SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE HOLDS FIRST MEETING FOLLOWING OPENING SESSION19990526
(Received from UN Information Officer.)
CASTRIES, Saint Lucia, 25 May -- Any country that had placed a Non-Self- Governing Territory on the United Nations list could not utilize its domestic statutes to avoid its obligations under the Charter and under the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the representative of the United Nations Association of Virgin Islands/United States Virgin Islands told the Special Committee on decolonization this morning, as it held its first meeting following its opening session in Castries, Saint Lucia.
As the Committee met to begin consideration of the substantive issues on its agenda, the representative of the United States Virgin Islands stressed that domestic law could not be pleaded over international law in the context of a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Nor could an administering Power use that law to make the United Nations remove a Territory from its list. Only the United Nations, through the application of international law, could make decisions as to whether a Territory had reached its full measure of self- determination.
The representative of the British Virgin Islands said each colonial person had experienced various degrees of non-self-government under various administering Powers. At the core of the relationships was the concept that the colonial peoples could be governed for as long as they wished, but with the knowledge that independence would be granted on request. The concept of economic dependency and non-self-government was, however, intricately complicated. Each colonial authority was a wealthy, highly scientific democracy and that presented opportunities to the colonized person. Those factors had a psychological effect and, in a way, prevented many colonized people from redefining their environment.
Statements were also made by representatives of Italy, Guam and Puerto Rico.
In other matters this morning, the Committee adopted its agenda. It then, acting without a vote, elected its three Vice-Chairmen: Rafael Dausa (Cuba), Moctar Oune (Mali) and Vladimir Zaemsky (Russian Federation). Also elected without a vote this morning, to the position of Rapporteur and Chairman of the Drafting Group, was Fayssal Mekdad (Syria). The following members of the Special Committee were also appointed to the Drafting Group: Juan Eduardo Eguiguren (Chile), Mowafak Ayoub (Iraq) and Mr. Zaemsky. In addition, this morning, the Committee's programme of work was adopted, as orally amended by the Chairman, Peter D. Donagi (Papua new Guinea).
Also this morning, the Committee and participants viewed a video made by the United Nations entitled "About the United Nations: Decolonization". The video, with the help of historical footage, provided a view of colonial life and the progress of peoples in Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Chairman said "it will remind us of the dramatic changes over the last 30 years, since the adoption in 1960 of the United Nations Declaration on Decolonization".
The Committee will meet again today at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of substantive issues.
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 morning to hold the first meeting of its Caribbean regional seminar in Castries, Saint Lucia.
The Committee had before it the following documents: the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, including the Plan of Action (document A/46/634/Rev.1); guidelines and rules of procedure; General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 and Declaration; and Assembly resolutions on the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (documents A/RES/43/47 and A/RES/46/181).
Report of Secretary-General and Plan of Action
The report of the Secretary-General (document A/46/634/Rev.1) is submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 43/47 which requested the Secretary- General to submit to the Assembly, at its forty-fourth session, a report that would enable it to consider and adopt an Action Plan aimed at ushering in the twenty-first century -- a world free from colonialism.
According to the report, in accordance with Assembly requests, the Secretary-General submitted three interim reports (documents A/44/800 of 27 November 1980, A/45/624 of 11 October 1990 and A/46/593 of 24 October 1991) relating to the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Those
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reports reproduced the views and suggestions of Member States and organizations of the United Nations system and intergovernmental organizations. The views and suggestions referred to are reflected in the annex to the present report and may enable the Assembly to consider and adopt an action plan.
Guidelines and Rules of Procedure
In its resolution 53/68 of 3 November 1998, the Assembly approved the programme of work of the Special Committee for 1999, including the organizing and holding of a seminar in the Caribbean region, which would be attended by representatives of all the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The guidelines and rules of procedure (document A/AC.109/199/2) apply to this seminar and lists places and dates of the meeting, its purpose, and the agenda. The agenda includes the political, social and economic issues that will be discussed during the seminar. Annexed to the guidelines are the rules of procedure governing the seminar. General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, Declaration on Decolonization
By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly approved the principles which should guide Member States in determining whether or not an obligation exists to transmit the information called for in Article 73 e of the Charter, set out in Section V, part B, of the report of the Special Committee, as amended and as they appeared in the annex to the resolution. The Assembly also decided that those principles should be applied in light of the facts and circumstances of each case to determine whether or not an obligation exists to transmit information under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter.
[Article 73 e states that members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of Territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interest of the inhabitants of these Territories are paramount, and, to this end, to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible.]
By terms of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People, the Assembly declared that alien subjugation, domination and exploitation of peoples constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the United Nations Charter and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation. The Declaration also states that all people have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely their economic, social and cultural development. Inadequacy of political, economic, social and educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence, the Declaration goes on to state.
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The Declaration further states that all armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent people shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence, and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected. Immediate steps shall be taken in trust, in Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other Territories which have not attained independence, to transfer all power to the people of those Territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed and colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom, continues the Declaration.
The Declaration goes on to state that any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Organization's Charter. All States shall observe faithfully and strictly the provisions of the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the present Declaration on the basis of equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of all States, and respect for the sovereign rights of all peoples and their territorial integrity.
Resolutions on International Decade for Eradication of Colonialism
By the terms of one resolution (document A/RES/43/47), the Assembly declared the period 1999-2000 as the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.
