Remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on United Nations List Are ‘16 Too Many’, Fourth Committee Told, As It Takes Up Cluster of Decolonization Issues

5 October 2009
GA/SPD/422

Remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on United Nations List Are ‘16 Too Many’, Fourth Committee Told, As It Takes Up Cluster of Decolonization Issues

5 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/SPD/422
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

2nd Meeting (PM)


Remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on United Nations List Are ‘16 Too Many’,


Fourth Committee Told, As It Takes Up Cluster of Decolonization Issues


Special Committee Chairman Calls for End to ‘Unfinished Business’, Caribbean

Community Says Work on Contemporary Decolonization Processes at Virtual Standstill


A retooling of work methods, a revival of spirit, and a honed capacity to engage with all concerned parties were necessary to put an end to the unfinished business of decolonization, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told, as it began its general debate on the subject today.


While nearly 750 million people had exercised their right to self-determination and more than 80 once-colonized territories had gained independence, R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization –- which, since its establishment in 1961, had monitored the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples -– said that the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories were simply 16 too many. 


The essential task at hand was to accelerate the decolonization process in those remaining Territories and put the process in the context and dynamics of a changing world, on a case-by-case basis, he said.  That necessitated the active involvement of all stakeholders concerned, as well as a renewed commitment to move beyond business as usual.  Collaborative and concrete efforts by the international community, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories, themselves, were needed.  Although there had been some progress this year, there was still plenty of room for improvement.


Further guidance was also necessary from the international community on a future course of action in the decolonization process in today’s world, with its many novel challenges and opportunities, he said.  That was particularly crucial in anticipation of the conclusion of the Second International Decade, at the end of 2010.


In a statement echoed by a number of delegations, the representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis -– speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) ‑‑ emphasized that particular focus should be given to reviewing the decolonization mandate.  He worried, in particular, that United Nations work on contemporary decolonization processes remained in a state of virtual inertia and that unless fundamental action was taken, the Organization would be complicit in stymieing the legitimate aspirations of peoples whose human rights it was created to protect.


Emerging from the vacuum created by that political environment was an attempt to redefine the Non-Self-Governing status as that of self-government, he said.  The aim appeared to be the hurried removal of those Territories from the United Nations list, even as they remained Non-Self-Governing.  The international community could not countenance such acts, but must decide if it was going to remain true to the relevant provisions of the Charter.  If so, it was necessary to restart the dormant decolonization process, or capitulate to the dubious arguments that justified legitimization of contemporary colonization, declaring decolonization complete and thus abandoning the people of the territories.


As an administering Power, the United Kingdom said that where independence was an option and the clear and constitutionally-expressed wish of the people of its Overseas Territories, the Government would give every help and encouragement to those Territories to achieve it, its representative said.  But, for as long as those Territories wished to retain their link to the United Kingdom, his Government would remain committed to their future development and security.


Although the situation in each Territory was different, and some Territories were at a more advanced stage of development than others, the United Kingdom would continue to work with all of the Territories, as appropriate, in areas such as good governance, political and economic transparency, enhanced security and reduced vulnerability to natural and manmade disasters.  There had been progress on constitutional review with most Overseas Territories, he said. 


Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), China, Ecuador, Venezuela, South Africa, Cuba, Senegal, Kenya, Namibia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Uganda.


The report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was introduced by that body’s Rapporteur, Bashar Ja’afari ( Syria).


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


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 6 October, to continue its debate on decolonization issues.


Background


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual debate on a cluster of decolonization issues this afternoon, it had before it the Report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples for 2009 (documents A/64/23 and A/64/23/Corr.2).


At its sixty-third session in 2008, the General Assemblyadopted resolution63/110, thereby requesting the Special Committee to continue to seek suitable means for the immediate and full implementation of the Declaration, and to carry out the actions it had approved regarding the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism in all Territories that had not yet exercised their right to self-determination. In addition to resolution 63/110, the General Assembly adopted 10 other resolutions and two decisions relating to specific items considered by the Special Committee in 2008.  They are listed in the report.


According to the report, the Special Committee intends, during 2010, to pursue its efforts in bringing a speedy end to colonialism, and to continue to intensify its dialogue and cooperation with the administering Powers in furthering the cause of decolonization.  The Special Committee’s members were particularly encouraged by the excellent cooperation of New Zealand and Tokelau at every stage of negotiations, including in the referendums held in 2006 and 2007.


The report says that the Special Committee, in order to facilitate the implementation of its mandate, will continue to conduct regional seminars to assess, receive and disseminate information on the situation in the Territories.  It will hold its next seminar in the Pacific region in 2010.  It will also continue to seek the cooperation of the administering Powers in facilitating United Nations visiting and special missions to the Territories under their administrations, during which it will collect first-hand information on the conditions there and on the aspirations of the peoples concerning their future status.  These seminars and missions present opportunities to disseminate information, and to mobilize world public opinion to assist the people of the Territories in bringing about a speedy end to colonialism, and to develop programmes aimed at Territories that have requested information about self-determination options.


