delegates urge eradication of colonialism during second decade,
as fourth committee begins general debate
Underscoring the need to meet the goals of the Second International Decade on the Eradication of Colonialism during the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, speakers in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon focused on the questions of Tokelau, Western Sahara and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) as that body began its general debate on decolonization issues.
Iran’s representative, noting that 2 million people were still living in Non-Self-Governing Territories as the Second Decade approached its mid-point, said there should not have to be a third decade to complete the task of decolonization. For that reason, Iran called for the dissemination of relevant information among the people of the Non-SelfGoverningTerritories so that they could choose the option that was best for them. Other priorities included cooperation between the Special Committee on Decolonization and the administering Powers in developing a work programme for the remaining Territories, and the development of an annual implementation review of how the Special Committee’s recommendations were being implemented.
Cuba’s representative said that the universality of the inalienable right to self-determination continued to be denied on grounds of geographical remoteness, small population and size, non-sustainability, and the alleged desire of the Territories’ inhabitants to remain under colonial rule. The efforts and good intentions of the Special Committee were not enough without official, sustained and respectful contacts with the administering Powers toward a genuine decolonization process.
Many speakers affirmed the importance of regional seminars in furthering the decolonization of the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories. In his briefing to the Committee, Robert Guba Aisi (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that at this year’s seminar in his country, the progress made in the decolonization of Tokelau had served as a case study. The Special Committee had warmly welcomed the decision by Tokelau’s General Fono in November 2003 to actively explore the option of self-government in free association with New Zealand. That country’s representative said, in turn, that the signing by New Zealand and Tokelau of a Joint Statement on Principles of Partnership, which set out the rights and obligations of both parties, had provided a solid platform for Tokelau’s further constitutional and political development.
In respect of Western Sahara, the representative of Namibia said that the United Nations had a responsibility to ensure the holding of a free and fair referendum in order for the oppressed people of that Non-Self-Governing Territory to determine their future. Until the present time, Morocco had not accepted the peace plan for Western Sahara and was urged to cooperate fully with the United Nations and to contribute positively to the conduct of the referendum.
Paraguay’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Cuba and Venezuela, called for a solution to the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Similarly, Brazil’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom must resume negotiations in order to find, as soon as possible, a “peaceful, just and definitive solution” to their sovereignty dispute over that Territory.
Kyaw Tint Swe (Myanmar), Fourth Committee Chairman, opened this afternoon’s proceedings and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee on Decolonization, introduced that body’s report and outlined its work during the 2004 session.
The representative of Viet Nam also addressed the Committee.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday 5 October, 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 for 2004 (document A/59/23).
The report recalls that the Special Committee was established by the General Assembly in 1961 in order 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. 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. At its fifty-eighth session, in 2003, the Assembly called on the Special Committee to finalize, before the end of 2004, a case-by-case programme of work for each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, to facilitate the implementation of its mandate.
During its 2004 session, which began on 11 February, the report says that the Special Committee continued discussion on such case-by-case work programmes and held informal consultations with the administering Powers with a view to improving cooperation, as noted in section J of the report. It also held its Pacific regional seminar at Madang, Papua New Guinea, from 18 to 20 May 2004. Those proceedings are summarized in Chapter II. The Special Committee also continued its review of the list of Territories to which the Declaration is applicable, and heard speakers on its decision of 9 June 2003 concerning Puerto Rico.
Regarding future work, the report says that the Special Committee intends, during 2005, to intensify its dialogue with the administering Powers, and pursue other efforts to accelerate the implementation of its mandate. 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. The Committee is particularly encouraged by meetings with representatives of New Zealand and Tokelau regarding progress in the process towards that Territory’s self-determination and by the effective United Nations mission to Tokelau in August 2002. It is also greatly encouraged by the growing interest and participation by the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the regional seminars, and the Special Committee will continue to conduct seminars for the purpose of assessing, receiving and disseminating information on the situation in the Territories. The next seminar is planned for the Caribbean region in 2005.
According to the report, 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 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 explore, together with the Department of Public Information, the development of programmes aimed at Territories that have requested information on self-determination options.
In its focus on the specific problems of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the report states that the Committee will continue to recommend measures to facilitate a sustained and balanced growth of the Territories’ fragile economies, through increased assistance in the development of all economic sectors and an 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 2005. 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.
