RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH INDEPENDENT STATEHOOD, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DEBATE CONTINUES

31 October 2001
GA/SHC/3651

RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH INDEPENDENT STATEHOOD, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DEBATE CONTINUES

31/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3651

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

27th Meeting (PM)

RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH INDEPENDENT STATEHOOD,

THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DEBATE CONTINUES

The right to self-determination was exercised in many different ways, and it needed to be understood that self-determination was not synonymous with independent statehood, a government delegation told the Third Committee (Humanitarian, Social and Cultural) this afternoon.

As the Committee continued with its deliberations on the right of self-determination, the delegate of Liechtenstein said since the end of the process of decolonization, the right of self-determination had become somewhat of an orphan in the debates of the United Nations.

She said some observers had gone so far as to argue that once people had achieved independence, the right of self-determination became obsolete -- that this could only be exercised once.  On the other end of the spectrum, there were those who invoked the right of self-determination in order to advocate secession and independent statehood.  There needed to be, she said, a new approach which differed from both these schools of thought.

Given the fact that internal armed conflicts constituted the overwhelming majority of armed conflicts worldwide, it was high time that the international community start thinking about innovative and effective ways to apply the right of self-determination, she said.  Giving a voice to the disenfranchised and creating a fully participatory society was, in the long term, the only way to ensure sustainable development and, indeed, a society living in peace and prosperity.

The delegate of Israel agreed, saying the right to self-determination did not provide a mandate for any people to exercise that right in any manner they saw fit.  Exercising the right of self-determination had to include sensitivity and awareness of the rights of others.

The representative of Ukraine also spoke during the debate, and the observer for Palestine exercised its right of reply.

When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. Thursday, it will continue its discussions on the right to self-determination.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to consider items related to the right of peoples to self-determination.  For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3650 of 31 October.

Statements

OLEH GRYTSAYENKO (Ukraine) said, as a State Party to the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries since 1993, Ukraine had assumed and faithfully respected its obligations under that instrument and refrained from any act which would defeat the object and purpose of the Convention.  Ukraine had consistently supported the efforts of the international community aimed at suppressing illicit trafficking in arms and involvement of mercenaries in such trafficking, which posed a threat to self-determination and human rights throughout the world, particularly in Africa.

He said the report of the Special Rapporteur on mercenaries said that Ukrainian nationals were among the foreign military personnel collaborating with the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).  It should be stressed that the legislation of Ukraine took full account of its international commitments and provided for criminal prosecution against offenders.  The Government, therefore, requested additional information with respect to the alleged presence of Ukrainian mercenaries aiding UNITA.  So far, the competent authorities of Ukraine had not received any corroborated evidence of involvement of Ukrainian nationals in such activities either from the Angola Sanctions Panel or from the Member States.

AVRAHAM MILLO (Israel) said Israel recognized the importance of the right to self-determination.  Indeed, the creation of the State of Israel had been the fulfilment of the Jewish people’s inherent right to self-determination.  Regarding his Palestinian neighbours, he said that Israel’s recognition of their right to determine their own future had formed the basis of the 1993 Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements.  At the same time, the right to self-determination did not provide a mandate for any people to unilaterally exercise that right in any manner they saw fit.

That right certainly did not legitimize the Palestinian campaign of terrorism -- the daily murder of Israelis on buses, in shopping malls or in discotheques, he said.  The exercise of the right to self-determination must include awareness of the rights of others.  Such awareness must reflect the understanding that the conflict in the Middle East was not the story of one people’s quest for self-determination, but the story of two peoples, both seeking to live in security and freedom.  Yet, when Palestinians terrorized innocent people, they were not only denying others the rights they themselves sought, but they also undermined their own society. 

Thus, he continued, the realization of the Palestinian desire for self-determination must not be achieved through force of arms, but through negotiations conducted in an atmosphere free from the threat of violence.  [Palestinian Authority] Chairman Yasser Arafat had repeatedly committed himself to a non-violent resolution to the conflict.  Israel was still waiting for him to honour that promise.  Israel sincerely yearned for the day when both parties could return to a viable political process that would guarantee both the Palestinian right to self-determination as well as the right of the Jewish people to live free from threats of violence and terror.

CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said the Government attached great importance to the right of self-determination, a right which was enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, as well as in common article 1 of the International Covenants of 1966.  Liechtenstein believed that the prominence afforded to this right illustrated its importance, both for the maintenance of international peace and security and for the full respect of all human rights.  The political reality, however, was different, especially since the end of the decolonization process.  Since then, the right of self-determination had become somewhat of an orphan in the debates of the United Nations.

Ms. Fritsche said some observers had gone so far as to argue that once a people had achieved independence, the right of self-determination became obsolete -- that this could only be exercised once.  On the other end of the spectrum, there were those who invoked the right of self-determination in order to advocate secession and independent statehood.  A new approach which differed from both those schools of thought would be most beneficial for the work of the United Nations.  It needed to be recognized that the right of self-determination was exercised in many different ways -- genuine democratic elections were an essential means for people to exercise that right.  More importantly, it also had to be understood that the equation of self-determination with independent statehood was erroneous.  The Friendly Relations Declaration of 1970 made it clear that the exercise of the right of self-determination could take on different forms and be expressed in different ways.  Given the fact that internal armed conflicts constituted the overwhelming majority of armed conflicts worldwide, it was high time that the international community start thinking about innovative and effective ways to apply the right of self-determination.

She said discussions on self-determination often also led to debates on territorial integrity and, indeed, the broader issue of sovereignty.  As a small country, Liechtenstein attached as much importance to the principle of sovereignty as anyone could.  It also believed, however, that there were notions of sovereignty which no longer enabled the international community to deal with the realities it was facing today.  It was believed that an effective and innovative application of the right of self-determination would be an expression of educated self-interest.  Giving a voice to the disenfranchised and creating a fully participatory society was, in the long term, the only way to ensure sustainable development and, indeed, a society living in peace and prosperity.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the observer for Palestine said the statement made by her delegation earlier today clearly reflected its position on the right to self-determination.  She had taken the floor this afternoon to clarify some of the statements made this afternoon by Israel, particularly those referring to that country’s recognition of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.  She stressed that the right to self-determination of the Palestinians did not emanate from any international agreement -- it was an inherent and inalienable right of every member of the international community.

She said that agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) did not and should not supersede international law. Unfortunately, despite the modicum of progress that had been made during the past year, Israel’s oppressive policies had intensified in recent weeks.  As for violence, she had never heard of a people living under foreign occupation who actually enjoyed being oppressed.  No one turned to violence unless they were continually terrorized or oppressed.

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For information media. Not an official record.