The report states that in addition to general problems facing developing countries, Non-Self-Governing Territories also suffer from the interplay of such factors as size, remoteness, geographical dispersion, vulnerability to natural disasters, fragility of ecosystems, constraints in transport and communications, distance from market centres, limited internal markets, lack of natural resources and vulnerability to drug-trafficking, money-laundering and other illegal activities, as well as from the current financial crisis.  To address the specific problems of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Special Committee will continue to recommend measures to facilitate sustained, balanced growth of their fragile economies and increased assistance in the development of all the sectors of their economies.  It further intends to take into account economic and other activities that affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and to continue its cooperation with interested States to ensure that the interests of the peoples of those Territories are protected.


The Special Committee recommends that the Assembly renew its appeal to the administering Powers to take all necessary steps for the Declaration’s implementation, and requests those administering Powers that have not yet done so to become involved with the work of the Special Committee in the discharge of its mandate.  It also recommends that the Assembly continue to invite administering Powers to allow representatives of the Territories to participate in the Fourth Committee’s discussions.  It also recommends that the Assembly make adequate provisions to cover the activities envisaged by the Special Committee for 2010.  Should any additional provisions be required over and above those included in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2010-2011, proposals for supplementary requirements will be made to the Assembly.


The report also summarizes the conclusions of the Caribbean regional seminar held in Saint Kitts and Nevis from 12 to 14 May on the implementation of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001-2010).  The seminar reconfirmed the valid ongoing role of the United Nations in the process of decolonization and reaffirmed the Special Committee’s role as the primary vehicle for fostering the decolonization process.  It also underlined the importance for the Special Committee to develop, as a matter of urgency, a proactive and focused approach in fulfilling decolonization vis-à-vis the Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list. In view of the economic vulnerability brought about by climate change and the global economic and financial crisis, it recommended stepping up attention to community-based sustainable development including developing small and medium businesses; the promotion of microfinancing and employment-generating activities; and the empowerment of vulnerable groups in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.


The wide-ranging report also outlines the Special Committee’s consideration of specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2009 session,including on the dissemination of information on decolonization; sending visiting and special missions to Territories; economic and other activities that affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self Governing Territories; implementation of the decolonization Declaration; and information from Non-Self Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter and on specific Territories, including Gibraltar, New Caledonia, Western Sahara, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, Tokelau, and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).


[Under Article 73 e, Member States with responsibilities for the administration of Territories whose peoples have not yet attained self-government agree to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on the socio-economic and educational conditions in those Territories, other than trusteeship Territories falling under Chapters XII and XIII.]


The Fourth Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter(document A/64/67), which includes dates of transmission by administering Powers of information on geography, history, population and socio-economic and educational conditions in 16 such Territories.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on 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(document A/64/62).  It contains a list of the agencies and institutions that were invited to submit information on their efforts to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions.  Summaries of the replies received from those bodies are contained in document E/2009/47.


[Document E/2009/47 describes programmes offered to several territorial Governments by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); World Health Organization (WHO); Organization of Eastern Caribbean States; and International Maritime Organization.  They include projects to bolster health services and to raise the capacity of territorial Governments to manage disaster and risk reduction.  The FAO’s assistance focused on supporting sustainable development policies and practices in agriculture, rural development, forestry, fisheries and food security.  The assistance provided by UNFPA and WHO included family planning and public health initiatives, as well as programmes to prevent and control communicable diseases.]


The Committee would also consider the Secretary-General’s report on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (documents A/64/69, A/64/69/Corr.1 and A/64/69/Corr.2), covering the period 20 March 2008 to 24 March 2009.  The report lists 59 Member States and the Holy See as having offered to make scholarships available for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  From the current period, it describes offers and awards from Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Cuba, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.


A report of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara (document A/64/185) was also before delegationsIt summarizes the reports he submitted to the Security Council from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 on the matter.


The present report recalls that,following the end of the mandate of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, in August 2008, the Secretariat held numerous discussions with the parties and other interested actors regarding a fifth round of negotiations.  In September 2008, the Secretary-General met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, Taïb Fassi Fihri, and discussed with him how best to move the negotiating process forward.  The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, visited Morocco on 14 and 15 October 2008 for further discussions on the issue.  On 4 November, the Secretary-General met with the Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario, Mohamed Abdelaziz.  At those meetings, the Secretary-General reiterated to the parties the commitment of the United Nations to pursuing the process of negotiations as mandated by the Security Council and emphasized the fact that future negotiations would build on the progress made in the four rounds of talks held in Manhasset, United States of America, and that his new Personal Envoy would be guided by Council resolution 1813 (2008) and earlier resolutions. 


In January 2009, the Secretary-General appointed Christopher Ross as his new Personal Envoy.  Since then, Mr. Ross has held consultations with representatives of Morocco and the Frente Polisario as well as with representatives of the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, and with other interested countries.  From 17 to 28 February and from 22 June to 1 July, he undertook two missions to the region for in-depth consultations with the parties and neighbouring States on ways to move the process of negotiations into a more intensive and substantive phase.  In addition, the Personal Envoy visited the capitals of Spain, France and the United States as members of the Group of Friends of Western Sahara for consultations on the negotiations.


Subsequent to his exploratory visits to the region, the Personal Envoy informed the Secretary-General that, during his meetings in Rabat, Tindouf, Nouakchott and Algiers, all of his interlocutors had confirmed their commitment to cooperating with the United Nations with a view to reaching a solution to the issue of Western Sahara as soon as possible, as a prerequisite for the stability, integration and development of the region and for the return of the Western Saharan refugees to normal life.  The Personal Envoy informed the Secretary-General that the positions of the parties had not changed since the fourth round of negotiations, held at Manhasset from 16 to 18 March 2008, and remained far apart on ways to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, as called for by the Security Council (document S/2008/251).


