DEPARTMENTS OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS, PUBLIC INFORMATION BRIEF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON WORK TO SUPPORT UN DECOLONIZATION MANDATE

5 June 2006
GA/COL/3134

DEPARTMENTS OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS, PUBLIC INFORMATION BRIEF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON WORK TO SUPPORT UN DECOLONIZATION MANDATE

5 June 2006
General Assembly
GA/COL/3134
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on

Decolonization

4th Meeting (AM)

DEPARTMENTS OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS, PUBLIC INFORMATION BRIEF SPECIAL COMMITTEE

ON WORK TO SUPPORT UN DECOLONIZATION MANDATE

As the Special Committee on decolonization resumed its 2006 session this morning, representatives of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the Department of Public Information (DPI) highlighted their strategies since last June to better educate the global community about the United Nations decolonization mandate.

Karina Gerlach, Chief of the Decolonization Unit of DPA, said that, since assuming responsibility for maintaining the United Nations decolonization website in 2004, her office had continually updated the site to include all relevant official United Nations documentation and was working to post full seminar papers and statements.  In the coming months, DPA and DPI were also teaming up to make it more user-friendly.

The Department of Political Affairs collected information on the situation in the Territories from a wide range of sources, she added.  During public meetings, it distributed brochures such as “The United Nations and Decolonization, Questions & Answers”.  It was also helping to update the chapter on decolonization in the publication “Basic Facts about the United Nations”, as well as providing factual information for the United Nations’ Yearbook.  The DPA remained committed to making every effort to reach all those who needed to be reached, she said, noting that visiting missions to the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories under the United Nations trust provided the best opportunity to reach a wide audience.  For example, during a recent special mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands, a DPA senior officer assisted the Special Committee in meetings with government leaders, the representative of the administering Power, opposition members and a cross section of civil society.

Ahmad Fawzi, Officer-in-Charge of DPI, told the Committee that his Department was publicizing the latest developments on decolonization through the United Nations News Centre and other outlets, and was working closely with DPA, United Nations funds and programmes, and the Special Committee.

Introducing the report of the Secretary-General on dissemination of information on decolonization, Mr. Fawzi said DPI had posted 33 press releases in English and French on relevant meetings of intergovernmental bodies on the United Nations website, where they were available to a global audience.  United Nations Radio had broadcast news stories on the referendum in Tokelau in February, had covered last year’s Caribbean Regional Seminar, and had regularly focused on issues concerning Western Sahara.  In addition, the DPI had undertaken an intensive media outreach to promote the significance of the referendum in Tokelau and was preparing for the General Assembly an information leaflet on assistance programmes available to Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The Committee Chairman, Julian Hunte ( Saint Lucia) said the effective implementation of resolutions on disseminating information on decolonization would help the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list to experience the triumphant dismantling of colonialism.

Also during the meeting, the Committee -- formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples -- agreed to accede to requests for hearings on four Territories.  They included the question of Gibraltar, as contained in aide-memoire 05/06; the question of Falkland Islands (Malvinas), as contained in aide-memoire 06/06; the question of Western Sahara, as contained in aide-memoire 07/06; and the question of Puerto Rico, as contained in aide-memoire 03/06.

The Committee also approved the request of Carlyle Corbin, Representative for External Affairs of the United States Virgin Islands, to address the Committee on the United States Virgin Islands and the implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations, as contained in aide-memoire 04/06.

Also this morning, Mr. Hunte expressed the Committee’s solidarity with the people of Timor-Leste during the current difficult circumstances in that country.  He noted, however, that the Security Council continued to monitor the situation and that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, would be updating the Council shortly on developments there.  The Committee decided to hold off on rescheduling later in the year a regional seminar on Timor-Leste until it could further assess the situation.  The regional seminar was originally planned for May in Dili, Timor-Leste.  The representative of Timor-Leste thanked the Committee for its support in the matter.

In addition, the Committee deferred until Wednesday morning action on draft resolution A/AC.109/2006/L.5 on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations and on draft resolution A/AC.109/2006/L.6 on the question of sending visiting missions to Territories.

The Special Committee on decolonization will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 6 June, to begin consideration of the question of Gibraltar and Western Sahara.

Background

The Special Committee on decolonization, formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, met this morning to continue its 2006 substantive session.

Statements

AHMAD FAWZI, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2006/18) and highlighted some of the activities which the Department had undertaken during the reporting period, from June 2005 to March 2006, as well as during the last two months not covered by the report.

