|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
5th Meeting (PM)
STRONG POLITICAL WILL NEEDED TO FULLY IMPLEMENT DECOLONIZATION AGENDA,
DELEGATES SAY, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES GENERAL DEBATE
Committee Hears Remaining Petitioners on Western
Sahara, Also Hears Two Petitioners on Question of New Caledonia
On the fourth day of its discussions on decolonization, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today heard from 13 additional petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, as Member States also continued their general debate.
Throughout the afternoon meeting, which also heard two petitioners on the question of New Caledonia, delegates stressed that the decolonization process should be concluded as quickly as possible through the delivery of concrete results.
“Adopting repetitive resolutions without regard to their implementation only gave credence to the perception of powerlessness”, said the representative of Dominica, who gave some examples of innovative measures proposed over the years -- including the First and Second International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism -- which had never been implemented, either because of a lack of cooperation by administering Powers or resistance from the United Nations Secretariat.
Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), he said that those States had encouraged the economic and social advancement of Non-Self-Governing Territories as they went through the “growing pains” of colonial reform. While he welcomed the United States’ approval for the establishment in Puerto Rico of a Representation Office by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), aimed at enhancing trade, he was deeply disappointed with the United Kingdom’s denial of Montserrat’s request for an entrustment enabling it to participate in CARICOM Single Market and Economy. He called on the United Kingdom to reconsider that decision.
The representative of Iran said the demonstrated excellence of the United Nations in the decolonization field was not consistent with the insufficient political will among some Member States to implement relevant provisions of the Charter. He also called attention to colonization in its “new forms”, and said that decolonization policies and machinery should be reviewed to avoid the emergence of new economically, politically or culturally colonized territories.
Reiterating the importance of economic, social and educational advancement in Non-Self-Governing Territories, he went on to say that “exercising the right of self-determination could only be realized when people of these Territories enjoyed a certain level of knowledge and welfare”.
The representative of Senegal said that “bold solutions were needed”, and called for the Fourth Committee to debate the difficult and challenging question of Western Sahara. He said that the Moroccan plan would provide broad autonomy while also respecting that State’s territorial integrity, but stressed that only sincere and good-faith negotiations could lead to a fair and lasting settlement. He urged the parties to return to negotiations, as the impasse on this “delicate and thorny problem” threatened future progress of the greater Mahgreb region.
Picking up that thread, Javier P. Morillas Gomez, Adviser on Employment Oversight for the Community of Madrid and Coordinator of the World Economic Program at the University of San Pablo-CEU, said that the adverse economic situation throughout northern Africa was resulting in irregular immigration to Spain.
In addition to this economic hardship, he said the issue of Western Sahara threatened the overall regional security. For example, the “Salafista for Preaching and Combat” had become “Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb”. Meanwhile, violent drug traffickers were expanding their operations and opening new and more direct routes between Africa and the European Union, risking a “narco-terrorist” alliance.
The two petitioners who spoke on the question of New Caledonia stressed that the Kanak people were being marginalized despite the 1998 Nouméa Accord. A senator from the Customary Senate of Ajie-Aro said that, despite promises made during the Accord’s signing, incessant migratory flows of retirees, businesspeople and speculators into New Caledonia were not being stopped and were overwhelming the native population.
A senator from the Kanak Socialist Front for National Liberation said some economic benefit could be derived from the work of foreign mining companies, but the impact on the environment was costly and the Kanak people did not currently have sufficient environmental oversight in the Territory. Both petitioners called for a mission to New Caledonia by the Special Committee of 24, while one proposed that the body’s next regional seminar be held there.
The representatives of Pakistan, India, Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Namibia, and the Congo also spoke.
Also speaking on the question of Western Sahara were: Lorenzo Olarte Cullen, former President of Canary Islands; Mikael Simble, representative of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara; Marc-Louis Ropivia, Professor of Political Geography, L’Université Omar Bongo de Libreville; Jane Bahaijoub, Family Protection; Eric Cameron, World Action for Refugees of Norway; Pedro Pinto Leite, International Platform of Jurists for East Timor; Juan Soroeta Liceras, Public International Law Professor, Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea; Jose Luis Jimenez; Francesco Bastagli, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Western Sahara; Diallo Babacar, Centre d’études diplomatiques et strategie of Dakar; Anja Oksalampi, Yaakarre-REDHRIC; and Gilonne d’Origny.