The report also recalls the maintenance of the ceasefire.  The Secretary-General informed the Security Council that, overall, the situation remained calm in the Territory and that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) continued to enjoy good relations with the parties.  With regard to humanitarian activities and efforts led by that office and of the World Food Programme (WFP), the provision by WFP of 125,000 monthly general feeding rations to Western Saharan refugees continued, along with school feeding and supplementary feeding for malnourished children under five years old and for pregnant women and nursing mothers.  Despite those efforts, a nutrition assessment study conducted in May 2008 revealed that malnutrition remained a major problem in the camps.  The WFP and UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)had launched a joint mission to enhance the impact of their nutrition interventions.


With regard to confidence-building measures, 36 round-trip family visits were conducted between April 2008 and March 2009, and free-of-charge telephone service between the refugees in the Tindouf camps and their family members in the Territory continued to be provided through telephone centres in four refugee camps.  Between January 2004, when the service was launched, and March 2009, more than 105,705 telephone calls were made.


The report also recalls that, following the talks held between the representatives of Morocco and the Frente Polisario in Manhasset in March 2008, and pursuant to Security Council resolution 1813 (2008), UNHCR embarked on a process of negotiations to expand family visits through land transportation, and would also consider introducing additional activities, including joint summer camps for children from the Territory and the refugee camps, and special visits for social occasions such as weddings, funerals and the Hajj.


The report states that international human rights organizations had reported the alleged harassment and arrest of Western Saharan human rights and political activists by Moroccan authorities in the Territory.  During the period under review, the Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario expressed concern to the Secretary-General regarding alleged violations of the human rights of Western Saharans in the Territory, and Moroccan media reported alleged human rights abuses in the Western Saharan refugee camps near Tindouf.  Additionally, Moroccan interlocutors expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and alleged human rights violations in the Tindouf camps.


The report also recalls the Secretary-General’s invitation to the parties to continue the process of negotiations as stated in the final communiqué issued at their fourth round of talks, and reiterated by the Personal Envoy during his visits to the region in February and June 2009.  At the Personal Envoy’s suggestion, a first informal meeting was scheduled for 9 to 12 August 2009 in Austria.


The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1871 (2009) on 30 April, which called upon the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations, thus ensuring implementation of resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007) and 1813 (2008) and the success of negotiations.  The Council also called upon the parties to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  Additionally, the Security Council extended MINURSO’s mandate until 30 April 2010.


The Committee would also consider the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of decolonization resolutions adopted since the declaration of the First and Second International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism (document A/64/70), which states that, at its sixty-third session, the General Assembly adopted resolution 63/108 A, in which it requested the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session on the implementation of decolonization resolutions adopted since the declaration of the First and Second International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism.


The report further states that, in a note verbale dated 30 January 2009, the Secretary-General brought the resolution to the attention of Member States and invited them to provide the information requested for inclusion in the report.  The report includes replies from Mexico, Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom.


Statement by Chairman of Special Committee


R.M. MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization, said that since the United Nations establishment, nearly 750 million people had exercised their right to self-determination and more than 80 once-colonized territories had gained independence.  Yet, decolonization remained  unfinished business; there were still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories under the purview of the General Assembly at the moment, which was simply 16 too many. 


He said that the essential task of the United Nations now was to accelerate the decolonization process in those remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, in accordance with the Declaration, subsequent relevant General Assembly resolutions, and the United Nations Charter.  Another essential task of the General Assembly was to put the decolonization process in the context and the dynamics of a changing world, on a case-by-case basis.  Some Non-Self-Governing Territories could at present be said to have shown a decolonization process in place; other Territories might be prepared in the future to plan the constitutional steps that could lead to a transformation of their international status; yet, at least in one case, there were also instances of setbacks, he said. 


The process of decolonization required the active involvement of all stakeholders concerned, he said.  It also required renewed commitment to move beyond business as usual.  For its part, the Special Committee had taken a closer look at the way it discharged its mandates.  It might be true that some of its deliberations in past years could have been more in-depth, some working papers more illuminating, and some resolutions more refined.  At the same time, it was fair to say that the Special Committee had nevertheless squarely succeeded in keeping decolonization on the international agenda.


This year, the Special Committee had been particularly productive, as it strove to strengthen the quality of its work even further, he said.  It had increased its level of engagement and genuine dialogue with all stakeholders, including the administering Powers.  That effort had been reciprocated to some extent by the stakeholders concerned, although there was certainly still much space for further enhancement.  It had also endeavoured to utilize its formal meetings in a more efficient, effective and accountable manner, as well as produce action-oriented recommendations during its substantive session. 


Yet, the work of the Special Committee was only one aspect of the process; it was not for the Special Committee alone to pursue decolonization, he said.  That process required a collaborative effort by the international community, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories, themselves.  Inviting all partners and stakeholders into the process to also take steps to improve the way they conducted their work in a way that enhanced cooperation from the administering Powers remained essential.  While some progress had been made in that area this year, there was still plenty of room for improvement.


