SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION APPROVES TWO DRAFTS ON INFORMATION, ADOPTS ONE ON VISITS TO NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES; CONSIDERS QUESTION OF WESTERN SAHARA

6 June 2007
GA/COL/3159

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION APPROVES TWO DRAFTS ON INFORMATION, ADOPTS ONE ON VISITS TO NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES; CONSIDERS QUESTION OF WESTERN SAHARA

6 June 2007
General Assembly
GA/COL/3159
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on

Decolonization

4th Meeting (AM)

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION APPROVES TWO DRAFTS ON INFORMATION, ADOPTS ONE

ON VISITS TO NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES; CONSIDERS QUESTION OF WESTERN SAHARA

The Special Committee on Decolonization this morning approved two draft resolutions on dissemination of information on decolonization, adopted one text on the Committee’s visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories and heard one petitioner on the question of Western Sahara.

Adopting a draft resolution on visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Special Committee stressed the need to dispatch periodic visiting missions the Territories and called upon administering Powers to facilitate such missions to the Territories under their administration. 

The Committee approved, without a vote, a draft text on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations, by which the General Assembly would reaffirm that, in the absence of a decision by the Assembly itself that a Non-Self-Governing Territory had attained a full measure of self-government in terms of Chapter XI of the Charter, the administering Power concerned should continue to transmit information under Article 73(e) of the Charter with respect to that Territory.  Among other things, the Assembly would request the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned.

Also without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the dissemination of information on decolonization, by which the Assembly would approve the activities in the field of dissemination of information on decolonization undertaken by the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs, in particular the preparation of the brochure, entitled “What the United Nations Can Do to Assist Non-Self Governing Territories”, issued in March 2007.

Considering it important to expand efforts to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization, the Assembly would also request the Department of Public Information to empower United Nations information centres in the relevant regions to disseminate material to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

By further terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to enhance information provided on the United Nations decolonization website and the Department of Information to continue to update web-based information on assistance programmes available to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It would request the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information to take measures through all available media to publicize the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization and, inter alia, develop procedures to collect and disseminate basic material on the issue of self-determination of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. 

At the outset of that text’s consideration, Ahmad Fawzi, Director of the News and Media Division of the United Nations Department of Public Information, and Freda Mackay, Chief, Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs, highlighted their departments’ activities regarding dissemination of information about the Organization’s decolonization efforts.  They emphasized their cooperation on a brochure, in English, French and Spanish, entitled “What the United Nations Can Do to Assist Non-Self-Governing Territories”, and on the maintenance and expansion of the website on decolonization.  Mr. Fawzi answered questions posed by the representatives of Iran, Congo, Indonesia and Saint Lucia.

On the question of Western Sahara, the representative of the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario), Ahmed Boukhari, noting that the continued colonial occupation of the Sahara by Morocco was a challenge to the principles of the United Nations Charter and the credibility of the Organization, said Morocco had sabotaged every effort to implement the Settlement Plan and the Baker Plan, violated human rights in the Territory and plundered the Territory’s natural resources. 

He said the proposal of the occupying Power to resolve the issue sought to legitimatize the occupation by offering autonomy.  That proposal was unacceptable since it violated the principle of self-determination by proposing a single option: annexation by the occupying Power.  The Frente Polisario proposal emphasized the necessity of holding a referendum with various options, including that of independence.  He announced that negations between the two parties under the auspices of the United Nations, as called for in Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), would start on 18 June.  He hoped Morocco would accept such negotiations, but the obstruction in the past and some attempts at bad faith at the recent Regional Seminars, as well as intensified repression and violence against the Saharawi people forced him to believe that good faith was not there yet. 

In a short statement, the representative of Cuba expressed support for the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination, and described his country’s assistance to the Territory, among other things by hosting 569 Saharawi students. 

The Special Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.

Background

The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, also known as the Special Committee on Decolonization, met this morning to hear petitioners on the question of Western Sahara; to consider the question of dissemination of information on decolonization, information from Non-Self-Governing Territories; and the question of sending visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories.

On the question of Western Sahara, the Special Committee has before it a working paper prepared by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2007/17).  It outlines contents of the Secretary-General’s report on the question of Western Sahara (document A/61/121) covering the period of 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 and the use of his good offices in addressing that situation.  The working paper also discusses two reports submitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council during the period under review (documents S/2006/249 and S/2006/817) and includes an overview of activities of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).  Relevant activities of the Security Council and the General Assembly are also detailed.

