Despite Successes, Decolonization Process Plagued by Lack of Political Will, Creative Thinking, Fourth Committee Hears as It Opens Debate on Topic
Despite Successes, Decolonization Process Plagued by Lack of Political Will, Creative Thinking, Fourth Committee Hears as It Opens Debate on Topic
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
2nd Meeting (PM)
Despite Successes, Decolonization Process Plagued by Lack of Political Will,
Creative Thinking, Fourth Committee Hears as It Opens Debate on Topic
Calling for ‘Paradigm Shift’, Special Committee Chair Says Process Requires
Focus on Social, Economic Realities in Remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories
Since the creation of the United Nations, 80 former colonies inhabited by some 750 million people had gained independence, yet, even with fewer than 2 million people living under colonial rule today, the decolonization process, plagued by lack of political will, remained incomplete, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told as it began its annual general debate on that issue.
Fifty years after the General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the decolonization process could only be addressed within the context of current realities and a sustainable future, said Donatus St. Aimee ( Saint Lucia), chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization in an opening address. The international community needed to find creative ways to resolve the difficulties associated with that process, paying closer attention to economic and social needs and the interests of the people.
Recalling that 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained, he said lack of significant progress in doing away with colonialism was not the absence of resolutions or decisions, but rather the lack of adequate political will and interaction between and among the main protagonists to implement them. If there was ever a need for the Special Committee to be more proactive, that time was now. Most of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories needed greater assistance from the international community, both in terms of exercising their political options, and for economic survival.
Continuing, he said that only Timor-Leste had been decolonized since the First Decade on Decolonization had been proclaimed. In that context - the case of Tokelau, with two of its referendums on self-determination held in 2006 and 2007 - was a good example for other administering Powers to follow. A paradigm shift was necessary to approach the process of decolonization, and the international community must remember that it was the express will and wishes of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories that must take pride of place.
Speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the representative of Brazil said it was a time of particular importance for the Special Committee, with the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of General Assembly resolution 1415 (XV), and the conclusion of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001 to 2010). Like many delegations, she drew attention to Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas, South Georgias, and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas. In that regard, she stressed that the adoption of unilateral measures was not compatible with what had been already decided as the correct course by the United Nations, and a solution should be found as soon as possible.
Speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, the representative of Chile said the decolonization process was one of the most recognized tasks in the history of the Organization, for it had allowed many peoples to reach independence. Concerning small island Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific that were the majority of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Rio Group considered it important to continue adopting measures that facilitated a stable and sustainable growth of their economies.
Argentina’s representative stressed that the persistence of colonial cases in their different types and forms constituted a crime which violated the Charter, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and principles of international law. It was in defence of the principle of self-determination that Argentina could not allow that standard to be distorted to such an extent as to force an argument in favour of the continued existence of an anachronistic colonial sovereignty dispute which mutilated the territorial integrity of Argentina since 1833.
Regarding the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the representative of the United Kingdom said that that 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 self-determination. The United Kingdom had no intention of imposing independence against the will of people concerned. Where independence was an option and the clear and constitutionally expressed will of the people of the Territories existed, the British Government would give it every help to achieve it.
As an administering Power, he said that, although the situation was different in each case, the United Kingdom would work with all Territories, as appropriate, in areas such as good governance, political and economic development, transparency, enhanced security and reduced vulnerability to natural and non-natural disasters. Good governance was the central theme in all constitutional talks with the territories and, thus, the United Kingdom was committed to allowing each territory to run its own affairs to the greatest degree possible. But, he emphasized that this brought with it responsibilities on the part of each Territory.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Venezuela, Cuba, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru and the Congo.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the United Kingdom and Argentina.
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 Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 October, to continue its debate on decolonization issues.
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 2010 (document A/65/23).
At its sixty-fourth session in 2009, the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/106 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 (2010-2010) that had not yet exercised their right to self-determination. In addition to that text, the Assembly adopted 10 other resolutions and a decision relating to specific items considered by the Special Committee in 2009. 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 members of the Special Committee are particularly encouraged by the excellent cooperation between France and New Caledonia, and New Zealand and Tokelau at every stage of the respective negotiations.
The report says that the Special Committee, 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 Caribbean region in 2011. It will also continue to seek the cooperation of the administering Powers in facilitating United Nations visits and special missions to the Territories under their administrations, during which it will collect first-hand information on the conditions in the Territories and on the wishes and 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.
