FOURTH COMMITTEE OPENS DECOLONIZATION DEBATE, ELECTS RAPPORTEUR

4 October 1999
GA/SPD/157

FOURTH COMMITTEE OPENS DECOLONIZATION DEBATE, ELECTS RAPPORTEUR

4 October 1999

Press ReleaseGA/SPD/157

FOURTH COMMITTEE OPENS DECOLONIZATION DEBATE, ELECTS RAPPORTEUR

19991004

While the popular consultation in East Timor had already taken place, the people of Western Sahara were still struggling to make their will known through a similar referendum, the representative of Algeria told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning.

As the Committee began its consideration of decolonization issues, he said that the recently approved Western Sahara appeal process for 65,000 individuals not included in the census of 1974, should in no event hold up the referendum and turn into a new round of identification. That decision would give a new impetus to the referendum and allow it to be held in July 2000. The Agreement had been officially accepted by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) and Morocco.

Addressing the situation in Tokelau, for which his country was responsible, the representative of New Zealand said there was no doubt that the Territory was on track to undertake an act of self- determination in the conventional sense. However, the particular features of the situation could mean that -– for reasons entirely for those of the people of Tokelau -- the Territory might not be ready to take that step in the near future.

Speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the representative of the Philippines said it would be meaningless for Non-Self-Governing Territories to attain independence without the capacity to sustain a viable economic and social life for their inhabitants. They required and deserved to fulfil their aspirations to achieve not only political, but also economic, social and cultural well-being, as well as education and human resources development.

Also this morning, the representative of Bolivia was elected by acclamation as Rapporteur of the Fourth Committee. He was nominated by the representative of Cote d’Ivoire.

The Rapporteur 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 introduced that body’s report.

Fourth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/SPD/157 3rd Meeting (AM) 4 October 1999

A summary of the Special Committee’s activities for the year was provided by its Chairman.

The representatives of Morocco and Algeria spoke in right of reply on the Western Sahara issue and discussed the eligibility of a petitioner to address the Committee. The Committee decided to circulate requests for hearing by petitioners from Gibraltar, Guam, New Caledonia, Western Sahara, specialized agencies and East Timor. A deadline for submission of further requests for hearing will be set for tomorrow.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to continue its general debate on decolonization.

Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to begin its consideration of decolonization issues.

Among documents before the Committee was the report of the Special Committee on decolonization (A/54/23 Parts II and III) which reviews implementation of the 1960 General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

The report also covers dissemination of information on decolonization; visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories; economic and other activities affecting the interests of the peoples of the Territories; military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration; implementation of the decolonization Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and associated international institutions; and information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter.

Part II of the report contains the Special Committee’s recommendation that the General Assembly adopt a draft resolution on visiting missions to Territories. Under the provisions of that draft, the Assembly would stress the need to send periodic visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories in order to facilitate the full, speedy and effective implementation of the Declaration on decolonization with respect to those Territories. The administering Powers would be called upon to cooperate or continue to cooperate with the United Nations by receiving United Nations missions in the Territories under their administration. They would be requested to consider new approaches in the work of the Special Committee. The Special Committee Chairman would be requested to enter into consultations with the administering Power of Guam with a view to facilitating the dispatch if the United Nations visiting mission to that Territory.

Also contained in Part II is a draft resolution on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) by which the Assembly would regret that in spite of the widespread international support for a negotiation between the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom that would include all aspects of the future of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas), the implementation of the General Assembly resolutions on that question has not yet started. The Assembly would reiterate that the way to put an end to the special and particular colonial situation in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is the peaceful and negotiated settlement of the dispute over sovereignty between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom.

Part III of the report contains a draft resolution on information from Non- Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter. By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would request the administering Powers concerned to transmit to the Secretary-General the information prescribed in Article 73 e of the Charter, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned. The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure that adequate information is drawn from all available published sources in connection with the preparation of working papers relating to the Territories concerned.

By the terms of a draft resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Assembly would reiterate that the damaging exploitation and plundering of the marine and other natural resources of the Territories, in violation of the relevant United Nations resolutions, is a threat to the integrity and prosperity of those Territories. It would affirm the need to avoid any economic and other activities which adversely affect the interests of the peoples of those Territories.

