FOURTH COMMITTEE URGES DECOLONIZATION PROGRESS FOR 16 REMAINING NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES, HEARS ADDITIONAL PETITIONERS ON WESTERN SAHARA DISPUTE

11 October 2007
GA/SPD/374

FOURTH COMMITTEE URGES DECOLONIZATION PROGRESS FOR 16 REMAINING NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES, HEARS ADDITIONAL PETITIONERS ON WESTERN SAHARA DISPUTE

11 October 2007
General Assembly
GA/SPD/374
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Fourth Committee

5th Meeting (PM)

FOURTH COMMITTEE URGES DECOLONIZATION progress for 16 REMAINING NON-SELF-GOVERNING

 

TERRITORIES, HEARS ADDITIONAL PETITIONERS ON WESTERN SAHARA DISPUTE

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) entered its fourth day of discussions on decolonization today, Member States pressed each other to work harder towards ensuring that the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the United Nations list were able to exercise their right to self-determination before the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism came to an end in 2010.

Several countries noted the “inspiring” example of Tokelau, which would hold a referendum on self-determination in November, and commended that Territory’s administering Power, New Zealand, for having helped make it possible.

“What is important is not the referendum, but the fact that the people of Tokelau are being enabled to exercise their free choice”, said Pakistan’s delegate, who added that it was the responsibility of the administering Powers to create conditions in the Territories that would allow their people to exercise freely, and without interference, their right to self-determination. 

Remembering a time when many countries in Africa were themselves colonies, the representative of Zambia, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), spoke of ruling Governments that had catered to external interests, rather than to the needs of local people.  As the Committee tackled the issue of self-determination in Non-Self-Governing Territories, he said Member States should remember that any authority imposed against the will of a people, was built on “shifting sand”.

The representative of the United Kingdom, whose country administered several of the 16 Territories, spoke of constitutional modernization and good governance as steps towards eventual self-determination.  In that regard, a constitutional review processes in the Territories had led to a series of bilateral negotiations, which had already resulted in progress in several of the Territories, among them, the Turks and Caicos, and the British Virgin Islands.  Similar talks were under way in Montserrat and the Cayman Islands.  Also in the Territories, the United Kingdom was working to promote sustainable development, improve security, create diversified economic development and implement environmental charters.

Several Member States today revisited the question of Western Sahara, which had been a frequent topic at the Committee’s general debate this session.  Parties to the dispute over that Territory were urged to seek peace through resumed negotiations between Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario), which were being facilitated by the United Nations.

In that connection, Committee Chairman Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad ( Sudan) announced at the start of the meeting that a consensus text on the issue of Western Sahara had already been drafted, and would be considered at the Committee’s next meeting.

Also speaking were the representatives of Cuba, South Africa, Indonesia, Libya, Egypt, Namibia, Botswana, Jordan, Lesotho, Dominica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Gabon and United Republic of Tanzania.

The representative of the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Earlier in the meeting, the Committee heard from nine more petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, topping off list of more than 50 individuals.  They included:  the Secretary General of the Organizacion del Partido de Independientes de Lanzarote; a lawyer from Spain; President of the Swedish Western Sahara Committee; a former member of Frente Polisario’s political bureau; Deputy President, Gathering of Sahawari Families (COREFASA); President of l’Association de Défense de la Femme Sahraouie; Adviser on Employment Oversight for the Community of Madrid; and a representative of the US-Western Sahara Foundation.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Monday, 15 October to conclude its debate on decolonization and to take action on related draft proposals.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to hear the remaining petitioners on the question of Western Sahara and continue its general debate on decolonization issues.  (Reports before the Committee are summarized in Press Release GA/SPD/371.)

Petitioners on Question of Western Sahara

FABIAN MARTIN MARTIN, Secretary General of the Organizacion del Partido de Independientes de Lanzarote, said the socio-economic challenges of the region should be resolved, but the process was stymied by one party of the Saharawis people.  Noting his country’s links with the region and the Saharawis people, he said it had been one of the few external countries to be directly affected by the conflict.  He questioned whether current representative could adequately represent the Saharawis people.  The Moroccan proposal sought a solution that would allow the Saharawis people to administer themselves.  In that context, pressures from other Governments and administrations seeking to claim their rights were destabilizing the region.  The Moroccan proposal provided an historical opportunity to solve the conflict.  The process would depend on the two parties concerned, with the aid of the United Nations.

