DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CALLS ON ADMINISTERING POWERS TO RECEIVE UNITED NATIONS VISITING MISSIONS

2 June 2003
GA/COL/3083

DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CALLS ON ADMINISTERING POWERS TO RECEIVE UNITED NATIONS VISITING MISSIONS

02/06/2003
Press ReleaseGA/COL/3083

Special Committee on

Decolonization

3rd Meeting (AM)

DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CALLS ON ADMINISTERING POWERS

TO RECEIVE UNITED NATIONS VISITING MISSIONS

Adopts Three Resolutions; Also Highlights Importance of Wide

Dissemination of Information in All Media on UN’s Decolonization Work

The Special Committee on decolonization, welcoming the continuing informal dialogue between itself and some administering Powers, called on the administering Powers to receive United Nations visiting missions in the Territories under their administration.

In one of three resolutions adopted this morning, two of them as orally amended, the Special Committee also stressed the need to dispatch periodic visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories to facilitate the full, speedy and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples with respect to those Territories.

The Committee also requested its Chairman to consult with the administering Power of Guam to facilitate the dispatch of a United Nations visiting mission to that Territory.

Adopting a text on the dissemination of information on decolonization, the Special Committee requested the Departments of Political Affairs and Public Information to take into account the suggestions of the Committee to continue their efforts to take measures through all the media available, including publications, radio and television, as well as the Internet, to give publicity to the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization. 

Briefing the Committee on the work of the Department of Public Information (DPI), Thérèse Gastaut, Director of the Strategic Communications Division, highlighted the Department’s activities in disseminating decolonization information and contributing to building awareness, including through the use of publications, the Internet, radio and television. 

Representing the Department of Political Affairs, Anna Theofilopoulou noted that regional seminars, such as the one recently held in Anguilla, were valuable venues for those concerned with decolonization to obtain guidance on the path towards self-determination.  Her Department, in close cooperation with the DPI, would continue to identify priorities and needs in the quest for decolonization.

In the discussion that followed, several members of the Committee highlighted the need for the Information Department to better target their work towards the people of the Territories and the administering Powers.  It was crucial to educate the people of the Territories on the options available to them in the area of decolonization, they stressed.  Some delegations hoped that the next regional seminar, to be held in the Pacific region, could take place in one of the Territories in that region.

In other action, the Special Committee requested the administering Powers concerned to transmit or continue to transmit to the Secretary-General the information prescribed in Article 73 e of the Charter, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned, within a maximum period of six months following the expiration of the administrative year in those Territories. 

Under Article 73 e, Member States, which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of Territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government, undertake to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible.

Also this morning, the Special Committee acceded to the requests for hearing on the question of Gibraltar, contained in aide-memoire 9/03, and on the question of Western Sahara, contained in aide-memoire 10/03.

The 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories covered by the Committee are:  American Samoa; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands/Malvinas; Gibraltar; Guam; Montserrat; New Caledonia; Pitcairn; Saint Helena; Tokelau; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States Virgin Islands; and Western Sahara.

Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of Cuba, Côte d’Ivoire, Syria, Bolivia, United Republic of Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Chile.

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, and commonly referred to as the “Special Committee of 24”, will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 4 June.

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 met this morning to begin its 2003 session.

Created by General Assembly resolution 1645 of 1961, the Special Committee examines and makes recommendations on the application of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and makes suggestions and recommendations on the progress and extent of the implementation of the Declaration.

The Committee meets annually to discuss the developments in Non-Self-Governing Territories, hears statements from appointed and elected representatives of the Territories and petitioners, dispatches visiting missions to the Territories, and organizes seminars on the political, social, economic and education situations in the Territories.  It formulates proposals and carries out actions approved by the Assembly in the context of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010).

In addition, the Committee makes recommendations concerning the dissemination of information to mobilize public opinion in support of the decolonization process and examines the assistance provided to the people of the Territories by the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system.

The Committee’s membership was expanded from 17 to 24 in 1962 and its size has varied since.  Its current members are 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 and Venezuela.

The bureau of the Committee consists of Chairman Earl Stephen Huntley (Saint Lucia), Vice-Chairpersons Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue (Côte d’Ivoire) and Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla (Cuba), and Rapporteur Fayssal Mekdad (Syria).

Statements

THÉRÈSE GASTAUT, Director of the Strategic Communications Division, Department of Public Information (DPI), introduced the Department’s annual report entitled “Dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from June 2002 to May 2003” (document A/AC.109/2003/18).  The General Assembly had requested that the DPI, headed by Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor, use all media available to publicize the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization.  The report responded to that mandate.

