Special Committee on
4th Meeting (AM)
Special Committee on Decolonization considers situations
in gibraltar, united statesvirginislands
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar –- a representative of one of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories within the purview of the Special Committee on Decolonization –- this morning accused that body of inaction, appealing to it to refer Gibraltar’s case to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion, visit the Territory and reflect his Government’s views in its annual resolutions.
Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister, urged the Special Committee to uphold Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and, at the very least, to declare its right to participate directly and fully in the talks about Gibraltar’s future between the administering Power, United Kingdom, and the claimant of Gibraltar’s sovereignty, Spain. The people of Gibraltar had received no response or action at all from the Special Committee, which limited itself to an annual repetition of the same resolution, which, he said, ignored the rights, aspirations and position of the colonial people of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Gibraltar.
Joining Mr. Caruana was the Leader of the Opposition of Gibraltar, Joseph John Bossano, who said that Gibraltar was still a colony because of the Special Committee’s recommendation some 40 years ago that decolonization of the Territory should be resolved in accordance with the principle of territorial integrity and not the principle of self-determination. The United Nations, for 40 years, had been abetting Spain’s viewpoint, and the Special Committee had acted to perpetuate, rather than eradicate, colonialism. The Committee had also failed by doing nothing to require the United Kingdom to comply with the Charter as far as its obligation to promote the maximum level of self-government was concerned.
Insisting on the need to achieve decolonization of Gibraltar in accordance with the principle of territorial integrity, Spain’s representative said the colonial presence in Gibraltar was contrary to the United Nations Charter, which urged the United Kingdom to resolve the dispute. He added that on 20 May 2004, his country’s Foreign Minister had discussed some international and bilateral issues, including the question of Gibraltar, with his counterpart in London. He had expressed his wish to renew the negotiations on the issues of sovereignty and cooperation. Only five years since the conclusion of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the only way to make progress on the issue of Gibraltar was to act with imagination towards a global solution, which was acceptable to both the United Kingdom and Spain, and which guaranteed a flourishing future for Gibraltar.
Also this morning, the Special Committee heard a statement from the Government of the United States Virgin Islands, whose representative, Carlyle Corbin, described the developments in the Territory since the 1993 referendum on a range of political options, which was declared invalid as only 27.4 per cent of registered voters took part in the ballot.
Mr. Corbin also emphasized the importance of political education and follow-up on United Nations decisions. The period following the 2003 Caribbean seminar in Anguilla was an example of how inaction could yield disillusionment, he said. Many Caribbean territories had participated at the highest levels and much excitement had been generated. Without follow-up, however, that interest had dissipated. At the current juncture, the United Nations system should take stock of the effect of its resolutions in the Territories themselves. In that respect, he suggested that a mid-term, five-year review be undertaken by the Assembly on the implementation of the plan of action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.
Also taking part in the discussion were representatives of Cuba, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Côte d’Ivoire, Papua New Guinea and Bolivia.
The Special Committee, formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples, will commence the hearing of petitioners at 10 a.m. Monday, 14 June.
The Special Committee on Decolonization on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples met this morning to take up the questions of Gibraltar and the United States Virgin Islands.
For its consideration, the Committee had before it a working paper prepared by the Secretariat on Gibraltar (document A/AC.109/2004/7), which outlines, among other things, the political situation in the Territory. It notes that in 2004, Gibraltar is celebrating the anniversary of 300 years of British rule. The 1969 Constitution guarantees basic civil and political rights, and assigns responsibility for local matters to a local Government. The United Kingdom, however, retains power over matters of defence, external affairs and internal security. The Governor, appointed by the United Kingdom, retains the power to rescind laws passed by the legislature. A new Governor, Francis Richard, replaced the outgoing Governor in May 2003.