The report also outlines the Special Committee’s consideration of specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2004 session, 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.
Chapter XII of the report contains draft resolutions 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/59/71).
[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 2000 to 2005. The Secretary-General recommends that the information received from the administering Powers be used by the Secretariat to prepare 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/59/74), covering the period April 2003 to April 2004. The report lists 56 countries that have offered to make scholarships available to inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories. From the current period, it describes offers from Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.
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 seven requests from students for information on the availability of scholarships, but none from inhabitants of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
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/59/64). 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/2004/47.
The 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories are: American Samoa; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); Gibraltar; Guam; Montserrat; New Caledonia; Pitcairn; Saint Helena; Tokelau; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States Virgin Islands; and Western Sahara.
On the question of Western Sahara, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document A/59/134), which summarizes the reports he submitted to the Security Council from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004 on the situation concerning Western Sahara. On 31 July, the Security Council adopted resolution 1495 (2003) by which it extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2003 and expressed its continued support for the Peace Plan for Self-determination of the People of Western Sahara (document S/2003/565, annex II).
In his report of 16 October 2003 (document S/2003/1016), the Secretary-General informed the Council that Morocco had asked for more time to reflect and consult. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) had officially accepted the Peace Plan. On 28 October, the Council adopted resolution 1513 (2003) by which it extended MINURSO’s mandate until 31 January 2004. In his report to the Council (document S/2004/39) the Secretary-General stated that Alvaro de Soto, his new Special Representative for Western Sahara, had assumed his duties. Following Mr. de Soto’s discussions with Morocco, the Secretary-General recommended the extension of MINURSO’s mandate to allow for further consultations. In resolution 1523 (2004) of 30 January, the Council extended the mandate until 30 April.
In his report to the Council of 23 April (document S/2004/325 and Add.1), the Secretary-General transmitted Morocco’s final response to the Peace Plan, which had clearly stated that an “autonomy-based solution can only be final”. That response had adverse implications for self-determination as called for in resolution 1429 (2002). The Secretary-General also observed that there was opposition in the Council to a non-consensual solution to the conflict. Given those facts, there were, in his view, only two options for the Council to consider: to terminate MINURSO and return the issue to the General Assembly; or to try once again to induce the parties to work towards acceptance and implementation of the Peace Plan, which still constituted the best political solution to the conflict. In resolution 1542 (2004) of 29 April, the Council reaffirmed its support for the Peace Plan and extended MINURSO’s mandate until 31 October.
Regarding the activities of the Identification Commission, the Secretary-General informed the Council that it had successfully completed its overall working plan and that all sensitive documents were safely stored in Geneva. Concerning the issue of prisoners of war, 534 Moroccan prisoners had been released by the POLISARIO Front, but 514 were still in detention, some of whom had been held for more than 20 years.
The Secretary-General also reported on the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in Western Sahara.
KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar), Fourth Committee Chairman, introduced the discussion on decolonization. He said that the United Nations had established a very successful track record in decolonization, with fewer than 2 million people currently living in Non-Self-Governing Territories. However, that was 2 million too many. The course must be pursued towards a speedy end to colonialism. He appealed to the administering Powers and all other parties to cooperate towards that goal.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), Rapporteur for the Special Committee on decolonization, introduced that Committee’s report for the year 2004 (document A/59/23). The Committee he said, continued to be guided by the goals of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, and its work had benefited this year by the participation of residents of some Non-Governing-Territories and administering Powers.
ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said that the Committee continued to comply with its mandate to review the information provided by the administering Powers, to hear from representatives of the Territories, petitioners and other officials, and non-governmental organizations, and take their concerns into consideration. He said that the respect for the self-determination of peoples was one of the basic purposes of the United Nations, and it was essential to complete the task.
Affirming the importance of the regional seminars, he said that this year the seminar was hosted in his home country, focusing mostly on advancing the decolonization process in the Pacific region. The progress made in the decolonization process in Tokelau served as a case study during the seminar. The Committee warmly welcomed the decision of Tokelau’s General Fono in November 2003 to actively explore with New Zealand the option of self-government in free association. He informed the Committee that initial contacts had been made towards the possibility of holding the 2005 decolonization seminar in Bermuda.
