SPECIAL COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT TEXTS ON TOKELAU, UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS, GUAM

17 June 2002
GA/COL/3066

SPECIAL COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT TEXTS ON TOKELAU, UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS, GUAM

17/06/2002
Press Release
GA/COL/3066


Special Committee on

Decolonization

7th Meeting (AM)


SPECIAL COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT TEXTS ON TOKELAU,

UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS, GUAM


Adopting, without a vote, a resolution on Tokelau, the Special Committee on Decolonization this morning called on New Zealand and the United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further develops its economy and governance structures in the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution.


Addressing the Committee, the Ulu of Tokelau said the Territory had the ingredients for a national government, but the foundation required consolidation. Tokelau had mapped out a draft plan for the next three years, which would be put to the council of elders of each of its three villages next month and to the General Fono (national parliament) in July.


However, he continued, a vision could not be converted to real action without the means of doing so.  Therefore, the Territory was looking forward to redefining the relationship between it and the administering Power.  He wished to know from the administering Power the level and nature of guarantees the relationship would provide so that Tokelau could factor that into its future plans.  Tokelau would then be able to draw up a realistic plan of programmes, matched with planned levels of resources for any given period.


The Administrator of Tokelau, Lindsay Watt (New Zealand), said the Tokelau example was a useful case study on successful decolonization.  New Zealand's economic assistance was adapted to the stages of Tokelau's journey to self-determination, he continued.  For the third year, New Zealand would continue specific funding for the Modern House Project supporting both capacity-building and economic development.  That was in addition to the traditional levels of budget and project support.  The total level of assistance in 2002/2003 would be $NZ 8.1 million.


New Zealand and Tokelau were shaping a broad plan for advancing the self-determination process, he said.  Both partners considered it timely to review their relationship to confirm a commitment to each other, to identify underlying principles in the relationship and to clarify expectations.


By the terms of another resolution adopted this morning, the Special Committee urged all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia, to maintain, in the framework of the Noumea Accord, their dialogue in a spirit of harmony.


Also this morning, the Committee heard from the representatives of the United States Virgin Islands and Guam.  Carlyle Corbin, on behalf of that United States Virgin Islands Government, said that the 1993 referendum held in the Territory had failed mainly because the population was presented with seven options.  While the level of public awareness on the process of self-determination had been low even at that time, it had declined further since then.


Debtralynne Quinata, Education Officer of Guam's Commission on Decolonization, said the administering Power had found ways to prolong Guam's colonial situation ever since Guam had first appeared at the United Nations in 1982.  Guam's greatest fear was not that it would be the last Non-Self-Governing Territory, but that it would be the "first global colony".  The United Nations should look into ways of decolonizing Guam.


Statements were also made by the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Syria, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Fiji, Cuba and Antigua and Barbuda.


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 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 June, to consider the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).


Background


The Special Committee on Decolonization met this morning to consider the questions of New Caledonia, Tokelau, Guam and the United States Virgin Islands.


A draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia, sponsored by Fiji and Papua New Guinea (document A/AC.109/2002/L.13), would have the Special Committee urge all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia, to maintain, in the framework of the Noumea Accord, their dialogue in a spirit of harmony.  The Committee would also call on the administering Power to transmit information regarding the political, economic and social situation of New Caledonia to the Secretary-General.


In addition, the Special Committee 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 the options are open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians according to the letter and the spirit of the Noumea Accord, which is based on the principle that it is for the populations of the Territory to choose how to control their destiny.


Also before the Committee is a draft resolution on the question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2002/L.14), also sponsored by Fiji and Papua New Guinea.  It would have the Committee welcome the initiation of dialogue with the administering Power and the Territory in June 2001 with a view to the development of a programme of work for Tokelau in accordance with General Assembly resolution 55/147 of

8 December 2000.  The Committee would also call on the administering Power and the United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further develops its economy and governance structures in the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution.