The working paper notes that in December 2003, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister formally submitted Constitutional reform proposals to the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The last general elections were held on 27 November 2003. The incumbent Gibraltar Social Democratic Party obtained 51 per cent of the vote, followed by the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party which, in alliance with the Liberal Party, obtained 40 per cent of the vote. Peter Caruana, leader of the Gibraltar Social Democratic Party was reappointed Chief Minister. Joseph Bossano continues as Leader of the Opposition.
In 2002, the Territory’s most significant political development was the continuation of the United Kingdom-Spanish negotiations on the subject of Gibraltar. Relaunched in July 2001 in the framework of the Brussels process, the talks did not continue in 2003, however. During 2003, the Chief Minister made numerous statements on the status of Gibraltar and the Territory’s position with respect to the Spain-UnitedKingdom talks. He said that the people of Gibraltar valued their British sovereignty and wished to retain it, as well as their constitutional link with Britain. They also wished, however, to see an end to an “antiquated colonial status”. The people of Gibraltar intended to promote the attainment of these dual, parallel objectives through a process of constitutional modernization which, by modernizing the constitutional relationship, would be recognized internationally as putting an end to their colonial status while retaining British sovereignty, close constitutional links with Britain and that degree of control over their own affairs.
Concerning the position of the Spanish Government, the paper notes that in October 2003, Spain’s representative to the Fourth Committee said that Gibraltar’s Government, by inviting the Special Committee to send a visiting mission to Gibraltar, was attempting to garner implicit or explicit support for the opposition to the principle of territorial integrity recognized by the Organization and international law. It was also attempting to obtain recognition for the referendum held in Gibraltar on 7 November 2002, which was neither valid nor legally binding. Spain was opposed to a visiting mission, he said, and reiterated his Government’s desire to continue negotiations with the United Kingdom with a view to achieving a satisfactory comprehensive agreement that would respect the legitimate interests of the inhabitants of the Territory.
In September 2003, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said that the United Kingdom’s policy towards Gibraltar is based on two fundamental principles, namely Gibraltarian consent and the principle that a lasting resolution of Gibraltar’s problems can only be achieved through dialogue and negotiation with Spain. Regarding Gibraltar’s position, the Chief Minister said there is no point in the pursuit of an agreement based on the principle of joint or shared sovereignty.
United StatesVirgin Islands
The United StatesVirgin Islands –- a Danish territory from 1754 to 1917, when they were purchased by the United States of America –- constitute an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States. According to a working paper before the Special Committee (document A/AC.109/2004/17), with the adoption of the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands by the administering Power in 1936 and its revision in 1954, the Territory was granted a measure of self-government over local affairs. Executive power is vested in a popularly elected Governor, who appoints, with the advice and consent of the Legislature, the heads of the executive departments. According to the census released in 2001, the population of the Islands in 2000 stood at 108,612, with those born within the United States and its territories making up 66.8 per cent of the population.
Since 1954, there have been five unsuccessful attempts to replace the Organic Act with a locally written constitution. In 2000, legislation was introduced in the territorial senate to create the mechanisms for the establishment of a constitutional convention. However, the bill died when the Legislature was adjourned at the end of the year. According to media reports, in August 2001, a territorial senator again introduced a draft bill requesting holding of a constitutional convention in 2003, but no further action was reported. In January 2003, the Governor announced that he would advocate holding a convention to draft a constitution that would “allow for more effective government and a structure that is responsive to the needs of all residents and enhance and empower local autonomy of the islands of Saint Croix, Saint John and Saint Thomas through municipal government”.
According to the document before the Committee, the first and only referendum on a range of political options was conducted in 1993. However, only 27.4 per cent of registered voters took part in that ballot, 80.3 per cent of which supported the existing status. Some 14 per cent voted for full integration with the United States and 4.8 per cent voted for an end to the United States sovereignty. The result was considered invalid as less than the requisite 50 per cent of the electorate voted.