Also by that text, the General Assembly would call upon the administering Powers concerned to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevail in the Territories under their administration and to promote in each Territory a fair system of wages applicable to all the inhabitants without discrimination. The Assembly would affirm the value of foreign economic investment undertaken in collaboration with the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and in accordance with their wishes in order to make a valid contribution to the socio- economic development of the Territories.

Part III of the report also contains a draft on implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations. Among other measures, the Assembly request those bodies to provide information on environmental problems facing the Non-Self- Governing Territories; the impact of natural disasters, such as hurricanes and volcanoes, and other environmental problems such as beach and coastal erosion and droughts, on those Territories; ways and means to assist the Territories in fighting drug trafficking, money laundering and other illegal and criminal activities; and the illegal exploitation of the Territories’ marine resources and the need to utilize those resources for the benefit of the peoples of the Territories.

The Non-Self-Governing Territories would be encouraged to take steps to establish and/or strengthen disaster preparedness and management institutions and policies. The administering Powers concerned would be requested to facilitate the participation of appointed and elected representatives of the Territories in the relevant meetings and conferences of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system so that the Territories may benefit from the related activities of those bodies.

A related report of the Secretary-General (document A/54/119) informs the Assembly that by a letter dated 26 March 1999, he transmitted the text of a resolution adopted by the General Assembly on that matter to the executive heads of specialized agencies and international institutions listed in the report.

A draft on the question of New Caledonia would have the General Assembly welcome the significant developments that have taken place in the Territory as exemplified by the signing of the Noumea Accord of 5 May 1998 between the representatives of the New Caledonia and the Government of France. The Assembly would invite all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options are open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians according to the letter and spirit of the Matignon and Noumea Accords, which are based on the principle that it is for the populations of New Caledonia to choose how to control their destiny.

The report also contains a draft resolution on the question of Tokelau. By its terms, the General Assembly would acknowledge Tokelau's need for reassurance, given that local resources cannot adequately cover the material side of self- determination, and the ongoing responsibility of the Territory's external partners to assist Tokelau in balancing its desire to be self-reliant to the greatest extent possible with its need for external assistance. The Assembly would welcome the assurances by the Government of New Zealand that it will meet its obligations to the United Nations with respect to Tokelau and abide by the freely expressed wishes of the people of Tokelau with regard to their future status.

Also contained in the report is a consolidated draft resolution on the situation of the 11 Non-Self-Governing Territories of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands. By terms of the draft's first part, the General Assembly would call upon the administering Powers, in cooperation with the respective territorial governments, to continue to take all necessary measures to counter problems related to drug trafficking, money laundering and other offences. The administering Powers, in cooperation with the territorial governments, would be called upon to facilitate programmes of political education in the Territories in order to foster an awareness among the people of their right to self-determination.

By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would stress that the eradication of colonialism requires the full and constructive cooperation of all parties involved, and notes with concern that the Plan of Action of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism cannot be concluded by the year 2000. It would call upon the administering Powers to enter into constructive dialogue with the Special Committee before the Assembly's fifty-fifth session to develop a framework for the implementation of provisions of the Article 73 of the United Nations Charter and the decolonization Declaration for the period beyond the year 2000.

The second part of the resolution deals with specific conditions in each Territory. By the terms of the draft on American Samoa, the General Assembly would call upon the administering Power, bearing in mind the views of the people of the Territory ascertained through a democratic process, to keep the Secretary-General informed of the wishes and aspirations of the people regarding their future political status.

By the terms of the draft on Anguilla, the Assembly would request the administering Power, in consultation with the territorial government, ascertained through a democratic process, to keep the Secretary-General informed of the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory regarding their future political status.

Regarding Bermuda, the Assembly would request the administering Power to elaborate, in consultation with the territorial government, programmes of development specifically intended to alleviate the economic, social and environmental consequences of the closure of certain military bases and installations in the Territory.

By the terms of the draft on the British Virgin Islands, the Assembly would request the administering Power, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system and all financial institutions to continue to provide assistance to the Territory for socio-economic development and the development of human resources, bearing in mind the vulnerability of the Territory to external factors.