The Committee also had working papers on New Caledonia and Tokelau prepared by the Secretariat (documents A/AC.109/2002/13 and 6).


The working paper on Guam prepared by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2002/8) says that, in a statement to the Caribbean Regional Seminar in May 2001, the Governor of Guam said that Guamanians were Americans and they generally viewed their citizenship and the United States military interests in Guam as integral parts of their lives.  Their goal was more meaningful participation in their relationship with the United States, to have more say in the laws, rules and regulations that governed them.


Unfortunately, the United States Constitution, with all its liberties, was not written with America’s small offshore islands in mind.  The Governor concluded by urging the Special Committee to keep the playing field level between the world’s largest nations and the world’s smallest jurisdictions.


On 10 December 2001, the representative of the United States stated before the General Assembly that his country was fully supportive when countries chose independence and was proud to work with them on an equal and sovereign basis.  For Territories that did not choose independence, however, the United States also supported the right of people in those Territories to a full measure of self-government, if that was what they chose.  The United States believed that a single standard of decolonization should not be applied to every Territory and it called on all Member States to respect the choices made by the residents of Non-Self-Governing Territories.


The working paper prepared by the Secretariat on the United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2002/4) states that no significant action on the political status of the Territory has been taken since a referendum was held in 1993.  In that ballot, only 27.4 per cent of registered voters voted on the question (of whom 80.3 per cent supported the existing status, 14.2 per cent voted for full integration with the United States and 4.8 per cent voted for an end to United States sovereignty).  The result was considered invalid as less than the requisite 50 per cent of the electorate voted.


On 10 December 2001, the General Assembly adopted resolution 56/72,

section XI, of which concerns the United States Virgin Islands.  Among other things, the Assembly expressed concern that the territorial Government was facing severe fiscal problems, which had resulted in an accumulated debt of more than

$1 billion, welcomed the measures being taken by the newly elected territorial Government in addressing the crisis, and called on the administering Power to provide every assistance required to alleviate the fiscal crisis, including the provision of appropriate debt relief and loans.  Also, the Assembly noted that the 1994 report of the Territory’s Commission on the Status and Federal Relations had concluded that, owing to the insufficient level of voter participation, the results of the 1993 referendum had been declared null and void.


Statements


JIMMY URE OVIA (Papua New Guinea), introducing the draft resolution on New Caledonia, said that it remained more or less the same as last year’s text.  He recommended that it be accepted by the Committee.


The Special Committee adopted the draft resolution without a vote.


LINDSAY WATT (New Zealand), Administrator of Tokelau, said the Tokelau example was a useful case study on successful decolonization.  The Ulu, or titular head of Tokelau, was the authentic voice of his homeland.  He would update the Committee on Tokelau's Modern House Project, its home-grown solution to today's challenge in governance at both the local and national levels.


He reviewed the process of the Committee's work programme for Tokelau and said Tokelau was a participant in the decolonization  process, rather than an adjunct to the administering Power and the United Nations because of a confidence that nothing would be imposed on Tokelau against its will.  Tokelau could not revert to its earlier, self-sufficient times based on subsistence.  It had to forge workable, dependable links with the outside.  A challenge for Tokelau's leadership was to help elders, and ordinary fishermen and weavers, to understand how internal and external factors were interrelated.  A non-threatening dialogue between the Tokelau leadership and the administering Power in the context of the United Nations was most helpful.


New Zealand's economic assistance was adapted to the stages of Tokelau's journey to self-determination, he continued.  For the third year, New Zealand would continue specific funding for the Modern House Project, supporting both capacity-building and economic development.  That was in addition to the traditional levels of budget and project support.  The total level of assistance in 2002/2003 would be $NZ 8.1 million.