By the terms of another resolution (document A/RES/46/181), the Assembly declared that the ultimate goal of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism was the free exercise of the right to self-determination by the peoples of each and every remaining Non-Self-governing Territory, in accordance with resolution 1514 (XV) and all other relevant resolutions and decisions adopted by the Assembly. The Assembly also declared that the exercise of the right to self-determination should be carried out freely and without outside pressure, in a form reflecting authentic interests and aspirations of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories and with the United Nations playing an appropriate role.
The Assembly would also adopt the proposals contained in the report of the Secretary-General of 13 December 1991, to serve as a Plan of Action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The Assembly would also invite Member States, the United Nations system and other governmental and non-governmental organizations to actively support and participate in the implementation of the Plan of Action.
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GIAN LORENZO CORNADO (Italy) said almost 40 years had elapsed since the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was adopted by the Assembly, by which the United Nations proclaimed the necessity of ending colonialism. Since the adoption of the Declaration, many countries had joined the United Nations as Member States and brought with them the winds of democracy. Since its independence, Saint Lucia was playing a visible role in the United Nations. Italian people, with their miles of coast line, were no strangers to the problems faced by small island developing States. He cited fragile ecosystems and vulnerability. Such States needed support from the international community and protection from the negative impact of globalization.
JUDITH BOURNE, of the United Nations Association of Virgin Islands/United States Virgin Islands, said the concept of a Non-Self-Governing Territory was one that had been developed in international forums, and not through the domestic law of the various administrating countries that had an interest in the Territories. The adoption of Assembly resolution 1541 (XV) embodied the development of what was a new international law norm. In her view, the placement of respective Non-Self-Governing Territories on the Organization's list of such Territories, constituted the acquiescence of the administering Powers to the norms of international law that was being developed by the United Nations.
She said any country that had placed a Territory on the United Nations list could not utilize its domestic statutes to avoid its obligations under the United Nations Charter and under the Declaration. In short, domestic law could not be pleaded over international law in the context of a Non-Self- Governing Territory. Nor could it use that law to make the United Nations remove a Territory from its list. Only the United Nations, through the application of international law, could make decisions as to the whether a Territory had reached its full measure of self-determination. If the domestic law of an administering Power determined what Non-Self-Governing Territories of self-government meant, the Declaration would then be a thing of wishful thinking.
ERMIN PENN, of the British Virgin Islands, said the level of autonomy enjoyed by the local ruling Council in British Virgin Islands depended on the personality of the local administrator and not the strict procedure of the British Government. There were colonies under British control where peace, order and good governance were the rule, and then there were communities that had been colonized by the United States and which lived under the American democracy. Each colonial person had, therefore, experienced various degrees of non-self-government. At the core of the relationships was the concept that the colonial peoples could be governed for as long they wished, but with the knowledge that independence would be granted on request.
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She said many former British colonies had been provided with British constitutions that had been written for them and which were based firmly on the Westminster system of government. That system, of course, enshrined power. The concept of economic dependency and non-self-government was intricately complicated. Each colonial authority was a wealthy, highly scientific democracy and that presented opportunities to the colonized person. Those factors had a psychological effect and, in a way, prevented many colonized people from redefining their environments.
RONALD F. RIVERA, of Guam, said his Territory and the American Virgin Island were under the same Power, and there was consistency with regard to certain policies. However, there was also a practice of inconsistency when dealing with Non-Self-Governing Territories. The argument that administering Powers made about domestic law was duplicitous. Under American domestic law, it was said that all United States citizens had to be treated the same regardless of them inhabiting the mainland, Hawaii or Guan. However, it was acknowledged that there was a clause which stated that the United States Congress could treat people from Non-Self-Governing Territories very unequally.
Ms. BOURNE, of the United Nations Association of Virgin Islands/United States Virgin Islands, said that under American law, all citizens of the United States had the same basic rights; however, the right to self-determination was not a right under American law. Conditions were, therefore, in place so that not all citizens could be treated the same and not all could expect the right to self-determination.
PETER D. DONAGI (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that the administering Powers had not voted in favour of the 1960 Declaration and they were, therefore, not obligated to put its provisions into their domestic law.
JOSÉ NAZARIO DE LA ROSA, of Puerto Rico, said his Territory was on the same footing as Guam and the United States Virgin Islands. It had no representatives in Congress to change that situation. Puerto Rico had received a new kind of colonialism due to its type of constitution and domestic law. The metropolis was trying to change the definition of self-government in the international sense, yet, the reality was that Puerto Rico had no power.
CARLYLE CORBIN, of the United States Virgin Islands, said the Charter referred to the principles of equal rights and self-determination of all peoples. So, reference to Article 73 did not exonerate any of the administering Powers.
FERMIN L. ARRIZZA NAVAS, of Puerto Rico, said the United States Government talked about Territory and not people. People were the ones who were entitled to self-determination, he stressed. The United States had ratified resolutions, conventions and other declarations which guaranteed the right to self-
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determination of all peoples. Puerto Ricans were clamouring to give up their United States citizenship and threatening to take up Puerto Rican citizenship which had been recognized by the United States in 1953.
Mr. RIVERA, of Guam, said the United States used the territorial clause to justify its actions in a non-State area. It had to justify why it had control of an area that was not a State. In the case of Guam, the interest was strictly strategic and had no bearing on people. If there were no people in Guam, the United States would still be there, he added.
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