The Special Committee, he said, remained ready to seek innovative solutions to further its decolonization mandate, and he welcomed the renewed interest and participation of the territorial authorities and administering Powers in its work. He said the Committee could and must make a difference in assisting the peoples of the remaining Territories to exercise their right to self-determination in accordance with all relevant General Assembly resolutions.
CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said since its creation the Special Committee had been the United Nations’ driving force in the decolonization process of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Although thanks to its work 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories could be decolonized, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still had to undergo that process. The Rio Group decisively supported the activities carried out by the Special Committee and considered implementation of the report’s recommendations essential. It requested the administering Powers and interested States to do so without delay.
He said it was necessary that the Governments of Argentina and the Untied Kingdom resume negotiations in order to find, as soon as possible, a “peaceful, just and definitive solution” to the sovereignty dispute regarding the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia (Georgias del Sur) and South Sandwich Island (Sanduich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas, according to the resolutions and declarations of the General Assembly, the Special Committee and the Organization of American States (OAS). Regarding the small island Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific, the major number of existing Non-Self-Governing Territories, it was necessary to continue adopting measures to facilitate the sustainable and fair growth of their economies, in order to advance the decolonization process according to the wishes of their peoples.
On the question of Western Sahara, he said the Rio Group reaffirmed the responsibility of the United Nations with regard to ensuring the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination according to a just, mutually acceptable and lasting solution. The Group fully supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative to find such a solution, including the Peace Plan for the Self-Determination for the People of Western Sahara. The Group requested the parties to cooperate –- according to Security Council resolutions 1495 and 1541 -– with the United Nations and among themselves in order to accept and implement such a plan as soon as possible.
ELADIO LOIZAGA (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, said member States of MERCOSUR supported the work of the Decolonization Committee, in order to close the chapter of decolonization. It took note of the measures adopted in the Committee’s June session and agreed, in particular, with the resolution on the issue of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), included in the report.
He said the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom was an issue of permanent concern to his continent. He trusted that the bilateral relationship and the provisional understanding for cooperation in the South Atlantic, reached in the last decade, would contribute to the reopening of negotiations on substantive matters. He reiterated the terms of the declarations on the issue in meetings of the heads of State and government of MERCOSUR, which reiterated the legitimate rights of Argentina in the dispute of sovereignty regarding the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
RODNEY LOPEZ CLEMENTE (Cuba) said that in recent years the success of the decolonization process had been limited and the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories had barely changed. Regrettably, the universality of the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination continued to be blatantly manipulated around such criteria as geographical remoteness, small population or size, non-sustainability, and the resulting, alleged desire of the Territories inhabitants to remain in their colonial state.
He said the efforts and good intentions of the Decolonization Committee were not enough, without official, sustained and respectful contacts with administering Powers towards a genuine decolonization process. Delisting a territory must only be carried out when inhabitants of a territory have had access to all information relevant to a just, transparent and carefully thought-out decision. He supported missions to the Territories to compile information from primary sources on the life conditions, and the political, economic and social situation of the inhabitants. The broad and respectful dialogue between New Zealand and the Decolonization Committee should be a model for all administering Powers.
He said the plundering of natural resources and the dumping of toxic wastes in the Non-Self-Governing Territories made it clear that decolonization must continue to be a prominent item on the United Nations agenda. Regarding particular situations, he expressed pride over the adoption of a high number of resolutions recognizing the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to independence. He expressed deep concern over the stalemate in the Western Sahara, which had deterred the Saharawi people from its right to self-determination. He reiterated Cuba’s support to Argentina in the dispute over the MalvinasIslands, and urged the administering Power of Guam to fully cooperate with the Special Committee’s endeavours.
FERMIN TORO JIMENEZ (Venezuela), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, said his country was undergoing a peaceful and democratic self-determination process, in which the main the Venezuelan people for the first time in the country’s history participated directly in decisions on its fate. He stated his country’s opposition to all forms of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
He also expressed his country’s full commitment to the sovereignty of Western Sahara and its people’s legitimate aspirations. In keeping with decisions of United Nations bodies and international law, he hoped that the people’s wish for independence would become a reality in a peaceful way. He reiterated his country’s support for Argentina in the sovereignty dispute regarding the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) and for the right of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.