She said the Department had been using the Internet and building partnerships with civil society through the network of United Nations Information Centres to disseminate decolonization information as widely as possible.  The independence of Timor-Leste, welcomed by the press as an international success story, had been a subject of extensive coverage.  In addition, 34 press releases pertaining to the work of the General Assembly, the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, and the Special Committee of 24 had been published and distributed in English and French.  Information on decolonization questions had also been included in the training programmes of the United Nations tour guides.  The Department’s representatives had covered the recent regional conference in Anguilla and issued daily press releases.  In addition, the Secretary-General’s message to that forum had been widely distributed.

Turning to radio, she said it continued to include decolonization matters in its regular programmes and current affairs magazines.  Non-official and official languages were used to report on such topics as the situation in the Falklands/Malvinas, Gibraltar, and the accession of Timor-Leste to the United Nations, including an interview with President Xanana Gusmao of Timor-Leste.  Coverage of the verdicts of the Indonesian courts for crimes committed during the violence in Timor-Leste was provided by “United Nations Today”, a daily English-language programme.

With regards to television, she said the “United Nations in Action” series had produced three films on Timor-Leste, which had been broadcast by CNN “East Timor:  A New Nation Is Born”; “East Timor Gets Ready for International Trade”; and “Timor-Leste:  Better Birthing for a Newborn Nation”.  In the area of publications, the quarterly magazine United Nations Chronicle had offered extensive coverage on work being done in the field of decolonization, in particular, the success of Timor-Leste and recent developments in Tokelau, and she described a number of articles in 2002 and 2003, in print and online, on such questions.

ANNA THEOFILOPOULOU, representing the Department of Political Affairs, said that her Department had been able to put together a brochure by monitoring government Web sites, obtaining information from government officials and the Department of Public Information, and consulting reports written by people living in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Published by the Information Department, the brochure contained contact addresses and useful information and had been widely distributed at meetings of the Special Committee.  During the recent conference in Anguilla, packages of the brochure had been given to all attending.  Her Department had also expanded its roster of decolonization experts and academics, and contributed updated maps, related to decolonization, that were visible on the United Nations tour.

She said regional seminars were valuable venues for those concerned with decolonization to obtain guidance on the path towards self-determination.  Her Department encouraged networking between people from different Non-Self-Governing Territories.  She lauded the fact that the Anguilla seminar had taken place in a Non-Self-Governing Territory and that the administering Power had been present and supportive of those living in such Territories teaching each other about understanding self-determination.  She said her Department, in close cooperation with the Department of Public Information, would continue to identify priorities and needs in the quest for decolonization.

ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) thanked the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs for their work on decolonization.  The Committee on Information, which had recently analysed the DPI’s work, had stressed the need to disseminate to the people in the Territories information about their options regarding decolonization.  Emphasis must continue to be laid on the dissemination of the work of the Committee and the United Nations in that area.  When he arrived in Anguilla, he had been pleasantly surprised to see in an Anguillan newspaper a press release produced by the DPI on the Caribbean regional seminar on the prospects and options for the people of that Territory.  That showed that the work done by the DPI in that connection was not in vain, but rather it was useful work that should be improved upon and continued.

All forms of media available to the DPI should be used, he added.  Also at the seminar, the Committee members realized that there was a lack of knowledge about the work of the Committee and the United Nations in many Territories.  The progress made in the field of information and communications technology must be harnessed to tackle the challenges that remained.  He congratulated both Departments in their work and urged them to continue to work with the same degree of dedication and enthusiasm.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that while the work of the DPI was appreciated, perhaps it was not sufficiently targeted at the populations in the areas concerned.  Everyone was surprised at the fact that the populations concerned were not informed that they were given three options by the United Nations.  It was necessary to send the information to the people themselves.  When it came time to decide, it would be up to the common man, the “man on the street”, in addition to the politicians, to choose which option was best for the Territories. 

Also, he said, the information should be targeted at administering Powers, so they understood that there were still people under the “colonial yoke”.  Although the United Nations was carrying out interesting work, the information was not sufficiently disseminated.  Everyone must work together to ensure that the challenge to put an end to colonialism was met.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) thanked the representatives of the DPI and the Department of Political Affairs for their statements on the efforts being made in the area of decolonization.  The Special Committee had excellent relations with both Departments and cooperation between the three was being deepened.  The achievements made during the regional seminar encouraged the Committee to continue its work to close the file on decolonization.  What had been achieved in the area of decolonization represented a concrete achievement.  He called on those States that had not effectively participated in the work of the Committee to do so.  In particular, the administering Powers of Territories in Asia and the Pacific should ensure that the next pacific regional seminar be held in one of the Territories under their administration.

