DEVELOPMENTS IN TOKELAU DESCRIBED AS MODEL FOR ACHIEVING PROGRESS IN NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES, DURING FOURTH COMMITTEE DEBATE

1 October 2002
GA/SPD/235

DEVELOPMENTS IN TOKELAU DESCRIBED AS MODEL FOR ACHIEVING PROGRESS IN NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES, DURING FOURTH COMMITTEE DEBATE

01/10/2002
Press Release
GA/SPD/235


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

3rd Meeting (PM)


DEVELOPMENTS IN TOKELAU DESCRIBED AS MODEL FOR ACHIEVING PROGRESS


IN NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES, DURING FOURTH COMMITTEE DEBATE


Relationship Between Territory, UN, New Zealand

Characterized by Transparency, Generosity Committee Told


Developments in Tokelau were described as a model of how progress could be achieved for all the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization issues this afternoon.


The representative of Bolivia said that progress had been made in Tokelau because transparency and generosity characterized the relationship between New Zealand, the people of Tokelau and the United Nations.  She called on other administering Powers to follow New Zealand’s example.  Recounting her experience as part of the Special Decolonization Committee’s August visiting mission to Tokelau, she said the people there needed more information on the options open to them.  She supported, therefore, the proposed resolution for a comprehensive survey, addressed to the people of Tokelau, on the meaning and scope such options.


New Zealand’s representative said that his country had previously provided Tokelau with general information about its decolonization options, but agreed that there was need to provide more concrete explanations about those options before an act of self-determination.  The Special Committee's mission had been able to clarify to the people of Tokelau that self-determination did not necessarily entail severing links with New Zealand.  He said his country welcomed the mission's recommendations to conduct a study on the nature of the decolonization options and their implications and set up an education programme to inform the population on the nature of self determination.  But, such a study would be most effective if it built upon the initial discussions between New Zealand and Tokelau, rather than becoming a parallel process.


A number of other speakers stressed the value of the visiting mission itself to Tokelau.  Venezuala’s representative said the Tokelau mission should encourage similar activities in other Territories.  The mission provided not only precise information, but also the renewed belief that only through coordinated and cooperative action could lasting solutions be found.  Visiting missions, regional seminars and other activities should be given greater relevance in carrying out the Committee's mandate.


Concerning other Territories, the representative of Algeria stressed that

the United Nations Settlement Plan was the only acceptable framework to resolve

the Western Sahara question.  Endorsed by the international community, the Settlement Plan would ensure a just, lasting and definite solution and would allow the Saharawi people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.


Burkina Faso’s representative said that the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to arrive at a just solution to the Western Sahara conflict were invaluable, and he confirmed his support for them.  It was the Organization's responsibility to help those efforts, so that Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) would be able to emerge from the quagmire that had affected the international community and Africa.


Regarding all such long-standing situations, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda said, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), that there should be no faltering of the international commitment to the three options of legitimate political status:  independence; free association; and integration with full political rights, based on the fundamental principle of full and absolute political equality.  The urge to legitimize the present dependency arrangements must be resisted.


Also this afternoon, the Committee decided to grant requests for hearing from one petitioner on the matter of Gibraltar and 17 on the question of Western Sahara.


Other speakers this afternoon were the representatives of the United Kingdom, India and Papua New Guinea.


When the Fourth Committee meets again at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 2 October, it will hear petitioners and representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to continue its general debate on decolonization items.  [For background, see press release GA/SPD/234 of 30 September 2002.]


Statements


ASSUNTINA FALZARANO (United Kingdom) reported on the fourth annual meeting of its Overseas Territories Consultative Council, which, she said, was a forum for democratically-elected Chief Ministers of those Territories to discuss issues of concern collectively and directly with British Government ministers.  In many areas, her country’s partnership with the Territories continued to evolve and progress.  In February, the British Overseas Territories Act became law and its provisions included the right of abode in the United Kingdom, freedom of movement in Europe, and a change of name from “dependent” to “overseas” territory.


In addition, she said, constitutional reviews were underway in almost all Territories, and work was going ahead to implement the principles of an Environment Charter for the Territories.  Her Government would also assist the Territories with access to regional and bilateral European Commission trade, economic and development assistance within the provisions of the 2001 Overseas Association decision.  Overall, the relationship with the Territories was based on self-determination, mutual obligations and freedom to run local affairs to the greatest degree possible, among other principles, in accord with the United Nations Charter and other international agreements.


While that approach, she said, was also in accord with that of the Special Committee on Decolonization, that fact was not always properly reflected in all relevant resolutions.  In particular, the all-important principle of self-determination continued to be applied only selectively by that Committee.  Nevertheless, the United Kingdom would continue to work to improve its cooperation with the Special Committee, particularly in efforts to achieve progress for its Overseas Territories.


ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that the United Nations, which was often denounced for its lack of success, could be proud of its role at the forefront of emancipating colonial peoples.  Over 80 nations had gained independence.  The example of Timor-Leste should inspire the Committee to continue its struggle, so that people under the colonial yoke could be freed.  People must be able to exercise the right to self-determination.


