SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE APPROVES FIVE DRAFT RESOLUTIONS FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY ACTION, AS SESSION CONTINUES

20 June 2007
GA/COL/3161

SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE APPROVES FIVE DRAFT RESOLUTIONS FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY ACTION, AS SESSION CONTINUES

20 June 2007
General Assembly
GA/COL/3161
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on

Decolonization

7th Meeting (AM)

SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE APPROVES FIVE DRAFT RESOLUTIONS

FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY ACTION, AS SESSION CONTINUES

 

Consensus Actions Include Text Reaffirming

Right to Self Determination of 11 Non-Self-Governing Territories

The Special Committee on decolonization approved five draft resolutions this morning, including a text by which the General Assembly would reaffirm the inalienable right to self-determination of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

By that text, the Assembly would call upon the administering Powers of those Territories -- American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands -- to cooperate fully with the Committee’s work in implementing the declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories as contained in the United Nations Charter.  The draft would also have the Assembly stress the importance of constitutional reviews being undertaken in those Territories to address internal constitutional structures within present territorial arrangements.

Further by the text, the Assembly would request that all necessary measures be taken to protect the environment of the Territories against any degradation -- an issue brought up by a petitioner from Guam, who, in her statement before the Committee today, talked of nuclear contamination by the United States military on the island of Guam. 

In addition to that text, the Committee approved a draft on the question of New Caledonia, in which the Assembly would welcome the developments that had taken place in the Territory since the signing of the 1998 Noumea Accord by the representatives of New Caledonia and France.  By that draft, the Assembly would note provisions in the Noumea Accord that would take the Kanak -- the indigenous peoples of New Caledonia -– into account in the Territory’s political and social organization.  The text would also have the Assembly note an increase in financial assistance by the Government of France for health, education, payment of public-service salaries and funding development schemes, amounting to €910 million.

A third draft, on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by United Nations specialized agencies and international institutions, would have the Assembly request that those agencies and organizations provide information on environmental problems facing Non-Self-Governing Territories, while bearing in mind the fragile economies of Small Island Non-Self-Govening Territories and their vulnerability to natural disasters.  They would also be requested to report on the impacts of environmental problems, such as beach and coastal erosion and droughts.

By the same draft, specialized agencies would be requested to inform the Assembly on ways to assist the Territories in fighting drug trafficking, money-laundering and other illegal activities, as well as to inform it of any illegal exploitation of marine and other natural resources.

Another draft approved by the Committee, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, would have the Assembly reaffirm the right of peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories to dispose of their natural resources in their best interest.  The text would have the Assembly call upon Governments to take legislative and administrative measures to put an end to any enterprises operated by their nationals and corporate bodies under their jurisdiction that were detrimental to those interests.

The Special Committee also approved a draft that would have the Assembly extend its mandate, including to continue dispatching visits and special missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories and to recommend to the Assembly the most suitable steps to be taken to enable the populations of those Territories to exercise their right to self-determination, including independence.

The draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia was introduced by the representative of Papua New Guinea.  The meeting was chaired by Margaret Hughes Ferrari ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), who introduced the remaining draft texts. 

The representatives of Iran and the Russian Federation also spoke.

Also appearing before the Committee today were three petitioners from Guam.

The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m., Thursday, 21 June to take up the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Background

When the Special Committee on decolonization met this morning, it had before it a working paper prepared by the Secretariat on New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2007/9), providing background information on the Territory’s constitutional, political and legal issues, as well as on socio-economic conditions.  The paper notes that the political and administrative structures of New Caledonia were fundamentally altered by the Nouméa Accord, signed in May 1998 between the Government of France, the pro-independence Front de libération nationale Kanak socialiste (FLNKS) and the integrationist Rassemblement pour la Caledonie dans la Republique (RPCR).   Under the terms of the accord, the parties opted for a negotiated solution and progressive autonomy from France, rather than an immediate referendum on political status.  The process is to end with a referendum between 2013 and 2018, when the Territory will opt for either full independence or a form of associated statehood.

Following ratification of the Accord, New Caledonia is no longer considered an Overseas Territory, according to the working paper.  Instead, France describes it as a community sui generis, which has institutions designed for it alone, to which certain non-revocable powers of State will gradually be transmitted.  Political stability in New Caledonia can be undermined by the existence of the “collegiality clause” of the Accord, which states that if a member of the 11-member Government Cabinet resigns and there is no replacement from his or her party, the whole Government will have to be re-elected by a vote in Congress.  Disgruntled parties might resort to the clause in order to force a new election, as has happened previously. 