The Fourth Committee will conclude its consideration of decolonization issues at 3 p.m., Friday, 10 October. It is expected to take action on several decolonization-related texts.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its consideration on all decolonization issues. It was expected to hear the remaining petitioners on the questions of Western Sahara and New Caledonia, and to hold a general debate among delegations. (Reports before the Committee are summarized in Monday’s Press Release GA/SPD/396.)
Petitioners on Western Sahara
LORENZO OLARTE CULLEN, former President of Canary Islands, said that in recent years he had visited some of the areas that he had known during the Spanish occupation and had noted the “great improvements” made by Morocco. The possibility of a “free associated State” that gave Western Sahara full autonomy should not be ruled out, as well as the holding of a referendum in which all Saharawis would take part “with no exception”. The Saharawi people should be given the fiscal and economic advantages to become not only a democratic society, but a modern one with full security and economic development. He proposed that Saharawi democracy be based on three branches of government -- legislative, judiciary, and executive.
Citing examples from Spain’s own past, he said it was necessary to turn the page of “bloody history” and, as Spain had done, forget about the “sad chapters”. In its own history, Spain had given up some of its “legitimate demands” and made “exemplary sacrifices” in the name of seeking concord. Reconciliation in Western Sahara must be sought, and it must be based on a consensus. All Saharawis must be joined together, and families who had been split apart for many years must be reunited. That must be done if prosperity was to be achieved in that divided Territory. Important sacrifices would need to be made on both sides in order to find a peaceful solution for all Saharawis.
MIKAEL SIMBLE, representative of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, appealed to the Committee for the United Nations to bring to an end to Morocco’s continued presence in the Western Sahara, the commerce and industry exploiting the region, and the violation of human rights of those who opposed the current system. For the United Nations not to respond would “threaten the peace and stability of the [...] Maghreb region and undermine the ability and credibility of the United Nations as an arbiter in international conflicts”.
He noted the many breaches of United Nations rulings, opinions and resolutions confirming the status of Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory by Morocco and international companies doing business in the area with Morocco. He also noted peaceful protesting Saharawis that continued to be arrested, tortured, as well as disappeared.
He went on to stress that the Saharawi activists were, in fact, “doing the work of the United Nations” as they were promoting the Organization’s resolutions regarding self-government and the protection of basic human rights. The founding principles of the United Nations insisted that the international community hold Morocco and its many business partners accountable for their illegal and unethical actions.
MARC-LOUIS ROPIVIA, Professor of Political Geography, L’Université Omar Bongo de Libreville, said the debate on Western Sahara should be recontextualized in light of the African Union’s quest for continental integration and harmony. Even though it did not focus on classical decolonization, the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco was compatible with such an integration perspective. Indeed, Morocco had never been a colonial Power and had, instead, fought against the colonizing countries and had even placed the question of Western Sahara on the list of countries to be decolonized.
The plan recognized, as the international community should, that the equation of “self-determination equals independence” was no longer in line with the kind of regional territoriality seen in a globalizing world. The new regionalization of Morocco, which was seen in the proposal, said that there was no longer only one way of accomplishing decolonization. The relationship it suggested would posit a federal connection that respected particularity, he said.
He emphasized that the proposal was constructive and pragmatic in that it took into account new ways to express self-determination as recognized in a number of General Assembly resolutions, 1541 (1960) among them. Its realism proposed autonomy for Western Sahara under territorial integrity. Autonomy was a way to exercise self-determination by enshrining the principle of subsidiarity. That would give explicit affirmation of Saharawi particularity within the Moroccan context.
Moreover, the Saharawi people would be able to manage a number of local authorities themselves, allowing self-rule according to local-level competence. Thus, he said, the proposal was clearly open-minded within the context of the African Union. Other proposals that put forward partition, such as the put forward by Algeria, did not offer the same benefits.