The Saharawi people of Western Sahara, like the people of Timor-Leste, could also determine their own fate, he continued.  Some 10 years ago, the Settlement Plan had been negotiated by the United Nations, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO).  The Security Council, in its resolution 1429 (2002) reaffirmed the Settlement Plan's full validity, which was the best way to find a just and lasting solution to the Western Sahara issue, a conflict that had lasted too long. 


The Settlement Plan would allow the Saharawi people to decide their own fate through an impartial referendum on self-determination under the auspices of the United Nations, he said.  The Identification Commission had faced numerous difficulties in determining the electoral body.  The Secretary-General in his report of 27 April to the Security Council, as well as Council resolutions     1238 (1999) and 1263 (1999), had specified that the process for petition could not be changed in the identification process.  Some 139,000 appeals had been submitted to paralyse the Commission and prevent it from completing its work.  As a result, the door had been opened to an alternative solution, which looked like "pseudo-autonomy".


The Moroccan manoeuvre had failed, he added.  The Security Council reaffirmed the validity of the Settlement Plan and confirmed its determination to find a just and lasting acceptable solution to the problem.  It was not an issue of residence or substantial autonomy, but of a settlement based on the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  That was the logical conclusion of any decolonization process.


He reiterated Algeria's commitment to the procedure that would finally end the fratricidal conflict in the Territory.  The Saharawi people would prevail, as had the people of Timor-Leste.  Resolving the conflict would be a great gain not only for the Saharawi people, but also for all the people of the region.  He called for the continuation of the process and the implementation of the Settlement Plan, which was the only acceptable framework to resolve the Western Sahara question.  The Settlement Plan -- endorsed by the international community  -- would ensure a just, lasting and definite solution and would allow the Saharawi to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.


TIM McIVOR (New Zealand) said that the Committee's mission that visited Tokelau in August had been able to clarify to the people of Tokelau that self-determination did not necessarily entail severing links with New Zealand.  He said his country welcomed the mission's key recommendations, which, he said, were to conduct a study on the nature of the three decolonization options and their implications, and set up an education programme to inform the population on the nature of self-determination.


He said that New Zealand had previously provided Tokelau with general information about the three decolonization options in a 1986 paper translated into Tokelauan and presented to the General Fono, but that there was need to provide more concrete explanations about the three options to the people of Tokelau before an act of self-determination.


He said that task would be possible after the Modern House of Tokelau project had been fully developed and the relationship framework between the two parties, called the Joint Statement of the Principles of Partnership Between New Zealand and Tokelau, was in place.  The Modern House project would give New Zealand and Tokelau a practical demonstration of the decision-making process at the local level, while the relationship framework would provide a more structured partnership between the parties.


He said the study the Committee recommended would be most effective if it built upon the initial discussions between New Zealand and Tokelau, rather than run as a separate or parallel process.  On the issue of the education programme, he said the time was not ripe to develop detailed educational material on the decolonization options.  Noting that the Committee had anticipated that education be provided as step four of the decolonization process, the representative said, "In our view, the partners in this process have not yet completed steps two and three."

PATRICIA CASTRO GOYTIA (Bolivia) fully agreed with the statements of Costa Rica and Brazil on behalf of the Rio Group and Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), respectively.  Recounting her experience from visiting Tokelau, she said the people there needed more information on their options.  She supported, therefore, the proposed resolution for a comprehensive survey addressed to the people on the meaning and scope of the various options.  She also stressed the importance of first-hand information on Non-Self-Governing Territories, such as that derived from visiting missions. 


Transparency and generosity, she said, characterized the relationship between New Zealand, Tokelau and the United Nations.  She called on other administering Powers to follow suit.  Concerning the Falklands/Malvinas and neighboring islands, she hoped that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom would resume negotiations to find a just and lasting solution.  She stressed also the validity of the Settlement Plan and the work of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy in the matter of Western Sahara.  Finally, she encouraged the Committee to do its utmost to put an end to colonialism in the twenty-first century.


V.K. NAMBIAR (India) said with the independence of Timor-Leste, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained.  Clearly, much ground had been covered, but a challenge remained.  The continued existence of those territories was a reminder that the task of eliminating the evil of colonialism was not yet complete.  The role of the Special Committee on Decolonization was to ascertain the political aspirations and development of those people, and allow them to choose the right political and socio-economic institutions.


The administering Powers, in particular, had a vital role, he said.  Stating that cooperation, rather than confrontation, should be the guiding principle, he called on the administering Powers to support the Committee's role in a spirit of cooperation, understanding, political realism and flexibility.  He noted the dispatch of the visitor mission to Tokelau, which required the full cooperation of New Zealand's Government, as well as the participation of the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand in the regional seminar held in Fiji this year.  He urged that such interaction be sustained and built upon.


He expressed the hope that during the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, lasting progress would be made in implementing the Declaration for each individual Territory, he said.  India had suffered the baneful effects of colonialism.  That increased its commitment to the struggle for its elimination.


