SPEAKERS STRESS NEED TO ‘STAY THE COURSE’ UNTIL 16 REMAINING NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES ACHIEVE SELF-DETERMINATION, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE BEGINS DEBATE
SPEAKERS STRESS NEED TO ‘STAY THE COURSE’ UNTIL 16 REMAINING NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES ACHIEVE SELF-DETERMINATION, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE BEGINS DEBATE
Fifty-eighth General Assembly
2nd Meeting (PM)
SPEAKERS STRESS NEED TO ‘STAY THE COURSE’ UNTIL 16 REMAINING NON-SELF-GOVERNING
TERRITORIES ACHIEVE SELF-DETERMINATION, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE BEGINS DEBATE
Stressing the need to stay the course until the 16 remaining Non-Self- Governing Territories achieved self-determination, speakers reaffirmed their commitment to the mandate of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), as that body began its general debate on decolonization issues this afternoon.
Noting that nearly three years after the proclamation of the Second International Decade on the Eradication of Colonialism some 2 million people still struggled towards self-determination, the representative of Iran underscored the need for dissemination of information among the peoples of the Territories on their rights to self-determination, as well as the importance of a case-by-case approach in dealing with the Territories and the need to strengthen cooperation with the administering Powers. Visiting missions and regional seminars, he added, provided a unique opportunity for the representatives of the Territories to present their views.
Describing the Special Committee on Decolonization as the “main force” of the United Nations for the decolonization of the remaining Territories, Peru’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, noted that since that body’s creation, more than 80 million people had been able to exercise their right to self-determination and more than 60 territories had been decolonized. Despite its success in the transformation of the political world map, however, the United Nations had not yet fulfilled the goal of complete decolonization.
An information deficit was among the impediments that remained to the realization of the universal right to self-determination for the peoples of the remaining 16 Territories, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said. Representatives of most of the territories had not been informed of their political options and information to Member States on the contemporary colonial dynamic in the Territories was equally lacking. Regional seminars, held alternatively in the Caribbean and Pacific, were an important way to bridge the information gap and offered the opportunity for in-depth discussion.
The 2003 seminar, held in Anguilla in May 2003, brought together Member States, United Nations agencies and regional experts who engaged in in-depth discussions and energetic debates on the main issues on the decolonization agenda, she said. Indeed, speakers unanimously welcomed the fact that for the first time, a regional seminar was held in a Non-Self-Governing Territory and praised the Governments of the United Kingdom, the administering Power for 10 of the 16 remaining Territories, and Anguilla for organizing the Caribbean regional seminar.
Describing the seminar as “something of a landmark”, the representative of the United Kingdom noted it showed the extent to which many of the British Overseas Territories had dynamic, advanced economies, which already benefited from a high degree of self-government. As seen from London, the United Kingdom had the impression that there was no strong desire in its Territories to choose the path of independence. As long as the Territories choose to retain their link with the United Kingdom, the key would be to reconcile their desire for ever greater autonomy and self-government with the United Kingdom’s responsibility to ensure good governance, protect the impartiality of the public service and the independence of the judiciary, and to ensure compliance with relevant international obligations.
In other business this afternoon, Isaac Lamba (Malawi), from the Group of African States, was elected by acclamation as vice-chairperson. The Committee elected two vice-chairpersons and a rapporteur at its organizational meeting on 29 September. It was decided at that meeting to defer the election of a third vice-chairperson until a later date.
Enrique Loedel (Uruguay), Committee Chairman, opened this afternoon’s proceedings. The Rapporteur of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), introduced that body’s report and outlined its work during the 2003 session. Bernard Tanoh-Boutchouse, the Acting Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization, briefed members on the Special Committee’s work.
The Fourth Committee will meet again tomorrow, 7 October, at 3 p.m. to continue its general debate on decolonization issues.
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual debate on decolonization issues this afternoon, it had before it the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/58/23, Parts I to III), covering that body’s 2003 session.
Established by the General Assembly in 1961, the Special Committee was requested to examine the application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of December 1960, and to make recommendations on the progress of the Declaration’s implementation.
