|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
2nd Meeting (PM)
‘No Effort Should Be Spared to Fulfil Dream of All Peoples to Self-Determination’,
Fourth Committee Hears as It Opens Annual Debate on Decolonization
Calling Decolonization ‘One of Most Defining Issues’ of Twentieth Century,
Committee Chair Urges End to Colonialism for Non-Self-Governing Territories
Decolonization was one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century, and the untiring efforts of United Nations had ensured that nearly all of the world’s population no longer lived under colonial rule, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told as it began its annual general debate on that issue.
However, that task was not yet complete, the Committee’s Chair, Simona Mirela Miculescu (Romania), told delegations as Member States were urged to continue their common endeavour to bring an end to colonialism for the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list.
No effort should be spared in ensuring that the numerous United Nations resolutions on decolonization were implemented and that the dream of all peoples to self-determination was fulfilled, Lesotho’s representative said. Regarding one such Non-Self-Governing Territory, Western Sahara, he supported the mediation efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy and urged the parties to commence formal negotiations without delay, saying that the time for concluding that issue was long overdue.
He also called for allocation of adequate financial resources for the Special Committee on Decolonization within the regular budget, and appealed to that Committee to craft tailored solutions that took into account the varied circumstances involved. Administering Powers must evince renewed political will to end colonialism and to show good faith in negotiations, and adequate funding should be provided to the Department of Public Information to disseminate information to local populations on the available political options.
Chile’s representative, on behalf of the Rio Group, urged resumption of negotiations regarding the Malvinas islands to find a peaceful and definitive solution as soon as possible to that dispute, as well as to the questions of sovereignty over South Georgias and South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas.
He further said that the actions of the United Kingdom in exploring and exploiting hydrocarbons in areas of the Argentine continental shelf ran counter to General Assembly resolution 31/49, which called on the parties to avoid unilateral modifications to the Territory before a resolution could be reached.
Also on that issue, Argentina’s representative said that further delay of the application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was a continuing source of a lack of harmony, created “a dangerous situation” in various parts of the world, and posed a threat to international peace and security. The sovereignty dispute in the Malvinas islands was an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.
It was a “peculiar and particular colonial situation”, he said, since there was not a subjugated population in the South Atlantic, but rather British subjects whose situation had not changed since the United Kingdom had put them there. Thus, there existed a colonial situation, but not a colonized people.
Countering that claim, the United Kingdom’s representative said his country’s relationship with the Territories it administered was based on the choices of the people, and that it would not force populations into independence. Where they wished to keep the link, the British Government would assist the Territories with development and good governance, according to the specific conditions of each Territory.
He stressed that good governance was the central theme in the United Kingdom’s engagement with Territories. Where Territories were felt to fail in that area, the issue would be addressed and occasionally intervention would take place, such as had been the case with the Turks and Caicos Islands. Milestones had been identified that must be attained before the Islands were able to return to elected Government, and a new Constitution that would underpin good governance had been completed.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt, Uruguay, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Nicaragua, China, Comoros, Brazil and Benin.
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. The Acting Chair of the Special Committee also spoke.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 4 October, to continue its debate on decolonization issues.
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual debate on a collection 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 2011 (document A/66/23). For information about the Committee’s agenda and programme of work, see Press Release GA/SPD/477.
At its sixty-fifth session in 2010, the General Assembly adopted its resolution 65/117, thereby requesting the Special Committee to continue to seek suitable means for the immediate and full implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and to carry out the actions approved by the Assembly regarding the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism in all Territories that had not yet exercised their right to self-determination, including independence. In addition to that text, the Assembly adopted 10 other resolutions and a decision, all listed in the report, relating to specific items considered by the Special Committee in 2010.
The wide-ranging report also outlines the Special Committee’s consideration of specific issues and actions taken on related draft resolutions during its 2011 session, including on the dissemination of information on decolonization, sending visiting and special missions to Territories, and a Special Committee decision of June 2010 concerning Puerto Rico, among others. The territories discussed in the report include 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/66/65/Add.1), 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/66/260) was also before delegations. Covering the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, it summarizes the report submitted to the Security Council earlier (document S/2011/249). In it, the Secretary-General informed the Council of the activities of his Personal Envoy to promote negotiations on Western Sahara, and included some new ideas for the parties’ consideration.
