DELEGATES URGE SUSTAINED MOMENTUM IN NEGOTIATIONS ON WESTERN SAHARA, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE ON DECOLONIZATION

10 October 2008
GA/SPD/400

DELEGATES URGE SUSTAINED MOMENTUM IN NEGOTIATIONS ON WESTERN SAHARA, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE ON DECOLONIZATION

10 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/SPD/400
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fourth Committee

6th Meeting (PM)

DELEGATES URGE SUSTAINED MOMENTUM IN NEGOTIATIONS ON WESTERN SAHARA,

AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE ON DECOLONIZATION

Morocco Proffers Autonomy Proposal as ‘Real Opportunity’ to End Deadlock;

Algeria Says Reliance on Plan as Sole Basis for Talks Would Predetermine Outcome

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its general debate on decolonization issues today as delegates called for the momentum created by the Manhasset negotiation process on Western Sahara to be preserved so the deadlock that had gripped the Non-Self-Governing Territory for more than three decades could finally be broken. 

Throughout the afternoon meeting, speakers saluted the political will shown so far by Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) in holding four rounds of talks in nine months.  But many also called for the parties to expedite the negotiations and urged the United Nations to encourage them not to slacken their march towards a solution.

The representative of Morocco said that, with his country’s autonomy proposal, which had been submitted to the Secretary-General in April 2007 and had prompted the current round of negotiations, it hoped to move forward towards a reconciled Maghreb that was secure, prosperous and free of terrorist threats.

“The settlement Initiative presented by my country offers, today, a real opportunity to put an end, once and for all, to this issue, as well as to the sufferings of the camp populations, and speed up the construction of the Maghreb where a sprit of reconciliation, cooperation and solidarity should prevail,” he said.

Citing the assessment by the Secretary-General in his April report that realism and a spirit of compromise were essential in the negotiations, he underlined the conclusion of Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, that independence for Western Sahara was “unrealistic”.  That evaluation, the Moroccan Ambassador said, had been the outcome of three years of mediation and had been delivered with proper judgement.  As such, it should constitute the basis for the dispute’s rapid settlement.

Among those who echoed that conclusion today, Gabon’s representative said Morocco’s Initiative was “courageous but realistic”.  By taking into account the interests of both parties, it could lead to a lasting settlement.  Nevertheless, all parties had to cooperate and take each other’s interests into account.

The representative of Algeria, which hosts a number of Saharawi refugees in camps in its south-western province and participated in the negotiations as an observer, said that more than ever the negotiation process needed the international community’s support.  While the POLISARIO Front had based its position on international legality and the United Nations Charter, Morocco had wanted to see its autonomy proposal used as the sole basis for negotiations -- a situation which would predetermine the outcome and the decolonization process.

To move forward, he said efforts should concentrate on a solution that reconciled the principles of international law with the complexity of the issues.  He noted that both parties had agreed to a fifth round of talks, but that discussions remained unscheduled because Morocco had yet to join consensus on the Secretary-General’s efforts to appoint a new Personal Envoy.  For its part, Algeria hoped the international community would work towards a climate of trust through a decision that did not close the door on a mutually acceptable solution.

Joining those countries calling for strict respect of the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination, the representative of Timor-Leste said such respect was the only foundation for a resolution to the conflict, which, along with the Palestinian conflict, was becoming one of the world’s longest-running disputes.

“There will not be peace in Western Sahara while its people are denied their fundamental right to choose their own destiny, which is the core of the issues and the root cause of this ongoing conflict,” he said.

Also participating in the debate were the representatives of Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Cuba, New Zealand, Guinea, Egypt, Nicaragua, Bahrain, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Mozambique, Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso and Guinea Bissau.

The representatives of the United Kingdom and Cuba spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 13 October, to take action on a number of decolonization-related texts and begin its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its general debate on the cluster of decolonization issues and to take action on 10 draft resolutions -- eight of them recommended by the Special Committee on Decolonization in its report on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/63/23).  It was also expected to take action on two draft decisions relating to the question of Gibraltar and the expansion of the Special Committee’s membership by one.

Draft Texts

By the terms of draft resolution I, on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter, the Assembly would request the administering Powers to transmit, or continue to transmit, regularly to the Secretary-General information relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories, for which they are responsible, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments.  It would also request the Secretary-General to continue to ensure that adequate information is drawn from all available published sources in connection with the preparation of working papers on the relevant Territories.

Draft resolution II, 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 the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination in conformity with the United Nations Charter and with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), containing the Declaration on decolonization, as well as their rights to enjoy and dispose of their natural resources in their best interest.

While affirming the value of foreign economic investment undertaken in collaboration with the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Assembly would, by that text, reaffirm the responsibility of the administering Powers under the Charter to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of those Territories.  It would also reaffirm its concern about any activities aimed at exploiting the natural resources that are the heritage of the peoples of the Territories, including the indigenous populations, as well as the need to avoid any economic and other activities that adversely affect the interests of their peoples.

Also according to the text, the Assembly would call on all Governments that have not yet done so to take legislative, administrative or other measures to put an end to enterprises in the Territories -– undertaken by those Governments’ nationals or corporate bodies under their jurisdiction -– that are detrimental to the interests of the inhabitants, in accordance with relevant provisions of Assembly resolution 2621 of 1970.  Administering Powers would also be called on to ensure that the exploitation of the marine and other natural resources in the Territories under their administration is not in violation of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and does not adversely affect the interests of the Territories’ peoples.

By further provisions, the Assembly would invite all Governments and organizations of the United Nations system to ensure that the permanent sovereignty of the Territories’ peoples over their natural resources is fully respected and safeguarded in accordance with the relevant decolonization resolutions.  It would also call upon the administering Powers concerned to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevail in the Territories under their administration and to promote in each Territory a fair system of wages free of discrimination.