Part I of the report recalls that, in 1991, the Assembly endorsed a plan of action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, which would include the organizing of seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific regions to review progress achieved and the dispatch of visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories. At its fifty-fifth session, in 2000, the Assembly declared the period 2001 to 2010 the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and called on Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the plan of action. The Special Committee held a Caribbean regional seminar at The Valley, Anguilla, from 20 to 22 May 2003. A senior-level representative of the United Kingdom participated in the seminar, the purpose of which was to review the implementation of the Plan of Action for the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. [The full text of the report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar is attached as an annex to Part I.]
Regarding future work, the report says the Special Committee intends to continue during 2004 to pursue its efforts to bring a speedy end to colonialism and will continue to fulfil the responsibilities entrusted to it in the context of the Second International Decade. The Special Committee will continue to keep the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories under review, examining the impact of developments on the political advancement of each Territory. It will also review compliance by Member States, particularly the administering Powers, with the relevant United Nations decision and resolutions. The Special Committee intends to intensify its dialogue with the administering Powers for the purpose of furthering decolonization by developing work programmes for the specific Territories. The Committee is particularly encouraged by fruitful meetings with representatives of New Zealand and Tokelau regarding progress in the process towards the Territory’s self-determination and by the effective United Nations mission to Tokelau, in August 2002. Plans for a study of Tokelau’s self-determination options are still to be developed
Greatly encouraged by the growing interest and participation by the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the regional seminars, the report says, the Special Committee will continue to conduct seminars for the purpose of assessing, receiving and disseminating information on the situation in the Territories, to facilitate implementation of its mandate. The next seminar is planned for the Pacific region in 2004, and the Special Committee will continue to seek the cooperation of the administering Powers in dispatching United Nations visiting missions as a means of collecting first-hand information on conditions in the Territories and on the wishes of peoples for their future status.
Given the importance of disseminating information on decolonization, the report states, the Special Committee will continue to disseminate information on its activities and on the Territories in an effort to mobilize world public opinion to assist the people of the Territories to bring about a speedy end to colonialism. It also intends to develop, together with the Department of Public Information (DPI), programmes aimed at Territories that have requested information on self-determination options.
The Special Committee will continue to pay attention to the specific problems of the small island Territories, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the report says. In addition to general problems facing developing countries, small island Territories also suffer handicaps arising from the interplay of factors such as size; remoteness; geographical dispersion; vulnerability to natural disasters; fragility of ecosystems; constraints in transport and communications; great distances from market centres; a highly limited international market; lack of natural resources; and vulnerability to drug trafficking, money-laundering and other illegal activities. The Committee will continue to recommend measures to facilitate a sustained and balanced growth of the Territories’ fragile ecosystems and increased assistance in the development of all economic sectors, with particular emphasis on diversification.
According to the report, the Special Committee recommends, among other things, that the General Assembly renew its appeal to the administering Powers to take all necessary steps to implement the Declaration; request all administering Powers to become involved in the Special Committee’s work; and continue to invite the administering Powers to allow representatives of the Territories concerned to participate in discussions of the Fourth Committee. It also recommends that the Assembly make adequate provisions to cover the Special Committee’s activities in 2004. Should additional provisions be required over and above the 2004-2005 proposed programme budget, proposals for supplementary requirements would be made to the Assembly for its approval.
Part II of the report outlines the Special Committee’s consideration of specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2003 session, which began on 12 February, including on the dissemination of information on decolonization; visiting missions to Territories; economic and other activities that affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories; implementation of the decolonization Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and associated international institutions; information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter; and specific Territories. At its tenth meeting, on 23 June, the Special Committee adopted a consolidated resolution on 11 small Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Part III of the report contains draft resolutions and a decision recommended by the Special Committee to the General Assembly.
The Fourth Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter (document A/58/69).
[Under Article 73 e, Member States with responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained self-government accept to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on the socio-economic and educational conditions in those territories other than Trusteeship territories falling under Chapters XII and XIII.]
Article 73 e transmissions include information on geography, history, population and socio-economic and educational conditions. In the case of Territories under the administration of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, annual reports include information on constitutional matters. An annex to the report contains the dates of information transmitted to the Secretary-General for the years 2001 to 2004. The Secretary-General recommends that the information received from the administering Powers be used for the Secretariat’s preparation of working papers for discussion by the Special Committee on decolonization at its annual session.