The Security Council on 30 April considered the Secretary-General’s report dated 13 April 2007 (document S/2007/202) covering developments since his 16 October 2006 report (document S/2007/817).  Those developments included the 6 November 2006 confirmation by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI of his Government’s creation of an autonomy proposal and strong commitment to working with the United Nations to find a consensual political solution to the question of Western Sahara.  Also on 30 April, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1754 (2007), by which it extended the MINURSO until 31 October.

Also before the Committee is a report on dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from April 2006 to February 2007 (document A/AC.109/2007/18), which examines coverage of issues before the General Assembly; use of United Nations radio and television in covering decolonization and related issues; use of the Internet; publications and United Nations information centres and services.

The Committee also has before it a draft resolution submitted by the chair on the dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2007/L.4).  By its terms, the General Assembly would approve the activities in the field of dissemination of information on decolonization undertaken by the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs, in accordance with the relevant resolutions, in particular the preparation under General Assembly resolution 61/129 of the brochure on assistance “What the United Nations Can Do to Assist Non-Self Governing Territories” issued in March 2007.

Considering it important to expand efforts to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization, the Assembly would also request the Department of Public Information to empower United Nations information centres in relevant regions to disseminate material to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

By further terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to enhance information provided on the United Nations decolonization website, request the Department of Information to continue to update web-based information on assistance programmes available to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and request the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information to take measures through all media available to publicize the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization and, inter alia, develop procedures to collect and disseminate basic material on the issue of self-determination of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. 

Also according to the text, the Assembly would request the Department of Public Information and the Department of Political Affairs to seek the full cooperation of the administering Powers in the discharge of the above tasks; explore the idea of a programme of collaboration with decolonization focal points of territorial Governments, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, to help improve the exchange of information; encourage the involvement of non-governmental organizations and Non-Self-Governing Territories in the dissemination of information on decolonization; and report to the Special Committee on measures taken in the implementation of the present resolution.   

The Committee has before it another draft resolution submitted by the chair on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/AC.109/2007/L.5).  (A report on the matter -- document A/62/67 -- is not yet published.)  By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that, in the absence of a decision by the Assembly itself that a Non-Self-Governing Territory has attained a full measure of self-government in terms of Chapter XI of the Charter, the administering Power concerned should continue to transmit information under Article 73 (e) of the Charter with respect to that Territory.

Additionally, the Assembly would request the administering Powers concerned to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible.  Moreover, the Assembly would request the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned, within a maximum period of six months following the expiration of the administrative year in those Territories.

The Committee also has before it a further draft resolution of the chair on the question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories (document A/AC.109/2007/L.6).  By its terms, the Special Committee would note with appreciation the continuing exemplary cooperation of New Zealand as an administering Power and that a mission to observe the referendum in Tokelau was dispatched in February 2006.  It would also note with satisfaction the cooperation of the United Kingdom in facilitating the United Nations special missions to the Turks and Caicos Islands in April 2006 at the request of the territorial Government.

By its other provisions, the Special Committee would stress the need to dispatch periodic visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories and call upon administering Powers that have not yet done so to facilitate United Nations visiting missions to the Territories under their administration.  The Assembly also would request the administering Powers to cooperate fully with the Special Committee in exploring the possibility of undertaking visiting or special missions in furtherance of the decolonization mandate.

Question of Western Sahara

AHMED BOUKHARI, Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario), said the continued colonial occupation of the Sahara by Morocco was a challenge to the principles of the United Nations Charter and the credibility of the Organization, and continued to impede the goal of eradication of colonialism.  Morocco had sabotaged every effort to implement the Settlement Plan and the Baker Plan.  In Western Sahara, there existed a policy of violation of human rights, as well as a strategy of systematic plundering of the Territory’s natural resources. 

He said that, in Security Council reports, including S/2006/249, the Secretary-General had recalled that no country in the world had recognized Morocco’s claims on the Territory.  The United Nations could not endorse any peace plan which excluded the option of independence.  Security Council resolutions called for the two parties, Morocco and Frente Polisario, to begin direct negotiations under auspices of the United Nations to achieve a political solution that ensured the right to self-determination of the Saharawin people.  In the most recent report to the Security Council, in April, the new Secretary-General had taken note of the fact that the two parties had submitted political proposals.

The proposal of the occupying Power sought to legitimatize the occupation by offering autonomy, Mr. Boukhari said.  However, the Western Sahara was not a Moroccan province, but a Non-Self-Governing Territory under illegal occupation.  The Morocco proposal was unacceptable since it violated the principle of self-determination by proposing a single option: annexation by the occupying Power.  The Frente Polisario proposal, however, emphasized the necessity of holding a referendum with of various options, including that of independence.  If one chose independence, the proposal included an option to establish special bilateral relations with Morocco regarding trade, economic and security issues. 