The paper notes that, in the past, progress was often hindered by friction between RPCR and FLNKS, owing to their differing interpretations of collegiality in Government matters.  The Government remains opposed to full independence for the Territory from France, while Kanak leaders mostly favour full independence and are becoming increasingly impatient with the slow implementation of the Nouméa Accord.  Another issue of tension is the inter-ethnic strain between the Kanaks and the settlers from the French territory of Wallis and Futuna.  Those tensions resurged in August 2006, with a number of violent confrontations and acts of arson in the suburbs of Nouméa.

Also before the Special Committee were working papers on the questions of 11 other Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The working paper on the Cayman Islands (document A/AC.109/2007/2) addresses constitutional, legal and political issues, among other topics, and notes that formal talks between the Government and the United Kingdom to modernize the Constitution had recommenced in March 2006.  A Constitutional Review Secretariat was expected to begin work in March 2007.  The paper further notes that the United Kingdom representative had stated during the General Assembly’s sixty-first session that de-listing criteria used by the Special Committee were outdated.

The working paper on the British Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2007/3) notes that the Territory’s next general election is to be held in September.  Constitutional negotiations between the Territory and the United Kingdom, which began in March 2006, dealt with amending the Constitution to include a human rights charter and establish “a more appropriate balance of authority” between the United Kingdom and the local government.  After concluding the fourth round of talks on 1 March 2007, the Territory’s negotiating team said it had achieved 95 per cent of the proposals for a modern Constitution.

The working paper on Montserrat (document A/AC.109/2007/4) states that talks between the Government and the United Kingdom to generally modernize the Constitution, and specifically to preserve the Territory’s ability to move towards greater self-determination, continued in 2006 amid media reports that the revision process did not completely reflect the aspirations of the Montserrat public.  A further round of talks was expected in the first quarter of 2007.

According to the working paper on Turks and Caicos Islands (document A/AC.109/2007/5), the new Constitution that came into force on 9 August 2006 provides that a Governor continue to be appointed by the administering Power.  A Special Committee mission sent to the Islands in April 2006 noted that many people appeared to have dismissed integration or free association as political options for the Territory’s future status.  However, during that same month, the Premier also emphasized in talks with the United Kingdom that the goal of the Islands was for eventual independence.  The most recent general election was held on 9 February 2007.

The working paper on Pitcairn (document A/AC.109/2007/6) focuses in part on the future status of the Territory, and notes that according to a 2004 statement by a representative of the island Mayor, the people of Pitcairn did not fully understand all the possibilities or the significance of the various self-determination options available to them.  The administering Power, the United Kingdom, has noted that laws, including those relating to human rights, are published by the United Kingdom Government and the Pitcairn Administration.

The working paper on the United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2007/7) states that since the Territory’s Organic Act of the Virgin Islands was revised in 1954 by the administering Power, the United States, none of the four attempts to replace it with a locally written Constitution has been successful.  The Territory’s only referendum on a range of political options was conducted in 1993.  According to a Territory representative attending the November 2006 Pacific regional seminar on decolonization, the drafting of a local Constitution, written within the framework of the laws of the administering Power, should precede any determination of permanent political status. 

According to the working paper on Anguilla (document A/AC.109/2007/8), the 2006 Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission established by the then Governor, a United Kingdom appointee, found that Anguillians were satisfied with their 1982 Constitution, which provides them with a large degree of autonomy and United Kingdom forces for defence.  However, in resolutions 61/128 A and B, the General Assembly noted that changes in the visa requirements for Anguillan passport holders could make it difficult to enter the Territory’s closest neighbour, French Saint Martin.  In that same resolution, the Assembly welcomed the participation of the Territory as an associate member in the Caribbean Community, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the working paper on Bermuda (document A/AC.109/2007/10), the last amendment to the Constitution was in 2003 and racial divisions continue to be played out in support for, or opposition to, independence.  The paper cited the Premier as saying in November 2006 that “independence is not on the front burner, but is still on the stove,” and noted that the campaign to gain independence is expected to receive less fervent attention from the current Territorial Government.

The working paper on Saint Helena (document A/AC.109/2007/14) highlighted that extensive public consultations on constitutional reform have been carried out since 2001.  A final draft Constitution, completed following 2004 negotiations, proposed Government by reference to the partnership values; new guarantees of fundamental human rights; and a two-tier ministerial form of Government.  However, Saint Helenians rejected the proposal.  Given that, the Legislative Council continued constitutional reform by incorporating popular changes into the existing constitution.

