FOURTH COMMITTEE SPEAKERS CALL FOR GREATER EFFORTS BY ADMINISTERING POWERS TO HELP REMAINING TERRITORIES ACHIEVE SELF-DETERMINATION

7 October 2003
GA/SPD/260

FOURTH COMMITTEE SPEAKERS CALL FOR GREATER EFFORTS BY ADMINISTERING POWERS TO HELP REMAINING TERRITORIES ACHIEVE SELF-DETERMINATION

07/10/2003
Press Release
GA/SPD/260


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

3rd Meeting (PM)


FOURTH COMMITTEE SPEAKERS CALL FOR GREATER EFFORTS BY ADMINISTERING POWERS


TO HELP REMAINING TERRITORIES ACHIEVE SELF-DETERMINATION


Achieving the inalienable right to self-determination for the peoples of the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories would require greater efforts on the part of the administering Powers, speakers stressed, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization items this afternoon.


Describing that right as “sacrosanct”, Libya’s representative said the administering Powers needed to work intensively to give the peoples of the Territories the opportunity to freely express their wills.  The peoples of the United Nations list of remaining Territories must be given the chance to express their aspirations and choose the path they would like to follow.  In that regard, he called on the administering Powers to cooperate with the United Nations in establishing the necessary mechanisms needed to provide the peoples of the Territories with the means to build the institutions and infrastructure they needed to stand on their feet. 


Without the engagement of the administering Powers, the efforts of the Special Committee on decolonization would be an exercise in futility, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said.  At the highly symbolic Caribbean Regional Seminar, held in May 2003 in Anguilla, the United Nations had been challenged to think “outside the box”, and move beyond declarations and resolutions that were rehashed year after year.  In that regard, she appealed to the Administering Authorities to partner with the Special Committee to push the decolonization process forward, as part of the revitalization of the General Assembly’s work. 


Outlining recent developments in Tokelau, New Zealand’s representative noted that, as administering Power for the Territory, it had taken numerous measures to instil confidence in Tokelau’s institutions, such as the establishment of a Tokelau Trust Fund, that had already accumulated some $3.6 million.  In addition, Tokelau’s legislative body, the General Fono, had discussed a proposal to delegate the Administrator’s powers to three Village Councils.  The approval by the General Fono and New Zealand of a “relationship framework document” that addressed, among other things, Tokelau’s culture, language, and defence and security matters was also cited as a positive development.


Concerning other Territories, most speakers supported the acceptance of the “peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara” developed by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, James A. Baker III.  Gabon’s representative, however, said that however commendable, the peace plan remained impossible to implement and called on the General Assembly to encourage the parties to continue negotiations.


Calling the Baker peace plan an “honest and balanced proposal”, the representative of Algeria believed that, despite certain shortcomings, the plan was a challenge for peace that was worth being met.  Algeria, he added, supported the plan and was prepared to continue to cooperate fully, as a neighbouring State, with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy.


South Africa’s representative noted some cause for optimism in resolving the question of the last Territory on the African continent, namely, in the appearance of a working relationship between Western Sahara and Morocco and the release of some 200 Moroccan detainees by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) from its camps.  Calling upon Morocco and the POLISARIO to cooperate to resolve the fate of persons unaccounted, he said the resolution of the matter would constitute a badly needed confidence-building measure towards peace.


In other business this afternoon, the Committee decided to grant requests for hearing from petitioners on the questions of Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands and Western Sahara.


Also speaking in the debate were the representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, India, Namibia, Zambia, Tunisia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.


When the Committee meets Wednesday, 8 October, at 3 p.m., it is expected to hear from a number of 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 issues.  [For background, see Press Release GA/SPD/259 of 6 October 2003.]


Statements


ZULU KILO-ABI (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said consideration of the various reports showed how much work the Special Committee on decolonization had to do, and how much it had already done since 1961.  Despite the tangible progress achieved, however, many challenges remained, some of them major.  The future was fraught with many obstacles.


In that context, he made several recommendations for accelerating the process by which the Non-Self Governing Territories would be allowed to exercise their inalienable right to independence, including:  encouraging the administering Powers to actively participate in the Special Committee’s work; the authorization of regular visits of United Nations bodies to the Territories; and the wide-scale involvement of the United Nations and the Territories in projects designed to remove the obstructions to sustainable development.  Information on the situation of the Territories was also needed, both for the residents of the Territories and the outside world. 


He supported the Special Committee’s recommendations, in so far as they were consistent with the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter and relevant decolonization resolutions.  The effective enjoyment of socio-economic and cultural rights found full expression only in the genuine exercise to the right to self-determination.  It was a political, ethical and moral requirement, he said.


