SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION BEGINS 2000 SESSION, HEARS OPENING STATEMENT BY DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL

18 February 2000
GA/COL/3021

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION BEGINS 2000 SESSION, HEARS OPENING STATEMENT BY DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL

18 February 2000


Press Release
GA/COL/3021


SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION BEGINS 2000 SESSION, HEARS OPENING STATEMENT BY DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL

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The final year of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism should produce lasting progress towards implementation of the Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said this morning, to the opening of the 2000 session of the Special Committee on decolonization.

Continued support for the aspirations of the peoples of the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories to exercise their right to self- determination was a principal responsibility of the Special Committee, she said. The participation of administering Powers in the Committee's work was a welcome sign, which should give renewed impetus to the challenging task ahead.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, citing the observer status in the relevant United Nations Committee once granted Namibia before its self- determination and South Africa before the defeat of apartheid, said the Special Committee should offer the same status to the governments of the Non- Self-Governing Territories today. Existing outdated guidelines regulating participation in the Committee had fallen "well short" of what was needed to provide members with a full understanding of the intricacies of the political, economic and constitutional arrangements in the Territories.

Also today, the Committee re-elected as Chairman, Peter Donigi (Papua New Guinea). Bruno Rodriguez Parilla (Cuba) and Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué (Côte d'Ivoire) were elected Vice-Chairmen. Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) was elected Rapporteur. The Committee also adopted its programme of work and timetable during 2000, and decided to convene a formal meeting in order to adopt a future programme of work.

Following his re-election as Chairman, Mr. Donigi said that the most important challenge was to develop a constructive programme of work on a case-by-case basis for the Non-Self-Governing Territories by the end of the year. Developing a programme of work, in coordination and cooperation with the administering Powers and representatives of each Territory, was the first step towards ensuring that the peoples of the Territories exercised their inalienable right to self-determination with complete knowledge and awareness of the full range of political options available to them.

The representatives of Indonesia, Côte d'Ivoire, Chile, Sierra Leone, Grenada, New Zealand and Saint Lucia also spoke.

The Special Committee will meet again at a time to be announced in the Journal.

Special 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 held the first meeting of its 2000 session this morning to elect officers and consider its organization of work for the current session, and other matters.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette was expected to address the opening meeting.

The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General drawing attention to the resolutions and decisions of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly relevant to the Committee's work (document A/AC.109/2000/L.1). It also had before it a Chairman's note on the organization of work (document A/AC.109/2000/L.2), attaching a list of pending matters for consideration by the Special Committee during 2000 and a tentative programme of work and timetable.

The Special Committee was created by resolution 1654 (XVI) of 1961 to examine and make recommendations on the application of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and to make suggestions and recommendations on the progress and extent of the implementation of the Declaration.

Its current membership is as follows: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Statement by Deputy Secretary-General

LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General, said it was a particularly important year for the work of the Special Committee. The International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would come to a close at the end of 2000, and during this final year the Special Committee would have the opportunity not only to assess the progress made so far in achieving the objectives of the Decade, but also to chart the course for its future work.

Principal among the Special Committee's responsibilities, she said, would be to continue supporting the aspirations of the peoples of the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, in order to enable them to exercise their right to self-determination. During the past year, the Committee carried out a critical review of its work. The General Assembly had stressed the importance of the participation of the administering Powers in the Committee's work, and it had noted with satisfaction that some administering Powers were participating in that work, and others had now agreed to work informally with it.

She said that was a welcome sign and should give renewed impetus to all efforts. Hopefully, the final year of the International Decade would produce lasting progress towards implementation of the Declaration for each individual territory. A challenging task lay ahead, but with the good faith of all parties, it would be possible to develop a programme of work for each Non-Self-Governing Territory before the end of the year.

Statement by Chairman

PETER D. DONIGI (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said 1999 had seen significant advances in the Committee’s work. In addition to carrying out a critical review of its work and discussing informal papers on the conceptual framework, objectives and activities of the Committee, informal meetings had begun with the administering Powers, with a view to improving cooperation between the administering Powers and the Committee.

The challenge before the Committee in 2000 was to move forward in that direction, he continued. The Committee should collectively encourage the administering Powers to become more involved with the Committee’s work, in order to successfully discharge the Committee’s mandate. The Committee should also strive to create a better environment for the administering Powers to participate actively and formally in the work relating to the Territories under their respective administration.

The Special Committee, he said, would continue to review developments in each Territory and to pay special attention to the problems of small-island Territories. In that area, the most important challenge was to, as mandated by the General Assembly, develop a constructive programme of work on a case-by-case basis for the Non-Self-Governing Territories before the end of the year 2000. Specific Territories on which to begin had been identified and guidelines established. It was his desire to begin as soon as possible with American Samoa and Pitcairn Island in the Pacific. Also significant would be the activities to be carried out during the Pacific regional seminar, to be held in May.