Also before the Fourth Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/58/71), covering the period June 2002 to April 2003. The report lists 56 countries that have offered to make scholarships available to inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and in current period offers from Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Mexico, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
According to the report, applications for scholarships received by the United Nations Secretariat are simultaneously transmitted to the offering States for consideration and to the administering Powers for information. In the period covered by the report, the Secretariat received no requests from students for information on the availability of scholarships.
The Fourth Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/58/66). It contains a list of the agencies and institutions that were invited to submit information on their efforts to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions. Summaries of the replies received from those bodies are contained in document E/2003/47.
On the question of Western Sahara, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary General (document A/58/171), which summarizes the reports that have been submitted by him to the Security Council on the situation concerning Western Sahara from 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003. On 30 January 2003, the Security Council adopted resolution 1463 (2003), by which it extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 March 2003 in order to give the parties time to consider the proposal presented to them by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy. Subsequently, the Secretary-General pointed out, in a letter to the President of the Security Council (document S/2003/341) dated 19 March 2003, that his Personal Envoy had presented and explained to the parties a proposal for a political solution to the conflict in Western Sahara entitled “Peace plan for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara”. On 25 March 2003, the Council adopted resolution 1469 (2003) extending MINURSO’s mandate until 31 May 2003.
In his subsequent report (document S/2003/565), the report says, the Secretary-General informed the Council that owing to the parties’ incompatible positions with respect to the possibility of negotiating changes in the draft framework agreement favoured by Morocco, or the proposal to divide the Territory, favoured by Algeria and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), he had presented to the Council four options in his report of February 2002 (document S/2002/178) which would not have required the concurrence of the parties.
As a first option, the report continues, the United Nations could have resumed its efforts to implement the Settlement Plan without requiring the concurrence of both parties before action could be taken. As a second option, the Personal Envoy could have revised the draft framework agreement, taking into account the concerns expressed by the parties and others with experience in such documents. As a third option, the Security Council could have asked the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to explore with the parties one final time whether or not they were willing to discuss -- under his auspices, directly or through proximity talks -- a possible division of the Territory, with the understanding that nothing would be decided until everything had been decided. As a fourth option, the Council could have decided to terminate MINURSO, thereby acknowledging that after more than 11 years and the expenditure of nearly half a billion dollars, the United Nations was not going to solve the Western Sahara question without requiring that one party or both do something they did not voluntarily agree to do.
The Security Council had not been able to agree on any of the options, the report states. Instead, by its resolution 1429 (2002), it had expressed its continued strong support for the Secretary-General’s efforts and those of his Personal Envoy to find a political solution that would provide for self-determination, taking into account the concerns expressed by the parties. Consequently, the Personal Envoy had presented to the parties and neighbouring countries a peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara (document S/2003/565, annex II), which he had also shared with Council members in March.
According to the report, the peace plan represented a compromise. It envisaged a period of transition during which there would be a division of responsibilities between the parties before the holding of a self-determination referendum that would provide the bona fide residents of Western Sahara with an opportunity to decide their future. Unlike the Settlement Plan, the peace plan did not require the consent of both parties at each and every stage of its implementation.
Assessing the parties’ responses, the Secretary-General had stated that Morocco’s main objection to the peace plan seemed to be that, in the referendum to determine the final status of Western Sahara, independence was one of the ballot choices, the report says. While the Secretary-General felt the peace plan could be amended to assuage the concerns of Morocco, he informed the Council that the POLISARIO Front’s chief objection to the peace plan seemed to be that it was not the Settlement Plan. The responses of the parties, he added, suggested that they still lacked the genuine will required to achieve a political solution to the conflict. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1429 (2002), the Personal Envoy had developed a fifth option, namely, “the peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”.
The report says that the Secretary-General recommended that the Council endorse the peace plan, saying he had reluctantly come to the conclusion that unless and until the parties demonstrated readiness to assume their own responsibilities and make the compromises necessary to reach a successful outcome to the conflict, a fresh initiative to find a solution to the question of Western Sahara was likely to suffer the same fate as the earlier ones. Accordingly, he urged the Council to address the long-standing issue of Western Sahara by requesting the parties to agree to the peace plan as amended, and to work with the United Nations in its implementation.