In addition to general problems facing developing countries, the report noted that Non-Self-Governing Territories also suffer from interplay of such factors as size, remoteness, geographical dispersion, vulnerability to natural disasters, fragile ecosystems, constraints in transport and communications, great distances from market centres, a highly limited internal market, lack of natural resources and vulnerability to drug trafficking, money-laundering and other illegal activities, as well as from the current financial crisis. The Special Committee will continue to recommend measures to facilitate a sustained and balanced growth of the Territories’ 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 those peoples 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 2011. 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 Pacific regional seminar Nouméa, New Caledonia, from 18 to 20 May 2010, on the implementation of the Second International Decade. The seminar reconfirmed the valid ongoing role of the United Nations in the decolonization process 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, and encouraged the Committee to continue to approach each case with an open mind, to build on the available options and to bring about more dynamism in the process. It also underlined the important role of women in the decolonization process, stressing that gender equality should be supported as this would contribute to good governance and enhanced capacity for self-governance.
The wide-ranging report also outlines the Special Committee’s consideration of specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2010 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).
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/65/66), which includes dates of transmission by administering Powers of information on geography, history, population and socio-economic and educational conditions in 16 such Territories.
A report of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara (document A/65/306) was also before delegations. Covering the period from 1 July 2009 to 31 June 2010, it summarizes the report submitted to the Security Council earlier (document S/2010/175). It recalls that pursuant to Security Council resolution 1871 (2009), the Secretary-General informed the Council of the activities of his Personal Envoy to promote negotiations on Western Sahara. Following that official’s 22 June to 1 July 2009 trip to the region to clarify the purpose and structure of the informal meetings underway and to confirm the readiness of the parties and neighboring States to attend, the first such meeting was held in Dürnstein, Austria, on 9 and 10 August 2009.
According to the report, that meeting achieved its principal objective of re-establishing the atmosphere of mutual respect and dialogue that had reigned at the beginning of the negotiations in Manhasset, United States of America, but had collapsed in the course of successive rounds. The parties engaged with each other in a respectful manner and in a spirit of extensive give and take, discussing confidence-building measures and human rights issues as a prelude to a later examination of the core issues of their dispute. They agreed in principle that a long-standing proposal to explore the road option in the context of an expansion of family visits between Western Sahara and the refugee camps should be implemented, and they agreed to consider, in a positive spirit, the confidence-building measures that the United Nations High Commissioner might put forth.
Regarding human rights issues, the report states that the parties exchanged accusations on violations, and each complained about how the other approached such matters. The Frente Polisario para la Liberación de Saguia el Hamra de Rio de Oro (Frente Polisario) called for a United Nations monitoring mechanism, and Morocco expressed its opposition. Before the Dürnstein meeting ended, the parties engaged in a preliminary discussion of core substantive issues but continued to disagree, in particular self-determination. After the meeting, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy consulted regularly with the parties and determined that progress on the core substantive issues would emerge at a further informal meeting, rather than a fifth round of formal negotiations.
The report goes on to state that in September 2009, the Secretary-General met separately with the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, Tairb Fassi Fihri, and that both expressed their commitment to negotiations. The Personal Envoy proposed that a second informal meeting be held, however, a series of events beginning in October made it increasingly impossible to meet, and each party engaged in actions that were deemed “provocative and destructive.” Eventually, the climate improved and the Personal Envoy held a second meeting in Westchester County, New York on 10 and 11 February. During that meeting, ensuing exchanges concerned human rights and related issues, both complained of violations. During the rest of the talks, each party again presented its 2007 proposal, and it became clear to the Personal Envoy that the self-determination was the non-negotiable difference between the two parties.
Turning to the recommendations section of the Secretary-General’s earlier report, the current survey notes the United Nations Chief welcomed the parties’ continuing commitment to the negotiating process. However, he noted that the two informal meetings held in August 2009 and February 2010 had produced no movement on the core substantive issues and more work was needed before a fifth round of formal negotiations. It was clear neither party was prepared to accept the proposal of the other as the sole basis for future negotiations.
With regard to the maintenance of the ceasefire, the Secretary-General informed the Council that the overall 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. In terms of humanitarian activities and efforts led by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Giterres, undertook a five-day visit to Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara in September 2009, including a visit to the refugees from Western Sahara in the camps near Tindouf. This was the first time since 1976 that a High Commissioner for Refugees had visited the camps, and it paved the way for enhanced focus on the long-term welfare of the refugees.