CHARLES AZUBIKE ONONYE (Nigeria) said that efforts should be made by the United Nations to avoid delaying the granting of independence, so as to obviate frustration and violence.  To that end, he added, administering Powers should be more sensitive to the legitimate aspirations of the peoples still under colonial rule.


Nigeria, he said, remained committed to all General Assembly resolutions in support of granting independence to colonial countries and peoples and to all measures undertaken by the United Nations to ensure that Non-Self Governing Territories gain independence without delay.


With respect to Western Sahara, he reaffirmed his country’s support for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), sponsored by the United Nations and the African Union.  Nigeria, he said, considered the United Nations Settlement Plan the only guarantee of the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.  He also welcomed measures to enhance the socio-economic status of the people of the Non-Self Governing Territories.


ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said if there was one area in which the Organization had achieved success, it was in decolonization.  Many countries represented in the Chamber had been removed from the yoke of occupation and servitude.  However, 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories still existed and the peoples of those Territories were looking forward to exercising their sacred right to self-determination.  That applied also to the people of Western Sahara. 


The 16-year armed struggle, during which the Saharawi people had demonstrated great courage, had ended in a ceasefire referred to as the Settlement Plan, he said.  The conclusion of that Plan, unanimously approved by the Security Council in resolutions 658 (1990) and 690 (1991) had opened the way to a just settlement of the conflict by means of an impartial referendum, organized by the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union.  Despite the obstacles to the organization of the referendum, and despite attempts to change the criteria and identification operations, the United Nations had managed, thanks to the architect of the Houston Accords, James Baker III, to complete the operations to identify the electorate.


Unfortunately, the troubles facing the people of Western Sahara had not ended, he said.  Everything had been done to block the referendum, by submerging the process with thousands of appeals.  Only a tiny number of the appeals contained a new element that would justify them.  Despite the Secretary-General’s warning against the transformation of the appeals process into a second identification process, that had nevertheless happened.  The United Nations had decided to move towards finding a political solution that would be acceptable, while affirming the Settlement Plan. 


The Framework Agreement, then submitted by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, had not found favour with anyone, with the notable exception of Morocco, he continued.  The Security Council chose not to accept it and unanimously requested the Personal Envoy to submit a new proposal.  The Council had felt even more comfortable in adopting that decision, as the Organization’s Legal Counsel had confirmed, on 29 July 2002, that Western Sahara was a Non-Self-Governing Territory, of which Morocco was not the administering Power.  Significantly, the Council, thus, returned to its original position on decolonization and opened the way to a just and final solution to the conflict.


The “peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”, submitted last January by Mr. Baker, was an honest and balanced proposal which was in keeping with his mandate.  Algeria had studied the plan in-depth and believed that, despite certain shortcomings, the Baker proposal was a challenge for peace that was worth being met.  The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) had resolved to support the proposal, demonstrating its flexibility and responsibility.  The Security Council, in its resolution 1495 (2003), had approved the Baker plan by requesting the parties, namely Morocco, to work towards acceptance of the plan. 


He hoped the voice of reason would prevail and that the peace plan would become a reality for the greater good of the Saharawi people.  Algeria supported the plan and was prepared to continue to cooperate fully, as a neighbouring State, with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy.  Now that the international community had given its full support, he hoped the Fourth Committee and the General Assembly would support the peace plan and add their efforts to those of the Council to see that the plan was implemented at the soonest, so that peace could finally prevail in the region.


V.K. NAMIBAR (India) remarked that the Special Committee on decolonization had come a long way since its establishment in 1961.  Decolonization had truly been a success story of the United Nations.  However, he noted, that with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still on the United Nations list, the “business” of decolonization was still incomplete.  He called for special attention to the needs of the people of the Territories -- who had made considerable progress towards self-government –- in order to enable them to bequeath to themselves political and socio-economic institutions and structures of their choice.


He said that the importance of the role of administering Powers could not be overemphasized and called upon them to approach the task at hand in a spirit of cooperation, understanding, political realism and flexibility.  In that context, he noted that spirit had imbued talks in recent years, the visit of a United Nations mission to Tokelau last year, and the 2003 Caribbean Regional Seminar in Anguilla.  The presence of a senior-level representative from the United Kingdom during the entire seminar was particularly noteworthy, and the lead taken by the United Kingdom should encourage some of the other Powers to follow the same route, he added.


He praised the work of the Special Committee for its efforts to complete the unfinished business of decolonization and reaffirmed India’s commitment to the ideas enshrined in the Declaration on Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.