JANE BAHAIJOUB, Family Protection, said it was high time for the international community to dissociate the political from the humanitarian element in the Western Saharan conflict. Populations in the Tindouf camps should be allowed to choose between returning to Morocco and living in more favourable conditions. She asked why Algeria did not supply those in the refugee travel documents to allow them to settle wherever they wished. She also called into question the criteria of a “genuine Saharawi”, saying it was no secret that the number of Saharawi refugees presented by Algeria was exaggerated, implying a surplus in aid.
No international organization knew the number of refugees in those camps, but relied on outdated information supplied decades ago by Algeria. It was evident that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) represented “only a small group” of the Saharawi population with opposing factions in and outside the Tindouf camps, and an “overwhelming” majority residing in Morocco. The only viable solution was to guarantee that Saharawis could “run their own affairs” was Morocco’s proposed autonomy. In closing, she quoted the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, saying that “an independent Western Sahara was not a realistic proposition”.
ERIC CAMERON, World Action for Refugees of Norway, said his organization gathered information on the refugees who had been living in the Tindouf camps in inhumane conditions for over 30 years. What it had found provided evidence of flagrant violations of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and made an extremely compelling case for an investigation into the conditions in those camps. Indeed, assisting and protecting refugees automatically required their registration and identification in order to protect them from regrouping and force recruitment, among other violations. Despite this, the refugees in the Tindouf camps had never been afforded sufficient registration. As a result, family members had been separated -- particularly children from parents. Dispatching those young people to completely alien environments clearly violated the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
He highlighted a recent report from Amnesty International that said that the freedoms of movement, expression and association of refugees in the camps controlled by the POLISARIO Front were restricted. The Executive Committee of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had said in 1987 that it was essential for States to do everything in their power to guarantee the maintenance of the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and facilities. Yet, this was not being done. Thus, a credible census of the refugee population in the Tindouf camps was needed. Families also needed to be reunited. All possible channels should be employed by the United Nations to give the refugees more information on their basic human rights, including the right of “freely approved return”.
PEDRO PINTO LEITE, International Platform of Jurists for East Timor, said Morocco continued to defy Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and to violate international law -- which was very clear on Western Sahara -- with total impunity. Among the obligations and prohibitions under the international legal norm of “jus cogens” that Morocco was violating were the obligation not to obstruct the right of a colonized people to self-determination; the prohibition of the use of aggressive armed forces; and the obligation to refrain from torture and other cruel treatment.
He said that the occupation of Western Sahara and the exploitation of its natural resources were unlawful, and a free and fair referendum there, according to the original peace plan of the United Nations and the Organization of African Union (OAU), would be the only legal and real solution to the problem.
Yet, the Moroccan regime tried to depict the Saharawi struggle for self-determination as something illegal, sometimes even calling it terrorism, he said. That “ridiculous accusation” was at odds with the fact that past armed resistance to Moroccan aggression was lawful self-defence. The Saharawis had also scrupulously adhered to the ceasefire adopted in 1991, even though the referendum that was part of that plan had never taken place.
He called for an inquiry into the crimes committed in the occupied territory, saying that Morocco’s suggestion to establish an ad hoc tribunal was “clearly a bluff” given how that country had obstructed the publication of the 2006 report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the expansion of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include human rights.
He further said that Spain would have to recognize the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic if it wanted to effectively give up its position as administering Power in Western Sahara. If the Fourth Committee or any other United Nations organ endorsed the “absurd” statement of Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s former Personal Envoy for Western Sahara -- that law was on the side of the Saharawis, but political realities were not -- what would be the significance of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and of the Committee itself? he asked.
JUAN SOROETA LICERAS, Public International Law Professor, Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, stressed that Morocco was not the administering but the occupying Power in Western Sahara. As such, it was illegally exploiting the Territory’s natural resources and stood in permanent violation of humanitarian law. Only by the exercise of the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination would the conflict be ended.
Saying that little remained of past agreements between the relevant parties, he noted that the 18-year-old peace process showed two things. First, no trace of the initial consensual agreement between the parties remained and Morocco had used the peace plan to gain ground and deny the possibility of a referendum. Second, neither the voluntary abandonment of arms nor the tireless negotiating patience of the POLISARIO Front and trust of the United Nations had been of any use.
