|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
CARIBBEAN REGIONAL SEMINAR DISCUSSES WESTERN SAHARA, FALKLANDS/MALVINAS,
IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION ON DECOLONIZATION ISSUES
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
SAINT GEORGE’S, Grenada, 23 May --- In its second day, the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization took up the issues of the Non-Self-Governing Territories of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas and Western Sahara, and heard the views of representatives of other Non-Self-Governing Territories, experts and non-governmental organizations, who emphasized the importance of education on decolonization issues.
Conducted within the framework of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010), the Seminar, which takes place from 22 to 24 May in Saint George’s, Grenada, focuses on practical steps to advance the decolonization process in the Caribbean and elsewhere, and will provide the Special Committee on Decolonization with conclusions and recommendations on next steps in the decolonization process.
As the Seminar took up the question of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, it heard from that Territory’s representative, Richard Davies, who stated that the “clear and informed” wish of the people in the Territory was to continue the present association with the United Kingdom. They did not seek independence or integration. It was a voluntary partnership, based on self-determination, and was not a colonial relationship. They did not wish the British Government to negotiate their sovereignty with Argentina. “Falkland Islanders are strongly opposed to Argentine sovereignty, and no one who visits the Falklands could have any doubt about that.” As the Territory had never been part of Argentina, territorial integrity was not a valid argument. The people did not want to become a colony of Argentina.
“It is the people of the Falkland Islands who should be deciding their own future, not the Argentine and British Governments,” he said. Annually, the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for negotiation between the United Kingdom and Argentina, although the population of the Territory were “vehemently” opposed to that. He regretted that the current Argentine Government was taking steps to damage the Territory’s economy. He suggested that, instead of passing the “seriously flawed” annual resolution, the Special Committee should encourage measures that reduced tension, promoted understanding and confidence, and called for cooperation on regional issues.
The representative of Argentina, Ana Marcela Pastorino, said the “question of the Malvinas Islands” affected the territorial integrity of the Argentine Republic and its people. The Malvinas Islands, she noted, constituted a “special and particular case” as it had been expressly recognized by the resolutions of the Special Committee. Giving a historical overview of Argentina’s claims on the Territory, going back to its discovery by Magellan in 1520, she said the Territory had been inherited by Argentina from Spain. The United Kingdom had seized the islands by force in 1833. During the 174 years of the dispute, Argentina had never ceased to formally protest the “illegal occupation” of the Territory by the United Kingdom.
She said the Territory was a special case because it took the form of a sovereignty dispute, as acknowledged by the Special Committee. Within the framework of the decolonization process, her country had constantly supported the principle of self-determination. However, in the case of the Malvinas, the principle of territorial integrity prevailed, and a correct interpretation of the principle of self-determination made it inapplicable. United Nations resolution 1514 stipulated that “colonialism in all its manifestations must be brought to an end and national unity and territorial integrity must be respected”. Resolution 2065 called for negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The sovereignty dispute only involved Argentina and the United Kingdom. The solution to such a dispute must be reached through negotiations between both Governments.
In a short discussion following the statements, the representative of the Territory took issue with the historical overview and found it “ironic” that Argentina came to the Seminar to seek support for colonization, which was “absurd and immoral”. Meanwhile, the representative of Argentina said the call for negotiations had been reiterated by the Assembly before and after the armed conflict. Another speaker observed that the Special Committee did not have the power to rule on the sovereignty dispute, but should protect the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Consideration of the question of Western Sahara gave rise to a prolonged exchange of statements and points of order between the representatives of Morocco, Algeria and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente Polisario).
Ahmed Boukhari, Frente Polisario, said that Morocco had, in the past, often supported the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. In 1990, it had accepted the Settlement Plan, which would allow for the people in Western Sahara to participate in a referendum to choose between independence and integration with Morocco. That referendum, due to Morocco’s ever-changing positions, had never taken place. Morocco had recently proposed a plan for autonomy of the region, based on Moroccan sovereignty. The Frente Polisario, in its plan, had proposed to hold the referendum. If the results led to independence, Western Sahara would be ready to enter into a preferential relationship with Morocco. It stood ready to enter into direct negotiations with Morocco.
He hoped that the new opportunity offered to both parties would lead to peace. That peace, however, should be based on the right of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. The Frente Polisario would accept an outcome in which Western Sahara wanted to be Moroccan. He noted that the international community had never recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, as had been expressed in numerous resolutions and legal opinions, including of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs. The Special Committee should preserve the basic right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara, and the Security Council should call on both parties to enter in good faith into negotiations. However, negotiations would fail if a referendum was not included in the outcome.
Khaddad el Moussaoui of Morocco gave a statement in Spanish. According to an English translation provided later by the Moroccan delegation, he gave a historical overview leading up to Morocco’s current initiative for negotiating an autonomy statute for Western Sahara. That initiative was the result of consultations with political parties and the population of the region, and more than 35 countries. It was well in conformity with international legality and allowed for the fulfilment of the principle of self-determination through negotiation, the outcome of which would be submitted to a popular consultation. Autonomy was consistent with self-determination in contemporary legal doctrine and constituted the best means to prevent the Balkanization of States.
