petitioner from Guam, speaking on behalf of the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights, said the administering Power had made it clear that it was not interested in cooperating to decolonize Guam unless it was carried out in the way it wanted. "That way is either to deny the colonized people their right to self-determination or to include settlers and immigrants in the colonized people's self-determination right", he said. The United States had also been a long-standing obstacle to Guam's decolonization, he said, and added that the Special Committee should "loudly vote against the administering Power's colonial posturing".
Making comments on the statement were the representatives of Syria, Côte d'Ivoire and Papua New Guinea.
The question of the United States Virgin Islands was taken up by the Special Committee. The Minister of State and Representative for External Affairs of the Territory told the Committee that despite increasing pressures on the United Nations to phase out its decolonization role, successful activities such as regional seminars were taking place. Those illuminated the unique conditions within individual Territories, as well as the ways in which the United Nations system could be an active player rather than a passive observer in the decolonization process. Among his proposals for promoting that process was renaming the Committee "Committee on Self-Determination of Non-Self-Governing Territories" in the light of the perception among some that the Committee's only interest was to promote immediate independence.
Comments on the United States Virgin Islands were made by the representatives of Chile and Papua New Guinea.
The Special Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow.
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 examine the question of new Caledonia. It was also scheduled to begin consideration of the questions of the following Non- Self-Governing Territories: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands.
Also scheduled for action by the Committee was 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. The Committee was also scheduled to hear requests for hearing by petitioners. Before it were Secretariat working papers on New Caledonia and on the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
The working paper on New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2114) states that the French-administered Territory is located in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,500 kilometres east of Australia and 1,700 kilometres north of New Zealand. It comprises the large island of Grand Terre, with the Territory's capital, Noumea, in the south, the Loyalty Islands, (Ouvea, Mare, Lifou and Tiga), the Belap Archipelago, the Isle of Pines and Huon Island. There are also several uninhabited islands to the north of the Loyalty Islands.
According to the paper, the 1996 census placed the Territory's population at 196,836, comprising indigenous known Melanesians known as Kanaks (42.5 per cent); persons of European origin, mainly French (37.1 per cent); Wallisians (8.4 per cent); Polynesians (3.8 per cent); and others, mainly Indonesians and Vietnamese (8.2 per cent). The official language is French and about 28 Melanesian-Polyneisan dialects are also spoken.
There are two principal groupings and numerous small parties, the paper says. The two main groups are the Rassemblement pour la Calédonie dans la République and the Front de libération nationale kanak et socialiste. Elections were held in July 1995 and the next ones are due in July 2001.
According to the paper, the Matignon Accords of 1998 provide for a 10-year period of economic and social development and self-determination referendum to be held this year. New Caledonia's economy is dominated by the nickel industry and the Territory has more than 20 per cent of the world's known nickel resources.
The paper states that talks on the future political status of New Caledonia resumed in Paris on 16 February, after a two-year hiatus. On
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1 February, to pave the way for the resumption of talks, an agreement was signed permitting an exchange of nickel reserves between the French State- owned Eramet and the Kanak-controlled Société minière du Sud-Pacifique. The FLNKS had made the provision of nickel resources for its proposed smelter project in North Province, provided for by the Eramet-SMSP agreement, a precondition for the resumption of political talks. The announcement of the agreement between Eramet and SMSP led to the dismantling of barricades and roadblocks set by FLNKS supporters throughout the Territory in case an agreement was not reached by the 31 January 1998 deadline established by FLNKS. The Front had warned that if the deadline was missed, mass mobilization of its supporters would follow.
According to the paper, on 21 April 1998, after two months of intense negotiations, representatives of the Government of France and of RPCR and FLNKS signed an agreement regarding the future status of the Territory. On the same day, the Prime Minister of France issued a communiqué stating: "The Accord includes a preamble which describes the consequences of colonization for the Kanak identity and affirms the determination after the 10 years of the Matignon Accords, `to embark on a new stage characterized by full recognition of the Kanak identity, prior to the reformulation of a social contract between all the communities living in New Caledonia and by a sharing of sovereignty with France on the way to full sovereignty'."
The paper states that, on 10 December 1997, the General Assembly adopted without a vote resolution 52/76 entitled "Question of New Caledonia". by the terms of that text, the Assembly welcomed measures taken to strengthen and diversify the New Caledonia economy in all fields and encouraged further such measures in accordance with the spirit of the Matignon Accords. It also welcomed the importance attached by the parties to the Matignon Accords to greater progress in housing, employment, training, education and health care in New Caledonia. The draft also invited all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards self- determination in which all options were open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians according to the letter and spirit of the Matignon Accords, which were based on the principle that it was for the populations of the Territory to choose how to control their destiny.