According to other provisions, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue informing the world of any activity that affected the exercise of the right of the peoples of the Territories to self-determination, in conformity with the Charter and Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).  It would also appeal to trade unions, non-governmental organizations and individuals to continue to promote the economic well-being of the Territories’ peoples, and also appeal to the media to disseminate information about developments in that regard.  It would decide to follow the situation in the Territories to ensure that economic activities taking place there were aimed at strengthening and diversifying their economies in the interest of the Territories’ people, including the indigenous populations, and at promoting the Territories’ economic and financial viability.

By the terms of draft resolution III, implementation 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, the Assembly would reaffirm that the recognition by the General Assembly, Security Council and other United Nations organs of the legitimacy of the aspirations of the peoples of the Territories to exercise their right to self-determination entails, as a corollary, the extension of all appropriate assistance to those peoples.

It would, by other provisions, request the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system and international and regional organizations to take appropriate measures to accelerate progress in the Territories’ economic and social sectors.  It would also urge those specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system that have not yet provided such assistance to do so as soon as possible, further requesting that they, along with regional organizations, strengthen existing measures of support and formulate appropriate assistance programmes within the framework of their respective mandates.

By that same draft, the Assembly would request the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system to provide information to the Territories on:  environmental problems facing them; the impact of natural disasters and other environmental problems; ways and means to fight drug trafficking, money laundering and other illegal and criminal activities; and the illegal exploitation of their marine and other natural resources and the need to utilize those resources for the benefit of their peoples.

Also according to the text, the Assembly would also encourage the Territories to take steps to establish and/or strengthen disaster preparedness and management institutions and policies with the assistance of the relevant specialized agencies.  It would also request the administering Powers concerned to facilitate, when appropriate, the participation of appointed and elected representatives of the Territories in the relevant meetings and conferences of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, so that the Territories may benefit from the related activities of those agencies and organizations.

By the terms of draft resolution IV, on the question of New Caledonia, the Assembly would welcome the significant developments that have taken place in New Caledonia since the signing of the Nouméa Accord of 5 May 1998 by the representatives of New Caledonia and the Government of France, and urge all the parties involved to maintain their dialogue in a spirit of harmony.  Noting the Nouméa Accord’s relevant provisions aimed at taking more broadly into account the Kanak identity in New Caledonia’s political and social organization, the Assembly would welcome efforts under way towards devising common identity symbols, such as name, flag, anthem, motto and bank notes.

By that draft’s further provisions, the Assembly would note the continuing strengthening of ties between New Caledonia and both the European Union and the European Development Fund in such areas as economic and trade cooperation, the environment, climate change and financial services.  It would also call upon the administering Power to continue to transmit to the Secretary-General information as required under Article 73 e of the Charter.  It would decide to keep under continuous review the process unfolding in New Caledonia and request the Special Committee to continue to examine the question of New Caledonia and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session.

By the terms of draft resolution V, on the question of Tokelau, the General Assembly would note New Zealand’s ongoing recognition of the complete right of the people of Tokelau to undertake the act of self-determination when they consider it to be appropriate.  It would also acknowledge Tokelau’s initiative in devising a strategic economic development plan for the period 2007-2010.  The Assembly would further acknowledge the ongoing and consistent commitment of New Zealand to meeting the social and economic requirements of Tokelau’s people, as well as the support and cooperation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in this regard.

By further provisions of that text, the Assembly would acknowledge Tokelau’s need for continued support from the international community, and recall with satisfaction the establishment and operation of the Tokelau International Trust Fund to support that Territory’s future development needs.  It would also call upon Member States and international and regional agencies to contribute to the Fund so as to assist this emerging country in overcoming the problems of smallness, isolation and lack of resources.

The Assembly would also note that a referendum to determine the future status of Tokelau held in February 2006 failed to produce the two-thirds majority of the valid votes cast required by the General Fono to change Tokelau’s status.  It would further note that the October 2007 referendum also did not produce a two-thirds majority, and acknowledge the General Fono’s decision that consideration of any future act of self-determination by Tokelau will be deferred, and that New Zealand and Tokelau will devote renewed effort and attention to ensuring that essential services and infrastructure on the atolls of Tokelau are enhanced and strengthened.

By still other provisions of the text, the Assembly would request the Special Committee to continue to examine the question of Tokelau and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session.

Also before the Committee is draft resolution VI, on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.

The draft’s general section, part A, would have the Assembly reaffirm the inalienable right of the peoples of the Territories to self-determination.

The Assembly would also reaffirm that, in the process of decolonization, and where there is no dispute over sovereignty, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right.

The Assembly would further affirm that it is ultimately for the peoples of the Territories themselves to determine freely their future political status in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter, the Declaration and the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, and, in that connection, reiterate its long-standing call for the administering Powers to develop political education programmes for the Territories that foster an awareness among the people of their right to self-determination.  It would also request that the administering Powers transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information called for under the Charter’s Article 73 e.

By further provisions, the Assembly would stress the importance of keeping the Special Committee apprised of the views and wishes of the peoples of the Territories.  It would also stress the importance of implementing the plan of action for the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, particularly by expediting the application of the decolonization work programme of each Territory on a case-by-case basis.  It would also call upon the administering Powers to participate in and cooperate fully with the work of the Special Committee, and urge Member States to contribute to United Nations efforts to usher in a world free of colonialism, within the Second International Decade.

While reiterating its request that the Human Rights Committee collaborate with the Special Committee, within the framework of its mandate on the right to self-determination and with the aim of exchanging information, the Assembly would also request the Special Committee to collaborate with the Economic and Social Council and its relevant subsidiary intergovernmental bodies.  It would also request that the Special Committee continue to examine the question of the Territories and to report to it at its next session.