JOSE MANUEL ROMERO GONZALEZ, a lawyer from Spain, said the autonomy initiative presented by Morocco represented a true opportunity to move forward, not backward.  That initiative was founded on the belief in the strength of the Crown, a symbol of a nation’s strength and a guarantee of citizens’ rights, and was a harbinger political stability.  The Moroccan initiative would bring about political normalcy, and offered a way to leave behind the destruction and poverty that had characterized the region for so long.  Stability would lead to better management of the region, including in fiscal and budgetary terms. 

He said that the initiative brought advantages to all parties involved.  Once autonomy was established, the territory would develop an administrative system in line with Morocco’s Constitution and legal system, which could be adapted to the needs of the local population.  The Saharawis should not fear the act of sharing power with Morocco.  Indeed, it was an opportunity for them to seek direct participation in Rabat.  Also, Morocco should offer amnesty to the Saharawis in a gesture of good will, thereby eliminating an obstacle to peace and laying the foundation for regional integration.  The parties’ failure to seize the opportunity could cause additional decades of conflict.

MIGUEL ANGEL PUYOL GARCIA, a lawyer, said he was a friend of the Saharawis people, but not the Frente Polisario.  He had participated in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Saharawis and, having gained the respect and friendship of many Saharawis people, had come to speak of his personal experience.  He thanked the Government of Algeria for its support.  He had undertaken many humanitarian missions to deliver food and aid, but had been unable to deliver it.  Instead, that had been taken by the Frente Polisario.  He could speak of boxes of food and medical supplies that had also not been received.  He saluted the Cuban doctors serving the Saharawis people.  He had been able to speak to people in Morocco and had never been prevented from moving freely in Western Sahara.  The Saharawis people with whom he had spoken did not wish to be represented by the Polisario.  

He said that the easiest solution to the conflict had not been presented.  Reviewing Spain’s historical ties to Western Sahara and by virtue of several articles of the Civil Spanish code, Spanish nationality could be given to the Saharawis.  They would become citizens of the European Union.  He called for a referendum on that.

JAN STRÖMDAHL, President of the Swedish Western Sahara Committee, shared the story of a Saharawian student who had been arrested, beaten and detained after she had participated in a demonstration to honour the anniversary of the birth of the Frente Polisario earlier this year.  As a result of her injuries, she permanently lost sight in her right eye, but she had a message, “Welcome to occupied Western Sahara.  We need your eyes there!”  Her story described the conditions for all Saharawis outside the refugee camps, who have not surrendered, as well as the conditions in Western Sahara.  Western Sahara was the biggest remaining issue on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The Saharawis had the right to self-determination and self-government, as stated in General Assembly resolution 1514.  Free association, integration and independence were the three ways to reach decolonization; Moroccan autonomy was not an option.  Because there was no responsible administering authority for Western Sahara, the responsibility belonged to the United Nations and the people of Western Sahara.   Spain considered itself free of responsibility, but it had huge guilt.   Morocco had no right to keep Western Sahara, according to the International Court of Justice.  No State had accepted Moroccan sovereignty, while about 80 States had recognized the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

He said that actual talks between the “parts” of the conflict could not solve the problem, and Morocco was not even a part, according to United Nations principles and resolutions.  The Western Sahara case should be given a new start, and Moroccan repression should cease.  To implement that, the Security Council should enlarge the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and broaden its mandate in order to restart the referendum process and defend human rights.  The Committee should send visiting missions and organize its next annual seminars in Western Sahara.   Spain should be required to renew its responsibility for the decolonization process.  Other Governments, especially in Europe, should recognize Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.  Independent journalists, jurists, diplomats, politicians and solidarity workers should be sent to network and observe.

