SECRETARY-GENERAL, CITING ‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS’, CALLS FOR RENEWED COMMITMENT TO ERADICATE COLONIALISM, AS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION OPENS SESSION

27 February 2009
GA/COL/3183

SECRETARY-GENERAL, CITING ‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS’, CALLS FOR RENEWED COMMITMENT TO ERADICATE COLONIALISM, AS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION OPENS SESSION

27 February 2009
General Assembly
GA/COL/3183
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on

Decolonization

1st Meeting (PM)

SECRETARY-GENERAL, CITING ‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS’, CALLS FOR RENEWED COMMITMENT

TO ERADICATE COLONIALISM, AS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION OPENS SESSION

The Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism was set to end in 2010, but the decolonization process was “unfinished” and required closer cooperation between the administering Powers and the 16 remaining Non-Self Governing Territories to bring about a successful conclusion, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a message to the Special Committee on Decolonization. 

Under the United Nations Charter, administering Powers had a special obligation to bring territories under their administration to an appropriate level of self-government.

“I encourage you to follow the example of New Zealand and Tokelau, whose partnership had shown what close cooperation could achieve,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by Shaaban M. Shabban, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management, to the opening of the 2009 session of the body formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Granting of the Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. 

Administering Powers had a special obligation under the United Nations Charter to bring territories under their administration to an appropriate level of self-government and, as such, the Secretary-General called for a renewed commitment to “bring our collective efforts to a successful conclusion”.  He thanked the Special Committee for its work and encouraged its members to continue their “pragmatic and realistic approach, taking into account the specific circumstances of each territory”.

In his opening remarks, Marty M. Natalegawa ( Indonesia), who was re-elected Chairman, said:  “If the Special Committee is to maintain its relevance, not least for the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, it is incumbent upon all of us to take a good hard look at the way in which we go about our annual business”.  He urged the body to revive the spirit of decolonization, retool its methods of work and hone its capacity to engage with concerned parties in an innovative manner.

The Committee should not overlook the “many practical, tangible, smaller steps” it could pursue to rejuvenate its work, he said, adding that “every single effort counts and will contribute as a stepping stone”.  As the Committee prepared to formulate draft resolutions on decolonization later this year, it was important to encourage the active participation of all stakeholders, including administering Powers. 

Equally important was the need to obtain feedback on the 16 working papers on the Non-Self-Governing Territories to ascertain their accuracy, relevance and comprehensiveness.  “Much has been said about the need to think outside the box.  It is about time to put this into practice,” he said, pointing to the Committee’s need to adapt to prevailing circumstances, which were often testing.

He explained that one of the Special Committee’s immediate priorities was the holding of a seminar on decolonization, likely to be convened in the middle of May.  The Government of Saint Kitts and Nevis had offered to host the Caribbean regional seminar, which he hoped would see the active participation of Committee members, administering Powers and territorial Governments.

Later in the meeting, he said the Special Committee would need to hold a formal meeting, tentatively scheduled for 18 March, to officially accept the timely offer of Saint Kitts and Nevis and to endorse the seminar’s agenda, rules of procedure, composition of the Special Committee’s official delegation, and lists of experts, non-governmental organizations and other participants.

Mr. Natalegawa congratulated all other Bureau members who assumed their duties today and thanked the delegation of Congo for having served as Vice-Chair from 2004 to 2008.  He also welcomed the delegation of Ecuador as the newest member of the Special Committee.

Pledging to work constructively with the Chair and Bureau to advance the Committee’s work, the representatives of Sierra Leone, Congo, Cuba, Papua New Guinea, Syria and Ecuador each expressed their ongoing commitment to the objective of ending colonialism.

“Out of the work of this Committee were born many countries who are active Members of the United Nations,” the representative of Papua New Guinea said, urging the Committee not to forget the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories that had not yet been decolonized. 

The United Nations must decide what was needed to live up to the General Assembly’s resolution of 1960, 1514 (XV) -- the Declaration on Decolonization -- especially with the Committee’s fiftieth anniversary approaching in 2010.  He paid tribute to the administering Powers that had rendered assistance to the Committee over the years, highlighting the Government of New Zealand, in particular, for its cooperation and support on the status of Tokelau.

Ecuador’s representative agreed with others that time was pressing, and welcomed the Chair’s invitation for members to exchange opinions among themselves and to forge a closer relationship with administering Powers.

Also speaking today was the representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis, who thanked others for supporting his country’s offer to host the decolonization seminar.

In other matters, the Special Committee approved its organization of work for the year (documents A/AC.109/2009/L.1 and 2).  As for the rest of the Special Committee’s Bureau, Adelardo Moreno Fernandez ( Cuba) and Rupert Davies ( Sierra Leone) were elected as Vice-Chairmen, and Bashar Ja’afari ( Syria) was re-elected as Rapporteur.

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

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