Part B of the text takes up the question of the 11 specific Territories.  On American Samoa, the Assembly would welcome the work of the Territorial Government and legislature resulting from recommendations made by the Future Political Status Study Commission of the Territory in preparation for a constitutional convention related to the Territory’s future status. It would also call upon the administering Power to facilitate a visiting mission to the Territory if the Territorial Government so desires, and would request the Special Committee’s Chairperson to take all the necessary steps to that end.  The administering Power would also be requested to assist the Territory by facilitating a public awareness programme.

On Anguilla, the Assembly would, among other things, welcome the work of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission and its report of 2006; the holding in 2007 of public and other consultative meetings aimed at making recommendations to the administering Power on proposed changes to the Territory’s Constitution; and the subsequent efforts of the Territorial Government to advance the internal constitutional review exercise.  It would also request the administering Power to assist the Territory by facilitating its work concerning public consultative outreach efforts, consistent with Article 73 b of the United Nations Charter.

Concerning Bermuda, the Assembly would stress the importance of the 2005 report of the Bermuda Independence Commission, which provides a thorough examination of the facts surrounding independence, and would express regret that the plans for public meetings and various presentations outlining policy proposals for an independent Bermuda had so far not materialized.  The administering Power would also be requested to assist the Territory by facilitating its public educational outreach efforts, consistent with the Charter’s Article 73 b.

Regarding the British Virgin Islands, the Assembly would welcome that Territory’s new constitution, which took effect in June 2007, while also noting the need expressed by the Territorial Government for minor constitutional amendments in the future.  It would further welcome the Territory’s efforts to focus its economic base more on local ownership and on professional service industries other than financial services.  It would express appreciation for the efforts made to continue the Inter-Virgin Islands Council’s work to advance cooperation between the British and the United States Virgin Islands.

On the Cayman Islands, the Assembly would welcome the Territorial Government’s publication in January of a consultation paper setting out a number of proposals for constitutional reform, with a view to holding a referendum on those or revised proposals later in the year.  It would also request the administering Power to facilitate the Territory’s public awareness outreach efforts and welcome the Territorial Government’s efforts to address cost-of-living issues in various economic sectors.

Regarding the situation in Guam, the Assembly would call once again upon the administering Power to take into consideration the Chamorro people’s expressed will and would encourage the administering Power and the Territorial Government to enter into negotiations on the matter.  It would also request the administering Power to continue to transfer land to the Territory’s original landowners; to recognize and respect the political rights and the cultural and ethnic identity of Guam’s Chamorro people; to take all necessary measures to address the concerns of the Territorial Government with regard to the question of immigration; and to cooperate in establishing programmes for the sustainable development of the Territory’s economic activities and enterprises.  The Assembly would also recall the request by the Territory’s elected governor that the administering Power lift restrictions so foreign airlines could transport passengers between Guam and the United States, thereby providing a more competitive market.

On Montserrat, the General Assembly would welcome the Territorial Government’s efforts to negotiate improvements to its constitution in order to preserve its ability to move towards greater self-determination at a later stage. The administering Power would be requested to assist the Territory by facilitating public outreach efforts, while the relevant United Nations organizations and regional organizations would be called on to provide assistance to the Territory, particularly in alleviating the consequences of the volcanic eruption.

Taking into account the unique character of Pitcairn in terms of its population and area, the Assembly would welcome all efforts by the administering Power that would devolve operational responsibilities to the Territorial Government.  The administering Power would also be requested to assist in public outreach efforts and to continue its assistance aimed at improving the economic, social, educational and other conditions of the Territory’s population.  It would also be requested to continue its discussions with the representatives of Pitcairn on how best to support their economic security.

Regarding Saint Helena, the Assembly would welcome the Territory’s continuing constitutional review process and call upon the administering Power to take into account the previously expressed concerns of Saint Helenians with regard to the right to nationality.  The administering Power and other relevant international organizations would also be requested to support the Territory’s efforts to address its socio-economic development challenges, including unemployment, and limited transport and communications infrastructure.  The administering Power’s decisions to provide funding for the construction of an international airport on Saint Helena, which is to become operational in 2011-2012, would also be welcomed.

On Turks and Caicos Islands, the Assembly would, while recalling that the Territory’s Constitution took effect in 2006, note the Territorial Government’s view that there remained scope for the Governor’s power to be delegated to the Territory so as to secure greater autonomy.  It would request the administering Power to assist in facilitating public outreach efforts and call upon the relevant United Nations organizations to provide assistance to the Territory, if requested.  The Government is continuing efforts to pay greater attention to the enhancement of social cohesion across the Territory.

Concerning the United States Virgin Islands, the Assembly would welcome the establishment, in 2007, of the Constitutional Convention and request the administering Power to assist the Territorial Government in achieving its political, economic and social goals, in particular, the successful conclusion of the ongoing internal Constitutional Convention exercise.  It would also reiterate its call for the inclusion of the Territory in regional programmes of the UNDP, consistent with the participation of other Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It would also express appreciation for the efforts made to continue the Inter-Virgin Islands Council’s work to advance cooperation between it and the United States and the British Virgin Islands.

Draft resolution VII, on dissemination of information on decolonization, would have the Assembly approve the activities of the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs for disseminating decolonization information, particularly the leaflet entitled “What the UN Can Do to Assist Non-Self-Governing Territories”, which was issued in March 2007.  It would also request the Department of Public Information to empower the United Nations information centres in the relevant regions to disseminate material on decolonization to the Territories.