The draft on the Cayman Islands would have the Assembly call upon the administering Power and the territorial government to cooperate in countering problems related to money laundering, smuggling of funds and other related crimes, as well as drug trafficking. The administering Power, in consultation with the territorial government, would be requested to continue to facilitate the expansion of the current programme of securing employment for the local population, in particular at the decision-making level.

By a draft resolution on the question of Guam, the General Assembly would call upon the administering Power to take into consideration the expressed will of the Chamorro people as endorsed by the people of Guam, encourage the administering Power and the territorial government to continue the negotiations on the matter and request the administering Power to keep the Secretary-General informed of progress to that end.

Also by that text, the Assembly would further request the administering Power to continue to recognize and respect the political rights and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Chamorro people, and to take all necessary measures to respond to the concerns of the territorial government with regard to the immigration issue.

By the text on Montserrat, the General Assembly would call upon the administering Power, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system as well as regional and other organizations to continue to provide urgent emergency assistance to the Territory in alleviating the consequences of the volcanic eruption.

The draft on Pitcairn would have the Assembly request the administering Power, bearing in mind the views of the people of the Territory ascertained through a democratic process, to keep the Secretary-General informed of the wishes and aspirations of the people regarding their future political status. The administering Power would also be requested to continue its assistance for the improvement of the economic, social, educational and other conditions of the Territory's population.

According to the draft on St. Helena, the Assembly would request the administering Power and relevant regional and international organizations to continue to support the territorial government's efforts to address the socio- economic development of the Territory.

By the draft on the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Assembly would call upon the administering Power and the territorial government to continue to cooperate to counter problems related to money laundering, smuggling of funds and other related crimes, as well as drug trafficking. The administering Power would also be invited to take fully into account the wishes and interests of the government and the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands in the governance of the Territory.

The draft on the United States Virgin Islands would have the General Assembly request the administering Power to facilitate the participation of the Territory, as appropriate, in various organizations, in particular the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Assembly would welcome the measures being taken by the newly-elected territorial government in addressing the fiscal crisis, and call upon the administering Power to provide every assistance required by the Territory to alleviate that fiscal crisis, including inter alia, the provision of debt relief and loans.

A draft relating to dissemination of information on decolonization would have the General Assembly request the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information to take into account the suggestions of the Special Committee to continue their efforts 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. By a draft decision on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration, the General Assembly 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 regions, for military purposes. The large-scale utilization of the local resources for that purpose could adversely affect the economic development of the Territories concerned. The Assembly would reiterate that the colonial and Non- Self-Governing Territories and areas adjacent thereto should not be used for nuclear testing, dumping of nuclear wastes or deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Aware of the presence of such bases and installations in those Territories, the Assembly 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.

A report of the Secretary-General (document A/54/267) details offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants on Self-Governing Territories.

Also, the Special Committee decided to continue its consideration of East Timor and Gibraltar at its next session, subject to any directives the General Assembly might give at its fifty-fourth session.

On the question of Western Sahara, the Special Committee decided, subject to any directives the Assembly give in that connection at its fifty-fourth session, to transmit the relevant documentation to the Assembly.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Cote d’Ivoire) nominated Gualberto Rodriguez San Martin (Bolivia) for election as Rapporteur of the Fourth Committee.

Mr. Rodriguez San Martin was then elected by acclamation.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee on Decolonization, introducing that body’s report, said that a critical review of the Special Committee’s activities had begun this year with the intention of improving its effectiveness, particularly in light of the approaching end of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. That review had not only indicated ways in which the Special Committee could be more effective, but had also highlighted the increasingly urgent need to maintain efforts to bring a speedy and unconditional end to colonialism in all its forms and manifestations. It was the hope of the Special Committee that the Fourth Committee would lend its full support to all the recommendations of the Special Committee.

Statements

PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that the objective of a critical review was to develop results-oriented programmes of work that would enable it to fulfil its obligations toward the peoples of the Non- Self-Governing Territories. The Special Committee had continued to work in close cooperation with the representatives of the Territories, who had participated in its hearings and in its regional seminar, which this year was held on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

He said that the regional seminars offered a particularly useful forum for focused discussion on issues of concern to the Territories. This year, there had been a number of legal and constitutional issues that had been examined in some detail, particularly in light of the critical review the Special Committee was carrying out of its work and the efforts to develop a mechanism for consultations with the administering Powers on the Territories under their administration.