Stressing that close cooperation between the administering Powers and the Special Committee would benefit all parties concerned, not least the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, he called upon the administering Powers, particularly those who had not done so, to intensify, in a concrete way, their cooperation with the Special Committee.  He stressed that the international community, including the United Nations family of organizations, funds and programmes, should continue to explore ways and means through which it could enhance its support, on a case-by-case basis, for development in the Territories, including the capacity for full self-governance. 


While the Special Committee had made –- and would continue to make –- recommendations to the General Assembly, he said it would also like to seek further guidance from the international community on a future course of action in the decolonization process in today’s world, with its many novel challenges and opportunities.  That was particularly crucial in anticipation of the conclusion of the Second International Decade, at the end of 2010.


Introduction of Report


BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), introducing the report of the Special Committee (document A/64/23) as that body’s Rapporteur, said that, in 2009, the Special Committee had continued to analyze developments in the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  During its regular sessions and the Caribbean Regional Seminar in Frigate Bay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, in May, its work had benefited from the participation of representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories, two of the four administering Powers, and a statement prepared by a third administering Power, as well as non-governmental organizations and experts.  The seminar’s agenda this year had sought to identify approaches and practical ways of addressing the challenges and opportunities in the decolonization process in a changing world during the remainder of the Second International Decade.


He said that part of that strategy had included the strengthening of cooperation with administering Powers and encouraging the participation of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Special Committee’s work.  The Special Committee had also successfully revisited the format of the seminar report, in order to better reflect the outcomes of the seminar’s deliberations.  In chapters III to XI, the report focused on specific themes and on each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.


During its 2009 session, the Committee considered such agenda items as the Second International Decade; information transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter; the dissemination of information on decolonization; and economic and other activities that affected the interest of the people of the territories, among others.  The Special Committee’s recommendations, based on the constitutional, political, economic, social and public information-related developments in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, were presented in the form of draft resolutions, in chapter XII.


Statements


MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said that decolonization and the exercise of the legitimate right to self-determination had always been, and remained, a top priority on the Non-Aligned Movement’s agenda.  The exercise of the right to self-determination remained valid and essential to ensure the eradication of all forms of colonialism and foreign occupation, and to guarantee universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In that regard, the Movement reaffirmed its support for the aspirations of all peoples under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination, in accordance with the Charter and United Nations relevant resolutions.


He said that the Movement regretted that, despite all efforts exerted by the United Nations and its different organs to end decolonization and to implement the Declaration since 1960, decolonization remained incomplete, and more effective efforts from the international community were needed to achieve it.  Colonialism in any form or manifestation, including economic exploitation, was incompatible with the Charter, the Decolonization Declaration, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and should be eradicated.  Accordingly, the Movement was convinced that the elimination of colonialism had been and would remain a priority of the United Nations, bearing in mind all relevant General Assembly resolutions, particularly resolution 55/146 declaring the period of 2001-2010 a Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.


The Movement urged all administrating Powers to pay full compensation for the economic, social and cultural consequences of their occupation, in order to fulfil the right of all people who had been, or were still, subjected to colonial rule or occupation, to receive fair compensation for the human and material losses they suffered as a result.  The Movement called on the United Nations to ensure that economic and other activities carried out by the administrating Powers did not affect the interests of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, but instead, promoted development and assisted them in the exercise of their legitimate right to self-determination.  It further urged Member States to fully implement the decisions and resolutions of UNESCO concerning the return of cultural properties to the peoples who had been or still were under colonial rule or occupation.


JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), renewed support for the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the question of the Malvinas Islands.  He supported the United Nations decolonization process and said that self-determination was the fair way of decolonizing the Territories in which there existed a “people” subjected to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation.  However, decolonization and self-determination were “not synonyms”.  A case in point was the Malvinas Islands, where there was not such a “people”, but rather the disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of the Argentine Republic.


He said that the quest of the Malvinas Islands constituted a special and particular colonial situation involving a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom as the sole parties.  In 1833, the United Kingdom usurped the islands and expelled the native Argentine population, preventing their return.  It then replaced them with transplanted British inhabitants, who did not conform to the subjugated or dominated people criterion, giving rise to a “colonial territory” with no colonized population.  The principle of self-determination was not applicable to that colonial situation, as had been set forth by General Assembly resolutions 2065 (XX), 3160 (XXVII), 31/49, 37/9, 38/12, 39/6, 40/21, 41/40, 42/19 and 43/25, and all the pronouncements of the Special Committee since 1964.  The only way to end the sovereignty dispute on the question of the Malvinas Islands was the just, peaceful and lasting solution through the resumption of the negotiations between its two parties, Argentina and the United Kingdom.


MERCOSUR and its associated States recognized the permanent willingness of Argentina to resume negotiations to reach, as soon as possible, a prompt solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, he said, calling on the United Kingdom to promptly comply with the mandate, in accordance with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations and other international organizations and forums.


CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reiterated the Group’s support for the decolonization process and stressed the importance of ensuring that every person in the world could exercise their inalienable right of self-determination, which constituted the central objective of the United Nations since its founding.  One of the most significant tasks in the history of the Organization had been the process of decolonization, which had made it possible for many people to achieve independence.  The results of the work of the Special Committee had been significant, but the fact that 16 Territories remained clearly showed that the decolonization process was not over.