By further provisions, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to enhance the information provided on the United Nations decolonization website, by including the full series of reports, statements and papers from the regional decolonization seminars, as well as the full series of the Special Committee’s reports.  It would also ask that the Public Information Department continue to update web-based information on the assistance programmes available to the Territories.

Also by that text, the Assembly would request that the Departments of Political Affairs and Public Information continue to publicize the Organization’s decolonization work through all available media, including publications, radio, television, and the Internet.  It would also request all States, including the administering Powers, to accelerate dissemination of decolonization information, and request the Special Committee to continue to examine this question and report on its progress to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session.

By the terms of draft resolution VIII, on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the Assembly would reaffirm, once again, that the existence of colonialism in any form or manifestation, including economic exploitation, is incompatible with the United Nations Charter, the Declaration on decolonization and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Assembly would also affirm its support for the aspirations of peoples under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination, including independence.  It would call on administering Powers to cooperate fully with the Special Committee to finalize, before the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, a constructive programme of work to facilitate the implementation of the Special Committee’s mandate and relevant decolonization resolutions, on a case-by-case basis, including those on specific Territories.

By further terms of the text, the Assembly would recall with satisfaction the professional, open and transparent conduct of both the February 2006 and October 2007 referendums on Tokelau’s status.

The Assembly would, by further provisions, request the Special Committee to continue to seek suitable means for the immediate and full implementation of the Declaration and to carry out the actions approved by the Assembly regarding the First and Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism in all Territories that have not yet exercised their right to self-determination, including independence.  In particular, the Special Committee would be asked to formulate specific proposals to end colonialism; examine the implementation by Member States of resolution 1514 (XV) and other relevant resolutions; and finalize, before the end of the Second International Decade, a constructive programme of work on a case-by-case basis for the Territories to facilitate the implementation of the Special Committee’s mandate.

The Special Committee would also be requested to continue dispatching visiting missions to the Territories; to conduct seminars for the purpose of receiving and disseminating information on the Special Committee’s work; to take all necessary steps to enlist worldwide support among Governments, as well as national and international organizations, for achieving the objectives of the Declaration; and to observe the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would call upon all States, in particular the administering Powers, as well as United Nations specialized agencies, to give effect within their respective spheres of competence to the Special Committee’s recommendations for the implementation of the decolonization Declaration and other relevant United Nations resolutions.  It would call upon the administering Powers to ensure that the economic activities in the Territories under their administration do not adversely affect the interests of the peoples, but instead promote development, and to assist them in the exercise of their right to self-determination.  It would further call upon all administering Powers to cooperate fully in the work of the Special Committee and to participate formally in the Committee’s future sessions.

The Assembly would also approve the Special Committee’s report covering its 2008 session, including the programme of work for 2009.

The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories(document A/C.4/63/L.3), by which the Assembly, expressing its appreciation to those Member States that had made scholarships available to the inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories, would invite all States to make or continue to make offers of study and training facilities to the inhabitants of those Territories and, wherever possible, to provide travel funds to prospective students.

It would further urge the administering Powers to take effective measures to ensure the widespread and continuous dissemination in the Territories of information relating to offers of study and training facilities made by States and to provide all the necessary facilities to enable students to avail themselves of such offers.

By a draft decision on the question of Gibraltar (document A/C.4/63/L.4), the Assembly would urge the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom to reach a definitive solution to that question, while listening to its interests and aspirations.  It would also welcome the ongoing successful implementation of the first package of measures concluded at the Tripartite Forum for Dialogue on Gibraltar and the shared will to reach new agreements by July 2009.

The Committee also had before it a draft decision, contained in the addendum to the Special Committee’s report on the situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/63/23/Add.1).  By that text, on an increase in the membership of the Special Committee, the General Assembly would decide to increase the membership from 27 to 28 and would appoint Ecuador as a member.

Statements

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) said that, despite last year’s great hope and optimism regarding the “Manhasset process”, subsequent meetings had not appeared to move the parties any closer to a resolution.  The people of Western Sahara were disappointed, angry and frustrated, which could lead to desperation and even violence.  He commended the patience of the Saharawi people during the long negotiations, saying they deserved the empathy and assistance of the international community, as well as the United Nations’ more active and visible role.

On a point of order, the representative of Morocco said the Ambassador of Kenya had apologized that the text he had delivered the day before on behalf of the African Group had not been discussed by the Group as a whole and was not on the Group’s agenda.  He called the Committee’s attention to the fact that that message in no way committed the African Group to any action.

Resuming his address, the representative of Zambia implored the two parties to the conflict in Western Sahara to expedite their negotiations, adding that the United Nations must be visibly involved in encouraging both parties and in speaking out when either one violated the norms or “slackened their step”.  History had demonstrated that there was “no crime worse than the complicity of silence”.

TORIBIO-OBIANG MBA MEYE ( Equatorial Guinea) said that his delegation would like to make its contribution to a peaceful and democratic solution to the problem of Western Sahara, which was the source of disagreement between brotherly nations.  If the concerned countries looked back in time, they would see that they shared a common origin.  Meanwhile, other nations were heartened that a political process was currently under way to resolve the situation.  The whole international community should support the efforts made by the United Nations, in general, and the Secretary-General, specifically.  He added his voice to the clarification made by Morocco’s representative that the statement made on behalf of the African Group did not commit it to any specific action.