As for confidence-building measures, the Secretary-General said that UNHCR continued to provide free telephone services for refugees in the camps to contact family members in the Territory to organize family visits. Regarding human rights, the Secretary-General expressed concern for the human dimension of the conflict, including the plight of Western Saharan refugees. Later the Personal Envoy undertook a visit to the region from 17 to 25 March, during which he was received by the King of Morocco, the Heads of State of Mauritania and Algeria, as well as the Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario. The meeting confirmed that negotiations were still at an impasse. The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1920 (2010), in which it recognized that consolidation of the status quo was not acceptable in the long term and noted that negotiations were essential in order to improve the quality of life of the people of Western Sahara. It called for the parties to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue.
In addition, in May and July 2010, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) held separate meetings in Geneva with representatives of the Frente Polisario and Morocco to evaluate current programs and to find a solution to the issue of suspension of family visit flights. From 21 June to 1 July 2010, the Personal Envoy visited the capitals of three of the members of the Group of Friends of Western Sahara ( London, Paris, Madrid) to consult on the best means to advance negotiations toward a mutually acceptable settlement and to solicit concrete advice. On 16 July, he consulted with senior officials in Washington, D.C. and will visit Moscow later. His meetings reflected a “fresh interest in moving beyond the status quo” and find a solution, the Secretary-General said.
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 (documents A/65/61 and A/65/61/Corr.1). It contains a list of such agencies 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/2010/47.
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 (document A/65/67), which covers the period between 24 March 2009 to 17 March 2010. The report lists 60 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, Australia, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Introduction of Report
As the Special Committee began its work today, BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), its Rapporteur, introduced the Committee’s report (document A/65/23), saying that the body had continued to analyze developments in the 16 Non-Self Governing territories under its purview, and had assessed the progress made in the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2001 to 2010), with a view to recommending a third international decade spanning from 2011 to 2020.
He said that the Special Committee’s 2010 regional seminar in Noumea, New Caledonia — from 18 to 20 May 2010 — focused on an assessment of the decolonization process over the last ten years. The outcome of the seminar’s deliberations included, among others, a recommendation on the strengthening of cooperation with administering Powers, and on encouraging the participation of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Special Committee’s work.
He went on to say that the Special Committee had considered such questions as the Second International Decade; dissemination of information on decolonization; assistance and support activities of the specialized agencies, and other topics. The specific recommendations of the Special Committee submitted took into account the constitutional, political, economic, social and public information-related developments pertaining to the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Statement by Chairman of Special Committee
DONATUS ST. AIMEE ( Saint Lucia), Chair 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, said that 14 December would mark the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of that Declaration. Since the creation of the United Nations, 80 former colonies inhabited by some 750 million people had gained independence and today, less than 2 million peopled lived under colonial rule.
In the Special Committee’s view, he said, the decolonization process could only be addressed within the context of current realities and a sustainable future. The international community needed to find creative ways to resolve the difficulties associated with that process, paying closer attention to economic and social needs and the interests of the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The lack of significant progress in doing away with colonialism was not the absence of resolutions or decisions, but rather the lack of adequate political will and interaction between and among the main protagonists to implement them.
Continuing, he said that only Timor-Leste had been decolonized since the First Decade on Decolonization had been proclaimed. In that context – the case of Tokelau, with two of its referendums on self-determination held in 2006 and 2007 - was a good example for other administering Powers to follow. The last regional seminar, held in Noumea, had assessed the situation in the 16 Territories, paying particular attention to those located in the Pacific region.
He said that if there was ever a need for the Special Committee - also known as the ‘C24’ - to be more proactive, that time was now. Most of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories needed greater assistance from the international community, both in terms of exercising their political options, and for economic survival. He said that the world had changed so much, that entry into the international system in the last 30 years required new, special skills that could only be achieved through collaboration, which had been the road map in the past.
A paradigm shift was necessary to approach the process of decolonization, and the international community must remember that it was the express will and wishes of the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories that must take pride of place. He said that given the remaining Territories’ isolation — the lack of interaction with the international community - there was a greater need for information dissemination, as this would help them make the final analysis and decisions as to what was available to them.
