|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION TAKES NOTE OF REPORT ON TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
Members Also Briefed on Pacific Regional Seminar Scheduled for Timor-Leste, 23-25 May
The Special Committee on Decolonization, informally known as the “Special Committee of 24”, today took note of the draft of its final report on the Turks and Caicos Islands, and briefed members on preparations for the upcoming Pacific Regional Seminar in Timor-Leste from 23 to 25 May.
The Turks and Caicos Islands, a Non-Self-Governing Territory administered by the United Kingdom, comprises some 40 islands and cays north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and south-east of Miami, United States. Only six of the islands are permanently inhabited, and most of the population is of African descent. In 2004, the Territory’s total population was estimated at 26,000. However, current estimates may be larger, given the growing numbers of undocumented immigrants flocking to jobs in tourism and construction.
The Chairman of the Special Committee, Julian R. Hunte ( Saint Lucia), briefed members on the United Nations mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands, which took place from 2 to 9 April. In accordance with a request from the Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the purpose of the visit, the first since 1980, was to examine the political, economic and social developments in the Territory, and provide information about the role of the United Nations and the Special Committee’s decolonization mandate to the Government and people of the Territory.
In over a quarter of a century, several political, economic and constitutional developments had occurred, which had heightened the development prospects of the small, multi-island country, according to the report (document A/AC.109/2006/ CRP.1). On the constitutional front, those changes included the establishment of a ministerial Government in 1976, followed by the subsequent suspension of the constitution in 1985, after a political crisis, and the imposition of direct rule by the administering Power. That resulted in a less autonomous constitution in 1988. The latter is the subject of a present constitutional review.
On the socio-economic front, the mission found that the territory had experienced “significant and steady” economic expansion, especially in the last decade. Plans to expand the tourism infrastructure to the smaller islands were well under way, with the institution of cruise-ship tourism in Grand Turk and other high-end tourism projects in other islands. The pace and extent of that sustained economic growth, especially in the construction and services sectors, had exceeded the capacity of the labour force, resulting in the use of external labour from neighbouring countries. It was felt that the administering Power should assist the Territory in addressing the impact of accelerating immigration.
With respect to the provision of information on political and constitutional development, it was clear to the Special Mission that the level of awareness, among the people, of their political and constitutional alternative “has not kept pace with the level of economic development”, the report states. While the leaders of both main political parties were sufficiently aware of the political alternatives and the necessary strategies for achieving self-government, many people had expressed a general lack of awareness of the political options available to them, and on the process of self-determination in general.
The report concludes: “This speaks to the fundamental deficiency in implementation of longstanding United Nations resolutions on the development of programmes of dissemination of information on decolonisation, which would be designed to heighten the awareness of the people of their options, if they were to be instituted.” Nevertheless, the Special Mission felt that its goal of imparting information on the self-determination process to the people of the Territory had been fulfilled, and that, in turn, its members had gained a more thorough understanding of the challenges and aspirations faced by that small island developing Territory in the Caribbean, whose self-determination aims could be realized through further engagement with the United Nations, on a broad level.
Committee Secretary, Sergei Cherniavsky, recalled that, on 23 February, the Government of Timor-Leste had extended an invitation to the Special Committee to hold the 2006 Regional Seminar in Dili, its capital. He reviewed some of the organizations and individuals who would be in attendance, along with delegations, including a senior economist from a division of the World Bank that dealt specifically with Timor-Leste and other countries of the Pacific region.
Asked by the representative of Iran to explain the criteria for attending a seminar, he said the selection of the official delegation to the seminars was well known to United Nations members. That involved fair geographical representation, as reflected in the Special Committee’s membership, and a rotation, which gave all members an opportunity to attend the seminars. In the past, Bureau members attended the seminars to assist the Chairman in his functions, and some slots were given to regional groups to decide who else would join the official delegation. The decisions were totally in the Committee’s hands. The Secretariat’s role was to assist and not to take any decisions in that regard, as that was in the hands of the Chair, the Bureau and the delegations.
The Chairman added that every effort was made to ensure that the process was “free and fair”. This year had been rather unique in that the budget had been substantially reduced, which had meant a cut in the numbers of people able to attend. That had affected representation from the Committee, the Secretariat, and even from certain countries in the Pacific and elsewhere. He, himself, had decided, as a gesture of “good faith”, not to accept any per diem and to attend the seminar “from his own pocket”. It had come down to either having a seminar with a reduced budget, or having no seminar at all.
Timor-Leste’s representative announced that his Government was doing everything in its power to provide the best possible facilities for a successful seminar. The Chairman thanked the Government for its unprecedented generosity, without which, it would have been impossible to host the seminar in the Pacific. He looked forward to its convening next month, although he had heard it would be “hot”, not only in terms of the weather, but also in terms of the issues likely to arise. He added, on another topic, that the report on Tokelau was currently being finalized, and he hoped to be able to issue the final document soon.