Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Reaffirming Principle of Self-Determination as Fundamental Human Right

19 June 2009
GA/COL/3197

Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Reaffirming Principle of Self-Determination as Fundamental Human Right

19 June 2009
General Assembly
GA/COL/3197
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on

Decolonization

10th Meeting (AM)

special committee on decolonization approves text reaffirming principle

of self-determination as fundamental human right

 

Members Conclude Consideration of Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Question

The Special Committee on Decolonization approved a two-part draft resolution today by which the General Assembly would reaffirm that there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was a fundamental human right.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee approved the “omnibus” text on 11 Non-Self-Governing Territories, recommending that the Assembly also reaffirm the inalienable rights of their peoples to self-determination, in conformity with the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

By part A of the text, the Assembly would reaffirm also that it was ultimately for the peoples of the Territories to determine freely their future political status in accordance with the Charter, the Declaration and the relevant resolutions.  It would reiterate its long-standing call for the administering Powers, in cooperation with the territorial governments and appropriate United Nations bodies, to develop education programmes to foster awareness of their right to self-determination in conformity with the legitimate political status options.

The text ‑‑ titled “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” ‑‑ would have the Assembly stress the importance of the Special Committee being apprised of the views and wishes of the peoples of those Territories and enhancing its understanding of their conditions, including the nature and scope of the existing political and constitutional arrangements between them and their respective administering Powers.

Further by the text, the Assembly would stress the importance of the various constitutional exercises in the respective Territories administered by the United Kingdom and the United States, and led by the territorial governments, designed to address internal constitutional structures within the present territorial arrangements.  It would, by further terms, request the administering Powers to continue to transmit regularly to the United Nations Secretary-General information called for under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter.  It would also call upon the administering Powers to participate in the work of the Special Committee in order to implement the provisions of Article 73 eand the Declaration.

With an eye on the ongoing global economic turmoil, the Assembly would reaffirm the responsibility of the administering Powers to promote the economic and social development of the Territories and help soften the impact of the crisis, while consulting with the respective territorial governments with the aim of strengthening and diversifying their respective economies.

On environmental issues, the Special Committee would recommend that the Assembly request the Territories and the administering Powers to protect and conserve the environment of the Territories against any degradation.  It would also request specialized agencies to continue monitoring environmental conditions in the Territories and provide assistance, in accordance with their prevailing rules of procedure.

Part B of the text deals with each of the 11 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  On American Samoa, the Assembly would stress the importance of the invitations previously extended to the Special Committee by the Governor to send a visiting mission, and call upon the administering Power to facilitate such a mission if the territorial government so desired.

Regarding Anguilla, the Assembly would welcome the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission’s report of 2006, including the holding of a public forum in April 2008 to address constitutional reform issues and the subsequent agreement to seek full internal self-government, short of political independence.  It would request the administering Power to assist the Territory in its current efforts with regard to advancing the internal constitutional review exercise, if requested.

In the case of Bermuda, the Special Committee recommended that the Assembly stress the importance of the 2005 report of the Bermuda Independence Commission, which provided a thorough examination of the facts surrounding independence.  It would express regret that the plans for public meetings and the presentation of a Green Paper to the House of Assembly followed by a White Paper outlining the policy proposals for an independent Bermuda had so far not materialized.

On the British Virgin Islands, the Assembly would welcome the Territory’s new constitution, which took effect in June 2007, and note the continued need expressed by the territorial government for minor constitutional amendments in the years to come.  It would also welcome the Territory’s efforts to focus its economic base more on local ownership and professional industries other than financial services.

Concerning the Cayman Islands, the Assembly would welcome the finalization of a new draft constitution in February 2009 and its subsequent acceptance by referendum in May.  It would also welcome the efforts of the territorial government to address cost-of-living issues in various economic sectors, and welcome also the Territory’s participation as a new associate member of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

On Guam, the Assembly would request the administering Power to take into consideration the expressed will of the Chamorro people as supported by Guam voters in the referendum of 1987.  It would request the administering Power to continue to transfer land to the original landowners of the Territory, and continue to recognize and respect their political rights, culture and ethnic identity as Chamorro people of Guam, while taking all measures necessary to address the concerns of the territorial government with regard to immigration.

The Assembly would, in respect of Pitcairn, request the administering Power to continue its assistance for the improvement of the population’s economic, social, educational and other conditions, and to continue its discussions with the territorial government on how best to support economic security in Pitcairn.

Regarding Saint Helena, the Assembly would request the administering Power and relevant international organizations to continue to support the territorial government’s efforts to address socio-economic challenges, including unemployment and limited transport and communications infrastructure.