He said that the Rio Group reiterated its commitment to decolonization, and he appealed once again to the administrating Powers to take the necessary steps to achieve the decolonization of each and every one of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, taking into account their special and particular situations, on a case-by-case basis.  The administrating Powers should also transmit the appropriate information on each of the Territories under their administration.  The Group appreciated the Special Committee for its tireless efforts, and hoped the General Assembly would adopt the recommendations contained in its report.


He urged the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations, with a view to finding, as quickly as possible, a peaceful, just and definitive solution to their sovereignty dispute, in accordance with relevant resolutions and declarations, and to include the principle of territorial integrity.  Moreover, it was necessary to take into account the special problems of Non-Self-Governing Territories, such as hurricanes and other natural disasters.  The Group was committed to eradicating colonialism in all its forms, and he reiterated its appeal to all Member States to continue to make a positive contribution to achieve that objective.


DELANO FRANK BART (Saint Kitts and Nevis), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), offered full support as the Committee dealt collectively with the mandate of the special political questions before it.  Particular focus should be given to reviewing the decolonization mandate and to ascertaining any progress made since last year.  He reiterated deep concern that, while certain internal reforms had been enacted, precious little progress had been made in actual decolonization.  In the absence of progress, CARICOM was concerned that decolonization continued to slip further down on the list of United Nations priorities, as was evidenced in the content of key United Nations reports.


Continuing that thread, he said the annual Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization had not made reference to decolonization for several years.  The first and only report on the implementation of decolonization resolutions, which covered 1992 to the present, totalled a mere five pages and relied solely on replies from a few Member States.  It contained no information on United Nations system implementation.  That was in contrast to detailed reports on other issues that seemed to have higher priority.


Since the beginning of the Second International Decade, CARICOM had consistently brought a number of items to the Committee’s attention.  In 2001, for example, it had pointed out that the information deficit on decolonization was made worse by the lack of real, basic analysis on constitutional, political and economic situations in the Territories, despite such analysis having been called for during the First and Second International Decades.  Most elements of the plan of action had yet to be carried out.  Additionally, a midterm review conducted by experts in 2006 had revealed little progress in implementation, and a 2007 United Nations Office of Internal Oversight report had concluded United Nations consideration of decolonization had effectively stalled.


Moreover, in 2008, CARICOM had emphasized that it was the lack of implementation of measures adopted by the General Assembly which remained the real impediment to decolonisation, he recalled.  Innovative measures to restart the process, such as the use of special mechanisms, successfully employed by other United Nations bodies, were “curiously rejected” on budgetary grounds, even though no budgetary implications were identified.


The United Nations work on contemporary decolonization processes remained in a state of virtual inertia, he said.  Unless fundamental action was taken, the Organization was complicit in stymieing the legitimate aspirations of peoples whose human rights it was created to protect and foster.  However, decolonization had moved from “an unfinished agenda” to an unattended one.  The repetition of resolutions and processes year after year, and the publication of reports satisfying bureaucratic deadlines, but lacking sufficient analysis, were not helpful.


Emerging from the vacuum created by that political environment was an attempt to redefine the non-self-governing status as that of self-government, he continued.  The aim appeared to be the hurried removal of those Territories from the United Nations list, even as they remained non-self-governing.  The international community could not countenance such acts, but must decide if it was going to remain true to the relevant provisions of the Charter.  If so, it was necessary to restart the dormant decolonization process, or capitulate to the dubious arguments that justified legitimization of contemporary colonization, declaring decolonization complete and thus abandoning the people of the Territories.


Speaking to the political crisis in the Turks and Caicos Islands, he said that CARICOM expressed its profound concern and disappointment over the decision of the administering Power to dissolve the Government and legislature of the Territory, as well as to suspend the right to trial by jury and to replace the elected Government with direct rule by the administering Power.


The imposition of direct rule was a regrettable, forced step backwards for the Territory, which was an associated member if CARICOM.  The democratic process could not be strengthened by removing an elected Government.  Instead, it would have been more sustainable to involve the people of the Territory through their elected representatives in the efforts required to strengthen good governance.  In that regard, CARICOM called for the urgent restoration of the constitutional Government of the Territory.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that helping colonies exercise their right to self-determination remained a goal that Member States strove to attain.  Member States had the obligation to care about the vital interests of the 2 million people living in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories and to help them achieve self-determination.  As such, China expected the administrating Powers and parties concerned to cooperate more closely with the United Nations.


He said that China also supported efforts by the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories to exercise their right to self-determination.  It would remain actively involved in the work of the Special Committee, in order to accomplish the goals set forth in the Decolonization Declaration.


MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA (Ecuador), associating herself with the statements of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Rio Group, and MERCOSUR, said that the principle of territorial integrity and the peaceful settlement of disputes were fundamental precepts of foreign policy and were enshrined in Ecuador’s Constitution.  In its capacity as a Member State of the Special Committee, Ecuador firmly supported the sovereignty of Argentina over the Malvinas Islands, Georgia Islands and Sandwich Islands, and surrounding maritime areas.  As president of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Ecuador held that the General Assembly and the Special Committee expressly recognized the existence of a colonial situation in the Malvinas, making it very different from classical decolonization.  She reiterated Ecuador’s desire to see the United Kingdom comply with the United Nations appeal for a just, peaceful and lasting solution to that sovereignty dispute.


