EAST TIMOR’S INDEPENDENCE ANOTHER MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT OF DECOLONIZATION MOVEMENT, SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE

12 February 2002
GA/COL/3058

EAST TIMOR’S INDEPENDENCE ANOTHER MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT OF DECOLONIZATION MOVEMENT, SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE

12/02/2002
Press ReleaseGA/COL/3058

Special Committee on

Decolonization

1st Meeting (AM)

EAST TIMOR’S INDEPENDENCE ANOTHER MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT OF DECOLONIZATION MOVEMENT,

SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE

Committee Elects Officers, Adopts 2002 Work Programme

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, presiding over the opening of the 2002 session of the Special Committee on decolonization, noted that in May East Timor would join the ranks of sovereign States, thus marking another major achievement of the decolonization movement, which had brought about one of the signal transformations of the twentieth century. 

She said the Special Committee had played a central role in keeping the principle of self-determination on the agenda of the United Nations.  It would continue to review the political, social and economic situation in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, paving the way for the General Assembly resolutions aimed at protecting the interests of the peoples of those Territories.  She hoped that in the new century it would be possible to close, once and for all, and in accordance with the 1960 Declaration on decolonization and all relevant resolutions, a chapter in history that truly belonged to a previous era.

Also today, the Committee elected the following officers:  Earl Stephen Huntley (Saint Lucia) as Chairman; Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue (Côte d'Ivoire) and Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla (Cuba) as Vice-Chairmen; and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) as Rapporteur.  It also adopted its programme of work for 2002.

Following his election, Mr. Huntley (Saint Lucia), Committee Chairman, urged  implementation of existing resolutions aimed at fostering the political, socio-economic and constitutional development of the Territories under review.  Moving that process forward meant integrating the particularly lucid recommendations of the people of the Territories, themselves, whose unique sense of the “contemporary colonial dynamic” in their territories, coupled with the application of relevant international law and the principles of decolonization, should guide the process.

The representatives of Cuba and Côte d'Ivoire, Committee Vice-Chairmen, also made brief statements, as did the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Antigua and Barbuda, New Zealand, China, Grenada and Venezuela.  The representative of Fiji extended his country's offer to hold the next regional pacific seminar.

The Committee –- formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples –- will meet again at a date to be announced.

Background

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 2002 session this morning, to elect officers and consider its organization of work for the current session. 

The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General drawing attention to the resolutions and decisions of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly relevant to the Committee’s work (document A/AC.109/2002/L.1).  It also had before it a Chairman’s note on the organization of work (documents A/AC.109.2002/L.2), with a list of pending matters for consideration by the Special Committee during 2002 and a tentative programme of work and timetable. 

The Special Committee was created by General Assembly resolution 1654 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.  The 17-member Special Committee was expanded to 24 members in 1962 and the size of its membership has varied since. 

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; Tunisia; United Republic of Tanzania; Venezuela and Yugoslavia. 

Statements

Deputy Secretary-General LOUISE FRÉCHETTE said the Special Committee had played a central role in keeping the principle of self-determination on the agenda of the United Nations.  In May, East Timor would join the ranks of sovereign States -- ending a long period of suffering and marking another major achievement of the decolonization movement, which had brought about one of the signal transformations of the twentieth century. 

The Committee would continue to review the political, social and economic situation in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, paving the way for the General Assembly resolutions aimed at protecting the interests of the peoples of those Territories, she said.  It had also sought to remind both the administering Powers and the territorial peoples that such Territories could be said to have reached a full measure of self-government if one of three options had been achieved:  free association; integration; or independence.  None of those options should be imposed.  Rather, they must be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territorial peoples.

She said she hoped that the administering Powers would respond to the efforts of the Committee to find creative and constructive ways to address the long-standing issue of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  She urged them to move forward in finding appropriate arrangements with the full participation of the people of each Territory.  That was an opportunity that should not be missed.

In recent years, she said, the Committee had tried to open new doors, to engage all the administering Powers in a practical dialogue on the long-standing issue of the remaining Territories, so that each could freely determine its political status and pursue its economic, social and cultural development.  She hoped that the administering Powers would respond to those efforts -- such cooperation was essential.  She hoped that in the new century it would be possible to close, once and for all, and in accordance with the 1960 Declaration and all relevant resolutions, a chapter in history that truly belonged to a previous era.

Committee Chairman EARL STEPHEN HUNTLEY (Saint Lucia) said that while progress had been made in furthering decolonization during the first international decade for its eradication, some 17 territories remained under review.  The time had come for the international community to accelerate its efforts to implement the mandate aimed at fostering the political, socio-economic and constitutional development of those territories.  Success required bridging the information gap between the United Nations and the territories, where often complex administrative arrangements had been established over time. 

He said that the Organization’s analysis of the intricacies of those dependency arrangements and the response of the people of the territories to such initiatives had been inadequate.  The regional seminars of the Special Committee were the best opportunity for understanding the perspective of the representatives of the territorial governments, civil society and regional experts on their respective decolonization processes.  Their unique understanding of the “contemporary colonial dynamic” in their territories, coupled with the applicability of international law and the principles of decolonization, should serve as the primary guides for the Committee’s work. 

Continuing, he said that the particularly lucid recommendations of the people of the territories, themselves, must be integrated into United Nations’ resolutions if the process was to move forward.  The urge must be resisted to adopt repetitive language when new developments could update the texts.  That would make the Organization’s work more relevant and show the people of the Territories that the United Nations remained vigilant with respect to their political future.  As an ambassador of a small island State, he was confronted daily by the difficulties in making its voice heard in the din of an increasingly globalized world order. 