He said the Department’s activities could be broadly characterized as coverage and outreach.  Coverage activities included the issuance, in English and French, of 33 press releases on relevant meetings of intergovernmental bodies.  All such releases were posted on the United Nations website, where they were available to a global audience.  United Nations Radio broadcast news stories on the referendum in Tokelau in February of this year, covered last year’s Caribbean Regional Seminar, and regularly focused on issues concerning Western Sahara.  United Nations activities regarding decolonization were also covered in the UN Chronicle, the Department’s quarterly magazine.  Other DPI activities relating to decolonization involved outreach through the media, the internet, and the network of United Nations Information Centres and services.  For example, the DPI had undertaken an intensive media outreach to promote the significance of the referendum in Tokelau.

He said the General Assembly had requested DPI to prepare and disseminate an information leaflet on assistance programmes available to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The Department sent to all relevant funds and programmes requests and reminders for contributions to the leaflet; however, only a limited number had been received to date.  The Department went ahead and prepared a draft leaflet.  It intended to continue contacting the funds and programmes that had not responded to requests, and to complete and distribute the leaflet as soon as possible.

He said the Department designed the decolonization website and made it operational in 2001.  The management of the website had since been transferred to the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), which has further improved its content.  The DPI would continue to publicize the latest developments relating to decolonization, through the United Nations News Centre and other outlets, as well as continue to work closely with the Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations funds and programmes, and the Special Committee.

KARINA GERLACH, Chief, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, said that, during the period under review, her Department had continued to do its utmost to disseminate information about the decolonization process.  The Department collected information on the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories from many sources, including administering Powers, media and Internet sites, participants in Special Committee regional seminars, and visiting missions and petitioners participating in Special Committee and Fourth Committee meetings.  Those occasions also provided the Department with the opportunity to disseminate information on the United Nations’ decolonization mandate.

She said visiting missions to the Territories provided the best opportunity to reach a wide audience.  During a recent special mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands, the delegation of the Special Committee (assisted by a DPA senior officer) met with government leaders, the representative of the administering Power, opposition members and a cross section of civil society.  During public meetings, brochures were distributed, among them, one entitled “The United Nations and Decolonization, Questions & Answers”, which was prepared by the Decolonization unit.  The Decolonization Unit was assisting DPI in the production of another brochure on the different kinds of assistance the United Nations and its agencies and programmes could offer Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Despite such activities, she said disseminating information on the United Nations’ decolonization mandate remained a challenge for the Secretariat, both the DPA and the DPI.  In 2004 the Decolonization Unit assumed responsibility for maintaining the decolonization website.  Since then, it had continuously updated the site to include all relevant official United Nations documentation.  It was also working towards including full seminar papers and statements on the site.  In the coming months, the DPA would be working with DPI on retooling the website, to make it more user-friendly.

She said the DPA also continued to provide up-to-date information to DPI’s Public Inquiries Unit and the Guided Tours Unit.  It was contributing to the updating of the chapter on decolonization in the publication “Basic Facts about the United Nations”, as well as providing factual information for the United Nations’ Yearbook.  The DPA remained committed to making every effort to reach all those who needed to be reached.  In close cooperation with DPI, it would continue to endeavour to anticipate needs and identify priorities so as to make the best use possible of the scarce resources available to that end.

JULIAN HUNTE ( Saint Lucia), Chairman of the Committee, drew the Committee’s attention to the statement of the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, at the opening session on 24 April of the Committee on Information, in which Mr. Tharoor made reference to the triumphant dismantling of colonialism.  Mr. Hunte said the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still on the United Nations list had yet to experience such triumph.  The Committee and the General Assembly remained seized of the matter, Mr. Hunte said, adding that effective implementation of resolutions concerning disseminating information on decolonization would help advance that goal.

HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran) said that he had been looking at the traditional decolonization website and noticed it had not been updated since last year.  Today, he had found the link to the Committee of 24 and discovered a completely updated website.  He wanted to know why there were two separate websites on decolonization, what the difference between them was, and why the old DPI website was not being updated.

Ms. GERLACH, Chief, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, said that it was the responsibility of her Department to update the decolonization website.  If there was a residual Department of Public Information website, she said she would make sure it was deleted.

CHEICK SIDI DIARRA ( Mali) asked whether it was useful to consider the draft resolutions at the present time, since new elements might be brought to light during further exchanges within the Committee.  He had not yet read the Secretary-General’s report, and the Committee would need to take into account any new developments in the Territories under consideration since the report.

The CHAIRMAN said it would not be a problem to defer consideration of the draft resolution in order to have time to consider the report.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Mr. HUNTE drew the Committee’s attention to the document A/61/170, which contained information provided by the administering Powers under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations.  The Committee then decided to defer taking action on draft resolution A/AC.109/2006/L.5 on Information from Non-Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations until the draft’s text could be revised.  It decided it would take action on the draft on Wednesday morning.

The Committee then decided to defer taking action on resolution A/AC.109/2006/L.6 on the question of sending visiting missions to Territories until Wednesday.  Mr. Hunte said the draft reflected new developments, particularly a mission to observe the Tokelau referendum in February and the United Nations special mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands in April.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.