He commended the role of the Department of Political Affairs Decolonization Unit in updating and expanding the Department of Public Information’s Web site on decolonization, which received well over 200 page views per week and approximately 12,000 page views per year. Each of the Territories had a unique mix of circumstances, often involving complex political issues, and it was essential that “creative thinking” that was sensitive to the specific circumstances was used by all concerned in addressing those issues, as there was “no size fits all” solution.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that decolonization and the legitimate right to self determination were always a priority. In that regard, his delegation stressed the fundamental and inalienable right of peoples of Non-Self Governing Territories, as well as those territories under foreign occupation and colonial domination, to self-determination. The exercise of the right to self-determination remained valid and essential to ensure the eradication of all forms of colonialism and foreign occupation. To that end, the Movement reaffirmed its support for the aspirations of peoples under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination in accordance with the Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions.
He said the Non-Aligned Movement regretted that decolonization remained incomplete. Indeed, the existence of colonialism in any form or manifestation, including economic exploitation was incompatible with the Charter, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Accordingly, his delegation was convinced the elimination of colonialism had been and would be one of the priorities and objectives of the United Nations. The Movement stressed the importance of the recommendations contained in the Final Document of the Fifteenth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in 2009, including the renewal of the call to United Nations member States to speed up the process of decolonization toward the complete elimination of colonialism.
The Movement supported the Special Committee’s aim of pursuing a speedy end to colonialism, in accordance with Article 73 of the Charter. He said the declaration of a third decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, from 2011-2020, accompanied by setting another short-term date to review and take stock of what was achieved and what needed to be done would send the right message and encourage all parties involved to speed up work with the aim of achieving tangible results through a concrete follow up. The Movement strongly supported the recommendations and measures regarding the facilitation of a sustained and balanced growth of the fragile economies of those Territories. In addition, it urged administering countries to pay full compensations for the economic, social and cultural consequences of their occupation, and called upon the United Nations to ensure that economic and other activities carried out by the administering Powers did not affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Finally, he said the Non-Aligned Movement reiterated its support to the work and activities of the United Nations Special Committee on the situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and reaffirmed its position on the question of Puerto Rico. In conclusion, he reiterated the full support of his delegation to all efforts aiming at eradicating colonialism, including the Palestinian people which have been deprived for decades now from their basic rights.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said it was a time of particular importance for the Special Committee, with the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1415, and the conclusion of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. She reiterated support for the legitimate right of Argentina to the Malvinas, South Georges, and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas.
She went on to say that the adoption of unilateral measures was not compatible with what had been already decided as the correct course by the United Nations, and a solution should be found as soon as possible. MERCOSUR was convinced that when the United Kingdom expelled the Argentinean population in 1833, preventing them from returning even to this day, they had been transplanting a population that was a part of the British people. This had given rise to a colonial territory but not a colonial population. This special colonial situation amounted to a dispute of sovereignty with the United Kingdom and Argentina as the sole parties. The only way forward was a peaceful and negotiated solution, recognizing in this regard the constructive attitude of the Argentine Government.
However, she said that MERCOSUR rejected the activities of exploration of non-renewable resources on the Argentinean continental shelf as conducted by the United Kingdom, as this was not in conformity with international law and the law of the sea. She reaffirmed that negotiations should be resumed as soon as possible between the two parties.
Speaking in her national capacity, she said Brazil reiterated its support for the rights of Argentina in this sovereignty dispute. The United Kingdom’s activities on the Argentinean continental shelf were unilateral actions incompatible with the resolutions of the United Nations on the matter, and did not contribute to finding a definitive solution to the dispute. She supported the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, and said that the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism was a time to revitalize efforts for decolonization. The start of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Decolonization should give fresh impetus to finding solutions for all remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile),speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, underlined the importance of guaranteeing the exercise of the inalienable right to self-determination to all peoples of the world, which had constituted central goals of the United Nations since its foundation. The decolonization process was one of the most recognized tasks in the history of the Organization, for it had allowed many peoples to reach independence. The results of the work of the Special Committee on Decolonization were very important but the fact that 16 Territories continued to be listed as “Non-Self-Governing” was evidence that decolonization was not concluded. In that regard, the Rio Group wished to stress its commitment to that objective and called for administering Powers to take the necessary measures in order for all of the 16 remaining Territories to achieve decolonization. It also called on the administering Powers to give all required cooperation and to provide adequate information regarding the territories under their administration in accordance with Article 73 of the United Nations Charter.