SAID MOHAMED OUSSEIN ( Comoros) said that Africa needed stability, peace and security to resolutely address the many challenges it faced, among them, the wars and conflicts of all nature that counteracted its development efforts.  Stressing that Sahara, as elsewhere, should exchange the use of arms for the political process, he expressed support for the current negotiations.  He further expressed support for the three Security Council resolutions of 2007 and 2008, which called on both parties to engage in substantial and realistic negotiations in a spirit of compromise.  He also supported the Secretary-General and his special representative in their efforts to engage the parties in the negotiation process, by which they were seeking a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba) was concerned that certain administering Powers continued to refuse to cooperate with the Fourth Committee.  However, there were some positive examples of coordinated and active work between administering Powers and the Committee, namely, with respect to New Zealand, which had showed a constructive and cooperative attitude towards the referendum for Tokelau last October.  He also called attention to the United States “intervention” in Puerto Rico, saying there were already 27 resolutions and decisions adopted by the Committee on that Territory.  He requested the General Assembly to comprehensively review the question of Puerto Rico, which the 118 member States of the Non-Aligned Movement were convinced was a colonial case.

He next reaffirmed that the Western Sahara conflict was a question of decolonization, and encouraged the parties to continue their quest for a solution.  He also reiterated Cuba’s support for Argentina’s “legitimate right” in the dispute over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands which were part of the national territory of the brotherly Latin American country, and he called for a definitive solution as soon as possible.  In closing, he urged Member States to continue to work collectively to eradicate the scourge of colonialism for good.

KIRSTY GRAHAM ( New Zealand) expressed appreciation for the Committee’s consideration of the question of Tokelau, noting that nearly a year had passed since the people of that Territory voted in a United Nations-supervised self-determination referendum.  For a second time, the very small territorial electorate had failed to deliver sufficient support to reach the threshold they themselves had set for a change of status to free association with New Zealand.  In the aftermath of the votes, Tokelau’s leaders had decided to focus their efforts more on enhancing the core services on their atolls, rather than moving quickly to a third referendum, and New Zealand had signalled its full understanding of that approach.  New Zealand and Tokelau were working on a major infrastructure programme that would renew the school of Atafu and Fakaofo and upgrade Nukunonu’s hospital, thereby putting real substance behind the commitment to Tokelau and its people.

She said that improved education and health services facilities were important, yet nothing was more important to the people of the remote atolls in Tokelau than a safe and reliable shipping service.  Tokelau, for years, had had to rely on an adequate, but far from ideal, shipping link to connect it with its nearest neighbour, Samoa.  But the days of uncertainty would end when a new purpose-built vesselcame into service in 2010.

While the right to self-determination was fundamental and deserved full support, it was insufficient on its own, she continued.  It had to be accompanied by opportunities for the development of the full needs of the peoples who sought to exercise that right.   New Zealand was committed to provide those for the people of Tokelau.

ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said the work carried out by the Fourth Committee had allowed the United Nations to achieve considerable success by giving irreversible impetus to the decolonization process, but much still remained to be done.  The 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories must be able to choose one of the three options set out in resolution 1514.  He welcomed the Pacific Regional Seminar held in Bandung, Indonesia, and would closely follow the decolonization process and the international community’s efforts to finally eliminate colonialism in the regions where it still existed.

He noted the surge in interest on the question of Western Sahara and expressed appreciation for the close cooperation established between the Secretary-General and president of the Commission for the African Union.  He was encouraged by the series of talks held under the aegis of the Secretary-General’s representative, adding that the participation of neighbouring countries Algeria and Mauritania was a source of hope and encouragement.  Confidence-building measures, particularly family visits, should be supported.  He welcomed the political will shown by parties to enter into deeper negotiations, and encouraged the Secretary-General and his representative to continue to seek a firm and lasting political solution by demonstrating realism and a spirit of compromise.  He expressed confidence in the dynamism of the Fourth Committee and hoped everything possible would be done to ensure that the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism closed on a successful note.

MOHAMED FATHI EDREES ( Egypt) said that, despite all United Nations efforts to end colonialism and to implement the right of colonial peoples to achieve independence, decolonization had not yet been achieved in all Territories.  In that context, it was also necessary to recognize the fundamental rights of human beings, namely, their right to freedom and self-determination.  His delegation, therefore, reiterated support for the Organization’s pursuit, through all its agencies and bodies, of full decolonization.  It should continue to play its role to eradicate colonialism, keeping in mind the importance of all the measures and relevant instruments adopted so far to realize the decolonization agenda.

Stressing the urgent need for the world community to continue to pursue all decolonization objectives, he underlined the role of the United Nations in aiding the peoples of the Territories.  In that, the Organization should improve its coordination on and mechanism for sharing information on the decolonization mandate among its different bodies.  The effectiveness of the visiting missions sent to the Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee should be enhanced to improve their information-gathering abilities.

Sustainable development should be undertaken in the Territories in ways that took into account the particular environmental and economic vulnerabilities of those areas, he said.  Reinforcing the principles of freedom, democracy and human rights required the international community to put an end to colonialism.  Towards that goal, the administering Powers should be encouraged to fulfil their obligations under the decolonization agenda.  He reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent and viable State based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and prior agreements.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), aligning himself with the statements of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Rio Group, expressed support for the work of the Special Committee in supporting the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The administering Powers should cooperate with the Special Committee in turning the United Nations Charter into a reality.  Noting the appeals made by petitioners in recent days, he said that only with the end of colonialism in the Territories would their peoples gain their full rights.

He said it was time for the Special Committee to take up the issue of Puerto Rico, which should not be the exception in the decolonization process in the Caribbean.  He also hoped that the negotiations on the question of Western Sahara would continue without preconditions, and that the representatives of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) would be able to reach a solution.  He expressed solidarity with Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas islands.

EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET ( Gabon) expressed firm conviction that, through multilateral efforts and negotiations, the United Nations remained the most appropriate forum for solving the world’s problems.  He paid tribute to the historic successes in decolonization and the considerable work carried out by the “Special Committee of 24”, particularly in Africa.  If total decolonization was to be achieved before 2010, however, the Organization must continue its efforts and give greater attention to and strive for better implementation of its resolutions.  There was no single solution to colonial control, and each situation must be approached on a case-by-case basis.