Concerning the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Assembly would recall the Constitution of the Territory, which took effect in 2006, and note the territorial government’s view that that there remained scope for a degree of delegation of the Governor’s power to the Territory so as to secure greater autonomy.  It would note with concern the ongoing situation and also the need to restore good governance and sound financial management.  The Assembly would welcome the territorial government’s continuing efforts to address the need for enhanced social cohesion.

With regard to the United States Virgin Islands, the Assembly would request the administering Power to facilitate the process of approval for the territorial draft constitution in the United States Congress, once agreed upon by the territorial government.  It would also reiterate its call for the Territory’s inclusion in regional programmes of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), consistent with the participation of other Non-Self-Governing Territories.

In other business, the Special Committee concluded its consideration of the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), following its approval yesterday of a draft resolution recommending that the Assembly call for direct negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom over that Non-Self-Governing Territory.  That text, approved without a vote, acknowledged the “special and particular colonial situation”, which differed from others because of a sovereignty dispute between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom.

In today’s debate, some speakers again questioned the application of the self-determination principle to that situation.  The representative of Uruguay noted that, according to General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), the right to self–determination had its limits.

Others speaking today were the representatives of Mali, Brazil, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Grenada and Saint Lucia.

The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 June, to take up the report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar.

Background

The Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this morning to continue its consideration of the question of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas).

Known informally as the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization, it was also expected to take action on an “omnibus” draft resolution entitled “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”.

Statements

DONATUS KEITH ST. AIMEE ( Saint Lucia) noted that the issue had been before the Special Committee for many years and it was caught “between a rock and a hard place” as both Governments claimed sovereignty over the Islands.  That made negotiations very difficult, and there was a need to create a sound basis for such talks to proceed.  While concerned about the Special Committee’s efforts to pass many resolutions over the years rather than resolving the issue, he said the text approved yesterday included issues that could let the situation move forward.  It was logical to take into account the interests of the inhabitants, he said, expressing the hope that negotiations would take into account the interests of all three parties, the third party being the islanders, whose interest could not be negotiated away.  In such a spirit, negotiations could lead to a resolution.

OUMAR DAOU (Mali), reaffirming his country’s attachment to the principles of the United Nations Charter, said the question of the Malvinas had been on the agenda for many years, with the Special Committee having approved a number of related resolutions by consensus.  It was regrettable that the matter had not yet been resolved, he said, appealing to the United Kingdom and Argentina to create conditions favourable to implementation of the relevant resolutions.  Mali would continue to support all efforts to bring both parties to the negotiating table in pursuit of a peaceful and lasting solution.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), associating herself with yesterday’s statement on behalf of MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market), said a special and particular colonial situation remained in the Malvinas that, as recognized in resolution 2065 (XX), Argentina and the United Kingdom must settle by peaceful means, in accordance with relevant resolutions.  Brazil supported the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Islands, she said, recalling that the Presidents of MERCOSUR’s member and associated States had reaffirmed in December 2006 the provisions of the 1996 Declaration of Portero de los Funes, which reiterated the incompatibility of recent initiatives with the existence of the sovereignty dispute.

Several other regional organizations and forums, including last week’s General Assembly of the Organization of American States shared the call for a prompt resumption of negotiations, she said.  Brazil welcomed the diplomatic facilitation, announced on 26 May by Argentina and the United Kingdom, of the initiative by the Commission of Relatives of the Fallen in the Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands to inaugurate the monument at the Darwin Cemetery, with the expected trip of hundreds of Argentine relatives to the Malvinas in October.  She encouraged a similar spirit of dialogue for a prompt, early and successful resumption of bilateral negotiations and a substantive solution to the Malvinas question.

The year 2010 would not only mark the conclusion of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, she noted, but also 45 years since the General Assembly had expressed, for the first time, the need for bilateral negotiations between the two parties.  Almost five decades since that call concerning a colonial occupation that had continued for more than 175 years, the resolutions of the Assembly and the Special Committee deserved respect and a willingness to negotiate on the part of both parties.  Brazil expected that, in its next session, the Special Committee would succeed in contributing to substantive progress in the peaceful resolution of the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, according to the specificity of that colonial situation, the principles of the Charter and relevant resolutions.

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ (Peru), associating himself with the MERCOSUR statement, said his country supported the efforts by the United Nations to end colonialism, a process that had seen great success over the years.  It was a trend that could not be stopped.  However, the question of the Malvinas was unique.  Peru’s support for Argentina’s sovereignty over the Islands was based on history, geography and the law.  Noting that Argentina had enjoyed control over the Territory until the plundering in 1833, he called for the resumption of negotiations between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom, saying there was no other path.