He said he was acutely aware of how much more painful it was for small Non-Self-Governing Territories, encumbered by their colonial condition, to win world attention to their quest for full and absolute political equality.  “We cannot and must not forsake them in their struggle,” he added.  The Special Committee could assist considerably in the development of true self-government, but that required a concerted and sustained effort towards implementing the General Assembly’s resolutions and decisions.  The necessary expertise and resources were also required to undertake a critical analysis of the present dependency arrangements, particularly in the small island Territories. 

Also needed was the resumed participation of the administering Powers, he said.  Towards that goal, he would seek to reactivate the informal dialogue between the Special Committee and the administering Powers with the critical addition of the territorial representatives.  That informal process, however, was not an adequate substitute for the formal participation of all stakeholders in the Committee’s work.  Resumption of the formal tripartite dialogue between the Committee, the administering Powers and the territorial governments would further reduce the existing information gap. 

PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea) said that although the record of the mandate of the Special Committee in the first decade had been somewhat lackluster, he was optimistic that with the full cooperation of all administering Powers, progress would be made towards completing the work programmes for each of the remaining Territories within the new decade.  The majority of the Territories presented unique problems and challenges including vulnerabilities created by their size, remoteness and small populations.

As he had expressed before, he said the Committee must change its perspective and method of work to better assist the peoples of the Territories.  Together with the cooperation of the administering Powers, especially New Zealand and France in the last few years, the Committee could and would complete its work.  He held out much hope that such cooperation and constructive spirit would be forthcoming from the other two major administering Powers, the United States and the United Kingdom, for all the remaining Territories under their respective jurisdictions.  With that political will, the Committee could move swiftly towards the formal adoption of case-by-case work programmes for each remaining Territory.  There should be no distinction between them, he stressed.

PATRICK ALBERT LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda) said he wondered whether Committee members were subjecting themselves to “self-colonization”.  He was referring to the fifty-sixth General Assembly session in which his delegation had been admonished for quoting from bodies linked to the United Nations, such as the Organization of American States and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  It had been informed that the studies quoted must be derived from the United Nations.  There was a danger in not taking into consideration the findings of such regional groups or “think tanks”.  Indeed, that was defeating the Committee’s purpose and rendering it too narrow in scope.  On the other hand, when the world’s most influential administering Power used the same reference in a statement made in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), no challenge had been made.

He noted that most of the remaining territories were small island developing countries in the Caribbean and Pacific.  Antigua and Barbuda had always paid special attention to the needs and aspirations of the people of those territories in their quest for independent status.  A reference had been made last year in the Fourth Committee to the “information deficit” regarding United Nations’ knowledge of the situations on the ground.  That information deficit must be addressed.  One way was to re-establish a mechanism to replace the former subcommittee that had been abolished during the Organization’s reform in the 1990s.  That subcommittee had allowed for a detailed discussion of the situation in the territories and an examination of new information.  Subsequently, that process had formed the basis for new resolutions. 

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba), Committee Vice Chairman, after congratulating the other members of the Bureau on their election and thanking the outgoing Chairman for his work the previous year, said the Committee found itself at a crucial stage of its mandate.  That was especially true given the complexity of the current international situation.  He endorsed the ideas expressed by the representative of Papua New Guinea, regarding cooperation between the Committee and the administering Powers.  A new decade in the work of the Committee was beginning, he noted.  The efforts of all United Nations Member States were required, if the tasks before it were to be achieved.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUÉ (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking as Vice-Chairman, congratulated the new officers upon their election today and expressed his gratitude to former Chairman, Peter Donigi (Papua New Guinea).  He had developed correct policies and provided useful advice during the interim period for Côte-d’Ivoire.  Similarly, the Deputy Secretary-General’s remarks would guide the Committee in its work to rid the world of the “remaining relics” of the old era.  The relevant resolutions of both the Security Council and the General Assembly formed the basis for those efforts.  Within that framework, which had been accepted by all, it was important to hear from the administering Powers the current session.  Members should urge the administering Powers to contribute to the Committee’s work.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand) congratulated the Bureau on its election.  As one of the administering Powers, he noted the cooperation of the Committee's secretariat over the years.  He said Tokelau had continued to make significant progress towards attaining a full measure of self-government in the past year.  A draft work programme had been discussed by New Zealand and Tokelau, and late last year the Tokelau Employment Commission had taken over responsibility for public service.  New Zealand continued to provide substantial funding for Tokelau and would continue to work closely with the Committee.  New Zealand was committed to supporting Tokelau's desire to move at its own pace.  He was confident that further progress would be made in the year ahead.

SUN JIWEN (China) said he hoped the Chinese “year of the horse” would hopefully bring much luck to the Committee’s work.  In recent years, that body had attained much success, yet the decolonization process had not been crowned with a final achievement.  All United Nations members last year adopted a resolution on launching the second decolonization decade, which signaled that further efforts should be made in the next 10 years to press ahead with that process.  He appealed to the administering Powers to collaborate with the Committee in its future work.  Hopefully, the Bureau would strengthen consultations with various members.  Attention should also be paid to the success of the recent regional seminar, which played an important role. 

LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) said that if a plan of action were effectively executed over the next decade, the remaining Territories, by their own wish and design, could achieve what the international community had been attempting to achieve for so many years.  Self-determination could not be forced on the Territories, he stressed. 

DOMINGO BLANCO (Venezuela) congratulated the members of the Bureau on their election and pledged his delegation's support for the work of the Committee.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) encouraged members to complete the tasks ahead early in the second decolonization decade.  He was extremely pleased that another country, East Timor, would be joining the “rank and file” of independent States on 20 May.  The process was going in the right direction.  East Timor’s independence should motivate the administering Powers to board the “bandwagon” and cooperate with the Committee in bringing to independence the many more territories on its list.  As it was the Pacific’s turn to host the next regional seminar, he offered Fiji as the next venue.

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For information media. Not an official record.