The working paper prepared by the Secretariat on Guam (document A/AC.109/2113), a non-self-governing Territory administered by the United States with a locally elected government, notes that the people of Guam became United States citizens in 1950, when the United States Congress enacted the Guam Organic Act, which established institutions of local government and made Guam an organized Territory. Guam is an unincorporated Territory, since not all provisions of the United States Constitution applied to it.
On 29 October 1997, the House Committee on Resources of the United States Congress held hearings on the Guam Commonwealth bill introduced in
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January 1997 by the Guam's delegate to the United States Congress. The purpose of the bill was to create "the Commonwealth of Guam". In a statement submitted to the hearings, the Guam Commission on Self-Determination said the Act created a mechanism whereby the United States Congress would approve of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Guam, including a provision which recognized the right of the Chamorro people to select an ultimate political status. It was anticipated that the exercise of Chamorro self-determination would be a one-time vote on an ultimate political status for the Territory, and that the Territory's decolonization would result from the implementation of a status selected by the Chamorro people.
In his statement before the same body on the same date, the United States Administration's Special Representative for the Guam Commonwealth, Interior Deputy Secretary John Garamendi, said the Government's first recommended option was to invite Congress to join in the Guam status deliberations to help formulate comprehensive Commonwealth legislation that was mutually agreeable to the parties. A second alternative would be to pursue federal policy changes that Guam had proposed which were supportable by the Administration, many of which were not inherent in the definition of the island's constitutional status.
In statements before the General Assembly's Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) on 10 October 1997, the elected representatives of Guam and non-governmental organizations from the island emphasized that Commonwealth status for Guam was an interim measure, as it did not meet the internationally-recognized standards for decolonization, nor was it the status of independence, free association or full integration. It would provide a transitional government which would facilitate the eventual decolonization of Guam.
The petitioners from Guam urged the United Nations to reaffirm the right of Guam's indigenous people, the Chamorros, to self-determination and asked members to restore the language found in General Assembly resolutions of 1994 and 1995 which recognized that right. The United States delegate, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the right to self-determination should be exercised by all the people of Guam, rather than just by one part of the population.
According to the working paper on the United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2117), the Territory lies approximately 1,000 miles south-east of Miami and 45 miles east of Puerto Rico. Containing a population of 109,662 in 1996, it includes the main islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, and the smaller Water Island, recently transferred to the jurisdiction of the territorial government.
A previous Secretariat working paper (document A/AC.109/2076) says that the United States Navy maintains a radar and sonar calibration station and a
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headquarters for its underwater tracking facility in the Territory. Armed forces recruitment centres and a detachment of the United States Coast Guard are located on St. Thomas, and the Territory remains a port of call for naval vessels of the United States and its allies.
In mid-1998, the territorial government was approximately $600 million in debt, the current working paper states. About $130 million was owed to the administering Power for repayment of loans following the hurricanes of 1995, which caused about $2 billion worth of damage. The territorial government was also in arrears for the payment of vendors, workers and personal income tax refunds. At the end of fiscal 1997 the government owed more than $70 million in tax refunds and was $27 million short in its regular spending on government services.
According to the paper, no significant action has been taken on the political status of the Territory since a 1993 referendum in which 80.3 per cent of the voters supported the existing status, 14.2 per cent chose full integration with the United States and 4.8 per cent voted for an end to United States sovereignty. Only 27.4 per cent of registered voters participated, while 50 per cent was the requirement for the referendum to be considered valid.
The paper states that, at the fifty-second session of the General Assembly, the territorial government's petitioner noted that the current dependency arrangements between the Territories and the administering Powers did not provide sufficient autonomy or equality for the removal of those Territories from the United Nations list of dependent Territories. He further noted that the fact that the remaining small island Territories had not expressed a preference for immediate independence did not mean that their current arrangement was, by definition, self-governing.
During deliberations of the fifty-second General Assembly session, the administering Power recognized progress towards self-government in its Territories, the paper says. It also recognized that self-determination could not be reduced solely to the concept of full independence, but included a broad range of acceptable options, as long as these were the result of a free and informed choice by the people affected.
General Assembly resolution 52/77 B, section XII, requested the United States to facilitate the participation of the Territory in various organizations, in particular the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community.
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Question of Guam
RONALD F. RIVERA, Vice-Chairman, Guam Commission on Decolonization, said the policies of the administering Power (United States) were directly aimed at making the colonial people of Guam -- the Chamorro people -- a minority in their own homeland, in addition to direct attacks on their culture, language and control over their limited resources. The administering Power had made no proposals that would limit the number of permanent migrants to Guam. It had implemented no policies that provided for the return of land to original landowners. It continued mercantilist shipping policies which cost every family in Guam the annual equivalent of a month's house payment. "Guam's administering Power is an active colonial practitioner", he stated. Any attempt to portray issues in the Guam-United States relationship as simply an internal matter or a product of United States domestic policy was inconsistent with international principles and the legitimate rights of the people of a non-self governing Territory, he added.