Turning to the possibility of further negotiations, he said the proposal of the Secretary-General’s past Personal Envoy of an autonomy regime with the Moroccan territory clearly did not hold up to international legal scrutiny. He wondered if, in light of that proposal, the Saharawis could still trust the international community since international law would no longer protect them if they accepted the autonomy process. But beyond that, if they returned to their land as a province of Morocco, their resistance would increase. The current situation could not continue indefinitely, however, and the only possible conclusion was through the decision of the Saharawi people by a self-determination referendum.
JOSE LUIS JIMENEZ said that a framework must be created to clearly separate the ethical principles from the political ones. In Algeria, there were those who rejected coercive political action, and those on the other side who were not yet ready to take that step. His address, he said, was aimed at those who had for “some reason or other” thus far stood on the margins. The international community must ask Algeria the following questions: What do you want? What do you need?
Algeria had no common sense, he said, because religious fundamentalism would become a “new job” in the region and the Tindouf camps would be its base of operations. He challenged the Committee to find an Internet blogger writing from the Tindouf camps who could provide daily impressions of the situation. However, he said, there was “no such thing”. Although official television and radio stations were permitted to cover the situation, individual reflections could not be found.
FRANCESCO BASTAGLI, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Western Sahara, said that just days after he had resigned his post in August 2006, he had been accosted by a Saharawi woman on a street in Laayounne who told him, “thank you for doing nothing the Saharawi people”. Conveying that woman’s message to the Committee today, he said the United Nations had also failed its responsibilities under Chapter XI of its Charter, particularly Article 73e, which listed commitments ranging from human rights protection to institution building to social and economic development. All of those commitments had been smothered in a conspiracy of silence.
Continuing, he said United Nations bodies debated the future of faceless people, without the essential ingredients of responsible decision-making. No independent information analysis on the Saharawi people’s needs existed. Nor did anyone speak out on human rights violations or on the illegal plundering of the Territory’s natural resources. The performance of the United Nations Secretariat “wavered between the embarrassing and the outrageous”. Indeed, no social or economic assistance was offered except hand-to-mouth aid relief in the refugee camps.
The Committee had been “staring into the crystal ball of a stalled political process” while ignoring its core mandate, he said, adding: “This has to change.” Because no administering Power existed in Western Sahara to fulfil the “sacred trust” cited in the Charter, the Organization was duty-bound to fulfil that trust itself.
The Secretary-General and concerned agencies should, among other things, secure independent information on the health, education and economic and social conditions of the Saharawi people in the camps and the Territory; transmit as appropriate the information and related analyses to the United Nations and other concerned intergovernmental bodies; advocate for the Saharawi people’s basic human and economic rights; and formulate and implement a programme of assistance pursuant to Article 73e. By pressing for such action to be undertaken, the Committee would break a stifling routine by providing a more informed and open decision-making environment for the political process.
JAVIER P. MORILLAS GOMEZ, Adviser on Employment Oversight for the Community of Madrid and Coordinator of the World Economic Program at the University of San Pablo-CEU, said one of his office’s main concerns was irregular immigration to Spain resulting from the adverse economic situation in northern Africa. Those undocumented immigrants, who left the Maghreb piled into fragile boats, were a consequence of the frustration and poverty provoked by Morocco’s costly occupation of Western Sahara. That cost, as opposed to investment, fostered the region’s underdevelopment.
Capital investments could generate a dynamic and progressive development, but today’s policies only generated misery and growing social discontent across the Maghreb, he said. In August, the Mauritanian Government had been toppled in a coup d’état. The “Salafista for Preaching and Combat” had morphed into “Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb” and was extending its tentacles into Chad and Mali. An arsenal of arms had been found in Morocco and fighters in northern Morocco were becoming ever more rebellious against the Sultan. Meanwhile, cannabis production was increasing. Drug traffickers were expanding their operations, using violence to get their way, and opening new and more direct routes between Africa and the European Union.
That complicated situation required a new vision that would take into account the problems caused by Morocco, he said. It should particularly address the risk of generating a “narco-terrorist” alliance. “Is the international community ready to keep on postponing the decolonization of the Sahara for Morocco to consolidate the narcotic-terrorist alliance [...] that the illegal occupation of the Sahara generates?” he asked.