The working paper on American Samoa (document A/AC.109/2007/15) states that the Territory’s current relationship with the United States is viewed as “desirable” by American Samoans and their legislative representatives, who also asked that they be de-listed as a colony of the United States, since it was “independent within a federalized system of Self-Governing States and Territories”.  The 2006 Future Political Status Study Commission, whose members were appointed by the popularly-elected Governor to study alternative forms of political status practices vis-à-vis the United States, had released its report in January.  [The Commission reached the conclusion that the present political status of American Samoa is not adversely impacting the normal functions of Government, nor impeding the delivery of public services.]

The working paper on Guam (document A/AC.109/2007/16) describes various moves to change the island’s political status, including a planned decolonization plebiscite for November 2004, which was to ask the Territory’s indigenous people to choose between statehood, independence or free association with the United States, the administering Power.  However, the vote was postponed because eligible voters had not been identified, and the issue of political status has not been taken up since. 

On military matters, Guam remains the site of extensive United States naval and air force installations.  The report notes that some 20,000 United States military personnel and their families will be transferred to Guam from Okinawa for at least six years, and the island is expected to host the largest anti-terrorism exercise in the world in 2007.  Many Guamanians still seek answers from past military activities and, in 2006, set up a “Right to Know” Commission.

The Committee also had before it five draft resolutions, on: the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2007/L.13); the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples(document A/AC.109/2007/L.10); theimplementation 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/AC.109/2007/L.11); economic and other activities, which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/AC.109/2007/L.12); and questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2007/L.9).

Action on Draft Texts

The first draft before the Committee on the question of New Caledonia (document a/AC.109/2007/L.13) was introduced by the representative of Papua New Guinea, on behalf of her territory and the island of Fiji.  She said that since the adoption of the draft resolution by the General Assembly in 2006, new developments had taken place in the territory, and, therefore, amendments to the draft were needed.  She then drew the Committee’s attention to those amendments, urging support for them and expressing hope that the draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia would be approved by consensus.

The Committee then approved without a vote the draft resolution as orally revised.

Next, Chairperson MARGARET HUGHES FERRARI ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) introduced the proposed text on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/AC.109/2007/L.10), saying that the draft would extend the mandate of Special Committee, if adopted.  The resolution had been subject to discussion during informal consultation on 7 and 8 June.

The text was approved without a vote.

Introducing the draft text on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the Specialized Agencies and International Institutions Associated with the United Nations(document A/AC.109/2007/L.11), Chairperson FERRARI drew the Committee’s attention to the Secretary-General’s report on the issue (document A/62/65) and information submitted by the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations on their activities with regard to the Declaration’s implementation (document E/2007/47).

The Committee then approved the text without a vote.

General Statement after Action

Regarding the resolution just approved, the representative of the Russian Federation noted that his country stood by its traditional position on the issue, but had not objected to the consensus adoption of the text given the work that had gone into improving the draft during the session.  The Russian Federation would continue to be guided by its traditional position in reviewing those questions, whether before the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution entitled Economic and other activities, which affect the interests of peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/AC.109/2007/L.12) and adopted it without a vote.

The Committee then began its consideration of the Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

Petitioners

Turning to the working paper on the Question of Guam, SABINA FLORES PÉREZ, supporting the work of past delegations of Chamorros who had appealed to the United Nations on behalf of Guam, called the working paper incomplete in that it did not include an independent analysis of the impacts of intensified United States militarization on the island; did not provide a complete picture of that militarization; and included citations that were not based on primary sources.  The strained political and economic climate on Guam was a direct result of the cumulative impact from Guam’s inequitable relationship with its administering Power, the United States.  The plan for military build-up unveiled by the United States Department of Defence in 2005 was made without the informed consent of the Chamorro people.  Moreover, the transfer of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa and elsewhere would radically alter the demography of the island and further marginalize Chamorros.

The military’s impact on Guam’s political process also was significant, she said, recalling comments made by United States Air Force Lieutenant General Daniel P. Leaf that United States troops had a constitutional right to participate in Guam’s local elections.  If that was an example of United States policy on local governance, then Chamorro self-determination was endangered.  For the people of Guam to attain self-determination, it was essential to reaffirm the principles of the United Nations Charter of promoting equal rights; the paramount interests of inhabitants who had not attained a full measure of self-government; and resolution 1541. 

She urged that adequate resources be made available to implement the mandate for eradicating colonialism, including:  an education campaign about their political status for the people of Guam; a fact-finding mission to Guam to document the impacts of colonization and militarization; measures to increase coordination of United Nations agencies toward decolonisation; and that Member States refrain from using the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories for military bases and pass a resolution condemning the current United States build-up on Guam as a violation.

Questions and Comments

The representative from the Iran thanked the petitioner for her comments and asked for a copy of her statement.