Regarding Western Sahara, he said a new dynamism must be applied to the Manhasset talks.  Despite the current deadlock and persistence of divergent views, the process had enjoyed considerable progress, particularly owing to the Moroccan autonomy initiative.   Morocco had proposed a broad autonomy for the Territory, while it would still be under the sovereignty of Morocco.  Gabon supported that as a "courageous but realistic” initiative, which took into account the interests of both parties and could lead to a lasting settlement.  To emerge from the current stalemate, all parties must cooperate, taking into account the other’s interests.

FAISAL AL-ZAYANI ( Bahrain) underlined the recognition by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the protection of basic human rights was the main pillar of human freedom and justice in the world.  The plan of action for the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would conclude half a century after the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to the Colonial Countries and Peoples.  The Special Committee, which had been established to monitor the decolonization Declaration’s implementation, was a major tool by which to advance decolonization.  He noted the outcome report of the Special Committee’s seminar, which had been held earlier this year in Bandung.

He further recalled the history of those independent countries that were part of the international arena, thanks to the support of the United Nations and the work of the Special Committee.  The United Nations had not spared any effort to reiterate, in various resolutions and other international instruments, the need to put a final and immediate end to colonialism.  Today, that was indeed the world community’s objective; it was the obligation of all States to put an end to colonialism and racial discrimination in all their forms.

ANTHONY A. SEKUDO ( Nigeria) said that the success of United Nations efforts to ensure that all peoples of the world attained political freedom and self-governance was evident in the increasing number of former colonies that had attained national independence.  Regrettably, however, there were still 16 Territories yet to complete the decolonization process.  International efforts should be redoubled to ensure that they attained independence by 2010, the end of the Second International Decade.  The principle of self-determination should continue to be applied, without conditionalities, to all the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Nigeria would not support or condone any policy that either perpetuated subjugation or sought to thwart the sovereign independence.

He expressed his delegation’s concern over the international community’s slowness in finding a concrete solution to the question of Western Sahara.  Algeria’s willingness to grant asylum to Western Saharan families and individuals displaced by conflict was commendable, however, that gesture should not negatively impact efforts under way to launch the much-delayed referendum process towards the attainment of self-determination for people in that Territory.  The African Union had already expressed its willingness to help facilitate that process with efforts that would be complementary to those of the United Nations.  A resolution to the question of Western Sahara would enhance good-neighbourliness, peace, security and development in the subregion.  That, in turn, would strengthen faith in the United Nations Charter and respect for its principles.  Thus, Nigeria called for all relevant parties to the conflict to continue negotiations in good faith and without preconditions, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.

NELSON SANTOS (Timor-Leste) said the Timorese had suffered greatly while trying to assert their freedom and independence, but after 24 years of struggle, their land was now among the community of sovereign nations.  The United Nations intervention had been decisive for Timor-Leste, and he strongly believed the same standard should be upheld for the people of Western Sahara.  The right of self-determination of Western Sahara was recognized by, among others, the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.  His country joined those who called for strict respect of the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.  Such a move was the only way to bring about a resolution to that decades-old conflict, which, along with the Palestinian conflict, was becoming one of the world’s longest-running problems.  “There will not be peace in Western Sahara while its people are denied their fundamental right to choose their own destiny, which is the core of the issues and the root cause of this ongoing conflict”, he said.

He said that Timor-Leste was hopeful that all sides would cooperate fully with the United Nations Secretary-General and with the to-be-appointed Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy.  In addition, Timor-Leste was greatly concerned about human rights abuses and the suffering of the Saharawi people in the occupied Western Sahara.  All parties should honour their commitment to human rights and abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to release, without further delay, all those held since the start of the conflict.

ROBERT AISI (Papua New Guinea), speaking on behalf of Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, said much needed to be done to realize the goals of eradicating colonialism.  He was committed to the fundamental rights of the peoples of the Pacific Territories to self-determination and to the process of decolonization accorded to the wishes of the peoples concerned and in line with the United Nations Charter.  Issues facing each Non-Self-Governing Territory of the Pacific were unique and complex, including challenges of small populations, different stages of growth and development, limited resources and vulnerability to climate-induced natural disasters.  But those qualities should not prohibit peoples from the Pacific Territories from exercising their rights.

He noted that American Samoa’s governor recently said that the Territory should be able to govern its own affairs, and its senate president had emphasized that the Territory no longer had a voice in decisions affecting it.  As a result, Papua New Guinea encouraged the administering Power to fully address the concerns of the peoples of American Samoa.  Meanwhile, the Chamorru people of Guam voiced their concerns loudly and clearly in the Fourth Committee a few days ago that, for over two decades, their elders had carried the same message:  they deserved to exercise their right to self-determination.  Mr. Aisi said that was not a domestic issue, but one within the Committee’s mandate.

He commended France’s work with New Caledonia, and New Zealand’s work with Tokelau continued to be a model for other administering Powers.  He urged Member States, United Nations agencies and other international and regional agencies to contribute to the Tokelau International Trust Fund to support future development needs in that country.  He also called on administering Powers to better cooperate with the Committee and to seek to achieve progress in the implementation of the Second International Decade’s action plan.

JAVIER LOAYZA BAREA ( Bolivia) said a more committed response from administering Powers was needed in order to achieve the decolonization of non-autonomous countries, and that Tokelau was an “eloquent stimulus” towards that aim.  He welcomed the Committee’s efficient contribution to such questions as the Malvinas ( Falklands), which was a principle of sovereignty as described in the resolution approved by the General Assembly.  Differences persisted between the United Kingdom and Argentina, and a constructive dialogue should be held which resulted in a resolution.  He supported Argentina’s legitimacy, reiterating that any solution should be based on constructive dialogue and mutual trust.