During his annual State of the Territory address in January 2004, Governor Turnbull made reference to the “difficult challenges” faced by the Islands in 2003 in the areas of fiscal matters, crime, waste management, education, health care and human services. Despite the difficulties, however, the 2003 fiscal year had ended with no mass layoffs of government workers and no dreaded “payless pay days”. Accordingly, he expressed cautious optimism regarding the state of the Islands, which required “strong fiscal restraint, social discipline and smart economic growth”.
ROMÁN OYARZÚN (Spain) said the issue of Gibraltar was a decolonization dispute over sovereignty between two States, namely the United Kingdom, as an administrative Power, and Spain, which, by virtue of the Treaty of Utrecht, claimed sovereignty over the colony. For Spain, the claim of sovereignty could not be renounced. The claim referred both to the Rock, which was transferred to the United Kingdom under Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht, as well as the Isthmus, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, which Spain had never recognized.
Regarding United Nations principles, he said the colonial presence in Gibraltar was contrary to the United Nations Charter, which urged the United Kingdom to resolve the dispute. The decolonization of Gibraltar must be resolved in accordance with the principle of territorial integrity and not the principle of self-determination. Resolution 1514 stated that any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of national unity and the territorial integrity of a country was incompatible with the Charter’s purposes and principles. Resolution 2353 stated that the colonial situation in Gibraltar disrupted the national unity and territorial integrity of Spain.
He said that each year the General Assembly adopted a consensus decision on Gibraltar, which stipulated, among other things, the establishment of a negotiating process to resolve all differences over Gibraltar. In line with that mandate, the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom, by a joint communiqué adopted in Brussels in 1984, had agreed to launch a negotiating process to discuss the issues of sovereignty. The Spanish Government was firmly committed to launching dialogue and negotiations in the context of the Brussels Process. Through dialogue, progress could be made in the negotiating process.
He added that on 20 May 2004, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation had travelled to London to meet with the Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss several international and bilateral issues, including the issue of Gibraltar. He had expressed his wish to renew the negotiations of the Brussels Process on the issues of sovereignty and cooperation. Only five years from the conclusion of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the only way to make progress on the issue of Gibraltar was to act with imagination towards a global solution, which was acceptable to both the United Kingdom and Spain, and which guaranteed a flourishing future for Gibraltar.
P.R. CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, recalled that in a recent statement, the Chairman of the Special Committee had said that the role of the Special Committee was to assist the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories in determining their political future without external interference. He had also said that to assist them in achieving their self-determination, the Committee needed to take action. In fact, however, the Special Committee did not engage in action on the Gibraltar case and indeed, did not even reflect its views in its annual resolutions.
Among other things, he continued, the Government of the listed Non-Self-Governing Territory of Gibraltar (and in recent years, the Opposition, as well) had addressed the Special and the Fourth Committees every year; its Parliament had passed unanimous resolutions seeking their support; and the people had urged the Special Committee to establish an action programme and recommend referral of the disputed legal issues to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion. The Special Committee had been urged to uphold Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and, at the very least, to declare its right to participate directly and fully in talks about Gibraltar’s future. The people of Gibraltar had received no response or action at all from the Special Committee, which limited itself to an annual repetition of the same resolution, which ignored the rights, aspirations and position of the colonial people of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Gibraltar.
For too long now Spain had been allowed to equate the decolonization of Gibraltar with her anachronistic claim to its sovereignty, and worse still, to add distortion to the confusion of principles, by maintaining that because there was a sovereignty claim by Spain, the self-determination rights of a colonial people were cancelled and overridden, he said. There was no proper basis for that in law or in the United Nations doctrine. Whatever were the merits of Spain’s sovereignty claim –- and he believed it had none –- it could not override the right of a colonial people to self-determination.
The first step the Special Committee should take in the case of Gibraltar was to pause and reassess its annual resolution and the justification for it, he insisted. In its addresses to the Committee over the past 10 years, Gibraltar had demonstrated how the principle of self-determination applied to the decolonization of all the listed Non-Self-Governing Territories, including Gibraltar, and how the application of the principle of territorial integrity was wholly misconceived in the case of Gibraltar. It had demonstrated how Spain maintained opposite positions in the case of Gibraltar and in the cases of her own territories in North Africa, Ceuta, Mellilla and others. It was simply untenable that Gibraltar did not enjoy the right to self-determination in international law, which, of course, was why Spain refused to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice.