The Security Council in April had adopted resolution 1754 (2007), thereby taking note of the proposal and asking the two parties to begin direct negotiations, he said.  The text expressed support for such negotiations, which it said should be carried out without preconditions and in good faith.  Such negations were to begin on 18 June.  He hoped Morocco would accept such negotiations, but the obstruction in the past and some attempts at bad faith at the recent Regional Seminars, as well as intensified repression and violence against the Saharawi people, forced him to believe that good faith was not there yet.  Direct negotiations, however, were a valuable opportunity to achieve a peaceful, civilized solution that would end a colonial occupation war.  

The Special Committee must do everything it could to ensure that decolonization took place within a framework of international legality, particularly by implementing resolution 1514 (XV).  The referendum continued to be the only mutually acceptable solution, endorsed by the Security Council and accepted by Morocco.  The referendum was necessary and inevitable, and prescribed by political honesty and international legality.  No one should determine unilaterally the future of an occupied people, and the Saharawi people could not be the exception to the rule of self-determination.  Peace in the Western Sahara had to be established through a self-determination referendum.

RODOLFO BENITEZ VERSON ( Cuba) said the Saharawi people had the right to determine their own future.  The United Nations had reaffirmed once again that the Western Sahara conflict was a decolonization issue, falling under United Nations’ direct responsibility.  The Saharawi people were the sole deciders in a sovereign manner about their future, freely and without any kind of pressure, as confirmed by 41 United Nations resolutions.

He said he fully supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement of September 2006.  Consistent with Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), he hoped that the parties could start negotiations as soon as possible in good faith and without any preconditions so as to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution leading up to the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  The Special Committee should play a central role in examining the issue.  The Saharawi people needed the support of the international community.  In response to appeals by the Assembly to Member States to offer study and training facilities to the inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories, Cuba hosted 569 Saharawi students. 

Dissemination of information

Director of the News and Media Division of the United Nations Department of Public Information, AHMAD FAWZI, introducing the report of the Secretary-General on dissemination of information on decolonization, highlighted activities undertaken by the Department during the April 2006 to March 2007 reporting period and over the last two months. 

He said that the Department’s efforts could be broadly characterized by coverage and outreach activities, he said.  Coverage activities focused on the work of the General Assembly, particularly the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and the Special Committee.  The Department of Public Information deployed two officers to cover the Committee’s recent Regional Seminar on Decolonization in Grenada.  The Radio Officer filed reports on the seminar’s proceedings, while the Press Officer provided headquarters with press releases that were issued for global audiences.

The Department also issued 49 press releases in English and French on meetings of intergovernmental bodies during the reporting period, including six press releases on the Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization held last November in Fiji, he noted.  United Nations Radio continued to cover decolonization issues in its daily news programmes and current affairs magazines, and issues concerning Western Sahara attracted wide coverage.

Regarding outreach activities, DPI worked closely with the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs to prepare a brochure entitled “What the United Nations Can Do to Assist Non-Self-Governing Territories”, in English, French and Spanish.  While the first edition was uploaded to the United Nations website in June 2006, the print version was published in April 2007 and disseminated worldwide through the network of United Nations information centres (UNICs).

The Department’s online news operations, carried out in part through the United Nations News Centre portal, also focused on decolonization issues, he said.  News stories on the June 2006 meeting of the Special Committee on Decolonization and the Secretary-General’s message to the Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization in Fiji were picked up by several external websites.  Decolonization stories figured prominently on the United Nations News Centre site, which attracted close to one million unique visitors a month and boasted a news alert service with 46,000 subscribers in English and French.  The Basic Facts about the United Nations publication devoted a chapter to the ongoing activities in support of decolonization, while the UN Chronicle published three online features on the subject.

The network of the United Nations information centres provided the Department with an ability to reach all corners of the globe, he continued.  The United Nations information service in Geneva, for example, produced summaries of meetings in which decolonization was discussed, particularly during the substantive debate in the Human Rights Council.  The information centre in Canberra disseminated information on decolonization to media in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, ahead of the 2006 Pacific Regional Seminar; while, the centre at Port of Spain discussed with other United Nations funds and programmes ways to assist the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the region.

He said the Department would continue to disseminate information on decolonization in close collaboration with the Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations funds and programmes and with the Special Committee.

Interactive Discussion

HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran) said information disseminated by the Department, indeed, was considerable.  He said one of the most effective means of disseminating information, especially among people of colonial lands, was radio.  He wondered whether those lands were covered by the DPI radio programme, and, if so, how many.  It was important for people to understand their rights, especially to understand the process of decolonization.  In that context, he emphasized the role of radio and asked for more elaboration on United Nations Radio activities.