DIALLO BABACAR, Centre d’études diplomatiques et strategie of Dakar, noting that the Committee had been dealing with the question of Western Sahara with unsuccessful results for 30 years, said the United Nations had committed a “good faith mistake” by equating the Western Sahara question with the decolonization process of other African states. That “mirage” had prompted a number of individuals to proceed under the illusion that the region had to be decolonized even though it had always existed as one contiguous territory, including Morocco. Those who were a bit knowledgeable about the geo-political history of the region should draw the lesson that Western Sahara should not be analysed as a colony, but as a Territory of Morocco.
He, therefore, welcomed the “intelligent step” taken by Morocco to propose a plan for broad sovereignty for Western Sahara within its protection. That plan should be the basis for dialogue, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said, and it should be followed up. The question of Western Sahara should be removed from the “beaten path” and approached according to the new vision proposed. To the extent that the plan was the only proposal available to the international community, it should be explored and debated by the United Nations and its Member States. He had made this appeal, he stressed, so that the United Nations would optimize all other discussions under its auspices in order to take on once and for all this broad autonomy plan.
ANJA OKSALAMPI, Yaakarre-REDHRIC, said this was a “sterile conflict” between two fraternal groups causing a great deal of suffering on both sides for both militants and civilians. In spite of humanitarian organizations working in the camps, it was very hard to “get a handle” on the reality there, especially when there was no freedom of expression there. Refugees abroad who articulated their plight were simply called “instruments of Moroccan propaganda”, she said.
When visiting the camps, the guides and translators provided by the POLISARIO Front also provided surveillance, effectively editing the perceptions of outsiders. Statements were “rewritten” so as to be in accordance with POLISARIO Front’s policies, with the common rote refrain “my fate is not important compared with the martyrdom of my people”, she said.
A visiting journalist had joked that the women seen working were only “staged extras” because the real work was done during the night, by Moroccan prisoners of war. She asked for an international inquiry for Moroccan prisoners of war, who had gone missing, as well as restitution for prisoners and their families. Finally, she expressed deep concern over incidences of slavery and anti-black behaviour that existed in the camps and shared stories of members of Reporters without Borders who were prevented from visiting the camps by the POLISARIO Front and scolded for being “interested in the Saharawi people”.
GILONNE D’ORIGNY, lawyer, said that no one should be here today. Human rights defenders, like Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award recipient Aminatou Haidar, who had delivered an intervention yesterday, should not be here. But she must, because while she should be living in her homeland free from oppression and a citizen of a State she and her Saharawi brothers and sisters had freely chosen to represent them, she could not.
“The law is simple [...] and if it is followed, the door on Africa’s colonial past can be closed”, she said. However, Spain had tried to abandon the Territory and the Saharawi people in 1975. Morocco’s subsequent invasion and the “flagrant blind-eye” Spain had trained on this invasion violated the International Court of Justice’s opinion that affirmed that Morocco’s claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara was groundless. If that advisory opinion, as well as the fundamental human right to self-determination, had been applied, the question of Western Sahara would not be asked today.
Indeed, Morocco had bullied the world into believing that it should be part of a Saharawi vote for self-determination, she said. Yet, Morocco had continually interfered with the work of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Although it had initially agreed that a referendum should take place, it had attempted to inflate the vote with Moroccans posing as Saharawi. When that did not work, Morocco had consistently refused any negotiation that would include independence as an option, she said.
Morocco was now trying to impose an autonomy plan even though it was an illegal occupier, a thief of Western Sahara’s natural resources and a violator of Saharawi human rights. In that context, she welcomed the anticipated appointment of Christopher Ross as new representative of the Secretary-General, wishing him well on his work to remove this Territory from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Statements by Petitioners on Question of New Caledonia
JULIEN BOANEMOI, Senator in the Customary Senate of Ajie-Aro, said that, in line with the Nouméa Accord, the Customary Senate was charged with reaffirming, protecting and promoting the Kanak identity as part of the groundwork for building the future State’s foundation. The Kanak people should be at the heart of that State, but they were marginalized. “They must be recognized; indeed, the reparation of historical wrongs, including the humiliation of the Kanak people, depends on this”, he said.