MOSTAFA BOUH, a former member of Frente Polisario’s political bureau, said that the United Nations had exhibited much foresight when it formulated the Declaration on Decolonization, or resolution 1541, which it had laid down limits preventing the principle of self-determination from being used as an excuse to break up countries.  Unfortunately, the perpetuation of the West Saharan conflict for more than 30 years had proven just how insightful the formulators of 1541 had been.  Indeed, self-determination was not necessarily synonymous with independence, as some parties would have it. 

He said that those demanding a referendum had forgotten that the international community had long tried to bring that about, without success.  In contrast, Morocco’s proposal –- which was supported by a majority of Saharawis -- was quite satisfactory.  It contained provisions that would extend the region’s autonomy, if it wanted.  The high rate of participation by Saharawis at the recent legislative elections, despite Polisario’s urge to boycott those elections, showed that the people were ready for democracy and a new way of life.  Indeed, the people looked to the Moroccan consultative body for Saharawi affairs, or CORCAS, and the recently elected officials as their true representatives, and not to Polisario.  If the international community did not seize the opportunity offered by Morocco, it would risk destabilizing a region where terrorism and crime were now rampant.

GAJMOULA EBBI, Deputy President, Gathering of Saharawi Families (COREFASA), said that the conflict had paralyzed the social and economic progress of the region, causing instability, uncertainty and great despair. The subhuman conditions in the Tindouf camps were disturbing.  Morocco had submitted the autonomy plan. It would give self-government to the Saharawi people, with a view to having local authority.  It was applauded by the international community as being credible, and it could provide a real impetus for an agreement across the Maghreb.  Hopefully, the next round of negotiations would be sincere and fruitful, and lead to an agreement.  It was time for the parties to take the negotiations seriously.  Morocco was reaching out and wished to take a step forward.  Its autonomy initiative had been the result of a democratic, broad process.  The recent 2007 elections had been an example of democracy, and had resulted in widespread representation of the Saharawis in many levels of government.  The Moroccan plan was viable and part of international law.  It would put an end to the suffering and contribute to stabilizing the region.

KALTOUM KHAYATI, Présidente de l’Association de défense de la femme sahraouie, said Algeria had spared no effort to disturb bilateral relations in the Saharan region, and to oppose Morocco’s legitimate rights with regard to Western Sahara.  That country created the Polisario and manipulated others, through artful use of the media, “to recognizing a “ pseudo Republic” of Saharan people.  Being a former President of the Tindouf camps in Algeria, she knew that there was no freedom of movement, expression or association, and that the people were harassed with impunity by a country that had joined the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

She denounced the atrocities committed in those camps by Polisario, including separating mothers from their children.  When she abandoned the camps for Morocco, where a large number of Saharawis lived, she had committed herself to defending the victims living in the Tindouf camps.  After the failure of the United Nations settlement plan of 1991 and the James Baker plans, the relevant parties returned once more to the negotiating table.  Morocco’s efforts to find a favourable solution to the conflict were commendable, and had been closely scrutinized by (CORCAS), civil society, as well as local and foreign experts.  According to the provisions of that initiative, Saharawis would gain the right to manage their affairs through their own legislative and executive bodies, and they would be given resources to develop the economy.  She urged the international community to support that initiative, which represented the aspirations of the majority of Saharawi people.

JAVIER MORILLAS GOMEZ, Adviser on Employment Oversight for the Community of Madrid, said that, on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, there was a growing immigration “industry”, which had become more and more linked to the drug trade, and had created a favourable environment of recruitment for terrorist organizations.  Yet, Morocco seemed only concerned with the annexation of the Western Sahara.  According to a Pentagon report, the Maghreb was the area of the world in which Al-Qaida had flourished most.  The “non-autonomous territory dependent on decolonization” could be a prosperous and economically flourishing zone.  It could be an example for the world:  a Muslim community, peaceful, respectful of women, freedom-loving, and allied in the struggle against terrorism.

LINDSAY M. PLUMLEY, US-Western Sahara Foundation, said that according to the International Court of Justice ruling of 1975, the Saharawi people had the right to self-determination and the Moroccan territorial claims were without merit.  That ruling had not been implemented.  The most recent proposal by Morocco, therefore, was incomplete, as it did not include the option of independence in a proposed referendum.  Complicating the question of the Saharawi’s fate was the close alliance between Morocco and the United States.  However, United States’ support for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara did not diminish its relationship with Morocco.  Rather, support for a free and fair referendum was an expression of its commitment to international law and the right to self-determination.