Further, according to the report, the Secretary-General concluded that if the parties could not agree on an approach for a political solution and if the Security Council was not in a position to ask them to take steps that they did not perceive to be in their own interest, the Council might wish to consider whether it was inclined to remain actively seized of that political process. On 30 May 2003, the Council adopted resolution 1485 (2003), by which it extended MINURSO’s mandate until 31 July 2003 in order to consider further the Secretary-General’s report of 23 May 2003 (document S/2003/565).
Before commencing its general debate on decolonization issues, the Committee elected, by acclamation, Isaac Lamba, from the Group of African States, as vice-chairperson. Today’s action followed the Committee’s decision last week to defer the election of a third vice-chairperson until a later date.
Committee Chairman ENRIQUE LOEDEL (Uruguay) opened the deliberations on the decolonization items, extending a welcome to the members of the Special Committee on decolonization, which had been responsible for many changes on the face of the map. Decolonization had been one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century. Today, due to the untiring efforts of the United Nations, most of the world’s population was no longer under colonial rule. The sterling work accomplished by the Special Committee had been one of the hallmarks of the United Nations success since its inception at the end of the Second World War. The Special Committee had carried out its mandate in many ways, including by sending missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories; careful analysis of information submitted under article 73 of the Charter; and the hearing of petitioners.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee, introducing that body’s report on its work during the 2003 session, said the year 2003 had been remarkable. For the first time in its history, it had held its annual seminar in a Non-Self-Governing Territory, namely, Anguilla. During the period under review, the Special Committee had been guided by the goals of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and the Plan of Action, which contained concrete recommendations for the action to be taken by the Special Committee, the administering Powers, the specialized agencies and other United Nations bodies to expedite the end of colonialism.
The report underlined the importance of intensified dialogue with the administering Powers, he said. The 2002 visiting mission to Tokelau had recommended that a study be conducted on the self-determination options and their implications for Tokelau. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was ready to finance the task, and the Special Committee awaited the finalization of the terms of reference for the study. The Caribbean Regional Seminar, held at The Valley, Anguilla in May 2003, had been a real breakthrough in the Committee’s work. For the first time, the agenda of the Seminar had focused on special issues concerning the Caribbean Territories. An unprecedented number of chief ministers from the Territories had also participated, as well as senior representative from the United Kingdom.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), Acting Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, highlighted the significance of this year’s regional seminar, which, for the first time, was held in one of the Non-Self-Governing Territories -- the British Territory of Anguilla. Although it covered all the remaining Territories, he added, the seminar focused on advancing the decolonization process in the Caribbean and Bermuda, and that proved to be a productive format.
He said that the Fourth Committee adopted the substantive recommendations and conclusions of the seminar. As a follow-up measure, the Chairman requested that discussions be held with United Kingdom representatives on the process of constitutional modernization of the Caribbean Territories and Bermuda, and with representatives of the United States regarding the decolonization process in American Samoa. Although it was too early to gauge progress on concrete timetables, he said he was pleased to report that the initial reaction of both administering Powers had been positive.
MARCO BALAREZO (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said one of the United Nations main objectives was to ensure that societies worldwide could exercise self-governance. With the Organization’s sponsorship, more than
80 million people had been able to exercise their right to self-determination. Two of the main milestones in the process were the adoption, in 1960, of the Decolonization Declaration and the establishment of the Special Committee in 1961. Since its creation, the Special Committee was the main force of the United Nations for the decolonization of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Thanks to its work, more than 60 Territories were now decolonized. In spite of its success in the transformation of the political world map, however, the United Nations had not yet fulfilled the goal of complete decolonization.
To achieve that end, he continued, the General Assembly had declared 2000-2010 the Second International Decade for the Elimination of Colonialism. The Rio Group requested the administering Powers to adopt the necessary measures for the decolonization of each of the remaining Territories. It was essential that the Special Committee’s recommendations be implemented.