She reaffirmed support for General Assembly resolution 1514 concerning Western Sahara and the right to self-determination through the free and genuine will of the Saharawi people, and hoped that negotiations between the Polisario and Morocco would continue.  She also expressed hope that the question of Puerto Rico would continue to be dealt with, and reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence.


Solving the 16 pending cases of decolonization would not be possible without assistance from all parties –- the administering Powers, the Territories, and the entire international community, she said.  Ecuador pledged to work vigorously in the Special Committee and in the General Assembly to ensure that all the peoples of the earth enjoyed independence and the right to self-determination.


PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) said the British Government’s relationship with its Overseas Territories was a modern one based on partnership, shared values, and the right of each Territory to determine whether it wished to stay linked to the United Kingdom or not.  The United Kingdom had no intention of imposing independence against the will of the people concerned.  Where independence was an option and was the clear and constitutionally-expressed wish of the people of the Territories, the British Government would give every help and encouragement to those Territories to achieve it.  But, for as long as the United Kingdom’s Overseas Territories wished to retain the link to the United Kingdom, the British Government would remain committed to their future development and continued security.


He said that, although the situation in each Territory was different, and some Territories were at a more advanced stage of development than others, the United Kingdom would continue to work with all of the Territories, as appropriate, in areas such as good governance, political and economic transparency, enhanced security and reduced vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters.  British Government Ministers and democratically-elected Territory leaders had regular discussions on those and a wide range of other issues of mutual interest.  They would meet for political talks at the eleventh annual meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council in London, on 8 and 9 December.


The British Government was engaged in a constitutional review process with the Territories, aimed at providing modern constitutional frameworks reflecting the circumstances of each Territory, he said.  The British Government carefully considered all proposals for constitutional change received from the Territories.  Those reviews had updated provisions for existing constitutions, such as good governance and human rights provisions, and those relating to the role of the Governor and locally-elected politicians.  There had been progress on constitutional review with most Overseas Territories.  New constitutions had come into force in the Turks and Caicos Islands and Gibraltar in 2006, in the British Virgin Islands in 2007, and in the Falkland Islands and Saint Helena in 2009.  A new Cayman Islands Constitution would enter into force in November of this year. 


Maintaining high standards of probity and governance was a fundamental cornerstone of the United Kingdom’s relationship with all the Overseas Territories for as long as they chose to retain the link to the United Kingdom, he said, adding that good governance had been the central theme in all constitutional talks with the Territories.  The British Government had no wish to micromanage its relationship with its Overseas Territories, and was committed to allowing each to run its own affairs to the greatest degree possible.  But that brought with it responsibilities on the part of each Territory.  Where developments in a Territory gave rise for concern, or where the United Kingdom felt that a Territory was failing to fulfil the international obligations that applied to it, it would not hesitate to raise that with the Territory Government and to intervene where necessary.


Turning to developments in the Turks and Caicos Islands, he said that the British Government, in deciding to suspend the constitutional right to trial by jury, did not take such a step lightly.  The suspension would last for a period of up to two years to allow the Governor to restore good governance, sustainable development and sound financial management to the islands.  The intention of the United Kingdom remained that elections should be held in July 2011, if not sooner.


JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), supporting the statements made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Rio Group, and MERCOSUR, said that although more than four decades had passed since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 1514, there were still colonial situations in the southern hemisphere and some Territories were still subjected to colonial domination or occupation.  Although some progress had been made, those instances were in violation of international law and human rights.  The Special Committee was of particular importance because, at present, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories were still awaiting decolonization, and the objectives proclaimed by the General Assembly had not yet been achieved.  He resolutely supported the self-determination of peoples struggling to achieve independence and recalled that the cases of the Malvinas, Puerto Rico and Western Sahara were still pending.


He reiterated the support on behalf of the President of Venezuela for the legitimate sovereign rights of Argentina over South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, and urged the United Kingdom and Argentina to continue negotiations and find, as a matter of urgency, a just, peaceful and definitive solution to their sovereignty dispute.


He supported the cause of decolonization, in particular the inalienable rights of the people of Puerto Rico, as they had “a very special national identity”.  The final document of the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement of July 2009 had issued an appeal to assume responsibility to promote the process to enable the people of Puerto Rico the right to independence.  The United States Government must hand over all of the land and institutions of the people of Puerto Rico and release political prisoners related to their struggle for independence.  He reiterated condemnation for the brutal oppression unleashed against the independence movement, also strongly condemning the 2005 killing of Filiberto Ojeda.  Finally, he recognized the “independent Government of the Saharawi people”, and called for a just, lasting and peaceful solution in Western Sahara.


BASO SANGQU (South Africa) was concerned that the Saharawi people still could not exercise their right to self-determination.  Indeed, Western Sahara had been on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories since 1963.  The General Assembly had consistently recognized the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and independence and had called for the exercise of that right, in line with resolution 1514 (XV) (1960).  The continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco challenged the principles of the United Nations Charter and the authority of the Organization.  South Africa stood by the African Union position that the inalienable right of those in Western Sahara to self-determination and independence was not negotiable, citing a 1975 International Court of Justice advisory opinion and General Assembly resolution 34/37 (1979).