The Guam Commission on Decolonization was created by the Guam legislature after 10 years of discussions with the Executive Branch of the administering Power on implementing a new relationship consistent with international law. A plebiscite on the decolonization preferences of the people of Guam would be held, most likely in 1999, he said, adding that the Special Committee would be apprised of the progress and its assistance would be sought at the appropriate junctures.
He said he wished to draw the Special Committee's attention to two issues in relation to the administering Power's "offensive" in support of the status quo. The first was the disingenuous position of the administering Power about self-determination and decolonization; and the second, a call on the Special Committee to put the administering Power's interest on the situation in Guam in proper context. He said the administering Power had, over the years, made a concerted effort to diminish the stature of the colonized Chamorro people of Guam in the texts of resolutions before the Special Committee. It had attempted to paint the colonized Chamorro people's right to self-determination for their island as one which was based on racial and ethnic preferences. The administering Power's interest could hardly be described as supportive of the process of decolonization. It had opposed the process the people had proposed, without offering an alternative process of its own.
HU ZHAOMING (China) said his delegation was concerned about the situation in Guam, believing that the people of Guam had the right to decide their own future. China hoped the administering Power would respect the human rights of the people. It also hoped that they would have a better future.
JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) also commended the speaker for his statement and sought information about the position of the Commission on
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Decolonization on the draft Commonwealth Act on Guam which was before the United States Congress.
Mr. RIVERA said discussions over the past 10 years with the United States authorities on the Territory's future had been inconclusive. The Commission was waiting for the United States Government to complete its review of the Commonwealth Act. The feeling in the Territory was to proceed with the normal process of decolonization, with or without the cooperation of the administering Power. The Commonwealth Act provided a road map for the Territory's decolonization, he said.
Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) asked whether a request would be made for United Nations officials to observe the forthcoming plebiscite.
Mr. RIVERA said the Commission had taken the position that all international conventions and laws, particularly those of the United Nations relating to decolonization, would be the guidelines. The Commission had requested a United Nations observance of the plebiscite.
RUFO J. LUJAN, petitioner, on behalf of the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights, said the administering Power had made it clear that it was not interested in cooperating to decolonize Guam unless it was carried out in the way it wanted. "That way is either to deny the colonized people their right to self-determination or to include settlers and immigrants in the colonized people's self-determination right", he said. The position taken by the United States was contrary to its long-standing principles of democracy and to the rights of self-determination of colonized and indigenous peoples, as well as oppressed minorities. The United States had been a long-standing obstacle to Guam's decolonization; the Special Committee should loudly vote against the administering Power's colonial posturing.
He recalled six specific recommendations made by his organization to the June 16-18 Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization held in Fiji. Those recommendations included the request that the Special Committee and the General Assembly's Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) assess the situation of Guam and its people, and that resolutions concerning the Territory be more specific by recognizing and identifying the Chamorro as the colonized people.
His organization had also indicated that the lack of immigration control and the influx of settlers permitted by the administering Power were the greatest obstacles to the political, social and economic development of Guam's colonized Chamorro people. Among proposals he put forward, he said, was that a new resolution should call upon the administering Power to cooperate with Guam's Commission on Decolonization to facilitate the Territory's decolonization.
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FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said his delegation would go along with the recommendations proposed by the petitioner. Syria sympathized with the suffering of the Chamorro people in the attempts beings made to undermine their identity and culture. He reiterated Syria's solidarity with them. His delegation had no problem with the Special Committee incorporating the recommendations suggested by Mr. Lujan. His main concern was the achievement of consensus on the proposals. He asked the petitioner how the aspirations of the Chamorro people could be achieved by using the language he had proposed.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said the question of Guam was one of the most difficult the Special Committee had had to deal with. The problems of the indigenous people could not be separated from those of other inhabitants. There were divergent views on the achievement of self- determination as presented by the representatives of the Chamorro people and the administering Power. He asked how the aspirations of all the people could be harmonized to ensure the attainment of self-determination. How could a way out be found? he asked.
Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said his delegation fully supported the cause of the Chamorro people for self-determination. He would like to see that also extended to all others in the Territory. He sought views on how the Territory could move towards its decolonization with the interests of all other inhabitants taken into account.
Mr. LUJAN said the open door policy on immigration pursued by the administering Power had caused alarm among the people. He said the people would continue to struggle for decolonization.