He noted with admiration the expanding work of the Information Department.  At the same time, he wished to see further work and achievements.  He hoped that other parts of the United Nations system would also cooperate in that work.  Cooperation between the Committee and the Department of Political Affairs had always been constructive, and he hoped that would continue in the future.

ERWIN ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) expressed satisfaction that, for the first time, the Caribbean regional seminar had been held in one of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  In that regard, he expressed his gratitude to the United Kingdom, the administering Power, for allowing that to happen.  He then said that, in Anguilla and Tokelau, despite the work of the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, there was still much to be done.  Specifically, he criticized the lack of information and, in some cases, disinformation about self-determination being given to those residing in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

He said that if the Committee truly wished to speed up decolonization, then the Departments should be asked to step up their informative work and more directly address the peoples living in the Territories.  While radio and the Internet were useful tools, it was important to recognize that not everyone in the areas in question were able to access them.  Acknowledging the Information Department’s budget constraints, he asked its representative if she was able to assess the impact of the various media used for dissemination, how she evaluated the quality of the disseminated information, and how she verified whether or not her Department’s goals were being met.

LIBERATA MULAMULA (United Republic of Tanzania) lamented the fact that coverage of the seminar had not begun until a day before the meeting.  Before the seminar’s commencement, it had been difficult for members of civil society and government officials to learn about what would be discussed.  Stressing that more had to be done to educate people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories about self-determination, she said it was necessary to have a feedback mechanism to see if distributed information was being effective.

Referring to a territory without a United Nations presence, she said it should be ensured that the United Nations was heard and the relevance of its work understood throughout the non-self-governing world.  In addition, coordination between the Departments needed to be strengthened.  The Committee, after all, was serviced by many units with many different mandates, and that made its work more difficult.  Before concluding her remarks, she lauded the fact that gender mainstreaming was evident in the units.

JIMMY URE OVIA (Papua New Guinea) echoed the comments of other speakers on the important work the Committee needed to do in the current Decade.  The first and most important need was to educate the people of the Territories on the options available to them.  He also hoped the next Pacific seminar could take place in one of the Territories in that region.  Due to their smallness and uniqueness, it was difficult to deal with the remaining Territories.  Also, he noticed a “fatigue” in discussing decolonization and the rest of the Territories.

He called on the administering Powers for greater cooperation.  In each of the small Territories, more work needed to be done so that the three options could be understood by the people of the Territories.  It was necessary to coordinate the work so that it was targeted towards the aim of decolonization.  As he had experienced in Tokelau, many people did not understand what the three options were.  More work was necessary to explain what those three options meant for the people of the Territories.

AMENATAVE YAUVOLI (Fiji) highlighted two lessons he learned from the Anguilla seminar.  The first was that there was a lack of relevant information on the work of the Committee.  There was a need to remove the fears of the people of the Territories, which stemmed from a lack of proper information on the options available to them.  The second lesson was that the constructive engagement of the administering Powers was crucial in fulfilling the Committee’s mandate.

Ms. GASTAUT thanked the members of the Committee for their comments, particularly on targeting the work of the Information Department towards the people of the Territories and the administering Powers.  She expressed the Department’s willingness to continue a dialogue with the Committee in that respect.  Assessment was an important issue for the DPI, and at the heart of the Committee on Information’s discussions.  The DPI was working on criteria to better evaluate the impact of its work, and it was necessary to adopt a more systematic approach in that regard.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on dissemination of information on decolonization, contained in document A/AC.109/2003/L.4.

JAIME ACUÑA (Chile) proposed an addition to operative paragraph 1.  The phrase “in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations on decolonization” should be added to the end of that paragraph.

The Committee adopted the text, as orally amended, without a vote.

Next, the Committee adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations, as contained in document A/AC.109/2003/L.5.

Following that, the Committee took up the draft resolution on the question of sending visiting missions to Territories (document A/AC.109/2003/L.6).

Mr. ACUÑA (Chile) proposed adding the following phrase “in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations on decolonization” at the end of operative paragraphs 1 and 2.

The text was adopted, as orally amended, without a vote.

In addition, the Committee authorized the Secretariat, subject to availability of funds, to make the necessary travel arrangements for representatives of three Territories to participate in the work of the Committee later this month.

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For information media. Not an official record.