Only the International Court of Justice (ICJ) could authoritatively opine on the proper and correct position in international law, he stressed. Surely the Committee must at least be willing to help Gibraltar have its rights established under international law. And so the question was whether the Committee saw its role as to assist and protect the colonial people of Gibraltar or to monitor the progress in negotiations for resolution of a sovereignty dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain.
The second action sought by Gibraltar was a visit by the Special Committee, he said, for which Gibraltar’s Parliament had called in unanimous motions. The people of the Territory had also directly requested such a visit from the Special Committee. Last October, a popular petition to that effect had been delivered to the Committee, which was signed by 80 per cent of the electorate. The administering Power, the United Kingdom, had no objection to the visit, saying that it was a matter for the Committee. Gibraltar had even offered to pay for the visit. No response had been received to any of the invitations.
Spain, of course, objected, just as it objected to a referral to the ICJ, he added, because it knew that clarity and transparency would be fatal to its untenable case. Spain’s position was not even logical and coherent. It did not oppose the decolonization of Gibraltar, but believed that it should be done by applying the principle of territorial integrity and not the principle of self-determination. Surely, Spain could not have its cake and eat it, as well.
Gibraltar also requested that the Committee stop supporting bilateral negotiations between the administering Power and the claimant of Gibraltar’s sovereignty. It should stop calling for such negotiations in its annual resolution on the Gibraltar question. Intentionally or unintentionally, the call for bilateral negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain betrayed Gibraltar’s right to self-determination. Using that bilateral dialogue device, in 2001, the United Kingdom and Spain had entered into negotiations to conclude an agreement on joint sovereignty, despite complete opposition from all quarters in Gibraltar. In a 2002 internationally supervised referendum, more than 98 per cent of the population had rejected the principle of joint sovereignty. That, despite Spain’s attempts to characterize the referendum as having no legal value, appeared to have politically killed the project.
He went on to say that, reacting to the results of the referendum, the United Kingdom had said that there was zero chance of an agreement which was not accepted by the Gibraltarians, who had just rejected it by nearly 99 per cent. Spain, on the other hand, had replied that negotiations were advanced and that details were being discussed. That demonstrated the total futility of a bilateral dialogue between Spain and the United Kingdom.
Gibraltar would very much value dialogue with Spain, he continued, but the principle of consent and the right of the people to decide their own future was paramount. Dialogue must be on an open agenda basis, and Gibraltar must be able to take part fully, properly and safely. Most importantly, the outcome and objectives of the negotiations must not be pre-determined. That meant that the purpose of the dialogue could not be to negotiate a total or partial transfer of sovereignty to Spain against Gibraltar’s wishes.
Updating the Committee on the latest developments, he added that during the last few weeks, Spain had severely disrupted Gibraltar’s tourist trade by banning from its ports any cruise ships sailing from Gibraltar. Spain had since lifted that restriction, but had publicly said that the lifting was on the basis of a three months moratorium. He urged Spain to declare the lifting of the ban to be indefinite.
He also reported to the Committee that the European Union Commission had recently made a ruling to the effect that Gibraltar should be treated as a region of the United Kingdom and, therefore, was obliged to have the same tax system and rates as that country. That would gravely undermine Gibraltar’s economy and society. The ruling was to be challenged in the European Court of Justice by both the United Kingdom and Gibraltar Governments. It was a violation of the United Nations Charter to seek to treat a colony as a region of its administering Power.