JORGE ARTURO REINA IDIAQUEZ (Honduras) emphasized the “hemispherical dimension” of the Malvinas question, saying that the countries of the region advocated a peaceful solution, with full respect for Argentina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Heads of State attending the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Honduras at the beginning of June had called upon Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations for a peaceful solution as soon as possible and for the normalization of relations between the two countries.  The resolution adopted following Argentina’s presentation at that Summit welcomed its declaration of willingness to stand by its commitment to look into all possible ways to resolve the situation.  Honduras believed in recourse to international forums and dialogue whenever bilateral negotiations failed, but, in accordance with international law, no territory obtained by force could be considered legally owned.

GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said that one of the principles of the United Nations was to ensure that the people of the world enjoyed the greatest level of self-government possible and that millions of people had freed themselves.  Decolonization was one of the Organization’s successes and many countries had managed to achieve it.  Despite that great success, the United Nations had not met all its targets and 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained on its list, including the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas.

Since 1965 the United Nations had recognized a sovereignty dispute over that Territory, which was a special situation, he said.  In 1833, part of Argentina’s territory had been occupied by force and its Argentine population displaced.  Guatemala supported the special mandate and hoped that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom would resume bilateral negotiations as soon as possible to achieve a just and lasting solution.  Argentina had shown its willingness to resolve the dispute in a manner recognized by the Organization.  Guatemala urged the United Kingdom to follow up on appeals for a resumption of the talks, and hoped that the new call for negotiations, set out by the draft resolution approved yesterday, would continue to move towards the aim set out by the United Nations in 1965.

CARMEN MARÍA GALLARDO HERNÁNDEZ (El Salvador) said the Malvinas question should be resolved on the basis of Argentina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, a view based not only on bilateral and regional solidarity, but also on the fundamental principles of international law and natural rights that were geographical, legal and historical in nature.  The need to resolve that situation had been reaffirmed in numerous resolutions of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

She said various arguments presented by the colonial Power, seeking to justify its presence on the Islands and to remain there, represented a unilateral interpretation of how to address the question, she said.  It failed to take into account that the Malvinas question was a sovereignty dispute, as recognized by the colonial Power in the 1965 notification regarding the willingness of both parties to initiate negotiations, in keeping with resolution 2065, which had been adopted unanimously by the General Assembly.

That resolution contained a mutual recognition by the parties of the existence of a colonial situation, she said.  Both Governments had agreed to initiate negotiations towards a peaceful resolution of the problem and the same appeal to resume negotiations had been reiterated at a recent Ibero-American Summit held in El Salvador.  It was the colonial Power’s moral and political duty to follow a diplomatic path.

JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay), endorsing the MERCOSUR statement, said his country supported the legitimate right of the Argentine Republic to sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  Uruguay reiterated the justness of the Argentine claim and called for the matter to be resolved in a manner approved by the United Nations and the Organization of American States.  The Malvinas question was a special case since it involved a sovereignty dispute.  General Assembly resolution 1514 pointed out the limits to the right of self–determination.  This Malvinas question was also one of the territorial integrity of Argentina.  Studies and legal experts had acknowledged that country’s connection with the islands until 1833.  A peaceful solution was the obligation of both sides and he urged them to implement the resolutions already passed by the Assembly for the benefit of the entire South Atlantic.

DESSIMA M. WILLIAMS (Grenada), noting that her statement yesterday had not discussed the issue of rights and obligations, reiterated her country’s long-standing position that there were contending rights of self-determination and sovereignty in the matter of the Falklands (Malvinas).  Those were the Charter principles that Saint Lucia encouraged the parties to take into consideration in their discussions.

Action on Draft

The Special Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “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” (document A/AC.109/2009/L.9), which addresses the situation in each of those Non-Self-Governing Territories.  By its terms, the Special Committee would recommend that the General Assembly reaffirm that, in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental human right.

By other terms of the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the responsibility of administering Powers to promote the economic and social development of Non-Self-Governing Territories, preserve their cultural identity and to mitigate, as a priority, the effects of the current financial crisis, where possible, in consultation with the territorial governments concerned, towards the strengthening and diversification of their respective economies.

Also by the text, the Assembly would further request the Territories and the administering Powers to protect and conserve the environment against any degradation, while also requesting the specialized agencies concerned to continue to monitor environmental conditions in the Territories and to provide assistance to them, consistent with their prevailing rules of procedure.  The Assembly would, by further terms, stress the importance of constitutional exercises in the Territories administered respectively by the United Kingdom and the United States, and led by territorial governments, and decide to follow closely developments concerning their future political status.

The Special Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.

Explanation of Position

The representative of Saint Lucia said he was more than pleased to support the text, which contained elements that Saint Lucia held dear.  When discussing Territories, people were very important.  It was people who made up what would eventually become States or be incorporated or become commonwealths.

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