Regarding specific Territories, he said it was necessary for the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to once again initiate negotiations to find a fair and definite solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Regarding the Caribbean, the Rio Group welcomed the outcome of the May seminar in Anguilla. On the question of Western Sahara, the Group reaffirmed the responsibility of the United Nations in the matter, with a view to right of the Saharawi people to exercise their right to self-determination and to reach a just, durable and mutually acceptable solution. In that regard, the Group supported the actions of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to find such a solution, including the peace plan for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, as contained in his May 2003 report. He called on Member States to constructively work to totally eliminate colonialism in all its forms.
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba), expressed regret over the lack of success in implementing the decolonization process over the last years. He highlighted the work of the Decolonization Committee, but warned that its efforts and good intentions were not enough and that some administering Powers refused to keep an official and respectful relationship with the Committee.
Cuba, he said, opposed attempts to discredit the work of the Committee through the “manipulation” of the item on the revitalization of the General Assembly bodies. He rejected proposals to disband the Committee, or to fuse it with another body, and reiterated its support of its mandate.
He welcomed the visit of a mission of the Decolonization Committee to Tokelau as a positive trend that would lead to cooperation among administering Powers, Territories and the United Nations. At the same time, he rejected the fact that some administering Powers delayed submitting information on the Territories under their control and continued to undertake military exercises, despite the damage they caused to local populations.
He said that Cuba was gratified by the adoption of a number of resolutions recognizing the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1415 of the General Assembly. He expressed deep concern over the stalemate in Western Sahara and reaffirmed his conviction that holding an impartial referendum, including the option of independence, was the only viable way to find an honourable settlement.
Cuba, he said, reiterated its unrestrictive support of Argentina in the dispute over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and encouraged dialogue and cooperation between the parties. He also urged the administering Power of Guam to fully cooperate with the need to respect the inalienable rights of its inhabitants.
SUSANA RIVERO (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and its associated States, expressed her full support of the decolonization process. She called attention to the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom regarding the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). The member States of MERCOSUR, she said, were profoundly affected by that problem, which was irregular and unjust towards Argentina and had a negative effect on peace in the region. In that context, she reiterated MERCOSUR’s continuing support to all efforts designed to bring a solution to that anachronistic colonial situation.
MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela) said that, despite the scope and flexibility of the work of the Committee, some were of the opinion that little was being done in favour of Non-Self-Governing Territories. He considered those accusations to be unfair and misinformed. Many of the anxieties surrounding the work of the Committee were the result of lack of information and political will, as well as insufficient communication among actors, he added.
He reiterated his country’s support of Argentina regarding sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and urged parties to renew dialogue to find a fair and lasting solution to the dispute. Turning to the situation in Western Sahara, he restated his support to a just and impartial referendum and urged parties to cooperate with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy for a peaceful, lasting and equitable solution.
IHAB AWAD (Egypt) said the Committee examined a number of questions, which must be looked at both theoretically and practically. The United Nation should carry out more effective action to mobilize public opinion in favour of decolonization and to help the peoples of the Non-Self Governing Territories to enjoy their right to self-determination. He stressed the importance of questions linked to foreign colonization, as well as the need to carry out efforts in the area of decolonization with singular vision. In that regard, there was a need for the continuous exchange of views between the Special Committee and the Departments of Political Affairs and Public Information to seek the best ways to achieve the objectives of the decolonization process and to implement the Decolonization Declaration. The sufferings of the people of the Territories must be conveyed to the world, as well as their sovereign right to self-determination.
He also emphasized the importance of sending visiting missions, which played an important role in bringing global vision to bear on ways for ending colonialism. The mandate of those missions, their objectives and timing must be considered in detail. Consultation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers was also necessary. The administering Powers must provide the necessary reports on the socio-economic developments in the Territories. Regarding the question of economic and other activities in the Territories, the United Nations principles in that regard were very clear. He supported the efforts of colonialized peoples to benefit from their own economic resources.
Continuing, he said the Committee had a responsibility to revitalize the participation of specialized and regional organizations in the implementation of the Decolonization Declaration. There was also a need to consider the geographic situation in some of the Territories. Egypt supported the draft resolution to be proposed during the current session, which included the need to protect the environment of the Territories. Equal importance should be given to the need for basic services.
IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) said colonialism, or the subjection to foreign domination, had begun at the end of the fifteenth century with the discovery of the American continent. Although the process of decolonization had accelerated with the end of the Second World War in 1945, the phenomenon of colonialism still persisted. The United Nations had clearly defined the path to be followed for the liberation of peoples. The colonizing States had to respect the principles defined by the Organization in that respect.
The United Nations Charter, in its first Article, had confirmed the rights of people to self-determination. The United Nations reasserted that right in 1960 by adopting resolution 1514 on the granting of independence to colonial peoples and nations. Resolution 1541 defined the political framework for the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Chapter XI of the Charter was devoted to the Non-Self Governing Territories, including the need for the administering Powers to prepare colonized peoples for independence.
He said he could not speak about decolonization without mentioning what the Palestinian people were enduring. The Organization must ensure that the Palestinian people attained their inalienable right to self-determination, as well as the creation of a State and the return of refugees. The phenomenon of neo-colonialism, or the exploitation of poor countries by certain rich countries, must be fought. He hoped the decade would not end without the name of the last Non-Self-Governing Territory having been eliminated from the decolonization list.
MOHAMMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran) noted that today, three years after the proclamation of the Second International Decade, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained on the United Nations list and some 2 million people were still struggling towards self-determination. The Special Committee should continue to foster the decolonization process through developing a programme for the remaining Territories. Dissemination of information among the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories regarding their rights to self-determination was a significant step in the decolonization process.
He underscored the importance of a case-by-case approach in dealing with the Territories. Strengthening cooperation with the administering Powers with a view to developing work programmes for the remaining Territories was a most significant factor in the current decolonization process. In that regard, he welcomed the cooperation of the Government of the United Kingdom in holding the Caribbean Regional Seminar, held for the first time in a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
He also hoped that dispatching visiting missions to the Territories could take place in the future to enable the United Nations to assess the situation in the Territories and fulfil its mandate. Member States must be informed about the latest evolutions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories and their aspiration for self-determination. Regional seminars played an important role in identifying different matters of concern to the Non-Self-Governing Territories and provided a unique opportunity for the representatives of the Territories to present their views to the Special Committee. The positive experience of the Anguilla seminar encouraged the holding of future seminars in the Caribbean and Pacific Territories. Such seminars were excellent forums to discuss all the options for self-determination available to the peoples of the Territories.
ADRIAN PISA (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom, as administering Power for 10 of the 16 Territories on the United Nations list, welcomed the opportunity to bring the Committee’s attention to a number of significant developments that had taken place in the last year. Last October, the United Kingdom had highlighted parliamentary approval of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, which granted full British citizenship, with the right of abode in the United Kingdom and freedom of movement in Europe, to all British overseas Territories citizens from qualifying Territories on a non-reciprocal basis. While assumption of British passports had not been as high as had been anticipated, it had, nevertheless, been impressive, with some 14,000 issued by August 2003.
The process of constitutional reviews had continued, he said. Discussions were under way in the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. A committee set up by the authorities in Anguilla to canvas views from the population at large had not yet reported. The establishment of a locally appointed review commission was expected in the British Virgin Islands, and St. Helena was currently considering a new form of government. In Bermuda, a general election was held in July on the basis of 36 single seat constituencies, as recommended by a Boundaries Commission after widespread consultation. Elections were also recently held in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands, both of which resulted in a change of government and chief minister. On Ascension Island, a dependency of St. Helena, the biggest change in the island’s 500-year history had led to the election of the first Island Council in late 2002.
Regarding the Environment Charters for the Overseas Territories, signed in 2001, he said sound environmental management was a key component of sustainable development. The United Kingdom attached importance to working closely with the Territories to fulfil the Government’s commitments under multilateral environmental agreements and to support the Territories’ efforts to improve their environment. Mention of Bermuda and the environment was a reminder of the vulnerability of small island communities to the forces of nature. Last month, Hurricane Fabian had left a swathe of destruction across the island. In Montserrat, the massive collapse of the dome of the Soufriere Hills volcano in July had caused widespread damage.