It was high time that Gibraltar was decolonized, he stressed, for this year would mark 300 years of British sovereignty. Towards that end, last December, Gibraltar had formally presented to the United Kingdom proposals on constitutional reform and modernization. Formal discussion of those issues would begin next autumn. Finally, later this week, Gibraltar would participate for the first time in voting for elections to the European Parliament. To obtain that right, Gibraltar had won a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) asked the Chief Minister to elaborate on the process of participation by the Gibraltarian population in the forthcoming elections of the European Parliament.
Responding, Mr. CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said Gibraltar had won the right to participate, as elections to legislatures must be by universal suffrage. Gibraltar was subject to the laws that the Parliament made. Gibraltarians had not been included in the United Kingdom constituencies. Rather, the territory of Gibraltar and the people in it had been combined with a regional territory of the United Kingdom to create a combined regional constituency. The European Community had gone to a regional list system. The United Kingdom, with a fixed number of European members of Parliament, was unwilling to surrender one of its members. He would have preferred for Gibraltar to have its own exclusive member of European Parliament, but the United Kingdom had refused that.
JOSEPH JOHN BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, said that on 4 August, Gibraltar would celebrate the 300th anniversary of its liberation from Spain in 1704, when the Royal Navy had captured it. To mark that event, the Parliament would confer on the Royal Navy the freedom of its city. For Gibraltarians, the day was its birthday as a country separate from Spain and British colonial rule.
Recalling developments in the last forty years, he noted that the Constitution introduced in 1964 was to be the final step before full decolonization by 1969. After receiving that petition, the Special Committee had agreed that the Declaration of the Granting of Independence was fully applicable to the Territory. It had said that as there was a dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain, the two should meet to resolve their differences. He had experienced first-hand 40 years of the debate on the question of Gibraltar at the United Nations and between the United Kingdom and Spain. Gibraltar was still a colony because of the Special Committee’s recommendation some 40 years ago. Spain had used it ever since to argue that the Committee had decided by consensus that the option of self-determination did not apply to Gibraltar.
That was something the Special Committee did not have the power to do, he continued. The Committee could not recommend which of the 16 Territories had the right to self-determination. He had never doubted that Gibraltarians were a truly colonial people under the protection of the United Nations. However, the United Nations, for 40 years, had been aiding and abetting Spain’s view point. Much of the blame for Gibraltar’s position –- in the Second Decade –- lay fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Special Committee’s predecessors. The Committee had acted to perpetuate, rather than eradicate, colonialism. Since 1969, Spain’s opposition to constitutional advance had meant that the United Kingdom had failed to honour its obligation to promote the maximum level of self-government. The Committee had failed by doing nothing to require the United Kingdom to comply with the Charter in that respect.
In 1984, the United Kingdom had abandoned its historical position by agreeing to discuss sovereignty as two separate issues, he added. Spain today had highlighted that there were two sovereignty claims, that of the city covered by Treaty of Utrecht and that of the Isthmus. He rejected that position. There was only one Gibraltar, and it was all theirs. The colonial people would not permit the existing colonial Power, the United Kingdom, and the aspiring Power, Spain, to barter on Gibraltar’s future. Where in the decolonization options did it stipulate a model for handing over a colonial territory to its neighbour? Gibraltar would not settle for inferior treatment by the United Nations.
Following the 2002 referendum, the United Kingdom had abandoned the attempt to pursue the sharing of sovereignty with Spain, he said. The newly-elected government in Spain hoped to be able to relaunch the Brussels negotiations. The purpose of relauching the talks was to negotiate sovereignty and cooperation with Spain. Gibraltarians were totally opposed to that, and were committed to derailing the Brussels process if it were resumed. Spain had offered to guarantee a prosperous future for Gibraltar. Gibraltar did not need such a deal. Spain could offer the moon, but it would not get hold of one single grain of Gibraltarian sand.