He said the Rio Group supported the work of the Department of Public Information and its information centres, other services and components in the dissemination of information to promote the goals of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and of its Plan of Action. The Group reiterated that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom should resume negotiations to find a peaceful solution regarding the Malvinas Islands, South Georgias and South Sandwich, and surrounding maritime areas. Regarding the United Kingdom’s actions in exploring for hydrocarbons in the Argentine continental shelf, he recalled General Assembly resolution 31/49 which called on the two parties to refrain from taking decisions that would imply introducing unilateral modifications in the situation while the islands are going through the process recommended.
Concerning small island Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific that were the majority of the Non-Self governing territories, he said the Rio Group considered important to continue adopting measures that facilitated a stable and sustainable growth of their economies. Moreover, regarding Western Sahara, the Rio Group supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. It also welcomed the agreement of the parties expressed in the Communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara of 18 March 2008 and looked forward to family visits by land, and resumption of the existing program by air.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO ( Venezuela) said five decades passed since the adoption of resolution 1514 (XV). During that time, major advances occurred in decolonization, yet, there were still colonial situations of concern, and the occupation of countries remained. The Fourth committee and Special Decolonization Committee were important as there were still 16 non-autonomous territories. Venezuela supported self-determination, he said, drawing attention to Puerto Rico, Western Sahara, and the Malvinas Islands. Specifically, he said Puerto Rico remained at the forefront of fighting for independence and Venezuela always supported the inalienable right of self-determination for the people there. The final resolution of the Special Committee on Puerto Rico from June 21, 2010, reiterated that Puerto Rican people constituted a Latin American and Caribbean region with its own national identity. Thus, if it had its own national identity, why were they denied self-determination? He asked, reiterating the call to expedite a process that allowed Puerto Rico to self-determination.
Regarding the British military interventions of 1833 and 1982 of the Falkland Islands, South George and South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime areas, he noted those were indisputable examples of colonial and imperial practices from the sixteenth century until today. From then on, the British flag had waved in those areas. He noted that during the colonial occupation, British inhabitants migrated to the Malvinas Islands from Britain. He recalled the current mandate of good offices conferred by the General Assembly to the Secretary-General to continue his efforts in terms of bringing the parties together, and urged for a resumption of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom. At the multilateral level, the Organization of American States (OAS) and other forums called for an early solution to this protracted dispute.
He expressed solidarity regarding Western Sahara, and reminded delegations that Venezuela recognized the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, and hoped that with the support of the United Nations, the Saharawi people could exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. Some 41 resolutions had been adopted by the United Nations since Western Sahara was included in 1963 in the list of non-autonomous Territories. Venezuela hoped to start a more intensive phase of negotiations and therefore ensure the implementation of various United Nations resolutions. He welcomed resolution 64/101 from December 2009, which reaffirmed the necessity of eliminating colonialism, racial discrimination and violations of human rights.
RODOLFO ELISEO BENÍTEZ VERSÓN ( Cuba) said that the cause of decolonization must remain a priority for the United Nation and he supported the decision of the Special Committee on Decolonization to request the General Assembly to declare a Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The Special Committee on Decolonization, as a specialized United Nations body, was seriously involved in complying with its mandate, and had intensified dialogue with Administering Powers, the Representative of Non-Self-Governing Territories and Member States.
He expressed concern over the continued failure of some Administering Powers to cooperate with the Committee on Decolonization, disregarding obligations that derived from the Charter of the United Nations. This year, a seminar on decolonization was held for the second time in a Non-Self-Governing-Territory, New Caledonia. The discussions that took place at those meetings — which could be found on the web page on decolonization — should be widely spread through the media to the Member States. They could also be used in academic debates in other forums.
Despite half a century of colonial domination, the Puerto Rican people had never given up their brave and hard fight for to exercise independence. Yet, they had not been able to become independent. The Special Committee had reiterated its request for the General Assembly to consider the question of Puerto Rico. Moving on to Western Sahara, he reaffirmed that the Saharan people had a right to determine their own future. In the last years, four rounds of negotiations and two informal meetings had been held, and the parties had reaffirmed their commitment to negotiations. He hoped that efforts would continue to be made to find a solution guaranteeing self-determination. Cuba reiterated its unreserved support to the legitimate rights of Argentina regarding the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). He reaffirmed confidence that the United Nations General Assembly had a role in the fight of the defence of the inalienable rights of all peoples worldwide.