Question of United States Virgin Islands
CARLYLE CORBIN, Minister of States and Representative for External Affairs of the United States Virgin Islands, drew attention to the importance of regional seminars such as the one held in June in Fiji. Those gatherings represented one activity of the Plan of Action that had actually been implemented amid increasing pressures on the United Nations system to phase out its decolonization role altogether. Its recommendations went a long way in bringing to light not only the unique conditions within individual T Territories, but it also illuminated ways in which the United Nations system could be an active player rather than a passive observer in the decolonization process.
Indeed, the United Nations had a continual role to play in the self- determination process of the remaining non-self-governing Territories, especially in the small island Territories, he said. He reviewed ways in which the Special Committee might consider various strategies to make its work more meaningful, including the involvement of other Assembly committees. He said cooperation between the Special Committee and the Economic and Social
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Council should be enhanced with tangible activities for the benefit of Territories, a number of whom continued to express the need to be more economically prepared before major political evolution.
He said the Committee might also consider renaming itself, in the light of the perception among some Territories that the Committee's only interest was to promote immediate independence. The present name caused some of them to refrain from actively participating in the Committee's work. It could be changed to the "Committee on Self-Determination of Non-Self-Governing Territories".
JUAN EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile) asked why there had been such a lower voter turnout in the referendum of 1993, which was deemed invalid as a result.
Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) appreciated the interesting comments made by Mr. Corbin and noted with great interest his recommendation concerning the visiting missions to the concerned Territories, including to the United States Virgin Islands. That suggestion raised the question about the role of the United Nations in enabling such missions to take place. Who would approve a visiting mission to the United States Virgin Islands, for example, and how much cooperation could be expected? Also, would changing the Committee's name really contribute to the eradication of colonialism? he asked.
Replies to Questions
Mr. CORBIN, in response to the question about the low voter turnout at the 1993 referendum, cited the lack of awareness on the part of the population of the available options. Some three to four years prior to that referendum, a previous government had sought information from the Special Committee to legitimize a referendum, specifically whether the options before the public needed more work, as well as who should be allowed to vote. There were no conclusions or resolutions of those discussions, and as a result, the referendum was a bit confusing.
He said the Territory initially felt that it had failed in its first attempt to hold a referendum. It now felt that the attempt represented an important step in the continual political development process. Issues emerged that must be faced in order to harness the people's disparate views in the context of developing and conducting a successful referendum with a majority of voters. The focus had narrowed to the evolution of power aimed at full internal self-government.
Regarding visiting missions, long-standing United Nations resolutions had endorsed the view that those were an important tool in assessing the full scope of views of the people of a Territory, he said. Such a comprehensive approach was a very important element in that process. The question of cooperation should be asked of the administering Power concerned. However, in
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view of the present international era of cooperation and flexibility, an acceptable visiting mission could be crafted.
He said he could not predict whether a change of name would further the decolonization process, but it would signal an era of flexibility. Territories that wished to provide information to the United Nations were particularly upset at the Committee's name, which in turn provided a rationale for their lack of participation. The issue was therefore important enough to bring to the Committee's attention.
A draft resolution before the Special Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/AC.109/L.1873), submitted by the Chairman, would have the General Assembly reaffirm that the administering Power concerned should continue to provide information prescribed in that Article, in the absence of a decision by the Assembly that the Territory had attained a full measure of self-government.
The draft would have the administering Powers transmit or continue to transmit to the Secretary-General that information which covered developments in the Territories concerned as prescribed in the Article, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments within a maximum period of six months following the expiration of the administrative year in those Territories.
By the terms of the draft, the Secretary-General would be requested to continue to ensure that adequate information was drawn from all available published sources in connection with the preparation of the working papers on the Territories submitted by the Secretariat. The General Assembly would decide to have the Special Committee continue to discharge the functions entrusted to it under its resolution 1970 (XVIII), in accordance with established procedures.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ-PARRILA (Cuba), Chairman of the Special Committee, said he had concluded consultations with Member States which had expressed concern about the lack of information on New Caledonia by the relevant administering Power. He said he intended, with the consent of the Special Committee, to contact the administering Power to convey their concerns. He drew attention to the fact that the Special Committee was expected to receive necessary information from that Government on the non-self-governing Territory concerned as stipulated under Article 73 e of the Charter.
Mr. HU (China) hoped the administering Power would provide the information sought. He said his delegation was ready to join in the consensus.
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Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said he would be flexible in joining the consensus. He said administering Powers should provide, as appropriate, information on Territories under their administration. Some developments in those Territories were publicly known and he saw no reason why information should be withheld from the Special Committee. On the specific resolution on New Caledonia, his delegation would draw attention to developments there at the appropriate time.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution by consensus.
The CHAIRMAN drew attention to a request for hearing on the question of New Caledonia which had been circulated to Committee members. The Special Committee acceded to the request.
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