The Chairperson responded that the statement would be made available.

HOPE ANTOINETTE CRISTOBAL, of Chamorro ethnicity and Doctor of Psychology from Guam, trained in the study of colonized and marginalized indigenous communities, said the Chamorro people suffered social, economic, political, ecological and health consequences that the administering Power continued to ignore.  They were overrepresented in correctional facilities, probation rolls and within the mental health system, and suffered high rates of family violence, substance abuse, teenage suicides, school dropouts and other social problems.  Studies had found that young Chamorro males and females experienced the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse, reported more gang and crime involvement, and were frequently diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder and substance abuse disorders.  Chamorros also constituted most of the 185 cases of AIDS to date.

She said there was a high concentration of amyothrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinsonism-dementia, which recent research had attributed to the nuclear contamination of the island’s resources by the United States military.  Public Health statistics had also indicated a high incidence of death from cancer in two villages -- Santa Rita and Yigo -- adjacent to the two United States military bases.  Guam had 1,995 times more incidences of nasopharyngeal cancers as compared to the standard United States population.  Apra Harbour, the only deep harbour in Micronesia and currently controlled by the United States Naval Station, and Ordot Landfill, formerly used by the military as a post-World War II dumpsite, were found to have high traces of arsenic, lead, copper, mercury, tin and polychlorinated biphenyls. 

She said United States Congressional testimony from 2001 revealed a cover-up had taken place regarding the storage of, and contamination by, nuclear chemicals in Guam.  When Guam experienced a radioactive “attack” after the detonation of a hydrogen bomb on Enewetak Island in the Marshalls, as described by retired Lieutenant Charles Bert Schreiber of the United States Navy in that testimony, the Chamorros were not informed that they had been consuming radioactive rainwater.  Moreover, the administering Power’s Radiation Exposure Compensation Act did not include the local civilian community.  Furthermore, the planned influx of military personnel and their families to Guam would increase the population by 23 per cent over the next six and a half years.  That rapid, unnatural population growth was of gave concern, since it would increase the demand for resources.  Pressure was mounting to privatize the island’s sole power source and sole water system to outside business interests.  The community’s capacity to sustain the quality of its environment and resources -- such as the northern water lens system and surface waters in the southern part of the island, lands, air, tropical limestone and savannah forests, soil reef systems, flora and fauna, climate and coastal resources -- would be adversely impacted.

She said the United States had a plan to highly militarize a Non-Self-Governing Territory, in contravention to the administrating Power’s obligation to promote the well-being of the people of such territories.  In a secret memo issued on 21 November 1945, Vice Admiral G.D. Murray, then commander of the Marianas Navy Force, stated that “the economic development and administration of relatively few native inhabitants should be subordinate to the real purpose for which those islands are held”.  Vice Admiral Murray had stated that the island’s commercial or industrial value were “of little or no relative importance to the welfare of the United States”.  The dependent people of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Guam were being exploited under the United States Administration.  The United Nations must inspect Guam’s progress towards decolonization, and scrutinize the environmental, social and psychological impacts of United States military development on Guam.  The Special Committee should continue to maintain its purview of the question of Guam under the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

KEITH L. CAMACHO, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and speaking before the Committee both as a witness to an increasingly global environment of conflict and as an indigenous Chamorro inhabitant of Guam, said that, to date, neither the United States nor the United Nations had made any sustained attempt to prepare the Chamorro people for self-determination, as defined in resolution 1541.  Chamorro activists, attorneys, community organizers and policymakers boasted a history of critical anti-colonialism that had not been heeded by either the United States or the Organization. 

What could be done? he asked.  He called on the Committee to solicit funding for an independent fact-finding mission to research scholarly literature on United States colonization; examine the political impact of United States militarization efforts in Okinawa, including plans to relocate military personnel to Guam without the consent of the Chamorro people; and refute United States efforts to de-list Guam from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. 

The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2007/L.9).

Calling the draft resolution a product of the Special Committee’s long and diligent consultations, the Chairperson thanked the delegations for their useful amendments and efforts to streamline language.  She believed that the draft reflected the Committee’s thinking on the issues at hand and she intended to take action on the draft, notwithstanding the fact that it had been issued this morning.  The goal, she explained, was to save resources.  She then quoted from the rules of the General Assembly and asked the Committee to waive rule 120.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

Organization of Work

Chairperson FERRARI drew the Committee’s attention to the three remaining items on its agenda: the report of the regional seminar; the report of the Committee covering various housekeeping issues; and the question of Tokelau.  She suggested that those items be dealt with at the Committee’s last meeting, scheduled for 27 June.

* *** *

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