DON MACKAY (New Zealand), addressing recent developments in Tokelau, said there had been a change this year in Tokelau’s administration.  Lindsay Watt, who had served in that office for many years, retired.  Neil Walter, who had enjoyed a long association with Tokelau, had succeeded him.  There had been a number of other developments since last year, as well.  Work on a “relationship framework” had developed into a document entitled “Joint Statement on the Principles of Partnership between New Zealand and Tokelau”.  That document, which provided the medium- to long-term context in which to carry forward work on Tokelau’s constitutional development, was of a political rather than legal nature.


The joint statement was intended to give the Territory some confidence as it worked towards self-determination, he continued.  Among the matters addressed in the document were Tokelau’s self-determination, its culture and language, New Zealand citizenship, economic and administrative assistance, defence and security and foreign affairs.  The Tokelau General Fono and the New Zealand Government had approved the text of the Principles of Partnership, which would be signed in Tokelau later this year.


Continuing, he said agreement had also been reached on the establishment of the Tokelau Trust Fund, which would provide the Territory with both its own financial reserves and revenue.  He expected the Trust Fund deed to be finalized later in the year.  The Trust Fund had already accumulated contributions from New Zealand and Tokelau totalling more than $3.6 million.  In July 2003, Tokelau had assumed responsibility for its entire budget.  That development was important, both in ensuring that Tokelau took “ownership” of all decisions and in enabling itself to set priorities among competing demands -- for example, health services, education and economic development.


The General Fono, he said, had discussed a proposal that the Administrator’s powers be delegated to Village Councils, instead of the General Fono, as was currently the case.  The General Fono had agreed to set 30 June 2004 as the target date by which Tokelau would be ready for the Administrator to change the delegation of powers.  New Zealand hoped that the Administrator would delegate his authority to the three Village Councils on 1 July 2004, giving the Village Councils responsibility for the full range of public services at the village level.  In turn, the Village Councils would subdelegate to the General Fono responsibility for decision-making at the national level.  The core goal of the “Modern House of Tokelau” project would then have been fulfilled.


To ensure that Tokelau was ready for the change in the delegation of powers, a Commission of Inquiry was currently reviewing the provision of public services in Tokelau, he said.  The exercise had the full backing of the General Fono and would be undertaken in close consultation with the three Village Councils.  Agreement had also been reached on a restructuring of the New Zealand and of the Tokelau operation.  The aim was to provide a “one stop shop” designed to enhance the effectiveness and coherence of New Zealand’s dealings with Tokelau.  All New Zealand public service departments had been instructed to provide ongoing administrative and technical assistance to Tokelau.


The restructuring of the Tokelau public service and the strengthening of its key services would demand much, he said.  While strengthening Tokelau’s capacity, the aim would be to build its confidence in its own institutions.  An early requirement was to develop information material on the three options available to Non-Self-Governing Territories, namely, integration, self-government in free association and independence.  It was important to ensure that Tokelau was fully engaged in the development of the information material.


LIBERATA MULAMULA (United Republic of Tanzania) referred to the Caribbean Regional Seminar in Anguilla as a landmark achievement in the work of the Special Committee on decolonization, not only for the content and representation at the seminar, but also for its symbolic value.  It was the first time that such a seminar had been held in a Non-Self-Governing Territory with the consent of the administering Power.  She also praised the innovative format of the seminar, which allowed for a focused and more interactive dialogue, and called for subsequent seminars to follow suit.


She said that, without the engagement of the administering Powers, the efforts of the Special Committee would be an exercise in futility.  She appealed to all administering authorities of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories to work in partnership with the Special Committee to push the decolonization process forward.  Doing so, she added, would serve to revitalize the work of the General Assembly with respect to the decolonization agenda.  The United Nations, she said, was challenged by the elected representatives of Anguilla to think “outside the box”, by moving beyond declarations and resolutions that were rehashed year after year.


She noted that the question of Western Sahara remained a formidable challenge in the search for a just and lasting solution to the protracted conflict.  The right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara could not be compromised through political expediency, she said.  The only viable and lasting solution was the holding of the referendum, as agreed by both parties.  In that context, she called for steadfast implementation of the latest proposal of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy and for a show of political will by both parties.  The international community could not afford to be indifferent to the plight and aspirations of the Saharawi people.  Time was of the essence, in order to maintain the credibility of the United Nations, she added.


She said that, during the Anguilla seminar, it became evident that the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories and their representatives were not fully aware of the options available to them in exercising their right to self-determination and knew little about the work of the Special Committee.  The Department of Public Information (DPI) should do more to disseminate information on the role of the United Nations in advancing the process of decolonization, she added.