Yet, the Kanak people were minorities in their own State, he said. Despite promises made at the signing of the Accord, the incessant migratory flows into New Caledonia were not being stopped. Indeed, those promises had been a “dead letter” since 1998. Retirees, as well as businesspeople and speculators, had arrived with the goal of “drowning out” the Kanak and making their goal of independence impossible. Today, the Kanak were cantoned in their provinces or lived in “model” communities. That division had negative impacts on the cultural fabric, forcing Kanak children and young people to turn to drugs, crime and suicide.
Further, Kanak children did not succeed in the French schooling system, he said, stressing that proposed education reforms had been moving ahead gradually because they were difficult to implement. It was costly to copy the French system, which, among other things, remained elitist. That state of affairs had real impacts: currently, there was not a single Kanak lawyer on the Nouméa bar. The agreement had further proposed the resolution of land claims, but the land budget had been diminished in such a way that made it impossible to acquire land.
The Kanak were also trying to defend the environment, he said, by fighting construction and mining companies, which were polluting the land and waters of the Territory. But threats posed by rising water levels, climate change and the loss of biodiversity were the cause of a great deal of anxiety. The Kanak people should not be left to the “garbage cans of history”. They needed recognition by, and help from, the international community. He called for a mission to visit New Caledonia and proposed that the next regional seminar be held there.
ROCK WAMYTAN, Kanak Socialist Front for National Liberation and Senate President, said that, while it was clear that the administering Power, France, did not support sovereignty, the process was moving forward. Faced with the colonizer’s resistance and determination to keep the Territory French, the Kanak people had done everything they could to fight that Power. But nine years into the Nouméa agreement’s implementation, it was clear that the transfer of competencies was off-track.
He said that the Kanak remained marginalized economically and in terms of education. Further, the success of financial projects managed by France in the south was raising the spectre of partition. That was, he stressed, against the United Nations Charter which stated that administering Powers must do everything they could to allow the population to achieve as much self-sufficiency as possible.
In addition, large metal extraction projects were being undertaken by foreign companies, he said. While providing some economic benefits, those ventures came with an environmental cost. The Kanak population lacked the ability for sufficient oversight, he added. Thus, by the time the Kanak population were allowed to decide on their future, they would do so as a polluted country.
Continuing, he said vigilance against possible manoeuvres and false interpretations of the Nouméa Accord was needed. French President Sarkozy’s proposal to allow for French military presence in New Caledonia would destabilize the region. He emphasized that administering Powers were restricted from establishing posts in the Territories for which they were responsible. He also repeated the previous speaker’s call for a regional seminar in New Caledonia.
YASIR IQBAL ( Pakistan), expressing support for the work of the Special Committee in pursuing the unfinished decolonization agenda, said its advancement had been painstakingly slow over the last years. While the framework existed in the relevant General Assembly resolutions and decisions on decolonization, there was a lack of implementation of those international commitments and obligations.
He further expressed support for the Special Committee’s call for all administering Powers to take all necessary steps for full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, as well as the relevant United Nations resolutions. The international community also had to renew its commitment to eradicating colonialism.
Decolonization and the right to self-determination went hand in hand, he said. The General Assembly had reaffirmed, year after year, that in the process of decolonization there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination. Pakistan, therefore, supported the fundamental and inalienable rights of all peoples, including the Non-Self-Governing Territories, as well as in situations under foreign occupation and colonial or alien domination, to self-determination.
The resolution of the question of Western Sahara would be in the interests of lasting peace and cooperation in that part of the world. Pakistan hoped that ongoing negotiations process would further the efforts for a mutually acceptable and peaceful settlement there.
He went on to note that for decades the people of Palestine and the people of Jammu and Kashmir had awaited the inalienable right to self-determination promised to them by the United Nations. Peaceful resolution of those core underlying issues would be essential for achieving durable peace, stability and progress in the Middle East and South Asia. Acknowledging that peace processes were under way in both regions, he expressed hope that they would be fruitful. It was particularly hoped that the recent meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan would allow for a continuation and deepening of a constructive dialogue for the peaceful resolution and satisfactory settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue.