The political, economic and social developments in the Territories were also reviewed and discussed, with particular emphasis on the conditions in the small island Non-Self-Governing Territories, he said. The situation of the small island Territories, constituting the majority of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, continued to receive the Special Committee’s special attention. Their particular vulnerabilities and needs had been the subject of discussion not only in the Special Committee, but also in the Economic and Social Council.

He noted that the popular consultation organized and conducted by the United Nations in East Timor had provided the East Timorese people with an opportunity to choose their future status. By an overwhelming majority, they had chosen the path to independence. Their decision must be respected. The Special Committee would continue to review the situation in that Territory subject to any directives by the General Assembly at its current session. Together with the representatives of two other Member States, he had visited New Caledonia at the invitation of France. That mission would be submitting a brief report on its visit.

ABDALLAH BAALI, (Algeria) said that this year’s debate on decolonization was the last one of the century. The Committee had dealt with a number of urgent situations of great importance. Once colonized and subjugated, his country could appreciate the significance of the moment. The year 1999 also closed the decade that the United Nations had consecrated to putting an end to colonialism. Overall, the international community could rejoice at a number of achievements. Today’s debate was taking place just a few weeks after the referendum in East Timor. The historic victory of the Timorese people should be welcomed by all. The Indonesian Government had accepted the popular results of the referendum. That situation resembled the situation in Western Sahara, where the people were struggling heroically to determine their fate.

Just a few years ago, very few could have predicted that the people of East Timor would have been allowed to participate in the popular consultation to determine their fate, he continued. Very few could have predicted that the process in Western Sahara would have been invigorated. In both cases, the Secretary- General had stood against adversity to ensure that the United Nations would assist the people in their fight. Despite many obstacles, a settlement plan had been worked out in Houston after five rounds of negotiations between Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO). Every time the process stalled, the United Nations Secretary-General, his Special Representative for Western Sahara and Personal Envoy to the region, as well as Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Bernard Miyet and his team, had made significant efforts to remove the obstacles. No less than 22 reports had been submitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the matter. He vigorously followed the situation, and 14 resolutions had been adopted on the matter in two years.

After a resolution on Western Sahara had been approved last year without a vote at the Fourth Committee, new perils had emerged in the implementation of the settlement plan and Houston agreements. In the face of those difficulties, the Secretary-General had proposed to the parties a package of measures, among which was a proposal giving about 65,000 individuals not included in the census of 1974, a chance to present themselves individually to the Commission, which could check their right to participate in the referendum. Endorsed by Security Council resolution 1204 (1998), those proposals had been promptly accepted by POLISARIO, which also made a major concession regarding the identification of contested groups. The proposals were also supported by Algeria and Mauritania in their capacity of Observer States. Difficult negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations had been required to reach a definite agreement last May at the cost of substantial modifications to the original proposals regarding the identification, appeal procedures and the timetable. Endorsing the schedule, the Security Council together with the Secretary-General, underlined that the appeal process should in no event hold up the referendum and should not turn into a new round of identification. That decision would give a new impetus to the referendum and allow it to be held in July 2000. The agreement was officially accepted by POLISARIO and Morocco, respectively, in April and May 1999.

Algeria supported a definitive settlement of the process and called for a sincere implementation of the settlement plan and the Houston agreements, as approved last May by the Security Council. The whole international community was witnessing the extent of compliance by the two parties and the commitment of the United Nations to hold the referendum in Western Sahara. The peace process had never been at a stage so crucial as today. More than ever before, it was necessary to be vigilant and assure that the process did not suffer any new delays and that the referendum be finally held in impartiality, confidentiality and freedom.

MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said that this year there had been further progress on the question of Tokelau, the territory on the list of Non-Self- Governing Territories, for which his country was responsible. The Ulu-o-Tokelau, or Titular Head, who had appeared before the Special Committee on 29 June, had updated the Special Committee on Tokelau’s efforts towards self-determination. Tokelau was now in the first year of its third national Government. The Government of New Zealand now had legislation in place to allow for the passing of responsibility for the Tokelau Public Service from State Services Commissioner in New Zealand to Tokelau. The timing for that action was to be set by mutual agreement, when Tokelau had established a suitable local employment framework. That significant step was reflected in the draft resolution on the Question of Tokelau, on which New Zealand and Tokelau had agreed by consensus.