JULIUS ZAYA SHIWEVA (Namibia) noted that since the decolonization of East Timor in 2002 no remarkable progress had been made in the decolonization process for the remaining Territories.  One of the United Nations’ main objectives was to promote the decolonization process for the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It was against that background that the Special Committee had been established in 1961.  The intention to do away with the Committee under the pretext of revitalizing the United Nations was a deliberate move to undermine the decolonization process.  Namibia spoke from experience.  The illegal occupation and denial of the inalienable right to self-determination was still fresh in its memory.


The question of Western Sahara remained a serious concern for Namibia and Africa as a whole, he said.  Member States must fully support the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara to be free and independent.  He reiterated his support for the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, James Baker III, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and his team in the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), for their tireless efforts in securing a just solution to the question of Western Sahara on the basis of the Settlement Plan.  The Baker proposal presented a viable solution to the peaceful settlement of the question of Western Sahara.  He called on both parties to accept it and begin its implementation without further delay.


MWELWA C. MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) said that his country continued to strongly support the process of decolonization and the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.


Zambia, he said, wished to give due credit to James Baker III, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, for his never-ending efforts in trying to resolve the conflict of Western Sahara.  Over the six-year period of his involvement, he convened nine meetings between the parties, which culminated in the 1997 agreement and implementation plan, which envisioned the holding of a referendum on 7 December 1998.  Despite Mr. Baker’s commendable job, he added, he kept being disappointed at every turn.  He had demonstrated great patience and it was time that the parties rewarded him for his efforts.


He noted that since 1965 the General Assembly had consistently called, in all its resolutions, for the decolonization of Western Sahara and reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence.  Zambia, he added, welcomed the new peace plan proposed by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy and hoped that it would lead to a fair and lasting settlement of the conflict.


ABDULHAMID O. YAHYA (Libya) said the General Assembly, during its fifty-fifth session, had declared 2001-2010 as the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Decolonziation.  Little progress had been made, however, in granting the remaining Territories any form of independence.  Despite several positive achievements, including the United Kingdom’s cooperation in the promotion of the Caribbean Regional Seminar and New Zealand’s cooperation on the question of Tokelau, the administering Powers needed to make greater efforts in the Territories.  It was clear from the Anguilla seminar that there was a need for concrete mechanisms to transfer power to the Territories.  Such measures required economic and technical assistance.  The Territories must be given the means to build the institutions and infrastructure they needed to stand on their feet. 


The administering Powers needed to work intensively to give the peoples of the Territories the opportunity to freely express their wills, rather than permanently annexing them, he said.  The right to self-determination was sacrosanct and should not be prejudiced in any way.  Peoples must be given the chance to express their aspirations and choose the path they would like to follow.  He called on the States concerned to cooperate with the United Nations in accelerating the establishment of the necessary mechanisms needed to provide assistance for the peoples of the Territories.  He called on the administering Powers to desist from military exercises in the Territories and from using the Territories to launch aggression against other countries. 


He supported the idea of revitalizing the Committee’s work.  He would not approve of any attempt to weaken the Committee and turn it into a body that repeated its work each year without any practical outcome.


KAIS KABTANI (Tunisia) said that, while immense progress had been made regarding decolonization during the last decade, a great deal remained to be done for the total elimination of colonialism.  In that context, the role of the Special Committee remained crucial and the declaration of the Second Decade on Decolonization was an important framework to help Non-Self-Governing Territories achieve self-determination.  He believed that cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers must be strengthened in the search of innovative and concrete ways to revitalize the decolonization process and to allow the United Nations to close this unfinished chapter in history.


While he said he was gratified by the contributions of the United Nations Department of Public Information to promote work in the field of decolonization, he called for further efforts to disseminate information regarding the political options available to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Seminars, and visits were all effective means of publicizing the aspirations of local populations.  He added that he was pleased with the success of the Caribbean Regional Seminar held in Anguilla on May 2003 and called for the international community to redouble its efforts to complete the decolonizaiton agenda.


DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said that for too long Western Sahara, the last Non-Self-Governing Territory on the African continent, had been a subject of many Assembly resolutions.  Despite the international community’s intense efforts, Western Sahara still remained on the Committee’s agenda.  He was optimistic, however, as there seemed to be a working relationship between Western Sahara and Morocco.  It was encouraging that POLISARIO had released some 200 Moroccan detainees from its camps, and he congratulated them for taking that important step towards peace.  However, he called upon Morocco and POLISARIO to cooperate further with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resolve the fate of persons unaccounted for since the beginning of the conflict.  The resolution of that outstanding matter could only help build confidence in the peace process. 