Also according to the report, the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011 was one of intensified activity with the parties, neighbouring States, and the international community. By the end of the five rounds of informal talks, the parties had agreed to future discussion of factors affecting the negotiating atmosphere, as well as of specific subjects of mutual interest. However, while they had succeeded in conducting their exchanges on the basis of a respectful give and take dialogue and committed themselves to meeting more frequently, no progress was registered on the core issues of the future status of Western Sahara.
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/66/63). It contains information submitted by the list of such agencies that were invited to describe their efforts to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions.
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 (A/66/68 and Add.1), which delineates the valuable contributions being made by countries to the educational advancement for the inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Committee Chair SIMONA MIRELA MICULESCU (Romania) said the cause of decolonization had been one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century. That was due to the untiring efforts of the United Nations, particularly its Special Committee on Decolonization. Now, nearly all of the world’s population was no longer under colonial rule. After the 1960 adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the following year, the Assembly had decided to set up the Special Committee to monitor the implementation of that Declaration.
She said that, thanks to that Committee, known as the “C-24” and composed of 29 Member States, and its unstinting efforts, many of the territories formally on the United Nations list were now sovereign and independent nations. The task was not yet complete, however, and the Fourth Committee must continue the common endeavour in the spirit of cooperation among all parties involved to bring an end to colonialism for the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), Special Committee Rapporteur, introduced that body’s report (document A/66/23), expressing confidence in this year’s General Assembly session and extending gratitude to the United Nations Secretary-General for his support. He also thanked the Department of Political Affairs, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management and the Department of Public Information for helping the Committee to implement its mandate.
Speaking in his capacity as Acting 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, PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said that decolonization had been simultaneously one of the first and possibly one of the most controversial issues before the General Assembly, and was in urgent need of resolution. There were still many Non-Self-Governing Territories, and progress must be made on a case-by-case basis. The Committee should go beyond the ritualized affirmation of commitments, and take constructive action based on meaningful dialogue.
Noting that this was the first year of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, he said that the decade’s plan of action established clear roles for the different stakeholders involved in the decolonization process. Timor-Leste had been the only territory decolonized since 1988. In the Second Decade, the two referendums held in Tokelau, through the close cooperation between the Committee and New Zealand, could set an example. As for recent efforts, he thanked the Government and peoples of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for hosting the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization this year.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the fundamental and inalienable right of peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as well as those under foreign occupation and colonial domination, to self-determination in accordance with the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions. The Movement regretted that decolonization remained incomplete, and affirmed that the elimination of colonialism should remain one of the priorities of the United Nations, as stated in the Movement’s recommendations. The Third Decade should send the right message and encourage all parties involved to speed up their work with the aim of achieving tangible results.
The Movement, he said, urged all administering Powers to pay full compensation for the economic, social and cultural consequences of their occupation as fulfilment of the rights of the peoples subjected to colonial rule. He 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 territories and to promote development, self-determination and respect for the cultural heritage of the territories. He further urged Member States to fully implement the decisions and resolutions of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concerning the return of cultural properties to peoples that were subjected to occupation.
Urging the administering Powers to cooperate with the Committee and grant full support for its activities, he reaffirmed the Movement’s position on the right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination, and called on the General Assembly to actively consider the question in all its aspects. Serious efforts were required to guarantee the inalienable rights of all peoples for self-determination, including the Palestinian people, whom he said had been denied for decades of their right to their own independent, viable and sovereign State on the basis of the two-State solution and relevant international agreements.
OCTAVIO ERRAZURIZ (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, called on the administering Powers to take the necessary measures to promptly achieve the decolonization of each of the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, taking into consideration each situation on a case-by-case basis, including those that involved sovereignty disputes. The Group also called on the administering Powers to give all cooperation and provide all necessary information to the territories under their administration. In that light, he voiced appreciation for the efforts of the Department of Public Information as well as the relevant website of the Department of Political Affairs to disseminate information on United Nations efforts to achieve decolonization.