He said it was time to come to terms with the reality of Gibraltar’s existence as a distinct colonial people to whom the Charter was fully applicable. By their perseverance, Gibraltarians had shown the world that they would not disappear. He urged the Committee to be true to the Charter and side with the colonial people, whom they were supposed to be defending, not the interests of the United Kingdom and Spain. The Committee had an excellent opportunity to send such a signal. If a visiting mission was the key to the decolonization process, and if the United Kingdom did not object to such a visit, what was holding the Committee back? Could the Committee blame him for thinking it was fear of offending Spain?
Question of United StatesVirgin Islands
CARLYLE CORBIN, representative of the Government of the United States Virgin Islands, congratulated the Government of Papua New Guinea on convening the successful Pacific regional seminar in Madang last month, noting that the session served as an important contribution to the understanding of the decolonization process in the Pacific region. The Special Committee must now focus on the next critical step in the decolonization process, namely the implementation of the actions called for by the General Assembly in the decolonization resolutions. The need for political education remained a critical element of the process of self-determination. People of the small Territories, by and large remained unaware of their legitimate options. There had been insufficient support for political education programmes for the people of the small Territories, whose governments often have had to finance those activities from limited local resources.
Support provided by the United Kingdom and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the internal constitutional review processes of the Territories should be applauded, he said. The Special Committee must begin to work with those bodies of the United Nations system already involved in political education. The Special Committee should also exchange information with the Committee on Human Rights as both committees reviewed many of the same Territories.
Closely associated with political education was the idea of political status legitimacy, he said. General Assembly resolution 1541 provided the general parameters to which present-day dependency arrangements could be measured. The three options, namely independence, free association with an independent State and integration with an independent State, had been established as the options constituting absolute political equality. The minimum standards of political equality provided under those alternatives remained the basis for defining self-government in the twenty-first century. A most intriguing issue had emerged at the end of the previous decade as to whether the apparent acceptance of the people of their political and constitutional dependency constituted “self-government”. An expert examination on whether the present political status of a given Territory met the minimum standards of self-government was critical. While the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had called for such an analysis, no action had been taken to fulfil that request.
The Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of decolonization resolutions since the declaration of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, he said. Serious analysis, however, continued to be lacking. He was disappointed that the United Nations machinery had not undertaken important aspects of the plan of action and showed no indication that they were prepared to do so in the future. Over the years, the lack of implementation had been blamed on an un-responsive administering Power. While that might be so in some areas, such as permitting visiting missions, the United Nations system did not need the administering Powers to conduct political analysis and to produce reports. Regional bodies, academic institutions and experts could assist the review process. The administering Powers were not responsible for the lack of implementation of the things that the United Nations system could do pursuant to its mandate.
The period following the 2003 Caribbean seminar in Anguilla was an example of how inaction could yield disillusionment, he said. Many Caribbean territories had participated at the highest levels and much excitement had been generated. Without follow-up, however, that interest had dissipated. At the current juncture, the United Nations system should take stock of the effect or in effect of its resolutions in the Territories themselves. In that respect, he suggested that a mid-term five-year review be undertaken by the Assembly on the implementation of the plan of action for the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. It should not, however, replace the 2005 regional seminar. Such a review would not be effective if it was conducted by the Special Committee alone, but must address compliance from the wider United Nations system.
Responding to questions from the representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis regarding the decisions of the Anguilla Seminar and the application of the principle of free association by the administering Power, Mr. CORBIN said that relevant General Assembly resolutions had established minimum standards, which provided specific parameters of self-determination. The principle of free association related to the right of Non-Self-Governing Territories to determine their internal constitutions without outside interference, based on the freely expressed wishes of the people. As for integration, reference had been made to the peoples of various Territories having equal status and rights of citizenship, as well as other rights and freedoms. If one compared the present dependency arrangements in the Territory with those minimum standards, its status became quite clear.