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba) said that, with only three years to go in the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, many United Nations decolonization objectives remained to be solved, and every member had the obligation to work in good faith to ensure that the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories exercised their right to self-determination.  It was inappropriate that some countries questioned the validity of decolonization efforts under the pretext of making the United Nations more effective.  The cause of decolonization was, and should continue to be, a priority.  Yet the refusal by certain administering Powers to cooperate with the Special Committee was concerning.  Noting the “inspiring” example of Tokelau, he said its upcoming referendum was the culmination of efforts by New Zealand and the Territory’s inhabitants to exercise their self-determination.  Other Powers should similarly fully cooperate with the Committee.

He said that the visiting missions to the Non-Self-Governing Territories and the regional seminars were among the Special Committee’s successful practices.  The relationship between the Committee and the Department of Public Information should be further strengthened, so they could jointly prepare informative programmes for the Territories.  The Special Committee had adopted, for the eighth consecutive year, a consensus resolution on the right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence, and he highlighted its call for the General Assembly to review the question of Puerto Rico.  The 118 member States of the non-aligned movement had also urged the General Assembly to do so. 

The Saharan people also had the right to determine their own future and Western Sahara was a question of decolonization, he said.  It was paramount that the recent negotiations continue and seek to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that led to the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  Argentina also had a legitimate right in the dispute over the Malvinas Islands, and he called for a negotiated, just and definitive solution to that conflict.  Despite Cuba’s limited resources, it had granted 16 scholarships to students from the Territories, and called on other Member States to grant study and training facilities to students from the Non-Self-Governing Territories, as well.

ASIM IFTIKHAR AHMAD ( Pakistan) said that, unfortunately, there had not been much progress on decolonization to report recently.  The Second International Decade was fast approaching its end, with little hope for the realization of its objectives.  Yet positive developments were visible in Tokelau, and the cooperation and engagement of the Government of New Zealand had been exemplary.  What was important was not the referendum, but the fact that the people of Tokelau were being enabled to exercise their free choice.  It was the responsibility of the administering Powers to create conditions in the Territories that would enable their people to exercise freely, and without interference, their right to self-determination.  The recent optimism on the issue of Western Sahara had been encouraging.  Dialogue and negotiations were the best way to find a solution to the conflict, and the ongoing negotiation process, under United Nations auspices, according to Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), were welcome.

He said that decolonization and the right to self-determination were objectives of such importance, scope and global relevance that they should not be limited to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Their application was universal.  Nowhere was that more evident than in the Middle East and South Asia.  The continued denial of the Palestinian peoples’ right to self-determination was the core cause of conflict and the primary impediment to comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  The unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute was at the heart of conflict in South Asia.  The right to self-determination of the people of that region was recognized in Security Council resolutions.  Pakistan was engaged in a peace process with India, which had led to significant improvement in bilateral relations.  A peaceful settlement responding to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people would usher in a new era of mutual trust and cooperation in South Asia.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said he strongly supported the decolonization process in Western Sahara and reaffirmed the inalienable right of all peoples, including those in Western Sahara, to self-determination and independence.  The Community supported resolution 1754 (2007), and was pleased that relevant parties on the issue of Western Sahara had been able to hold talks, under the Secretary-General’s auspices, which had included neighbouring countries. 

He said that as a region, the Community had experienced colonialism in different forms, and had lived through periods of minority Governments, which had catered to external interests, rather than to the needs of local people.  “We had apartheid, the most vicious form of indignity visited upon our people until just a few years ago,” he said.

As the international community tackled the issue of self-determination in Western Sahara and other Non-Self-Governing Territories, it should remember that any authority built on injustice or that was imposed against the will of a people, was built on “shifting sand”, he said.  There was no force anywhere to break the will of a people seeking the freedom to choose how they wanted to be governed, by whom and for how long.  Freedom, justice and economic development were the foundations upon which international peace and security were built.  Hopefully, the next round of negotiations between Moroccoo and the Polisario Front would bring peace, harmony and development to both peoples.

KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said her country’s policy towards its Overseas Territories was founded on the basis that the citizens of each Territory determined whether they wished to stay linked to the United Kingdom.  Preparations were under way for the ninth annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council, which would be chaired by Meg Mann.  That meeting would be an opportunity for discussion on, among other things, constitutional modernization, good governance and climate change.  Good governance was vital.  Also, the constitutional review processes in the Territories had led to a series of bilateral negotiations, which had already resulted in progress in several of the Territories, among them, the Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands.  Similar talks were under way in Montserrat and the Cayman Islands.  Also in the Territories, the United Kingdom was working to promote sustainable development, improve security, create diversified economic development and implement environmental charters.  It was also working with the Territories to strengthen their ties to the European Council.

DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of SADC and the non-aligned movement, said Morocco’s continued colonial occupation of Western Sahara constituted a challenge to the principles of the United Nations.  Despite intensive lobbying by Morocco, neither the United Nations nor any regional or international organization -- or even a Member State – had recognized Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara.  The General Assembly described Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara as “a continued occupation”.  Furthermore, the Moroccan territorial claims to Western Sahara had been rejected by the advisory opinions of both the International Court of Justice and the United Nations’ Legal Department.

He stressed that Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) recognized both the proposals of the Frente Polisario and Morocco.  There should be no attempt to distort the Council’s intention by claiming that it preferred one over the other.  Despite Morocco’s claims, South Africa could confirm, as a member of the Security Council who had been part of the negotiations on resolution 1754, that the text was clear that the Council “took note” of both proposals.  The Moroccan proposal imposed a unilateral solution on the Saharawi people and could not be said to satisfy the right to self-determination.  It should be recalled that Morocco presented its proposal after two years of stagnation in the peace process, brought about by its rejection of a plan prepared by the then Special Envoy, James Baker.  That plan had been supported by the Council as “an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties”.

Expressing concern at reports of human rights atrocities against Saharawis in the occupied territories, he said that South Africa was of the view that those violations stemmed from the non-realization of the Saharawi’s right to self-determination.  Indeed, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic was a member of the African Union.  At the same time, Morocco was also a friendly African country.  He had always hoped that those two African countries would find a way to resolve their differences.  South Africa was pleased by the consensus text, which would soon be put before the Committee, and which reiterated the principles of self-determination and decolonization.  He congratulated Algeria and Morocco for having helped find consensus on that issue.

MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said his country attached great importance to the work of the Special Committee and reaffirmed its role as the primary vehicle for fostering decolonization.  It was also the main mechanism for expediting the achievement of the goals of the Second International Decade and for monitoring the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Decolonization was one of the greatest achievements of the United Nations, and the second referendum to be held by Tokelau -- one of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories -- was a development about which Member States should be proud.  It was the international community’s duty to ensure that decolonization was complete, and all administering Powers should extend the same level of commitment and cooperation shown by New Zealand.

He went on to offer Indonesia’s views on the outstanding question of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, saying that relevant United Nations resolutions had so far clearly determined that a negotiated settlement was the only way to resolve that issue.  Indonesia was heartened to learn of the good relationship established between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom in various areas, and he encouraged both to use that relationship as a foundation to resume talks.  On Western Sahara, Indonesia welcomed the resumption of direct negotiations between parties to the conflict, and urged them to seize the opportunity to find a solution.

AHMED H.M. GEBREEL ( Libya) said his country had been the first to obtain its independence through the United Nations, and it knew the value of the work of the Special Committee and the importance of decolonization.  Libya welcomed the recent negotiations on the question of Western Sahara and hoped that a lasting agreement would result.  Self-determination was a sacrosanct right.  It was discouraging, however, that a second decade could end without a change in the Committee’s programme of work.  The Committee was urged to intensify efforts towards the exercise of self-determination in the Territories.

He stressed the importance for the representatives of the Territories to take part in the Special Committee’s discussions.  Each Territory’s situation should be taken up independently.  The administering Powers must stop their military manoeuvres in the Territories, and cease using the Territories as bases from which to conduct such exercises.  The situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories was not different from the situation and circumstances of the Palestinian people, he noted.