New Zealand and Tokelau were shaping a broad plan for advancing the self-determination process, he concluded.  Both partners considered it timely to review their relationship to confirm a commitment to each other, to identify underlying principles in the relationship and to clarify expectations.  The relationship framework would be a practical tool, developed on a collaborative basis with an independent legal-constitutional adviser for Tokelau.  The discussions should bear fruit by December.  The outcome would be better-coordinated support for Tokelau in the areas of sustainable economic development, capacity-building, governance and the Committee of 24 process.


Statement by Tokelau


The Ulu of Tokelau said that Tokelau had the ingredients for a national government, but the foundation required consolidation.  Tokelau’s society, living in three distinct villages, shared a common history, language and culture, and its people were bound by strong family lines.  The Territory was making decisions regarding powers and responsibilities that should be accorded to national institutions and those that should be retained within the three villages.  The need for a national institution, like the General Fono (national parliament), had been recognized.  Its powers were to be sourced from the collected powers of the three villages.


He acknowledged the collective support to be given by the administering Power and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for at least another year to the Modern House of Tokelau project, he said.  On the national front, the Territory had mapped out a draft plan for the next three years.  Those draft plans would be put to the council of elders of each village next month and to the General Fono in July.


Tokelau’s efforts, said the Ulu, would be based on guaranteed support from the administering Power and the United Nations.  Enough resources and knowledge had to be available to ensure that people would be provided with good health and education programmes, among other things.  He wanted Tokelau to start working seriously on revenue-earning activities to ensure it was not totally dependent on aid from New Zealand, and for it to contribute more financial resources to the national budget.  That should give Tokelau a sense of ownership, achievement and higher level of responsibility in terms of its financial decisions.


However, he continued, a vision could not be converted to real action without the means of doing so.  Therefore, the Territory was looking forward to redefining the relationship between it and the administering Power.  He wished to know from the administering Power the level and nature of guarantees the relationship would provide so that Tokelau could factor that into its future plans.  Tokelau would then be able to draw up a realistic plan of programmes, matched with planned levels of resources for any given period.


He felt that with a little bit of help and know-how, Tokelau could build a sustainable economic foundation based on its largest natural resource -– fisheries.  Commercialization of its fisheries had become a priority for the Territory’s three-year plan.  To carry out those plans, it needed skilled human resources and initial injection of capital.


He was pleased to inform the Committee that the Territory and its administering Power were planning to re-examine their relationship so that the expectations of each became clearer.  Moreover, the administering Power was giving serious consideration to a request for a new facility in its capital to facilitate better dialogue between the partners and more effective support to the Territory during its nation-building phase.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that the experience of the Committee in dealing with Tokelau had given hope that the work of decolonization was moving forward.  It was remarkable to see both the Ulu and the Administrator of the Territory speaking in the Committee.  He expressed his appreciation for the way in which New Zealand had dealt with the situation.  He acknowledged the efforts of both sides in drawing up a work plan.  The Government of New Zealand had undertaken all required efforts to meet the needs of the people of Tokelau.  He looked forward to seeing that approach followed by all other territories, based on the specificities of each case.  That was the only viable way to proceed down the path for the Second Decade for Decolonization.


BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said he had read the Committee's report on the Modern House Project.  The structure of the process in Tokelau was a pleasant surprise.  It was comprehensive and included participation of the UNDP.  It was obvious that Tokelau wanted to modernize and to do so at its own pace.  That was reassuring for the Committee, whose purpose was not to push events too quickly.  The situation in Tokelau was one of the best examples of cooperation between the Committee, the self-determining entity and the administering one.


LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) noted the use of the term "village" by the Ulu and related it to the broad concept of the "global village".  He said the relationship between New Zealand and Tokelau illustrated an element seldom seen in the decolonization process.  That was the sense of equality and partnership between the non-self-governing entity and the administering one.  It should be kept in mind that both parties were equal partners in the process of self-determination.


AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) said a self-determining territory was reassured when it knew that the administering Power would not abandon it.  New Zealand had shown concern for Tokelau.  As a result of the good relationship between the two parties, the entire world would assist Tokelau in its process.


RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said there were few occasions when the Committee could point to such an encouraging example of cooperation as in the situation of Tokelau.  Lessons could be learned from the parties.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) reiterated that if and where there was political will, the work of the Committee could move forward as it embarked on the Second Decade for Decolonization.  As more administering Powers came forward with that sort of commitment, progress could be achieved towards the goal of eradicating colonialism.  It did not matter how big or small the territory was, progress could be made.


He then introduced the draft resolution on Tokelau, which the Committee adopted without a vote.


On the question of the United States Virgin Islands, CARLYLE CORBIN, on behalf of that Territory’s Government, said that the public information campaign, which was so successful in East Timor’s case, should be put in place for all the Territories.  The wider United Nations system and regional institutions had a role to play in providing information on the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It was also appropriate that information from public sources, such as constitutional reviews, be reflected in the Committee’s resolutions.  Including the conclusions from the Committee’s regional seminars in the resolutions was equally significant.  He felt that a mechanism to review the implementation of the Assembly’s resolutions should be established.


Regarding the text on the United States Virgin Islands, he said that last year’s text was just a repetition of the previous years.  Also, the reference to the results of the 1993 referendum was misleading.  He suggested that the reference be reviewed with a view to its deletion.  At the same time, the measures taken by his Government to alleviate the economic crisis in the Territory should be included.


Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that he did not have specific information about the political and constitutional developments of the Territory.  The working paper prepared by the Secretariat stated that the last referendum in the Territory was in 1993.  The figures on that referendum had been given, and it was said that the result was judged not valid, as the number of voters was under the required 50 per cent.  He wanted to know how much information the population of the Territory had on the question of self-determination.  He had also read that the administering Power did not wish for the Territory to be considered as non-self-governing.  Therefore, more information on the Territory was needed.  What was being done to inform the public about the Committee’s work and the process of self-determination?


Mr. CORBIN said that the results of the referendum were declared null and void, which had been referred to in last year’s resolution.  On the extent of information the population had, he said that he had been a member of the Political Status Commission during the referendum period.  One of the concerns expressed then was whether the exercise was one of self-determination or a local popular consultation.  There had been a request for clarification on the matter to the United Nations, to which he had not received a reply.  The results reflected the fact that the population did not have adequate information on the referendum itself and the options presented.


Mr. STANISLAUS (Grenada) said that on 10 December 2001 the Assembly adopted resolution 56/72.  What was the status of the part of that resolution regarding the Territory’s participation in various regional organizations?


Mr. CORBIN said that the present political status required a request to the administering Power for participation in any international organization.  The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had been of long-standing interest to successive governments of the Territory.  The Governor had made a formal request to the Administering Authority for a formal delegation for observer status.


With regard to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), he said that in the middle of the 1990s an interest had been expressed by the then government for associate membership in that organization.  At that time, a formal request had been made through the Administering Authority.  At that time, it was felt that it was not an appropriate time for that request.  However, the Territory remained interested in the OECS and would revisit the issue with the Administering Authority at a later date.  With regard to the Association of Caribbean States, no formal request had been made to the Administering Authority at the current time.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) asked whether the 1993 referendum was called for or conducted with the consent of the people of the Territory.  Second, how would Mr. Corbin describe the relationship between the Territory and the administering Power?


Mr. CORBIN replied that the referendum was a local referendum, which had been called for by legislation of the Territory, resulting from consultations among the political leadership.  It was the third exercise in examining the political status of the Territory, which began in 1980.  There was consistent cooperation on many levels between the Territory and the Administering Authority, he said.  It certainly existed on the socio-economic level, but he was awaiting the decisions to be taken by the Territory regarding potential changes in the political status.


With regard to informing the public on the self-determination process, he said that since the last referendum the level of awareness had declined.  One of the main issues in terms of a political education programme was financing.  While his Territory had improved its economic condition, it would be difficult to maintain an ongoing political education programme on the issues regarding self-determination.  The confusion during the referendum centred around the number of options presented to the population, which numbered seven, as well as issues related to voter eligibility.