PATRICK ALBERT LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the political and socio-economic development of the Caribbean Territories was integral to the region as a whole.  In addressing the decolonization dilemma faced by the Committee, he said concrete results must be the focus of attention.  In particular, he regretted that the implementation of previous recommendations approved by the General Assembly had been woefully insufficient on the part of some administering Powers and the United Nations system itself.


In that connection, he said, CARICOM reiterated its view that there should be no faltering of the international commitment to the three options of legitimate political status:  independence, free association; and integration with full political rights, based on the fundamental principle of full and absolute political equality.  The urge to legitimise the present dependency arrangements must be resisted.  He reiterated, therefore, the call for full implementation of all decolonization resolutions, including the plan of action of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and its call for alleviating the information deficit on the subject.  The United Nations must be duty-bound to assist the Territories in a proactive way, as they proceeded on the path toward full internal self-government with absolute political equality.


Concerning Western Sahara, he said the Saharawi must be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination.  Towards that end, CARICOM continued to fully support the United Nations Settlement Plan and urged both parties to engage in negotiations toward a free and fair referendum, which should take place as soon as possible.  Until the decolonization process was completed in a genuine way, no one could claim to be free.


Ms. PEREZ-CONTRERAS (Venezuela) said that with the recent admission of Timor-Leste and Switzerland to the United Nations, the principal of universality had been further enhanced.  During the session, the Committee would debate the political, legal, and socio-economic conditions of the Territories, which was fundamental for a proper understanding of the specific circumstances in each Territory.  The Committee needed to consolidate a strategy to overcome obstacles to the decolonization process.  Statements by petitioners and various other entities were an important point of reference for the Committee's decisions.  The information they provided would assist the Committee in finding pragmatic formulas to complete decolonization process. 


It was a complicated process, and the administering Powers had a special and unavoidable responsibility, she said.  Their cooperation was crucial in case by case consideration of the Territories.  Visiting missions, regional seminars and other activities should be given greater relevance in carrying out the Committee's mandate.  The recent visiting mission to Tokelau should encourage similar activities in other Territories.  That mission provided not only precise information, but also the renewed belief that only through coordinated and cooperative action could lasting solutions be found. 


On the remaining 16 Territories, specifically the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), she supported Argentina's aspirations for sovereignty.  She urged the parties to resume talks, which would allow for a just and lasting solution to the dispute.  Dialogue between the United Kingdom and Argentina at the highest level would provide the necessary conditions for appropriate negotiations.  Regarding Western Sahara, she supported the holding of a just referendum as soon as possible in order to implement the provisions of the 1991 Settlement Plan.  The Saharawi people must be allowed to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.  There was no alternative to the principle of self-determination.  She deplored the fact that the negotiating process had not led to the convening of a referendum, despite the huge amount of time and resources devoted to overcoming the obstacles to a decisive voting procedure.  She hoped the parties would cooperate with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, so as to find a peaceful solution to the dispute.


JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) noting that the majority of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories were small, remote ones in the Pacific and Caribbean

regions, supported the development of a work programme for each on a case-by-case basis.  Such programmes had to be innovative, forward-looking and based on the circumstances in each Territory, in order to lay a foundation that would allow the peoples of the Territories to determine their own future without any duress.  He urged the Committee to persevere with its work, which required the kind of cooperation and goodwill shown by New Zealand and France in the past several years.  He hoped the other two major administering Powers, the United States and the United Kingdom, would follow suit, allowing individual work plans to be adopted for each of the remaining Territories.


After having visited Tokelau, he said, it was evident that such a plan was well on its way to being implemented for that Territory.  He was optimistic that such progress could be made elsewhere.  In particular, he mentioned informal consultations for Pitcairn Island with the two administering Powers concerned, the United States and the United Kingdom.  In New Caledonia and Western Sahara, he called on all parties to work together and put the interests of the Kanak and Saharawi peoples ahead of any other agenda, allowing them to express their wishes and inalienable right to determine their own future.  For all the remaining Territories, the development of individual work programmes must be universal.  He reassured the Committee of his country’s cooperation in future deliberation and work in that regard.


MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that the recent accession of Timor-Leste to the United Nations demonstrated that the Committee's work was not in vain.  The problem of Western Sahara was an African one, and had affected the continent for more than two decades.  Burkina Faso believed that a sensitive and discerning approach must be used in resolving the dispute.  The parties must continue to cooperate with the United Nations and persevere on the road to a peaceful settlement of the dispute.  No action should be taken that would jeopardise the process.  The Security Council had asked the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, James Baker III, to find a political solution to the question of Western Sahara.  All proposals and resolutions should have the sole purpose of supporting the process advocated by the Security Council. 


The Committee must do its utmost to prevent the adoption of resolutions that ran counter to the spirit and letter of the Security Council resolutions, he said.  The efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to arrive at a just solution to the conflict were invaluable, and he confirmed his support for them.  It was the Organization's responsibility to help them so that Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO would be able to emerge from the quagmire that had affected the international community and Africa.


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For information media. Not an official record.