According to the provided translation, he said that, contrary to other Non-Self-Governing Territories, Western Sahara had always been a natural extension of Morocco, both geographically and in terms of population. It was the only case of a Non-Self-Governing Territory that was addressed by both the Security Council and the General Assembly. Hence, the United Nations was not facing a classic case of decolonization. Rather, the United Nations was actively involved in the search for a political solution to the dispute.
Mahieddine Djeffal of Algeria said that, as the Western Sahara was the only remaining Non-Self-Governing Territory in Africa and because implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was a long delayed goal of the United Nations, he had expected a serious explanation by “the occupying Power”, Morocco, on the reasons why it did not adhere to international resolutions and a promise that it would contribute to the success of the Second Decade by allowing the people in Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination. Sadly, Morocco kept up its tactics of delaying and misleading the international community.
He said that Morocco had told the Special Committee that illegal immigration and terrorism might spread if Western Sahara became independent, and had even suggested that there was a link between the Frente Polisario and Al-Qaida, “playing the fear card”. The 1975 opinion of the International Court of Justice had clearly concluded that there was no Moroccan sovereignty whatsoever over Western Sahara. Morocco’s initiative was a fraud from the start, as it was based on the assumption that Morocco’s territorial integrity had to be respected. Algeria hoped that the negotiations called for by the Security Council in resolution 1754 (2007) would take place in good faith and enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination.
Commenting on the statement made by the Frente Polisario and Algeria, Souad el Alaoui of Morocco reminded the Seminar of the often overlooked paragraphs in resolution 1514 pointing to respect for territorial integrity. After addressing several allegations point by point, she said that Morocco’s initiative was substantial and open for negotiation. It was not intended to impose a unilateral solution. Algeria could not claim it was not involved in the issue, as it had made proposals on the issue and had provided military assistance to the Frente Polisario. Also, there was not a single document in the United Nations referring to Morocco as the occupying Power. She hoped that the negotiations called for by the Security Council would take place in the coming month.
Many speakers today emphasized the role of education in the decolonization process. LaVerne E. Ragster, expert from the United States Virgin Islands, highlighted an education programme designed by the University of the Virgin Islands, paid for by the Territory’s Government, regarding the upcoming elections on 12 June to elect 30 delegates who would convene a constitutional convention on 23 July. That body would have one year to create a Constitution that advanced the goal of greater self-government. She said the programme -- VI Constitution 2008 -- utilized multiple methods to reach a racially and culturally diverse public throughout the whole process.
Among lessons learned, she highlighted the fact that Territories should continually engage their residents on issues of political status and constitutional development; that traditional ways of sharing information vital to the transmission of an oral culture should be utilized; and that the institutions of higher learning must be critical players.
Lana W. Connor Hoyoung, Anguilla National Council of Women, said that, in May, Anguilla would be celebrating 40 years since it set off on the road to self-determination. However, the island was still bearing the rigours of colonialism. Until there was education, there was really no chance of decolonization. The 2003 Caribbean Regional Seminar held in Anguilla had educated many people. It had become clear that the United Kingdom Government was now advocating constitutional modernization while, at the same time, prohibiting further education on self-determination options. The women of Anguilla had begun to enlighten the people through education. She suggested that the Special Committee continue to monitor the Non-Self-Governing Territories beyond the Second Decade, and that it seek permission from the administering Powers to establish focal points in each Territory to carry out needed education programmes.
Dessima Williams, Grenada Education and Development Programme (GRENED), suggested that, in terms of next steps, the Special Committee redefine decolonization so that it would include economic decolonization. The Special Committee should also include in its work the issue of public education and participation of civil society.
Illustrating the fact that some Non-Self-Governing Territories had no complaint, William Drabble of Saint Helena -- who had had to travel eight days to attend -- said his island was one of two Grant Aided Overseas Territories -- Montserrat being the other -- and, without that assistance, the “Saints” would not be able to live in the manner they had become accustomed to, as there were no means to generate sufficient income. The Territory had no wish to change its current status. He informed the Seminar that the United Kingdom had agreed to finance an airport on the island, at a cost of £100 million, construction of which would begin this year. That would help to end isolation and generate tourism.
Ronal Williams, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), addressed the regional involvement of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean, saying that Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the United States Virgin Islands had participated in ECLAC’s activities as associate members of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC). As such, they had the opportunity to participate in global forums of the United Nations system and in the work of the Economic and Social Council. Among major economic and social issues affecting the Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories were the need for access to programmes and activities of the United Nations system; the need to promote stability, diversification and strengthening of the economies of the Territories; and the need to address the impacts of the increasing pattern of intraregional migration.
The representatives of Iran, Cuba and Chile also made statements, as did the representative of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Seminar, organized by the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 24 May.
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