CRISPIN S. GREGOIRE (Dominica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the two International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism required analytical studies on political and constitutional developments in the territories, but such research had been “stubbornly resisted” for two decades. Furthermore, adopting repetitive resolutions without regard to their implementation only gave credence to the perception of powerlessness. Concrete results must be delivered, he declared.
He said CARICOM supported the call made by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to the Human Rights Council to designate a Special Rapporteur on the situation of peoples of the indigenous Territories. He encouraged the economic and social advancement of those Territories as they went through the “growing pains” of colonial reform. He expressed deep disappointment and called for the United Kingdom to reconsider the denial of the request of Montserrat for an entrustment which would have enabled it to participate in CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
Continuing, he said the most effective solution to the constitutional challenges facing Caribbean Territories would be constitutional advancement which would enable them to sign and ratify Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) treaties on their own. Additionally, he welcomed the approval granted to Puerto Rico by the United States for the establishment of the OECS Representation Office to advance cooperation in trade and investment, health, security, disaster management and the environment, among others. In closing, he reaffirmed support for the people of Western Sahara and urged the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish its findings on human rights violations of Saharawi peoples as soon as possible.
PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said the Special Committee must hold a discussion on the question of Western Sahara even if it was a difficult and challenging case. The challenges should not distract or divert the Fourth Committee from the main point, which was to find a fair and lasting solution to the conflict. This year, the debate was again necessary and the Committee met to pay particular attention to this question as the impasse on the “delicate and thorny problem” had prevented the greater Mahgreb region from achieving widespread progress.
Saying the status quo was neither viable nor acceptable, he stressed that bold solutions were needed. That was precisely the means by which the Moroccan autonomy proposal -- which would provide broad autonomy while also respecting Morocco’s territorial integrity -- found its wisdom. Senegal supported that proposal because it would allow the two parties to find a common denominator. He stressed that only sincere and good-faith negotiations could lead to a fair and lasting settlement, and that it would, therefore, be necessary for each camp to be realistic and agree not to grasp for too much. That was, after all, the very purpose of the negotiations.
He went on to say that the statements made by Peter van Walsum, Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, had raised concerns, especially his suggestion that the negotiations had arrived a deeper impasse even though their goal had been to move beyond all previous impasses. Noting the momentum that the Secretary-General’s concern had given the issue, he expressed Senegal’s support for all of the Secretary-General’s efforts to move that issue forward, as well as the recent agreement between the parties to allow family visits by land. Finally, he called for more actions of that nature to build confidence among the parties to show that all areas held possibility. Consensus was also needed on the resolution on the question.
ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said, while decolonization should remain a priority for the United Nations, the Organization’s demonstrated excellence in the field was not consistent with the insufficient political will among some Member States to implement relevant provisions of the Charter. He urged the administering Powers to support United Nations activities and requested Member States to speed up the process of decolonization. He noted that at the Non-Aligned Movement’s fifteenth Ministerial Conference in Tehran in June, 100 ministers of State or Government and representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement stressed the fundamental and inalienable rights of all peoples to self-determination.
At the same time, the continuation of colonization in its new forms remained a matter of grave concern, he said. To assist the peoples of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories and other former colonies, the United Nations decolonization policies and machinery should be reviewed in terms of broader political, economic, social and cultural factors to avoid the emergence of new economically, politically or culturally colonized territories.
“We have to build on the momentum and work harder to expedite the self-determination process”, he said, suggesting that the Secretary-General assign a special representative or task force to investigate how to enhance effectiveness of the world body’s work in the field. He reiterated the importance of economic, social and educational advancement of Non-Self-Governing Territories as a prerequisite to decisions taken to change a territory’s status. Exercising the right of self-determination could only be realized when people of those territories enjoyed a certain level of knowledge and welfare, he added.
AJAI MALHOTRA ( India) said the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories served as a reminder that more needed to be done to end colonization. Unless efforts were intensified, the work of the Special Committee of 24 could enter yet another decade before its completion. “A blend of urgency and activism with a mix of sensitivity and circumspection” was needed, as well as the realization that a one-size-fits-all plan should be replaced with a case-by-case approach, tailored to the needs of each Territory.