AMR EL-SHERBINI ( Egypt) said the United Nations should pursue all measures to eliminate colonialism and to assist Non-Self-Governing Territories to achieve independence, keeping in mind that 2001-2010 was the Second International Decade.  The Special Committee should work with the United Nations Departments of Political Affairs and Public Information to inform people about their inalienable rights.  He called on the administering Powers to facilitate the dispatch of assessment missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories, so that the Special Committee could stay abreast of the situations there.  Administering Powers should also provide the Special Committee with information on the socio-political situation of the Territories under their administration.

He stressed the right of colonial people to use their natural resources for their own good, and called on Member States to avoid those activities that adversely affected the interests of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The international community should help those Territories in the pursuit of economic development, and, for its part, the Special Committee should consult more regularly with the Economic and Social Council, as well as with United Nations agencies in the fields of economic and social development.  Egypt reaffirmed its commitment to supporting all United Nations efforts to grant independence to all occupied people, including the Palestinians.

FRIEDA NANGULA ITHETE (Namibia), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of SADC welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Security Council call on Morocco and the Frente Polisario to enter into negotiations, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Saharia.  Indeed, the people of Western Sahara deserved peace, protection and the ability to exercise their right to self determination.  That right was a fundamental human right enshrined in the Charter, she said, stressing her dismay that colonialism continued to pose a serious challenge in the twenty-first century.

She said her country was seriously concerned at the attempt to legalize the occupation of Western Sahara through proposed solutions, which denied the right to self-determination.  Attempts to depart from the Baker Plan would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of the region’s people.   Namibia supported the immediate implementation of the United Nations “settlement plan” and all resolutions.  On human rights, the Security Council should mandate the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to monitor violations.  Further, Palestinians deserved an independent sovereign State.  She reiterated Namibia’s unwavering support for the peoples of Western Sahara and Palestine in their just cause for freedom and independence.

BOOMETSWE MOKGOTHU ( Botswana) reaffirmed the right to self-determination, freedom and justice for the people of Western Sahara.  As freedom, justice and dignity were the foundation of the United Nations, any nation that denied another those rights undermined the collective conscience and noble principles of the Organization.  He deeply regretted that Western Sahara had become a perennial question for the Committee over most of the last century.  However, he welcomed the readiness of Morocco and the Frente Polisario to enter into negotiations, with a view to finding a lasting political settlement.  Commending efforts by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to bring the parties together, particularly through two recent rounds of talks in New York, he hoped the third meeting in November would produce tangible results.  He strongly encouraged parties to approach those negotiations with a spirit of tolerance and compromise.

He said that, by adopting resolution 1754 (2007), the Security Council had reaffirmed previous resolutions on the question of Western Sahara.  Three options of autonomy, independence and integration were under consideration, and the people of Western Sahara had the right to chose which was acceptable to them, in line with democratic principles.  It was critically important for the United Nations to pay special attention to the humanitarian situation in the region, as it had the moral obligation to ensure the full protection of human rights of the Saharawis.   Botswana had no doubt that the people of Western Sahara had the full capacity to decide what was in their best interest.  Their will, expressed in a democratic and open process, must be respected by all.  He urged the international community to deploy greater efforts to support a results-oriented negotiation process.

ADI GHASSAN KHAIR (Jordan) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to decolonization, which should remain a priority of the United Nations.  The efforts employed by the Organization, the administering Powers and the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories had been welcome, especially those that had preserved the cultural identity of the peoples of the Territories.  The administering Powers should strengthen the economic and social progress of the people of the Territories under their administration, and they should preserve the resources of these Territories from misappropriation.  They should also commit to avoiding any detrimental economic activities in the Territories they administer.

Continuing, he encouraged the administering Powers to provide all statistical, economic and social information on the Territories under their administration.  Economic assistance through the various United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme, should continue to be provided to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Support from all financial institutions within the United Nations system should be mobilized, and efforts should be strengthened and coordinated.  Means should be found to assist those Territories in their efforts to combat drug trafficking, and other illicit and criminal activities.  The Special Committee should strengthen contacts with the Economic and Social Council to mobilize all parts of the United Nations system in its decolonization efforts.