He reconfirmed support for the inalienable right to self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law.  Puerto Rico should have the opportunity to decide its future in accordance with resolution 1514, and he requested that the General Assembly deal with the question of Puerto Rico in all its facets.  The achievement of peace in Western Sahara would stand as a pillar of stability for the whole region.  The last remaining colonial situation in Africa must be solved, and the Saharawi people must be granted self-determination.  The international community must contribute to the progress of the economic and social sectors of non-autonomous territories, as issues related to food security would soon become of the utmost importance.

ADNITO MAURE ( Mozambique) added his voice to the statement made on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), particularly on the question of Western Sahara.  Noting that Mozambique had followed the Manhasset negotiations closely, he urged the parties to continue with those talks and to find a solution that was acceptable to the wishes of the Saharawi people.

JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU ( Benin) said the many feathers in the cap of the United Nations on the decolonization process gave hope that the status of the remaining Territories would be resolved.  With the close of the Second International Decade approaching, that work was necessary and urgent.  Yet, there was no doubt that significant progress could be made.  Thus, he called for all parties to step forward to fulfil their obligations.

In Africa, the question of Western Sahara remained a special concern, he continued.  The fact that that dispute persisted was not due to inaction by the United Nations, which had a long history of action on the Western Sahara question.  All efforts made to date had been unable to resolve the long-standing deadlock.  Benin was especially concerned with the information in the Secretary-General’s report on human rights violations.  Hopefully, with the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, efforts would be made to end those violations.  Benin called on the parties involved to enhance their confidence-building measures.  He welcomed the progress made since 2006 in the Manhasset talks, noting that as long as those talks continued, hope existed that the parties’ differences could be overcome.  Yet, the impetus seen so far could not be maintained unless both parties made an effort to escape the deadlock by embracing a realistic spirit of compromise.  He called on them to demonstrate flexibility to allow for sincere negotiations and progress towards a just, lasting and fair solution that took into account the will of all the people concerned.

NDUKU BOOTO ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) expressed optimism that the exchange of opinions at the Fourth Committee would come to a joyful fruition.  Her country’s position on the question of Western Sahara remained unchanged and a just and lasting political solution must be achieved.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo had not ceased requesting parties and States to continue full cooperation with the proposed negotiations, as that was truly the way forward towards peace.  She expressed interest in the Moroccan initiative, and was pleased to see earnest and credible efforts being made by Morocco to reach an acceptable solution.  She also acknowledged the pivotal role of the Security Council on the issue.

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said his delegation was not aware of any common position on the question of Western Sahara on the part of the African Group and could not welcome any statement in that regard on its behalf.  Nevertheless, Burkina Faso hoped a settlement of the dispute would be forthcoming.  Besides the dangers the Western Sahara conflict posed for the region, it had a humanitarian dimension that threatened people’s lives.  Burkina Faso favoured direct dialogue as a means of solving the impasse in the Territory.  It, therefore, supported the Manhasset process.

Noting the number of proposals that had been made by several countries, particularly the autonomy proposal made by Morocco in 2007, he said his delegation believed that the latter could be the basis for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable settlement of the Western Sahara question.  The international community -- and particularly the countries of the subregion -- should support the parties in that process.  In closing, he paid tribute to the Secretary-General’s work on the issue.

ALFREDO LOPES CABRAL (Guinea Bissau) said it was the responsibility of this Committee to analyse and exchange opinions in a calm way so that lasting solutions could be found together.  One party’s claim could not be sacrificed in exchange for another, ignoring one to the detriment of another.  A dynamic and positive compromise was required to find a lasting and fair solution that was acceptable to all.  Substantial progress had been made, as evidenced by the long-awaited negotiations between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, but the international community could not expect miracles.  Instead, it should take stock of the progress made thus far and continue along the same lines.

He said he supported the calls made by petitioners to allow family visits, which bound the community.  History was full of examples of people who think outside the box “rather than just stand still”.  Global problems required global solutions he said, adding that “one country alone can do nothing”.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said the Committee had the opportunity each year to take stock of the work of the United Nations in the decolonization process, which remained incomplete.  There, the oppressed had a forum to call on the conscience of humanity to fulfil their right to a free and dignified existence.  He noted Algeria’s own decolonization history and its “glorious” struggle for independence, which were the roots of its deep conviction and commitment towards the cause of colonized peoples.

He said Algeria naturally identified itself with the fight for justice in Western Sahara since the United Nations and the International Court of Justice had clearly established the applicability of that question to the decolonization Declaration of 1960.  Algeria had been working systematically and consistently to raise the international community’s awareness of the serious consequences of Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara.  Yet, the Saharawi people’s determination to exercise their right to freely decide their future on the basis of international law and with the support of the world community had not been extinguished by 33 years of exile and 16 years of war.  Successive reneging by Morocco of its commitments towards the Saharawi people and the international community had plunged the conflict into a deep lethargy, under which Morocco was able to consolidate its illegal occupation and plunder Western Sahara’s natural resources.

Algeria, he said, had always advocated the legitimate right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, and, towards that goal, it had participated in all United Nations-brokered peace processes.  It was driven by a constant desire to contribute to the dynamic of rapprochement and reconciliation between the Saharawi people and their Moroccan brothers.  The resumption in April 2007 of the negotiation process between the two parties had generated a new hope for a just and final solution, and Algeria had again responded positively to the Secretary-General’s invitation to participate as an observer in the talks.  Today, it hoped that both sides could shed the burdens of the past and the logic of imposed solutions.