The dissemination of relevant unbiased information about legal options of political equality to the peoples of the Territories was also essential. He said that the tools of United Nations missions in those Territories and of regional seminars would help to bridge that information gap.
He urged administering Powers to build upon the prevailing spirit of cooperation, and pointed to Tokelau and New Zealand’s work as an excellent example that could provide guidance to other administering Powers still resisting the international dialogue established by the United Nations on the political and constitutional development of the Territories under their administration. “We agree that an interactive dialogue on the objective reality in the Territories would be to the benefit of all concerned, in particular, the people of these Territories”, he said.
ZACHARY D. MUBURI-MUITA ( Kenya), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it was regrettable that 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained on the United Nations list. Emphasizing that justice and freedom were nothing if not universal, he urged the Fourth Committee to continue with its common efforts of promoting the implementation of the Declaration on decolonization. It was imperative for the whole United Nations membership to rededicate its commitment to that responsibility.
A collaborative effort was, therefore, needed, he said. Encouraging the Special Committee to pursue its efforts of dialogue and cooperation with the administering Powers, he called on those Powers to facilitate United Nations visiting and special missions to the Territories. They should also cooperate by regularly transmitting information on territorial conditions. They should also protect the Territories’ natural resources from harmful activities.
The African Group noted that Western Sahara remained the last Non-Self-Governing Territories on the African continent, despite the Assembly’s consistent recognition of the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence. He, therefore, called for the speedy implementation of Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960, and also urged the POLISARIO Front and the Kingdom of Morocco to continue to participate in the direct negotiations in conformity with Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), without preconditions and in good faith, in order to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution. There was, he stressed, no justification in continuing to delay resumption of the talks.
KAIRE M. MBUENDE ( Namibia) said the right to self-determination was a fundamental human right. It was in that context that the Second International Decade to Eradicate Colonialism (2001-2010) had been declared, and it was the collective responsibility of United Nations Member States to ensure that goal was fulfilled. He called on countries administering Non-Self-Governing Territories to speed up the process of granting independence and self-determination to the peoples of those Territories.
Namibia, he said, stood by the African Union’s consistent position that the inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and independence was not negotiable. That position had been given further credence by the 1975 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. Further, General Assembly resolution 34/37 (1979) described Morocco’s presence as a “continued occupation”. Saying the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination should not be delayed any longer, he urged the Government of Morocco to hold a referendum immediately, in accordance with the United Nations Settlement Plan.
Finally, he noted with concern reports of incidences of human right violations perpetrated against the Saharawi people, saying the United Nations must protect the Saharawi people. He also urged the Security Council to mandate MINURSO to monitor human rights violations in that Territory. Turning to the question of Palestine, he added that the Palestinian people deserved to have an independent and sovereign nation where they could live in peace, and he called for the immediate and full implementation of all United Nations resolutions on the matter.
RAPHAEL DIEUDONNÉ MABOUNDOU ( Congo) noted with concern that the Second International Decade was coming to a close without significant progress on the implementation of its action plan. The question of decolonization required the international community to mobilize aid for the Non-Self-Governing Territories and to support the exercise of their internationally recognized right to self-determination. A conclusion of the decolonization process should be arrived at as quickly as possible.
He reiterated support for the quality of the relationship established between the Special Committee and New Zealand by which Tokelau had been able to advance towards economic and social progress and towards the goal of self-determination. Taking up the question of Western Sahara, he highlighted relevant Security Council resolutions of 2007 and 2008 and said the parties should continue to create an atmosphere that fostered dialogue so that a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable solution could be arrived at.
He expressed further support for the work of the United Nations Information Centres in advancing the decolonization agenda. The missions of the Special Committee and the organization of regional seminars were also of key importance. The relationship between the Special Committee and the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs should continue. Closer cooperation between the administering Powers and the Special Committee should be sought. Closer contact between the Special Committee and the Economic and Social Council was also needed.
Taking the floor on a point of order, the representative of Morocco said that although Morocco was a member of the African Group, his delegation disassociated itself from this statement made by Kenya on the Group’s behalf.
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