Tokelau was hardly a typical example of decolonization, he continued. Administrative control of the Union Islands, as Tokelau had been known at the time, was transferred to New Zealand in 1926 at the initiative of the British Government, which had annexed the territory in 1916 at the request of the people. Throughout its history, Tokelau had not been a single political entity in a contemporary sense. Instead, it comprised three villages, which had largely been autonomous for hundreds of years. There had never been a resident New Zealand administrative presence in Tokelau. There was no doubt that Tokelau was on track to undertake an act of self-determination in the conventional sense. However, the particular features of the situation could mean that -– for reasons entirely those of the people of Tokelau -- the Territory might be ready to take that step in the nearer future.

He said that at the presentation in the Special Committee, the Ulu had noted that in 1994 Tokelau had expressed a preference for a status of free association with New Zealand. But since then, Tokelau’s focus had been on governance-related issues, which had pushed political status issues into the background. Ulu had also expressed his wish that the United Nations and New Zealand should work together with Tokelau as partners in the process of decolonization. His concern that Tokelau would in the future suffer neglect should also be noted. For its part, New Zealand was committed to assisting Tokelau towards a greater degree of self- government and economic self-sufficiency. Total Official Development Assistance expenditures in the 1999/2000 financial year were projected at over NZ$6.5 million (about US$3.3 million).

New Zealand welcomed the intention of the Special Committee to pay special attention to the specific problems of the small island Territories, he said. His country had also willingly participated in the process on informal contacts, initiated by the Chairman of the Bureau to explore means to improve cooperation among the Special Committee and the administering Powers. The situation of each listed Territory should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

ANACLETO REI LACANILAO III (Philippines), on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the decolonization process was not merely a set of political and legal measures, but must be accompanied by effective social and economic development efforts. The Non-Self-Governing Territories, most of which were small island territories, required and deserved the comprehensive support of the international community. It would be meaningless for them to attain independence without the capacity to sustain a viable economic and social life for their inhabitants. The international community should assist them to fulfil their aspirations to achieve not only political, but also economic, social and cultural well-being. Emphasis should also be placed, among other things, on promoting effective education and human resources development for the entire population of the Territories.

He said the Special Committee had correctly concluded that special attention should be given to the specific problems of small island Territories, which were handicapped by geographic, environmental, climatic, economic and logistical realities that made their economies fragile and susceptible to the vicissitudes of international trade and economic relations. Those peculiar conditions exposed them to the negative impact of globalization.

Wishing to promote globalisation with a human face, he said, ASEAN strongly supported constructive cooperation between the Special Committee, the United Nations specialized agencies, the international institutions associated with the Organization and regional organizations to facilitate effective implementation of assistance programmes by those bodies to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, especially the small island territories.

He said that while it was true that huge strides had been taken in the decolonization process, it was tragic that in this age and time of modern technology and universal human rights consciousness, the Committee was still discussing the continued subjugation of peoples by colonial powers. It was sad that resolution to the question of decolonization was still being sought into the next millennium.

Right of Reply

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) explained that delays in implementing the referendum in Western Sahara were not his country’s fault. In 1991, the Security Council had approved criteria that had been rejected by the other party. The Secretary-General had proposed a compromise interpretation of those criteria but the other party had refused to implement them. On the issue of identification of tribal groups that had fought the colonialists in 1958, the other party had again refused their right to be identified and Morocco had again been obliged to wait until the guidelines and protocols were agreed by both parties. Mr. BAALI (Algeria) said that his statement was supposed to be a positive one to help the process go forward. At no time had he laid the blame for the delays on either party. At no time had he spoken of combat or fighting between either party, and neither had he blamed anybody. He hoped the debate would continue calmly in fraternity and harmony.

Mr. SNOUSSI (Morocco) said that he had not wanted to make a right of reply, but was merely adding some clarifications on points that seemed to be unclear. He fully supported the representative of Algeria’s wish that the debate continue in serenity, calm and seriousness.

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For information media. Not an official record.