DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE BEGINS CARIBBEAN REGIONAL SEMINAR ON NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES

25 May 1999
GA/COL/2999

DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE BEGINS CARIBBEAN REGIONAL SEMINAR ON NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES

25 May 1999


Press Release
GA/COL/2999


DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE BEGINS CARIBBEAN REGIONAL SEMINAR ON NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES

19990525 Independence 'Categorical Imperative,' States Saint Lucia's Foreign Minister; Committee Chairman Says Remaining Territories Ignored in Rush to Globalization

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

CASTRIES, SAINT LUCIA, 25 May -- Independence was a categorical imperative that all nations and all peoples should embrace, George W. Odlum, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Saint Lucia, told the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, as it met this morning to open its Caribbean Regional Seminar in Castries, Saint Lucia.

Even the "specks of dust", as Charles De Gaulle, a former President of France so disparagingly described his French colonies, had the right to aspire to liberation and freedom, Mr. Odlum continued. The United Nations had an important role to play in the future development of Non-Self-Governing Territories. However, it was clear that the present non-self-governing arrangements did not meet the recognized criteria for full self-government. As such, there was no basis for the removal of those Territories from the oversight of the United Nations, as had been suggested by some developing countries.

Peter D. Donagi (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said the challenge was to speed up the implementation of United Nations resolutions on decolonization. The Committee had taken the initiative in seeking ways to facilitate constructive and purposeful dialogue with the administering Powers. The current Seminar would discuss issues that would help to focus attention on crucial elements of the Committee's mandate and help determine the course of action to be taken by it in future dialogue sessions with the administering Powers.

He hoped the direction of the Committee would be one of dialogue and not confrontation. The Special Committee could not rest on the laurels of past

achievements. A more difficult task lay ahead. That was to help the remaining people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, whom the world seemed to have overlooked in its rush towards globalization.

Gordon Trevor-Somers, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Barbados, delivering an address on behalf of Secretary- General Kofi Annan, said the Declaration on the granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples strongly reaffirmed the right of all peoples to self-determination. Though more than 80 million people had attained independence, and their countries had joined the United Nations as sovereign States, the work of the Special Committee remained unfinished. Some 2 million people in the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories continued to strive to determine their future, he added.

The Seminar, meeting from 25 to 27 May, will coincide with the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of the Colonial Territories Fighting for Freedom and Human Rights, which will also be commemorated at the event. (For more background on the Seminar see Press Release GA/COL/2998 dated 19 May.)

The Committee will meet again at 10:30 a.m. today to adopt its agenda and programme of work, elect its officers and begin its substantive dialogue.

Statements

GEORGE E. ODLUM, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Saint Lucia, said that in some ways, independence was a categorical imperative that all nations and all peoples should embrace. Even "specks of dust" -- as De Gaulle so disparagingly described his French colonies -- had the right to aspire to liberation and freedom. The affirmation today of an inalienable right to independence must also accept that there would be a fixed process -- an internationally agreed procedure for effecting that self-determination. He noted that the participants at the Seminar were representatives of wide groupings and welcomed them all to Saint Lucia at a time when his country was experiencing the full brunt of super-Power arrogance.

There was nothing wrong with having a giant's strength, he continued, but it was deplorable to use it like a giant. The pas de deux which existed at present, with the World Trade Organization ruling on the banana trade, would virtually force Europe to recognize its traditional power nexus with the United States. That realignment might have even more serious consequences for small States and Non-Self-Governing Territories. The logic that followed from that scenario implied a necessity for those Non-Self-Governing Territories to consolidate themselves as a cohesive bastion of influence against the monolithic power of the leviathan.

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"We have found over the years that there is indeed an island ethos shared by the people of the island Territories", he noted. His country supported the continued participation of those Territories in regional institutions, as a natural function of "our ongoing Caribbean integration process", and as a critical component of the economic, social and constitutional development of the region. Pacific institutions, such as the Pacific Community, also made similar provisions for membership of small island Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The United Nations had an important role to play in the future development of those Territories, he observed. The successful decolonization of over 80 Territories since the Second World War was evidence of the effectiveness of such a function. More recent successful United Nations actions had led to the independence of Namibia. The determined United Nations role in Western Sahara was illustrative of the present commitment of the international community, where substantial human and financial resources were being provided to address an issue of self-determination. Saint Lucia reaffirmed the view that the principle clearly set forth in resolution 1541, along with those in its companion resolution must continue to be the guiding standards applicable to "our small sister Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean".