In addition, he said that the Committee was planning, if time permitted, to hold a joint meeting with the Economic and Social Council to consider appropriate measures for the coordination of policies and activities in implementing the relevant General Assembly resolutions, especially relating to specialized agencies and other related bodies under the Council. It was hoped that by the end of the year to have developed a programme of work, in coordination and cooperation with the administering Powers and representatives of each Territory. That would be the first step towards ensuring that the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories excercised their inalienable right to self-determination with complete knowledge and awareness of the full range of political options available to them.

Discussion of Work Programme

Next, the Committee turned its consideration to the programme of work and timetable for 2000 (document A/AC.109/2000/L.2).

MOHAMMAD HAMZAH THAYEB (Indonesia) sought clarification about the reference to "East Timor" under pending matters for the Committee's consideration and asked whether it would be better to also include a reference to the relevant General Assembly resolution 54/194, as had been done with each of the other pending matters.

The CHAIRMAN agreed that a reference should be made to the General Assembly resolution dealing with East Timor, and the Bureau would make the appropriate amendments.

The Committee then adopted the programme of work and timetable during 2000, as orally amended by the Chairman.

Following additional remarks by the Chairman concerning forthcoming consultations, the Committee decided that, following consultations to develop the Committee's future plan of action, a formal meeting would be convened in order to adopt its future programme of work for recommendation to the General Assembly.

AQEELAH JAMILLAH AKBAR (Antigua and Barbuda) said her country regarded the work of the Special Committee as especially important to the future political and constitutional development of the remaining, mostly small-island, Non-Self- Governing Territories. It took seriously the statutory mandate of the Committee to ensure that those Territories should progress to a full measure of self-government consistent with long-standing norms of political equality.

She said the process of engaging the administrative Powers in the work of the Committee, by definition, must also include the very people which the Committee had been mandated to serve, namely the people of the Territories themselves. Clearly, however, existing modalities, including the outmoded guidelines for assistance to territorial representatives in their participation in the Committee's work, had fallen "well short" of what was needed to provide members with a full understanding of the intricacies of the political, economic and constitutional arrangements. Moreover, the existing mandate already provided for a more extensive dialogue with the people of the Territories.

Before the self-determination of Namibia and the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, the representatives of those territories, through their liberation movements, had been granted observer status in the relevant Committees of the United Nations. The Special Committee should offer the same status afforded those former liberation groups to the governments of the Non-Self-Governing Territories today, especially since many already participated directly as associate members or observers in a wide range of United Nations organizations, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the regional commissions, and others. Apparently, their participation was restricted only in this Committee.

She said her country, as a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stood firm in the view that the political status options of the Territories conformed with the legitimate choices of equality identified in the relevant resolution 1541, lest the very arrangements of the Non-Self-Governing Territories be inadvertently legitimized. She looked forward to working with Committee members to devise strategies to bring a full measure of self-government to the people of the remaining Territories under the purview of the Committee.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUÉ (Côte d’Ivoire) congratulated the Chairman and the other members of the Bureau on their re-election and assured his delegation’s cooperation in progressing the work of the Committee.

JUAN EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile) also offered his congratulations to the Chairman and the other members of the Bureau on their re-election and wished them and the Committee every success during this, the last year of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Important progress had been made. For example, in 1998 the Committee had decided to have a critical review of its work, which had been carried out. Also, the administering Powers had been invited to cooperate in developing the programmes of work for the Territories. The Assembly had requested the Committee, before the end of 2000, to develop specific programmes of work for the Non-Self-Governing Territories. That mandate must be discharged and the Committee must have the cooperation of the various administering Powers.

OTTO O. DURING (Sierra Leone) congratulated the Chairman and the other members of the Bureau on their re-election and said it was committed to working with the rest of the Committee to ensure a successful year.

LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada) also congratulated the Chairman and the Bureau. He hoped that a resolution would be made in the impasse between the Committee and the administering Powers and that progress would be made in this final year of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

TREVOR HUGHES (New Zealand) offered his congratulations to the Chairman and the Bureau on their re-election in this very important year in the Committee’s work. He assured his delegation’s cooperation in developing programmes of work for each Territory on a case-by-case basis, especially for Tokelau, for which it bore responsibility.

MICHELLE JOSEPH (Saint Lucia) said her country recognized the continued importance in reviewing and assessing present dependency arrangements and developing programmes of work to ensure the rights of the peoples of the Non-Self- Governing Territories. The Committee must not stray from the principle of equality for the peoples of the Territories for the sake of expediency. Full, internal self-governance must be fostered through the act of self-determination, in which the United Nations would be an active participant. Full self-governance was achievable for all Territories. Saint Lucia was ready to work with other members in advancing the goal of complete decolonization for the remaining 17 Non-Self- Governing Territories, with the cooperation of the administering Powers.

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For information media. Not an official record.