Noting that the Security Council had sought a solution that included the possibility of a United Nations-supervised referendum, he reaffirmed South Africa’s support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve a just, lasting and mutually-acceptable political solution.  In addition, he was confident that the Manhasset negotiations could produce positive results and, thus, called on Morocco and the Saharawi people represented by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente Polisario) to redouble their efforts.  Calling on the United Nations to uphold its Charter principles, including on the protection of human rights, he urged the Secretary-General to investigate reports into incidents of human rights abuse.


He said that South Africa supported efforts to find a just, lasting and mutually-acceptable solution that allowed for the self-determination of Saharawis, and remained fully committed to ensuring that their dignity was fully restored.  The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was crucial to the peace process, and South Africa supported the adoption of a resolution on Western Sahara that reiterated the principles of self-determination and decolonization.


RODOLFO ELISEO BENÍTEZ VERSÓN (Cuba), noting that 2010 marked the end of the Second International Decade, said he was concerned at the continued refusal of certain administering Powers to cooperate with the Committee, in disregard of their Charter obligations.  He called on those Powers to cooperate fully with the Committee.  Also concerned at the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands after the administering Power’s decision to abolish parts of the Constitution, Cuba called for the reinstatement of the constitutional Government, pursuant to the 2006 Constitutional Order.  On Puerto Rico, he drew attention to a resolution adopted in June that recognized Puerto Ricans’ inalienable right to self-determination and independence, saying that the Committee had already adopted 28 resolutions and decisions concerning that nation.  He called on the United States to expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise that right.  Resolutions adopted by the Committee must be implemented.


Concerning Western Sahara, he said that the United Nations had reaffirmed that the conflict was a question of decolonization.  The Saharawi people had a right to determine their future.  Noting that four negotiating rounds and one informal meeting had taken place under the Secretary-General’s auspices, he hoped that the parties would continue to work towards a solution that guaranteed Saharawis the right to self-determination, in line with the Charter and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).  At the same time, Cuba reiterated its support to Argentina’s legitimate right in the dispute over the relative sovereignty of the Malvinas Islands (Falkland Islands), which were part of its national territory.  He called for a negotiated, just and definitive solution to that question.  Cuba would continue providing study opportunities to inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and he called on other States to do likewise.  Finally, he stressed that Non-Self-Governing Territories could benefit from the support of specialized agencies and international bodies liked to the United Nations.


PAUL BADJI (Senegal) said that near the end of the Second International Decade, it was possible to say, without any risk of error, that decolonization was one of the most successful issues at the United Nations.  A number of Territories, however, were still non-self-governing, and his delegation wanted to make an urgent appeal to all of the actors of the international community to enable the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories the freedom to express their will in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.  In that regard, his delegation echoed the statements made at the beginning of the meeting by the Chairman and Rapporteur of the Special Committee.  It also supported the statement made by Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.


He said that the question of Western Sahara remained a matter of particular concern to Senegal.  The current situation in that disturbing case could not be a matter of satisfaction to any of the parties directly concerned.  He sought a mutually-acceptable political solution on the strength of Senegal’s firm support for the initiative of the Moroccan party, aimed at granting broad autonomy to Western Sahara, but within the framework of sovereign respect to Morocco.  Morocco’s reasonable proposal seemed the only new positive dynamic and offered the best prospects for a final, mutually-acceptable solution.  He reaffirmed his commitment to strengthening and consolidating fraternal relations among all the countries of the Magreb and the entire African continent.  Senegal believed it was imperative to discourage all forms of separatism, which threatened stability in different parts of the world.  In that spirit, his delegation reaffirmed its support for the Secretary-General and Special Envoy Christopher Ross in their commendable initiatives to bring about a just and lasting solution to the problem.


ZACHARY D. MUBURI MUITA ( Kenya) said that as the Second International Decade came to a close, the task was not yet complete, and he urged the Fourth Committee to redouble its efforts at promoting the implementation of the Declaration.  Fulfilling the United Nations decolonization mandate required a collaborative effort, and he encouraged the Special Committee to pursue genuine dialogue aimed at finding fresh, concrete and more creative ways to eradicate colonialism.


He also appealed for the cooperation of the administering Powers, saying that they should facilitate United Nations special missions to the Territories under their administration.  They should cooperate by regularly transmitting information on conditions in the Territories, for which they were responsible, taking into consideration that they had an obligation to promote the socio-economic and educational advancement of the peoples of those Territories.  The Territories’ natural resources were the heritage of their peoples, so there should be no activities that harmed their rights or interests.


Recognizing the rights of every people to maintain and conserve their national heritage as a basis of their cultural identity, he urged the administering Powers to fully implement the decisions and resolutions of UNESCO concerning the restitution of cultural properties to the rightful owners still under colonial occupation.  On the question of Western Sahara, Kenya supported continued negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary General, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and recent developments.  That was the only path to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.


KAIRE MUNIONGANDA MBUENDE, (Namibia), said that the right to self-determination was a fundamental human right and it was deplorable that, up to this date, colonialism still remained an issue for this Committee.  He called on the administering Powers to speed up the process of granting independence to the peoples of the Territories.  He further urged the United Nations and the Fourth Committee, in particular, to leave “no stone unturned” in its efforts to bring a speedy end to colonialism and foreign occupation.