Although there had been a number of positive developments over the past year, he said the most significant development was the Special Committee’s decolonization seminar held in Anguilla from 20 to 22 May. Something of a landmark, the seminar was the first time in the Special Committee’s history that its annual seminar had been held in a British Territory, or any of the remaining Territories on the United Nations list. The choice of venue and the focus on decolonization in the Caribbean territories and Bermuda had meant that several chief ministers and their equivalents, as well as opposition leaders and civil society representatives, had been able to attend. The seminar had been characterized by frank and lively exchanges between Territory representatives, the United Kingdom, as administering Power, and members of the Special Committee.
The seminar had showed the extent to which many of the British Overseas Territories had dynamic, advanced economies, which already benefited from a high degree of self-government. The United Kingdom at the seminar had made clear that, while the United Kingdom policy of informal cooperation with the Committee remained unchanged, the Government would assist the Committee where possible to take forward its programme of work under resolutions 1514 and 1541. Some of the issues would be discussed at the next meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council in London. That Council provided a forum in which chief ministers and their equivalents could exchange views on matters of concern to them directly with British ministers.
As seen from London, the United Kingdom had the impression that there was no strong desire in the Territories to choose the path of independence, although it had been made clear that the Government would give every encouragement if independence, where it was an option, was chosen. As long as the Territories choose to retain their link with the Untied Kingdom, the key would be to reconcile their desire for ever greater autonomy and self-government with the United Kingdom’s responsibility to ensure good governance, protect the impartiality of the public service and the independence of the judiciary, and to ensure compliance with relevant international obligations.
DESERRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said that Indonesia attached great importance to the full implementation of resolutions on the Declaration on decolonization. He noted that the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism ends in 2010, leaving only seven years to complete the Committee’s task.
Indonesia, he said, welcomed the Caribbean Regional Seminar on advancing the decolonization process, held for the first time ever in one of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, Anguilla, in May 2003. He said that his country was committed to assisting the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories in the pursuit of their full political, economic and social potential. He called for further cooperation among the United Nations specialized agencies, especially regarding manpower and educational development for the Territories.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that there were still 2 million people living in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories. It was the duty of United Nations Member States to consider their rights and interests. He called on the administering Powers to take effective measures to realize well-balanced social and economic development in the Territories, while protecting their natural and human resources. Noting that China had rendered consistent support to the efforts of the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, he reaffirmed his country’s cooperation with other members of the Committee.
DORNELLA SETH (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking of behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the issue of decolonization was not only unfinished business at the United Nations, but a contemporary Caribbean and Latin American issue as well. Eight of the 16 territories on the United Nations list were in the Americas, she added, and seven of them were small islands in the Caribbean.
She said that significant impediments to the realization of independence for the people of the remaining 16 Territories remained, due to an information deficit among the people of the Territories and among Member States. In that context, she called for the United Nations to accelerate its efforts to disseminate information. The conduct of regional seminars, she added, were an important activity to bridge that information gap. She congratulated the Government of Anguilla and the Government of the United Kingdom for their support of the 2003 Regional Seminar, and applauded the United Kingdom representative to the seminar for his constructive engagement with the representatives and the general public.
She said that the Anguilla seminar revealed that the representatives of most of the Territories had not been informed of their political options, and were under the mistaken impression that continued dependency or immediate independence were their only alternatives.
The CARICOM, she said, looked forward to closely analysing the report of the Secretary General to the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly on the implementation of decolonization resolutions over the past 12-year period. She said that the organization expected that the report would encapsulate the activities of the United Nations system in carrying out the mandate and indicate where difficulties lay in its implementation.
She voiced strong concern regarding a proposal to move the agenda items on decolonization directly from the Special Committee to the General Assembly plenary, thus, bypassing the Fourth Committee. Such move, she said, would deprive the representatives of the Territories of the opportunity to present their views before the wider United Nations membership. “We are not going to solve the colonial dilemma by limiting further the access of the people of the Territories to the very international process which is designed to assist them”, she said. “Our efforts should be to enhance such access, not limit it.”
The representative of the United Kingdom spoke in the exercise of the right of reply to remarks made on the subject of the Falkland Islands by the representatives of Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and Cuba. The United Kingdom’s position on the issue was well known and was last set out in a written statement by the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, following the address by the President of Argentina to the General Assembly on 25 September.
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