To another question, he replied that some reports in the media indicated that some administering Powers did not offer the option of free association, although the Special Committee and the General Assembly had agreed that such options should be available to the people of the Territories. There was some confusion in the Territories whether such options were available to them. There had been an information gap following the Anguilla seminar, which had contributed to that situation.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUÉ (Côte d’Ivoire) said that it was clear from the statement by the representative of the Territory that the initial enthusiasm following the Anguilla Seminar had begun to wane, for there had been no follow-up regarding information about various options. Yesterday, the Committee had addressed the issue of information and what the Committee and the United Nations at large should do so that information on options could reach the populations. He wanted to know whether apart from what the United Nations was doing, there were internal channels of information in the Territory, which were trying to inform the population.
Responding to that question, Mr. CORBIN said that, while there were organizations involved in the dissemination of information, they suffered from the lack of resources. In general, the level of awareness varied widely from one Territory to another. In Puerto Rico, for example, there was a great level of awareness. There were also many non-governmental organizations involved in the issues. While political education fell upon the governments, many territories experienced difficulties in respect of resources. Thus, outside assistance was required.
He added that there was also insufficient information on the way the United Nations functioned. Much of the information mentioned during yesterday’s meeting, for example, did not reach the Territories. The United Nations information centres had never serviced the small territories. The creation of the Web site had been highly beneficial in that respect, but information presented there needed to be updated more often, and additional documentation could assist the Non-Self-Governing Territories in their efforts.
JIMMY URE OVIA (Papua New Guinea) commented that political consciousness of the people in the United States Virgin Islands was not the sole responsibility of the Committee. All the players should play their part, including the administering Power and the Government of the Territory itself. The Government had some responsibility for the dissemination of information on decolonization, and he wondered what it had done in terms of educating its people on the options available to them.
Mr. CORBIN replied that relevant General Assembly resolutions called for such efforts to be undertaken by the United Nations in cooperation with territorial Governments and regional organizations. The Territorial Government stood ready to do its part and was expecting cooperation from other partners. A relevant process –- undertaken on local resources –- had culminated in a 1993 referendum, which was not considered valid due to the small number of participants. Within that process, the Government had not received a reply from the Committee when it sought clarification regarding the options. There were also questions as to who should be eligible to vote or participate in the referendum. Clarifications had been sought, but no reply had been received.
The Territory had also sought financial resources for the referendum educational process, he said. Such assistance had not been obtained. Yet another request was for a visiting mission from the Special Committee, which was not allowed. In the 10 years since the referendum, there had been no resumption of any activities in that area. However, the Territory was participating in regional organizations in furtherance of the decolonization process, expanding its links with its neighbours.
ERWIN ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) said he shared the concern that the United Nations was not taking the necessary action to implement the plan of action. Time was moving quickly. He asked Dr. Corbin to elaborate on the obstacles to implementing the various resolutions and the plan of action. How could the problem be overcome? In the remaining five years, how could the Special Committee and the Territories meet the mandates and objectives of the United Nations? Follow-up to seminars was very important and must be done in a more concrete way.
Responding, Mr. CORBIN noted that the current plan of action was exactly the same as the first. That alone was extraordinary. Unlike others in the United Nations system, the plan did not focus on implementation. There was a need to take stock of what had been done by the wider United Nations system. For example, there was a call for the specialized agencies to provide assistance. To what extent had that happened? Certain things had been asked of the Special Committee, such as analysing the situation on the ground in the Territories. The current situation was much more complex than it was even 10 years ago. Such information was lacking.
It was a problem when a Territory sought to be delisted not knowing what constituted self-government, he said. The aim should not be to delist but to determine whether the full measure of self-government had been achieved. The various resolutions and the plan of action contained clearly identified actions. It was a question of rearranging the machinery to implement those actions. Background work needed to be done. It was ironic that the best background document before the Committee was about a territory not on the list, namely Puerto Rico. Similar analysis was needed for the Territories. The question was, would the remaining territories achieve a full measure of self-government or would they delist, just for the sake of delisting?
Committee Chairman, ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea) noted that no member of the Special Committee would look at delisting as a matter of expediency. He agreed, however, that delisting should not be the “end-all” and “be-all” of the matter. Delisting had to be done on a proper basis.
* *** *