Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Reaffirming Obligations of Administering Powers to Facilitate Genuine Self-Determination

23 June 2010

Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Reaffirming Obligations of Administering Powers to Facilitate Genuine Self-Determination

23 June 2010
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on


8th Meeting (AM)

Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Reaffirming Obligations


of Administering Powers to Facilitate Genuine Self-Determination


Draft Resolution Expresses Deep Concern That

Colonialism Persists 50 Years after Passage of Historic Declaration

Expressing deep concern that colonialism had not yet been totally eradicated 50 years after the General Assembly adopted the seminal Declaration on Decolonization, the “Special Committee of 24” unanimously approved today a draft resolution reaffirming the obligations of all administering Powers to create the necessary economic, social and other conditions to enable Non-Self-Governing Territories under their purview to achieve genuine self-government and economic self-reliance.

The Special Committee approved the draft, titled “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (document A/AC.109/2010/L.17), alongside two other texts, the first on implementation of the Decolonization Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and associated international institutions, and the second concerning economic and other activities affecting the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Also approved by consensus was an “omnibus” draft resolution on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2010/L.10).  The Special Committee took that action with amendments to the sections on Montserrat, Pitcairn and the Turks and Caicos so as to reflect the latest developments in those Territories.

By the text on the fiftieth anniversary, the General Assembly would declare all forms of colonialism incompatible with the principles of international law, and — in addition to reaffirming the economic obligations of administering Powers — request them to preserve the cultural identity and national unity of Territories under their administration.  The Assembly would encourage the full development of indigenous cultures so as to facilitate “the unfettered exercise of the right of self-determination”.  Considering it incumbent upon the United Nations to play an active role in the decolonization process, the Assembly would urge Member States to ensure the full and speedy implementation of the Declaration as well as relevant resolutions.

Turning to the second draft, titled “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/AC.109/2010/L.12), Chairperson Donatus Keith St. Aimee ( Saint Lucia) said it would strengthen the Special Committee’s hand in completing its work.

By the terms of that draft, the General Assembly would request those institutions to intensify their engagement with the work of the Special Committee.  Among other recommendations of that draft, the Assembly would request specialized agencies and other entities associated with the United Nations to provide information on environmental problems facing the Non-Self-Governing Territories, as well as information on the impacts of hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, coastal erosion and droughts.  The Territories would be encouraged to take steps to establish or strengthen existing disaster preparedness and management institutions and policies, with the assistance of the specialized agencies.  The Assembly would also request such entities to provide information on illegal exploitation of the marine and other natural resources of the Territories, and the need to use those resources for the benefit of their respective peoples.

Also by that text, the Assembly would request the Chairperson of the Special Committee to continue to maintain close contact on those matters with the President of the Economic and Social Council, while welcoming close ties between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with organizations including the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), when providing assistance to peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The Assembly would, by further terms, commend the Economic and Social Council for its debate and resolution on that question, and request it to continue to consider, in consultation with the Special Committee, appropriate measures for the coordination of the policies and activities of specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations.

Following approval of that text, however, the representative of the Russian Federation stated her country’s traditional position concerning the Economic and Social Council, saying that decolonization was an “excessively political issue” that distracted the Council from its usual work.  While not desiring to hamper consensus approval of the draft, the Russian Federation would continue to call for its removal from that organ’s agenda, she said.

By the terms of the third text, “Economic and other activities which affect the interests of peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories” (document A/AC.9/2010/L.13), the Assembly would affirm the value of foreign economic investment, undertaken in collaboration with the peoples of the Territories and in accordance with their wishes, to make a valid contribution to their socio-economic development, especially during times of economic and financial crisis.

Further by that text, the Assembly would reaffirm the Charter responsibility of the administering Powers to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, while reaffirming at the same time the legitimate rights of their peoples over their natural resources.  It would reaffirm the need to avoid any economic and other activities adversely affecting the interests those peoples, and call on all Governments that had not yet done so to end the activities of national and corporate bodies under their jurisdiction that were detrimental to the interests of the Territories’ inhabitants.

By other terms of the text, the Assembly would urge the administering Powers to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of those peoples to their natural resources, and to maintain control over the future development of those resources.  It would also call upon the administering Powers to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevailed in the Territories under their administration, and to promote in each Territory a fair system of wages.  It would appeal to trade unions, non-governmental organizations and individuals to continue efforts to promote the economic well-being of the Territories’ peoples, and appeal to the media to disseminate information about developments in that regard.

The Special Committee also heard from Carlyle Corbin, a petitioner, who presented several key findings from his paper on implementation of the Declaration Mandate during the Second International Decade.  He noted that there was some conflict regarding the ownership of marine and land resources in the cases of Guam and the United States Virgin Islands, and asked the Special Committee to examine the matter in the future.

Underscoring the continuing cooperation between administering Powers and the Special Committee, he cited New Zealand’s cooperation on the question of Tokelau and highlighted the United Kingdom’s facilitation of two visiting missions — to Bermuda in 2005 and to the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2006 — even though that administering Power had formally withdrawn its cooperation decades ago.  The United States, also one of those to have withdrawn its cooperation, had declined requests from the elected Governments of Guam and the United States Virgin Islands to host visiting missions and regional seminars.  The country had announced in 2008 that matters concerning Territories under its administration were “domestic affairs”, an announcement that appeared not to have provoked a discernible reaction from the Special Committee, he noted.

He said that while the Assembly had begun to recognize self-determination as a fundamental human right during the Second international Decade, efforts to collaborate with other bodies, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Human Rights Committee, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union had failed to materialize.  Furthermore, several Member States had repeatedly raised concerns that the Secretary-General’s reports on decolonization were “insufficiently substantive” in that they relied heavily on information from Member States and other United Nations bodies rather than implementation reports on other agenda items.  In that light, he said, participants in the regional seminars had called on the Special Committee to form an expert group from the Non Self-Governing Territories to advise it and the Secretary-General on measures for full decolonization.

Turning to the participation of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the regional commissions, he said several had never taken part and requested that more be done to promote their inclusion.  In addition, he highlighted requests from United Nations agency representatives for the shortening of the agenda item from “Implementation of the Decolonization Mandate by the Specialized Agencies and the International Institutions Associated with the United Nations” to “Support to the Non-Self-Governing Territories from the United Nations system”.  Such a change could incite the Territories’ engagement in the international process, he stressed, calling on the Special Committee to consider the requests.

He went on to note that the Office of Internal Oversight Services had published a 2007 evaluation of how the United Nations system serviced the decolonization agenda, which members of the Special Committee should be required to read in light of its key findings.  Among other conclusions, it stated that the decolonization mandate could not be implemented in the near future, and underlined the need to assess the relevancy, quality and utility of decolonization documents, including working papers, he said.  There was a “significant risk” of losing expertise, given “the absence of systems for capturing knowledge about the Special Committee and decolonization matters”, he added.

The Special Committee deferred approval of a fifth draft resolution, titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (document A/AC.109/2010/L.11).

Commenting on the text, the Chairperson said the representative of the Russian Federation had requested more time to examine proposed changes.

The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday 24 June, to hear petitioners on the question of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) and to take up the deferred draft resolution.

* *** *

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