He said Namibia was deeply concerned about the continuous occupation of the Palestinian land.  Despite many United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the question of Palestine remained unsolved.  The international community had the responsibility to ensure that the people of Palestine realized their inalienable right to self-determination and statehood.  He, therefore, urged the United Nations to “act decisively” by implementing its own resolutions in order to bring about a lasting and comprehensive solution.  He urged the Government of Israel to abandon all illegal activities and promote peaceful negotiations based on United Nations resolutions and the Quartet Road Map as the only viable option for a two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side and within secure borders.  He called on Israel to lift the “unjust siege” imposed on the Gaza Strip, which compounded the already bad social, economic, and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


In the same vein, he said that Namibia was seriously concerned about the question of Western Sahara, and urged the United Nations to assume its full responsibility over that Territory.  He encouraged the strengthening of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara to enable it to continue monitoring the ceasefire and human rights violations in Western Sahara.  He called for the immediate and unconditional implementation of the United Nations Settlement Plan for Western Sahara and all resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, with the aim of holding a free and fair referendum.


HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), associating himself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed support for the pertinent points raised by the Chairman of the Special Committee.  The right to self-determination and respect for territorial integrity of Member States were fundamental to the process of decolonization.  It was necessary to revive that process and apply it in today’s context without undoing what had been deliberated, decided and agreed upon by the General Assembly.  Decolonization was a political process, with the goal of reaching a permanent political solution, as freely determined by the people concerned and in accordance with the United Nations Charter.


As a member of the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization, he encouraged all Member States, particularly the administering Powers that had not done so, as well as the specialized agencies and other institutions within the United Nations system, to lend their full support to the Special Committee’s work.  Anticipating the conclusion of the Second International Decade in December 2010, he called for positive consideration of a Third Decade, to be equipped with a plan of action that would be feasible, action-oriented, measurable and in full accordance with the guiding documents of the United Nations decolonization process.


NELSON SANTOS (Timor-Leste) said that against the backdrop of a similar past, his country had closely followed the question of Western Sahara.  All of the parties involved were well aware that the people of Western Sahara were ready to achieve freedom.  Their current experience was no different from that of his country -- they were being denied the free and fair act of self-determination because colonizers always bent the truth.  Everyone had heard dozens of times that the right of determination of Western Sahara was clearly recognized by the United Nations, that there should be a strict respect of the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.  Senegal in particular welcomed the appointment of Special Envoy Christopher Ross, and fully supported his efforts to find a just and peaceful solution.  Now it was time to put an end to the injustice inflicted on the people of Western Sahara and to the human rights abuses and suffering of the people of the occupied Western Sahara.  It was also critical that all parties abided by international law and obligations.


RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda), associating himself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern that the process of decolonization had not yet been successfully concluded.  The lack of resolution to the question of Western Sahara was unacceptable and must be addressed, with the requisite attention of all Member States.  He remained convinced that only the Saharawi people should unconditionally decide their own future.  Commending the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for his negotiation efforts, in accordance with pertinent resolutions, he further expressed appreciation for the commitment by the two parties, Morocco and Polisario, to continue negotiations as soon as possible, calling on both parties to overcome the obstacles to a resolution of the matter.


He also expressed continuing concern over reports of human rights violations in Western Sahara, and called for steps to ensure that human rights in the region were monitored and protected.  The Secretary-General’s report affirming the Organization’s commitment to that goal was welcome.  He was also concerned about reports about the illegal exploitation of the resources of Western Sahara, and said that those merited serious attention.  “The illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara should stop and those responsible be held accountable,” he said.


Following that statement, the Committee decided to grant a number of requests for hearings, including one request on the question of Gibraltar (document A/C.4.64/2); seven requests on the question of Guam (documents A/C.4/64/3 and addenda 1 to 7); two requests on the question of the United States Virgin Islands (documents A/C.4/64/4 and addenda 1); 84 requests on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/64/5 and addenda 1 to 83); and one request on the question of New Caledonia (document A/C.4/64/6).  The Committee also decided to hear the petitioners on Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 and 7 October.


Rights of Reply


Exercising the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom, responding to the statement by Mexico’s representative on behalf of the Rio Group, and Uruguay’s speaker on behalf of MERCOSUR, said that its position on the Falkland Islands was well known.  The United Kingdom had no doubt about its sovereignty in the Falkland Islands and that there could be no negotiations on the matter until such time as “the islanders so wished”.


In response to remarks made by Saint Kitts and Nevis on behalf of CARICOM, and by Cuba, the representative said the issue of the territorial Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands was a serious constitutional measure that was not taken lightly.  That arrangement would last for two years and would allow the Government to sustain sound financial management until elections were held in July 2011, “if not sooner”.


Responding to the statement by the United Kingdom’s speaker on the question of the Malvinas, the representative of Argentina reiterated that the Malvinas were an integral part of Argentina and were illegitimately occupied by the United Kingdom.  The sovereignty dispute between the two countries had been recognized by diverse organizations and in numerous United Nations resolutions.  Such resolutions urged both Governments to resume negotiations to find a peaceful and lasting solution to their dispute as quickly as possible.  The Special Committee had also made such statements and taken a similar stand.


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