He reiterated the Group’s strong support for the rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom over the Malvinas islands, as well as the region’s support for the resumption of negotiations between the two to find a peaceful and definitive solution to that dispute as soon as possible, as well as to the questions of sovereignty over South Georgias and South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas in accordance with the relevant resolutions and declarations of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, mindful of the principle of territorial integrity. In regard to actions of the United Kingdom in exploring and exploiting hydrocarbons in areas of the Argentine continental shelf, he underlined General Assembly resolution 31/49, which called on the parties to avoid unilateral modifications in the situation. The Group rejected military activities of that country in the Malvinas.
Recalling the long history in the Special Committee of the question of Puerto Rico, he said that resolutions from that body reaffirmed the inalienable right of the people there to self-determination. Concerning the small-island territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific, the Group considered it important to continue to adopt measures to facilitate sustainable development progressively leading to self-determination. Special attention should be paid to such problems as loss of territory through climate change and natural disasters.
Regarding Western Sahara, the Group reaffirmed all Assembly and Security Council resolutions and strongly supported efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people in the context of agreements consistent with the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions of the Organization. He trusted that the recent rounds of informal meetings would lead to more intense and substantive negotiations and to a definitive solution. He encouraged the parties to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in facilitating family visits.
LILIÁN SILVEIRA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), reaffirmed the support of that group to the statements made by the President of Argentina in 1996 and by the President of Paraguay in 1999 concerning the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas. She reaffirmed MERCOSUR’s support for the legitimate rights of Argentina, and said that the adoption of unilateral measures by the United Kingdom in the territory was not compatible with the United Nations stipulations.
She said the United Kingdom was conducting illegal hydrocarbon mining activities on the Argentine continental shelf, and all measures must be adopted to prevent those ships from “flying the illegal flag of the Malvinas islands”. She urged the Secretary-General to renew his efforts through successive resolutions to re-launch negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the dispute.
She rejected a recent statement made by the British Minister of Defence, and said the United Kingdom continued to ignore the calls of the international community to sit down with Argentina to solve the dispute. She affirmed that those statements by the United Kingdom showed, once again, an attitude in contrast with the decisions of the region, which leant support to Argentina’s claims regarding its legitimate sovereignty rights. In 1833, the United Kingdom had expelled the Argentine population and had prevented Argentineans from returning to the islands to this day. The United Kingdom had brought in British subjects who did not respond to the criterion of subjected peoples, according to resolution 1514, giving rise to a colonial territory with no colonial population.
MOTLATSI RAMAFOLE (Lesotho), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that as his country celebrated tomorrow the forty-fifth anniversary of its independence, it could not help but recognize the importance of the United Nations work in decolonization. The Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism should provide an opportunity to reflect on the obstacles encountered during previous periods and build on achievements made. No effort should be spared in ensuring that the numerous resolutions on decolonization were implemented and that the dream of all peoples to self-determination was fulfilled. He called on Committee members to strengthen the body’s resolve to fully eradicate colonialism in all its manifestations.
In regard to Western Sahara, he supported the mediation efforts of the Secretary-General and his Envoy, and he urged the parties to commence formal negotiations without delay, saying that the time for concluding that issue was long overdue. He also called for allocation of adequate financial resources for the Special Decolonization Committee within the regular budget, appealing to that Committee to craft tailored solutions for all Non-Self-Governing Territories, taking into account the varied circumstances involved. He urged the administering Powers to evince renewed political will to end colonialism and to show good faith in negotiations. Adequate funding, in addition, should be provided to the Department of Public Information to disseminate information to the local populations on the available political options.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal) said he hoped for a rapid end to all vestiges of colonialism, following a period in which the process had been delayed. The Committee should ensure that the Administering Powers fulfilled their obligations. It was urgent to deal with Western Sahara, given the importance of the Magreb. The fraternal relations of all countries in the region should be strengthened for that purpose. He welcomed Morocco’s recent initiatives in that regard, and he supported the mediation efforts of the Secretary-General and his Envoy. United Nations bodies must be further involved, and consensus must be reached on the resolution coming up in the Committee.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (C ôte d’Ivoire) encouraged parties involved in the decolonization process to firmly and resolutely undertake negotiations, and in that regard, he welcomed the Moroccan initiative of autonomy of 2007, which demonstrated serious credible efforts in order to bring about a realistic settlement. He urged parties to continue negotiations within the framework of talks held under United Nations auspices, in order to increase confidence.