LIPUO MOTEETEE ( Lesotho), aligning herself with the statement by SADC, expressed deep regret that the Western Sahara issue remained unresolved.  Lesotho viewed it as a decolonization issue, which should have been settled a long time ago by the United Nations.  The problem was the result of a decades-long denial of the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.  She reminded the Committee that, in December 1985, the General Assembly had highlighted the need to create conditions that would allow the people of Western Sahara to hold a referendum on self-determination.

She also voiced concern over reports of human rights violations in Western Sahara, and expressed hope that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would publicize its report on the matter.  Lesotho was encouraged that Frente Polisario and Morocco had begun direct negotiations, brokered by the United Nations, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1754 (2007).  She encouraged both parties to act in good faith to realize the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.

CRISPIN S. GREGOIRE ( Dominica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said Member States should muster the political will to implement the United Nations decolonization mandate through the procedures endorsed by the General Assembly, especially with three years remaining before the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.  Most Caribbean and Pacific Territories were associate members of the Regional Economic Commissions of the United Nations, and had participated in selected United Nations world conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly.  That was a natural evolution of the self-determination process, and served to prepare these Territories for assuming full self-government.  In that regard, General Assembly resolution 61/231 had welcomed initiatives to review possible inclusion of these Territories in technical programmes of the Economic and Social Council.  The Caribbean Community endorsed that approach.  He also commended UNDP for providing its expertise to special United Nations missions to several Caribbean Territories.

He said that analytical studies on the prevailing political conditions in the Territories should be undertaken, so that Member States were fully informed of the intricacies of prevailing governing arrangements.  That would enable specific remedies to be proposed to address the deficiencies in democratic governance, which had made those Territories non-self-governing in the first place.  With the exception of Tokelau, the majority of Territories had not yet been reviewed in such a manner.  It was not surprising that, as the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight said in a report last March, the Organization’s consideration of the decolonization process had “recently stalled”.  On the question of Western Sahara, he commended the Personal Envoy for his work in facilitating talks between the parties.

DENIS DANGUE REWAKA ( Gabon) saluted the Special Committee’s work on decolonization -- particularly in Africa – and said the Organization still had a way to go to achieve the total elimination of colonialism by 2011.  The question of Western Sahara had had new and recent developments, including Morocco’s autonomy proposal, which the Security Council had noted as “serious and credible” in making progress towards the dispute’s resolution, in the adoption of its resolution 1754 (2007).  That resolution had also invited the two parties and the neighbouring countries to negotiations, which was the sole way to achieve a political and lasting solution.  The Fourth Committee’s responsibility was to assist in those talks, which had begun under the Secretary-General’s auspices.

GRACE MUJUMA (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning herself with the statement by the SADC, said that since the decolonization process was still not complete, the United Nations must view it as a priority.  It was vital that Member States and relevant bodies involve themselves in pursuing the decolonization of all remaining Territories.  The international community should be able to count on administering Powers to implement the Declaration on Decolonization.  Meanwhile, her country welcomed the positive example of Tokelau, as it headed towards the path of self-government.  Hopefully, that case would catalyze the efforts of the remaining Territories.

Turning to Western Sahara, she welcomed the recent talks in Manhasset and voiced hope that a spirit of dialogue would prevail.  The decision of the relevant parties to continue with a third round of talks during the second week of November was also welcome.  The deteriorating humanitarian situation in the refugee camps was worrying, however, and she called for a cessation of hostilities and an end to those human rights violations.  She appealed to all parties to cooperate with MINURSO in implementing its tasks.  Finally, she called on Member States to ensure that the Territories could use their natural resources to their own benefit, and appealed for hastening the pace of self-rule for the Territories.

Right of Reply

The representative of the United Kingdom, addressed her comments to the representatives of Cuba and Indonesia on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, said that the United Kingdom’s position on that issue was well-known.  It had been set out by the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in a written right of reply to the President of Argentina at the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly.  The United Kingdom had no doubts about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, and there could be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Islands unless and until such time as the islanders so wished.

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