TIM McIVOR (New Zealand) said that, at the Special Committee’s seminar this year, special attention had been paid to Tokelau’s progression along the path to self-determination. In November 2003, Tokelau and New Zealand had signed a “Joint Statement on Principles of Partnership” which set out in writing the rights and obligations of both partner countries and provided a solid platform for Tokelau’s further constitutional and political development. In June, the Administrator had formally transferred his powers to the three Village Councils of Tokelau. It put the three villages squarely at the heart of Tokelau’s system of government and reaffirmed the “pule”, or traditional authority of the three Village Councils. In October last year, it was agreed to explore with New Zealand the option of self-government in free association with New Zealand. Work was now under way on the elaboration of a set of arrangements in response to that decision.
On the economic support front, he said that last year Tokelau had assumed full responsibility for managing its budget. Last month, Tokelau and New Zealand had signed an agreement on economic support for the next three years. The formal deed for Tokelau’s International Trust Fund would be signed during a visit to New Zealand of Tokelau’s Executive Council. According to the Special Committee, that Trust Fund would be an important means by which regional and international bodies and other countries could assist a self-governing Tokelau to overcome the challenges of distance, smallness and lack of resources.
He said Tokelau had continued to play a full role in regional affairs over the past 12 months. It had participated actively in a number of regional groupings, activities and organizations. Its Acting Ulu had been accorded a special hearing at the year’s meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum. New Zealand had continued to strengthen the structures and systems on which Tokelau depended for its economic and technical support. The Administrative Assistance Scheme was working, among other things, in support of Tokelau’s telecommunications systems and in the health and economic development sectors.
HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran) said the United Nations had a valid, ongoing role in decolonization. It was nearly the mid-point of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and there were still 2 million people living in Non-Self-Governing Territories. There should not have to be a third Decade to finish the task.
In that effort, he said, one priority was the dissemination of relevant information among the people of the Non-SelfGoverningTerritories. In addition, missions to the Territories were of great importance to assess their situations. Likewise, the participation of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the work of relevant meetings and conferences of the organizations should be facilitated. The administering Powers and the Territories should be engaged in constructive dialogue; the representatives of New Zealand, France and the United Kingdom had taken positive steps towards that end at the regional seminar in Papua New Guinea.
Other priorities included cooperation between the Committee and administering Powers in developing a work programme for the remaining Territories, as well as the development of an annual review of the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations. He said regional seminars provided the Special Committee with a unique opportunity to focus on varied matters of concern in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, especially when held in such Territories.
JULIUS ZAYA SHIWEVA (Namibia) said that despite the progress of the previous century, there still were Territories languishing under foreign occupation and domination in the twenty-first century. That situation could not be allowed to continue. He urged the administering Powers to cooperate with the Special Committee so that the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories could achieve self-determination, freedom and independence.
In Western Sahara, he said, the United Nations had a responsibility to ensure that a free and fair referendum was held, in order for the oppressed people of that Territory to determine their future. Saying that Morocco had not up to now accepted the peace plan, he urged that State to cooperate fully with the United Nations and to contribute positively to the conduct of the referendum. In addition, he said that the people of Palestine deserved the right to have an independent and sovereign State where they could live in peace and social justice.
NGUYEN DUY CHIEN (Viet Nam) said that over the last 42 years the decolonization process had brought about remarkable achievements. However, decolonization goals set forth in the 1960 Declaration were far from completed, as there still remained 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories. That situation required renewed efforts of the international community.
His country had been under colonial rule for a long period, he said, and it, therefore, welcomed the achievements of the decolonization process all over the world. It was committed to the inalienable rights of peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination and independence, in accordance with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), regardless of the territory’s size, geographical location, population or its limited natural resources. His country aligned itself with the position of the Non-Aligned Movement that the principles of self-determination with respect to the remaining territories within the framework of the Programme of Action should be implemented in accordance with the wishes of the people and consistent with Assembly resolutions and the Charter of the United Nations.
He said his country strongly supported efforts by the relevant bodies of the United Nations in implementing the Programme of Action, in particular the activities carried out by the Special Committee in the annual examination of the political, economic and social situation in each of the territories. The successful fulfilment of the Special Committee’s mandate would require the cooperation of the administering Powers, which, among other things, included facilitating United Nations missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories.
* *** *