He welcomed and leant support to the efforts taken by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, who had pursued in-depth consultations of the current positions of the parties in order to move to a more intense negotiating phase and promote a new cycle of direct talks. The status quo was unacceptable, and was beneficial to no party. It was therefore crucial for parties to take action, lay the basis for a constructive dialogue and bring about a resolution for the issue of Western Sahara.
DIEGO LIMERES (Argentina) said that further delay of the application of the Declaration was a continuing source of a lack of harmony, and created a dangerous situation in various parts of the world that could be a threat to international peace and security. The fiftieth anniversary of resolution 1514, as well as the launch of the Third International Decade, should encourage a redoubling of efforts to promote decolonization.
He stressed that the Declaration had made it clear that there was more than one form of colonialism. The two established cases included the need for self-determination on the one hand, and territorial integrity on the other. Argentina continued to staunchly defend the rights of people to self-determination, where that right was applicable. The sovereignty dispute in the Malvinas islands was an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation. That sovereignty dispute, existing over the Malvinas islands and surrounding areas, was of utmost relevance to Argentina.
“This is a peculiar and particular colonial situation”, he said, since there was not a population subjected or subjugated in the South Atlantic islands usurped from Argentina, but rather British subjects whose situation had not changed since the United Kingdom had put them there. Thus, there existed a colonial situation, but not a colonized people. The British transplanted populations could not rightly claim the right to self-determination in the Malvinas islands, as that amounted to the United Kingdom “claiming self-determination for itself”. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom carried out the exploitation of resources in the area, in contravention of agreements which expressly forbid unilateral modifications to the Territory while the issue remained unsettled. Furthermore, that Power had conducted military exercises from the Territory of the Malvinas islands, which ran contrary to full implementation of the maritime safety standard of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
All of those actions violated international law and the mandate of the international community. Argentina was confronted by British activities, which did not just affect that region, but beyond, and the international community must put an end to the preying on natural resources by colonial powers. He expressed Argentina’s permanent willingness to resume sovereignty negotiations, and said the United Kingdom must comply in order to resolve the dispute. The international community’s duty was to put an end to those “crimes”, and Argentina would extend its best efforts towards eradicating them for good.
PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) said his country’s relationship with Territories it administers was based on the choices of the respective people. It would not force people into independence. Where they wished to keep the link, the British Government would assist the Territories with development and good governance according to the specific conditions of each Territory. Work on modern constitutions was ongoing, and the fundamental structures were good. Now they must be made to work effectively, strengthening the engagement between the Territories and the United Kingdom, and facilitating assistance where necessary. The country was consulting with the peoples of the Territories to develop policies in that regard.
Good governance was the central theme in the United Kingdom’s engagement with Territories. Where Territories were felt to fail in that area, the issue would be addressed and occasionally, intervention would take place. The Turks and Caicos Islands was a case in point. Milestones had been identified that must be attained before the Islands were able to return to elected Government. He was pleased to announce that a new Constitution that would underpin good governance had been completed. A new Constitution for Montserrat had come into effect earlier this year as well.
DANILO ROSALES DÍAZ (Nicaragua), associating himself with the statements made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Rio Group, welcomed the holding of regional conferences and said he hoped to see increased cooperation with administrating Powers at them. As the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism began, it was necessary, he said, to redouble efforts to achieve its objective. Regarding Puerto Rico, the Committee must comply with its commitments and the General Assembly must examine the question comprehensively in all its aspects. A process must be facilitated by the administering Power that allowed the expression of self-determination. He called Puerto Rico “a brother in the fight against colonialism”, in which 8 million Latin American human beings still lived under the colonial yoke. He was sure that the day would come in which Puerto Rico would be a United Nations Member. He paid tribute to political leaders of the Territory, including those in prison.