In response, Mr. Fawzi said he agreed entirely that radio was one of the most effective means of communication, especially in areas where other media were not available.  United Nations Radio covered issues related to decolonization and related United Nations activities.  The United Nations produced those programmes in the six official languages, as well as in other non-official languages.  

He would have to check United Nations records regarding the number of regions covered, he said.  The United Nations did not own any radio stations; rather, it provided radio stations around the world with programmes in the hope that they would be re-broadcasted.  He would obtain more precise information on the subject.

LUC JOSEPH OKIO (Congo) said that, despite the Department’s continued concern about decolonization issues and its important activities in that regard, he had the impression from people from Non-Self-Governing Territories that there seemed to be a lack of information in the Territories.  He wondered whether the Department’s activities were concerned with the need of the Non-Self-Governing Territories populations and whether the activities were reaching the peoples concerned.  He asked if the issue could be evaluated in the field, as there seemed to be “a shortfall” in the Territories of information on the options for self-determination.

Mr. FAWZI said that the question of evaluation of the programmes and their impact was one with which the Department was engaged on many fronts.  However, it was very costly to conduct surveys.  As he would be very enthusiastic to evaluate the information disseminated to the peoples in Non-Self-Governing Territories and measure its impact, he asked the representative for ideas on how that could be done and offered his cooperation.  There had to be a starting point, however, namely finding a way to evaluate the information disseminated and see if the information had the desired impact.  He expressed concern about the observation that peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories were not well informed.

HARI PRABOWO ( Indonesia) said the Department’s coverage and outreach activities on decolonization were very commendable.  In line with what had been expressed by the delegates from the Congo and Iran, he was interested to know whether there had been an assessment of the extent to which the activities had reached peoples in Non-Self-Governing Territories.  For example, he wondered how many brochures had been distributed in the Territories.  Of the 46,000 subscribers to the news alert service, how many resided in Non-Self-Governing Territories?  Had there been any assessment of those issues?

MICHELLE JOSEPH ( Saint Lucia) asked whether the information centres in the Caribbean and the Pacific region had a mandate to directly service the region’s Non-Self-Governing Territories.

In response to the question on the Department’s activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories, Mr. Fawzi said he also would like to know how many brochures had been distributed in the region.  Noting that while information centres had limited resources to distribute material, he was sure the United Nations could do more to disseminate information electronically so that it could be downloaded and then distributed.  Further, he would be happy to check into how many of the 46,000 news alert service subscribers resided in Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Subscribers tended to be journalists with interests in specific subjects.

Turning to the question regarding the information centre in the Caribbean and the Pacific region, he said that that centre was charged with disseminating information to all Member States covered by its mandate.  He could not say whether that included Non-Self-Governing Territories; however, the Department was trying to disseminate information as widely as possible, including to Non-Self-Governing Territories. 

FREDA MACKAY, Chief, Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs Chief, said that during the past year, and in cooperation with the Public Information Department, her Department had continued to do its utmost to disseminate information about the decolonization process in order to encourage steps towards self-determination in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The Department had collected information on the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories from many sources, among others, by seeking the cooperation the administering Powers in providing information under Article 73(e) of the Charter.  Material was also distributed to participants from the Territories at the Regional Seminars and to petitioners who participated in the Special Committee and the Fourth Committee. 

She said that the Public Information Department had published a new leaflet entitled “What the United Nations Can Do to Assist Non-Self-Governing Territories” prepared by the DPI, in consultation with her Department.  The leaflet listed a number of United Nations bodies that could be of help, explained their different roles and provided contact details.  Another brochure, “The United Nations and Decolonization, Questions & Answers”, aimed at responding to the many queries received from individuals and organizations in the Non-Self-Governing Territories regarding the role of the United Nations in decolonization and the options available to the Territories with respect to their future status.

Despite those activities, disseminating information on the United Nations’ decolonization mandate to the Territories remained a challenge, she said.  The Decolonization website  www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ead/index.shtml was a concrete effort at global outreach.  It was being updated on a regular basis and included background information, reports, resolutions, working papers and press releases.  Recently, the texts of regional seminar papers were also being included, as requested by the Special Committee. 

Action

The Special Committee then approved without a vote the draft resolutions, entitled “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (document A/AC.109/2007/L.4) and “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/AC.109/2007/L.5).

It adopted the draft resolution on the “question of sending visiting and special missions to Territories” (document A/AC.109/2007/L.6).

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