PATRICK ALBERT LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda) said that Mr. Corbin had not been able to convince him as to why he needed a passport to go to the United States Virgin Islands when travelling from the United States, when he did not need one to travel to Puerto Rico.  Also, he expressed appreciation for what the United States Virgin Islands had done to absorb the citizens of the other territories in the eastern Caribbean.


Mr. CORBIN replied that the United States Virgin Islands, like Guam and other American territories, was outside the customs zone of the United States.  While one did not need a passport to enter the United States Virgin Islands, one did need one to re-enter the United States.  Puerto Rico was the only American territory within the United States customs zone.


Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) asked Mr. Corbin to clarify what the seven options were in the 1993 referendum, since the Committee only recognized three for the process of decolonization as contained in resolution 1541.


Mr. CORBIN said that the seven options were the main reason why the process failed.  The options were variations of the three main options and were: integration; an interim process leading to integration; the status quo; the status quo by another name; a Commonwealth relationship; independence; and a free associated State.


DEBTRALYNNE QUINATA, Education Officer of Guam's Commission on Decolonization, said she was a member of the Chamorro Nation and had participated in the United Nations seminar in Fiji last month.  She had been appointed to her present position since that seminar.  The Commission was a bipartisan, multibranch agency headed by the Governor of Guam.  She was participating in the Committee to support the work of the seminar and the language of the draft resolution on Guam.  The Commission requested to be included in any discussion of changes in the existing language.


The Commission had been established in 1997, she continued.  It had come about because the United States had failed to move forward with Guam's Commonwealth Act initiative, presented to the United States Congress in 1988.  A task force had been established to study and produce a position paper on three status options for Guam.  Those were independence, free association or statehood.  A public education programme was to have been set up.  It was to be followed by a plebiscite enabling the "native inhabitants" of Guam to exercise their right of self-determination.  Phase one of the programme had been completed.  Phase two had started, but had come to a standstill.  The plebiscite had been postponed because of Guam's economic situation, which was very bad.


The administering Power had found ways to prolong Guam's colonial situation ever since Guam had first appeared at the United Nations in 1982, she said.  Lately, the United States had been referring to Guam's importance to the world as a United States military base.  "Let us not kid ourselves, our administering Power is trying to lure you into believing that Guam is so important to world peace that we should be left as a colonial territory", she said.  Guam's greatest fear was not that it would be the last Non-Self-Governing Territory, but that it would be the "first global colony", she said.  If Guam was to be a United Nations colony, then the United Nations should be its administering Power.  The United Nations should look into ways of decolonizing Guam.  Another administering arrangement could be set up, or Guam could be allowed to go to the International Court of Justice.


Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that the major issue was one of funding for the proposed plebiscite.  He wondered what the Committee could do to provide financing to assist the people of Guam.  He requested the Chairman to seek clarifications regarding the plebiscite and the options being presented to the people of Guam.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said that the Committee would like to consult with both Guam and the administering Power on the draft resolution on that Territory.  Regarding current developments, he asked whether there was a timetable

for revisiting the issue of the plebiscite, which was postponed due to financial difficulties.  He hoped the options to be presented would not be similar to those that had been presented to the United States Virgin Islands in 1993.  What kind of work was being done to move in that direction?  Also, was Guam and the United States working towards the kind of positive cooperation displayed today by Tokelau and New Zealand?


Ms. QUINATA replied that the work being done in Guam was geared towards the three options prescribed by the United Nations.  That work came to a halt following 11 September 2001.


Mr. LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda) said that having heard once again an appeal by a Non-Self-Governing Territory to visit that Territory, he asked the Chairman to look into the option of holding seminars in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Mr. MEKDAD (Syria) said that Committee had written to the administering Power concerning holding a seminar in Guam and had received a negative response.


* *** *


For information media. Not an official record.