JORGE ARGUELLO (Argentina) said it was timely to remind the United Nations that the persistence of colonial cases in their different types and forms constituted a crime which violated the Charter, and Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and principles of international law, in accordance with what had been established by the General Assembly in resolution 2621 (XXV). He reiterated full support for and commitment to the decolonization process carried out by the United Nations through its pertinent bodies, pursuant to the provisions and objectives of the Charter.
He said that decolonization was one of the Organization’s most relevant successes. Nevertheless, colonial situations still persisted which needed to be addressed through a constructive working plan and on a “case-by-case” basis, as set out by General Assembly resolution 55/146. Argentina had always been, and continued to be, a staunch defender of the right of peoples to self-determination in all forums and cases in which that right was applicable.
It was in defence of the principle of self-determination that Argentina could not allow that standard to be distorted to such an extent as to force an argument in favour of the continued existence of an anachronistic colonial sovereignty dispute which mutilated the territorial integrity of Argentina since 1833. The sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom over the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime areas was indeed of the utmost relevance for his country.
The Argentine Government had expressed at every opportunity its permanent willingness to negotiate in order to comply with the obligation equally pending on both parties to resume the negotiations on sovereignty, while the United Kingdom still needed to comply. He further said that crimes of colonialism still persisted 50 years since the adoption of the Declaration, and it was the international community’s duty to put an end to those crimes.
JOSE ALBERTO BRIZ (Guatemala), aligning his statement with that made earlier on behalf of the Rio Group, said one particularly relevant aspect of decolonization was Argentina’s claim over the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime areas. Millions continued to live under colonial regimes, but thanks to the work of the United Nations many areas had been decolonized.
He said it had been recognized in various General Assembly resolutions that there existed a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom with regard to the aforementioned Territories. That colonial situation had been defined as being special and particular, showing characteristics that set it aside from classical cases of decolonization. The United Kingdom had transplanted its own population to the islands and that could not be considered a colonial population. It was a colonial area, and not a colonized people, and the United Nations must bear in mind the specialized nature of that dispute.
One of the guiding principles of decolonization was that there could be no attempt to unnaturally break up the territorial integrity of a country, as would be the case with Argentina. In closing, he expressed concern over the activities the United Kingdom was carrying out unilaterally on the Argentine continental shelf, in violation of what had been agreed on by the international community.
SAUL WEISLEDER (Costa Rica) recalled that this year was the end of the Second Decade for Eradication of Colonialism. In the current transcendental time, Costa Rica reiterated its support for decolonization, calling progress to that end “significant transformation”. His country had been an active participant, within the United Nations framework, in the 1950s and 1960s in promoting decolonization processes in Africa. It was essential to advocate for the exercise to self-determination, democracy and human rights. The collective challenge continued to be full implementation of the Declaration, and he reiterated the reduced number of Non-Self Governing Territories, as well as the aid given to the people of Tokelau, via the holding of two referendums there. He saluted recommendations of the Committee, and hoped the General Assembly would approve a third decade for the eradication of colonialism.
Costa Rica would call on the administering Powers to provide cooperation and information regarding territories within Article 73 of the United Nations Charter. He drew attention to the regional resolutions regarding the Malvinas Islands, Georgias, and Sandwich and the surrounding maritime areas. Finally, he said his delegation understood that the United Nations should facilitate peace in Western Sahara, and he invoked the resolutions relevant to that situation. The solution of self-determination of Western Sahara should be based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Costa Rica reaffirmed its commitment to a world free of colonialism in all its forms, he declared.
PHILIP JOHN PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said that 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 or not it wished to stay linked to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom had no intention of imposing independence against the will of people concerned. Where independence was an option and the clear and constitutionally expressed will of the people of the Territories existed, the British Government would give it every help to achieve it. As long as its overseas Territories wished to retain the link to the United Kingdom, the Government would remain committed to their future development and continued security.
Although the situation was different in each case, he said the United Kingdom would work with all Territories, as appropriate, in areas such as good governance, political and economic development, transparency, enhanced security and reduced vulnerability to natural and non-natural disasters. The relationship between an overseas Territory and the United Kingdom was enshrined in the constitution of each Territory. The British Government had thus over many years, been engaged in a constitutional review process, which was aimed at providing modern constitutional frameworks reflecting the circumstances of each Territory.