He hoped the General Assembly would use its political will to bring a just solution to the question, so that the people of Western Sahara could achieve their inalienable right to self-determination.  He welcomed Security Council resolution 1495 of July 2003, which expressed the Council’s support for the peace plan.  The resolution created an important opportunity for the resumption of sustained negotiations for a just and lasting settlement of the question.  South Africa supported the peace plan and endorsed the Secretary-General’s call to all parties to act constructively towards its implementation.


Deeply concerned over the escalation of violence and loss of life in the Middle East, he said the cycle of violence among the Palestinians and Israelis had reached unforeseen proportions.  The international community must do more to end the violence.  He called for Israel’s full implementation of all Assembly and Council resolutions, which would bring an end to foreign occupation and enable the Palestinian people to finally realize their inalienable right to self-determination.  The only way to guarantee peace was to have two States, side by side, each enjoying full sovereignty and secure borders.


“The vestiges of the past era of colonialism and domination must give way to the wishes of the people, consistent with the United Nations Charter and Assembly resolutions”, he said.  For that reason, he also attached great importance to the restoration of Iraq’s political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.


JOSÉ LUIS GUTERRES (Timor-Leste) said that, since it was the first time he was speaking in the Fourth Committee since his country’s independence in 2002, he wished to express his recognition of the excellent work, professionalism and commitment of the United Nations Secretariat.  He welcomed the visit of the United Nations mission to Tokelau and congratulated the United Kingdom and Anguilla for facilitating the successful Caribbean Regional Seminar held in Anguilla in May 2003.


On the Western Sahara issue, he reiterated that, since the 1970s his country had followed with solidarity and great interest the struggle of the Saharawi people.  Timor-Leste, he said, was encouraged by the acceptance of the United Nations referendum by the late King Hassan II of Morocco.  He was also pleased that the Baker plan was accepted by the POLISARIO leadership.  He also commended the decision of POLISARIO to release a new group of Moroccan war prisoners and appealed to the United Nations Secretary-General to continue the search for a solution that respected international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions.


ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) said he had taken the floor to address the question of Western Sahara, one of those items that had not only polarized the Committee’s debates, but also demanded the constant attention of the Organization.  He was grateful to the Secretary-General for having investing enormous efforts in seeking a solution to the problem.  Several options had been put forward, including the draft Framework Agreement.  The Framework Agreement would give the people of Western Sahara the right to elect their own legislative bodies and competence over a number of areas.  Morocco alone had agreed to the proposal. 


The peace plan, which had been proposed by Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy in January 2003, however commendable, remained impossible to implement because of the serious risks it contained, he said.  At the current stage, the General Assembly could encourage the parties to continue their negotiations.  It should not, however, interfere in the process conferred by the Security Council to the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy.


DOMINIC SENGI (Papua New Guinea) said that the first decade of the mandate of the Committee had left much to be desired.  He was optimistic, however, that, with the full cooperation of all administering Powers and the United Nations Member States, steady progress could be made to complete the case-by-case work programmes for each of the remaining 16 Territories by 2010.


He said that there was a need to change current perspectives and take a more positive view of the Committee’s work, to better assist the peoples still under the yoke of colonialism.  That, he added, called for full cooperation of all players in the process, including the Members of the United Nations, all Non-Self-Governing Territories and the administering Powers.  Papua New Guinea, he said, was hopeful that such cooperation would also be forthcoming from the other two major administering Powers, the United States and the United Kingdom, for all the remaining Territories under their respective jurisdictions.


The 2002 United Nations mission to Tokelau, he said, showed that despite distances and other vulnerabilities, the task of determining the political will of the people of Tokelau was not impossible.  Papua New Guinea was optimistic that progress could also be made for the other remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  He noted that the work on New Caledonia, which started under the Noumea Accords, was progressing with the support of the Pacific Island Forum leaders, but that the Special Committee and the United Nation membership, in general, had to have a role to play in ensuring the right of the indigenous Kanak people to self-determination.


Turning to the issue of Western Sahara, he said that with the good will of all the parties concerned the process would move forward.


Papua New Guinea, he said, fully supported the reforms and restructuring of the United Nations.  However, any reforms, including the proposal to merge the First and Fourth Committees, should be done comprehensively and with the full agreement of all United Nations Member States.  Any revitalization and reforms should strengthen the work already in place and not undo the good work already achieved.  In the final analysis, he added, the interests of the peoples of the  16 Non-Self-Governing Territories should not be sacrificed because of the reforms.


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For information media. Not an official record.