He also called for resolution of the situation in the Malvinas in a manner that ended British colonialism in Latin America, supporting the recommencement of negotiations. He denounced what he called unilateral and illegal decisions by the United Kingdom to hold missile tests and exploit resources, which he said undermined any attempt at dialogue. Regarding Western Sahara, he hoped substantial talks would soon take place without conditions, so the Saharan people could exercise their right to self-determination, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the resolutions of the Organization’s major bodies.
WU RAO (China) said that assistance to colonial countries and peoples was a goal set out in the Charter, and an aim the Organization’s Member States should work towards. Through the assistance and support of the United Nations, decolonization had made historical progress since resolution 1514 had been adopted.
At present, there were still 2 million people living in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories around the world, and there was much to do to remedy the situation. Member States had an obligation to advocate for the rights of peoples in those Territories and help them attain their rights to self-determination. He expressed the hope that the Special Committee would continue to strengthen its contacts with Non-Self-Governing Territories and help achieve new progress in the decolonization process. Also, administering Powers should have close cooperation with the United Nations in that regard. The Chinese delegation continued to actively participate in the work of the Special Committee, and would cooperate closely with other Member States in order to conclude the historical mission entrusted by the Charter and the Declaration on decolonization.
SAID MOHAMED OUSSEIN (Comoros) said the conflict in Western Sahara had lasted for more than 30 years, comprising three decades of misunderstanding and intolerance, as well as its share of suffering and poverty for the women and men living there. It was essentially a “fratricidal conflict within the same nation”, and fuelled and promoted terrorist activities and collusion with trafficking of all kinds, which threatened the unity, peace and security of the entire region. It was essential to save the region from the dangers of terrorism and organized crime, and in that regard, he lent support to the Moroccan proposal for autonomy. That proposal, which had been described by the Security Council as both serious and credible, was a realistic, viable and wise option. It provided for all parties with undisputed guarantees for national cohesion. He called on all parties to move resolutely forward by pursuing, under United Nations auspices, a frank and fair dialogue, without which the efforts of the international community would remain in vain.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), fully associating herself with the statements made on behalf of MERCOSUR and the Rio Group, supported the rights of Argentina in the matter of the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich islands, calling it unfortunate that negotiations had not recommenced on the Malvinas. She also supported the good offices role of the Secretary-General on the issue. She termed the exploitation of resources and military activities undertaken by the United Kingdom in the Malvinas illegal and unilateral. She called on the United Kingdom to heed the appeals of the international community and to restart talks. She hoped that the beginning of the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism would achieve its goals.
THIERRY ALIA (Benin), noting that he had just arrived to the meeting, took the floor to briefly agree with the points that had been made thus far.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom said her country had no doubt regarding the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. There could be no negotiations on that sovereignty if the population of the Islands did not so wish. The democratically elected representatives of that population had made clear to the Special Committee their wishes and their claim to the right to self-determination. They confirmed that they were the only residents of the islands, which had never had an indigenous population, and affirmed their rights to exploit the resources of their islands for their own benefit. Routine military exercises were held as part of efforts to ensure the security of the population of the island.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Argentina said that the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas, were an integral part of Argentina’s territory and were illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, as acknowledged by different international organizations. The illegal occupation by the United Kingdom had led the General Assembly to adopt different resolutions recognizing the existence of the sovereignty dispute over the question of the Malvinas islands. Those resolutions urged the parties to restart negotiations in order to find a speedy, peaceful and lasting solution to the dispute. The Organization of American States in June had made a new pronouncement in similar terms.
He said it was regrettable that the British Government twisted historic events to cover up its own act of invasion. The United Kingdom should honour the commitment to find a fair and definitive solution to the dispute, in order to accept responsibility. The principle of self-determination of peoples was the only element for the basis of the United Kingdom’s claims, which was totally inapplicable to this particular dispute. He regretted that the United Kingdom continued to be irresponsible and to act based on the illicit appropriation of Argentine resources in violation of international law and in contravention of international agreements. He reaffirmed Argentina’s legitimate sovereignty rights over the islands and the surrounding maritime areas, which were an integral part of Argentine national territory.
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