He reiterated the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) position that, while the international community must remain flexible in its approach to assisting those Territories as they progressed, "we must ensure that their political status options remained in conformity with the legitimate choices of equality identified in resolution 1541 so as not to legitimize, for expediency, present unequal colonial arrangements which did not provide for a full measure of self-government". It was clear that the present non-self-governing arrangements did not meet the recognized criteria for full self-government. As such, there was no substantive basis for the removal of those Territories from the oversight of the United Nations, as had been suggested by some developing countries. There was clear need for approval by the Assembly of a second international decade on the self-determination of the Non-Self- Governing Territories, since the first would have ended without a true resolution of the issues.

On the eve of a new millennium, there was a need for a comprehensive review of the achievements and obstacles of the decade and the mapping of the way forward. There was a need to measure the progress towards the decolonization of Territories. In addition, there was also a need for the administering Powers to meet their moral obligation to develop and prepare Territories for self-government. He said that it was evident that a successful decolonization process in the Caribbean and Pacific would require a sufficient level of resources. With less than two years left in this decade,

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the Special Committee did not have the necessary resources to apply the Assembly Plan of Action, especially the main studies called for in the Plan.

PETER D. DONAGI (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, said that discussions during the Seminar would focus on the constitutional status of Territories, their political advancement and their social and economic development. The Seminar would also formulate concrete proposals for measures that could be taken to enable the peoples of those Territories to achieve self-government and, where appropriate, exercise their right to self- determination. Today was also a commemoration of the Week of Solidarity with the People of All Non-Self-Governing Territories. The observance marked the continued efforts of the international community to reiterate its support for: the aspirations of and achievements by those people; the objectives set forth in the United Nations Charter; and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

Near the end of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, he observed, the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories might not have had a full measure of authority to determine their own destiny and power to organize their own form of government. As another millennium began, those people might face economic and political constraints in a fast- changing global society, unless there was an endeavour by all to cooperate in identifying and implementing measures in their best interests.

He said that those measures should be popularly desired by them, and subject to the principles of international law, equity, transparency, accountability and good governance. The substantive dialogue about to start today would help the Committee in its review and analysis of the progress made or being made, to enhance the economic, social, constitutional and political advancement of all the peoples in the remaining Territories. In reiterating the challenge ahead, he noted that the administering Powers had not been entirely cooperative.

That challenge, he continued, was to speed up the implementation of United Nations resolutions on decolonization. The Committee had taken the initiative in seeking ways to facilitate constructive and purposeful dialogue with the administering Powers. The current Seminar would discuss issues that would help to focus attention on crucial elements of the Committee's mandate and help determine the course of action to be taken by it in future dialogue sessions with the administering Powers. He hoped the direction of the Committee would be one of dialogue and not confrontation.

He urged those administrative Powers who were not present today to review their positions with a view to formally engaging the Committee in

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constructive dialogue in the future. The Special Committee could not rest on the laurels of past achievements. A more difficult task lay ahead. That was to help the remaining people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, whom the world seemed to have overlooked in its rush towards globalization and as it surged to welcome a new millennium.

He said the international community must be sensitive and attuned to the interests of the small island Territories, which were vulnerable to natural disasters, had fragile ecosystems, were geographically isolated, were constrained in transport, communications, and were isolated from major markets "We must not close our minds, ears and eyes to the aspirations of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories", he said. "We must recognize and act on their aspirations." If the people did not want to exercise their right to self-determination, but were happy with a form of self-government or autonomy that recognized the dignity of the individual and the rights of the community, it should not be the role of the Committee to dictate otherwise to them. In those situations, it would seem that the reasonable thing to do for the Committee was to establish, in consultation with the administering Powers, the appropriate processes and mechanisms to facilitate the implementation of those aspirations.

GORDON TREVOR-SOMERS, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Barbados, delivering an address on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples strongly reaffirmed the right of all peoples to self-determination. The Declaration, along with the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments, formed the basis of the role of the United Nations, responsibility for democratization and in the upholding of the principles of self-determination. Though more than 80 million people had attained independence, and their countries had joined the United Nations as sovereign States, the work of the Special Committee remained unfinished.

Some 2 million people in the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories continued to strive to determine their future, he said. The Week of Solidarity, which was initiated in support of national liberation movements in Africa, now included the peoples of all the remaining dependent Territories and provided the opportunity for the international community to reiterate its solidarity with their pursuit of freedom and independence. Participants at the Seminar had the opportunity to hear the views and the concerns of the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and to assess the overall state of progress. The people and the Government of Saint Lucia merited recognition for their generosity in hosting the Seminar.

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For information media. Not an official record.