In that process, he continued, the British Government considered proposals for constitutional change from the territories which had resulted in updated provisions, such as human rights or those related to good governance and roles of the locally elected politicians. Maintaining high standards of probity and governance was a fundamental cornerstone of the relationship with all the overseas Territories. Good governance was the central theme in all constitutional talks with the territories and, thus, the United Kingdom was committed to allowing each territory to run its own affairs to the greatest degree possible. But that brought with it responsibilities on the part of each Territory.
Regarding the Turks and Caicos Islands, in 2008 an independent commission of inquiry had been set up to look into corruption and found that there was a high probability of systemic corruption in government and the legislature among public officers. Since August 2009, much progress was made to reform and embed sound financial management across the structures and Government of Turks and Caicos. Considerable effort was made to reduce the Territory’s debt and put in place improved public finance management. The United Kingdom Government announced it would provide a temporary package of financial support, conditional on the Government strengthening its capacity to manage public finances. Finally, he commented on the measures his Government made to ensure sound financial regulation and responsible economic management in the Overseas Territories. The British Government continued to encourage the Territories to meet internationally recognized finance standards agreed by the Group of 20 (G-20).
GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ ( Peru) expressed support for the efforts of the Organization aimed at eradicating the world’s existing colonial situations. However, fifty years after the adoption of resolution 1514 (XV), it had still not achieved its objective. Indeed, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained. It was important to evaluate each individual situation of decolonization, and he called for the various administering Powers to cooperate with the process.
It was necessary that the Special Committee speed up the process of decolonization and facilitate the growth of economies in colonized territories. Two aspects needed to be achieved towards achieving that goal, namely political will and decision making on a case-by-case basis. This was particularly important when taking into account the context of globalization and the challenges faced by countries due to the current economic and financial crises.
With regard to the case of the Malvinas islands, his delegation associated itself with the statement delivered on behalf of MERCOSUR, recognizing the legitimate right of Argentina in that regard. As had been stated in all meetings of the Special Committee sine 1964, there was no other possible solution outside direct negotiations between the parties, and once those were conducted, parties must refrain from making unilateral changes to the current situation in the islands. Colonialism stood in the way, dampening down the social, cultural, and economic development of peoples, and flew in the face of the goal of universal peace which was the purpose of the United Nations, he said.
DIEUDONNE MABOUNDOU ( Congo) said that since the creation of the United Nations, millions of people had exerted their right to self-determination, and more than 80 territories had gained independence. Yet, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained. With the international community set to shortly celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Decolonization, the Congo would reaffirm its commitment to the inalienable right to self-determination and independence of the peoples remaining in such Territories.
He went on to request that the Administering Powers strengthen their cooperation with the Special Committee on Decolonization, and said that Western Sahara was one of the last Non-Self-Governing Territories on the African continent. As that was the case, he reiterated his Government’s support for the work of the Secretary-General personal Envoy on the Western Sahara and insisted on the need to finalize the decolonization process in all 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories before the end of the Third International Decade for the Elimination of Colonization.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom, responding to remarks made by a number of delegations, said his Government had no doubts about its sovereignty in the Falkland Islands, and that there could be no negotiations unless and until the islanders so wished. He said that the British Government attached great importance to the issue, as had been set out in Article 1.2 of the United Nations Charter and Article One of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which underlined the situation in the Falkland Islands.
The United Kingdom’s relationship to all its overseas territories was a modern one based on partnership, and the decision for self-determination was given to the populations of those territories, including the Falklands. Members of that population had visited the United Nations for last year’s debate, and had asked the Committee to recognize that they, like any other people, were entitled to exercise their right to self-determination. They reiterated the fact that the islands had no indigenous peoples and that no other population had been removed when they settled there eight generations ago. That population wished to develop its hydrocarbon industry, and it was the right of all peoples to dispose of their natural wealth and resources to their own ends. By no means could a people be deprived of its means of subsistence, he added.
Responding, the representative of Argentina said that since the United Kingdom’s speaker had referred to the Malvinas Islands, he would reiterate — as had the Argentine Foreign Minister in statements delivered to the Special Committee on Decolonization on 24 June last year — that the Malvinas Islands and surrounding region were an integral part of the national territory of Argentina, occupied by the United Kingdom. That situation amounted to a sovereignty dispute between the two countries, as recognized by various international organizations. Various resolutions of the General Assembly had recognized the existence of a sovereignty dispute in the Malvinas, and he urged the British Government to renew negotiations as soon as possible in order to find a just, peaceful and lasting solution.
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