Over the course of those talks, Algeria had taken stock of the parties’ true positions, he said.  While the POLISARIO Front had based its position on international legality and the United Nations Charter, Morocco had wanted to see its autonomy proposal be used as the sole basis of for negotiations -- a situation which would predetermine the outcome of negotiations and the decolonization process.  That persistent obstruction to peace adversely affected the credibility of the United Nations and the Security Council.

Like all other peoples, the Saharawi people were legitimately entitled to claim itself part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said.  The celebration this year of that Declaration’s sixtieth anniversary was an occasion to note that Western Sahara had become a Territory of “non-right” where all the resolutions, declarations and international conventions guaranteeing human rights were violated on a daily basis.

At present, when the Morocco-Saharawi negotiation process held the hope of finding a solution to the Western Sahara conflict, it was only fair for the Saharawi people of the occupied Territories to enjoy adequate international protection from fierce repression, he said.  The closure of those Territories should be lifted so that journalists, parliamentarians and humanitarians could be granted free access.  It was also crucial for the Saharawi peoples living in Algerian territory to no longer be subjected to the political tactics of the occupying Power and instead be granted more humanitarian assistance from the international community.

More than ever, he said, the negotiation process needed the international community’s support.  Efforts should concentrate on a solution that reconciled the principles of international law and international legality with the complexity of the issues.  While both parties had agreed to a fifth round of talks, that round had not yet been scheduled because Morocco had yet to join consensus on the Secretary-General’s efforts to appoint a new personal envoy and to maintain the negotiations’ momentum.  Reaching a negotiated settlement would not be an easy task, given the bitterness, complexity and constraints inherent in the conflict.  Yet, Algeria hoped the international community would work towards a climate of trust through a decision that did not close the door on a mutually acceptable solution.

EL MOSTAFA SAHEL ( Morocco) said that the issue of Western Sahara would not be on the Committee’s programme of work had it not been for external interferences based on regional rivalries.  The historic background of the region had triggered the conflict and continued to hinder its settlement.  His delegation had circulated a memorandum to that effect.  However, he would not address those aspects, but would instead take stock of recent developments and address the way forward so that a reconciled Maghreb could be relieved of terrorist threats.

Responding to appeals from the international community to end the deadlock, he said Morocco had presented an Initiative on Autonomy Statute for the Sahara region in April.  The relevance of the Moroccan Initiative had been confirmed by General Assembly resolution A/RES/62/116, which stated that all available options for self-determination were valid as long as they were in conformity with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.  That resolution, which strongly supported Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), had paved the way to the new dynamics of the settlement, which were welcome by an international community that “no longer hides its lassitude on this ongoing dispute”.

There was no question that the Initiative of autonomy created a promising turning point in the settlement process, which had previously been deadlocked, he said, underlining Morocco’s efforts to put an end to the dispute, as well as the need to enter into substantive negotiations, taking into account the evolution that had occurred since the beginning of 2006.  The elaborating process of the Moroccan Initiative had beeninclusive, transparent and democratic, and had involved the “nation’s forces as well as the different components of the Sahara region”.

He said that the call made by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum,for pragmatism when he concluded that an independent Western Sahara was“unrealistic” had been based on three years of mediation and four rounds of negotiation and had reflected the Special Envoy’s “honesty and moral integrity”.  Mr. van Walsum had delivereda verdict -- with proper judgement and courage, which could constitute the basis for a rapid settlement of the dispute.  Lasting for more than 35 years, the conflict remained a source of the suffering, deprivation and isolation for thousands of Saharan natives, who were forced to live in the “desolate camps” of south-western Algeria.

Morocco did not understand the obstructionist and non-constructive attitude of the other parties vis-à-vis the Personal Envoy, he said.  That only prolonged the suffering of the camp populations, which remained the “first and last” victims in the dispute.  He urged the international community to preserve the current momentum by reinforcing gains achieved by that serious process -– gains which were strongly supported by the three Security Council resolutions of 2007 and 2008.

He stressed:  “The settlement Initiative presented by my country offers, today, a real opportunity to put an end, once and for all, to this issue, as well as to the sufferings of the camp populations, and speed up the construction of the Maghreb where a sprit of reconciliation, cooperation and solidarity should prevail”.

He quoted King Mohammed VI’s July 2008 speech, reiterating “the firm willingness of Morocco to pursue its ‘extended hand’ policy in order to promote understanding, build trust through dialogue and achieve full reconciliation for the parties concerned”.  In closing, he invited Algeria to draw inspiration from the King’s additional call to fulfil the aspirations of the younger generation, which wanted to see energies devoted to tackling the challenges of “development and complementarities”, rather the complexities of a dispute from a long-gone era.

Rights of Reply

The representative of the United Kingdom took the floor in exercise the right of reply to respond to Cuba’s statement.  He said his Government’s position on the Falkland Islands was well known and had been reiterated in many recent statements.  The United Kingdom had no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.  Further, there could be no negotiations on that issue until and at such time as the people of the Islands so wished.

He took the opportunity to give notice that the United Kingdom had some problems with draft text VI under agenda item 37 (e) and would most likely call for a vote on part or all of the resolution.  That resolution had been adopted by consensus in the past, but he mentioned it now so that delegations would have the possibility of obtaining instructions ahead of next week’s voting.

In response, the representative of Cuba said that her country’s position was clear and well known.  It fully supported the right of Argentina in the Malvinas dispute.  The Malvinas Islands were and would continue to be Argentinean.  She also reiterated her country’s support for a fair and negotiated solution to the dispute in the shortest time possible.  That solution should take into account the territorial integrity of Argentina, as well as the wishes of the people inhabiting those islands.

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