With Possibility Looming of Another ‘Lost Decade’ for Decolonization Process, Speakers in Fourth Committee Press for Concrete Actions to End Colonialism
With Possibility Looming of Another ‘Lost Decade’ for Decolonization Process, Speakers in Fourth Committee Press for Concrete Actions to End Colonialism
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
5th Meeting (PM)
With Possibility Looming of Another ‘Lost Decade’ for Decolonization Process,
Speakers in Fourth Committee Press for Concrete Actions to End Colonialism
Committee Also Hears Petitioners on Question of Western Sahara,
With Speakers Urging Stepped-up Efforts to Protect Human Rights of Saharan People
The many decolonization achievements of the United Nations over the years could not be considered truly global while some peoples continued to live under colonial rule, Jamaica’s representative told the Fourth Committee today as it continued its consideration of decolonization issues.
Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), that representative said it was unfortunate that efforts by the United Nations to accelerate decolonization in 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories had slipped from “unfinished” business to an “un-attended agenda”. The Organization and its Member States must prevent another “lost decade” for the decolonization process, he said.
“Actions must go beyond the mere reaffirmation of support for the principles of self-determination,” he said, calling on Member States to work together and to demonstrate unequivocally their commitment to implementing the relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter dealing with self-determination and decolonization.
As the Committee heard the remaining petitioners on the question of Western Sahara at the start of the meeting, one speaker lamented the broad lack of awareness of that forgotten conflict around the world, and stressed that such ignorance was allowing the situation to continue. That fact underlined the importance of international solidarity campaigns as part of a wider global movement calling for human rights monitoring, a referendum and an international trading agreement that complied with international law, he said.
Other speakers drew attention to conflicts which were arising between Saharans and “Moroccan settlers” in the region. One speaker noted that, due to frustrations of a “jobless and penniless” isolated settler population, clashes could flare up at the slightest spark, when those settlers could take out their frustrations on the Western Saharans, who were not protected by the authorities. He said the divide between the Moroccan settlers and the Western Saharans was growing wider and wider — despite the similarities of their situation — creating grievances that could lead to an outbreak of violence at any time.
Recently in the city of Dakhla, violence had erupted in a series of “night operations”, which included hunting and capturing Saharans, the destruction of their properties, and sexual abuse, one speaker noted. Another speaker said that in May, when thousands of Saharan people had gathered peacefully in Gdeim Izik near El Aaiun to set up a Dignity Camp, that gathering had been “violently repressed”, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. He was among those that called for the human rights monitoring to be integrated into the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
A representative of the Polisario Front said that, during the 16 years of combat prior to the ceasefire in 1991, the Moroccan army had engaged in a “scorched earth” policy and extermination, and with time, its settlers became auxiliary forces in the punitive operations, which had included hunting down and capturing the Saharans in the occupied zones. The “collusion” among the former colonial Power, Spain, the Moroccan army and settlers had invaded Western Sahara in successive waves.
Despite such clear challenges, one speaker said that Algeria and Morocco were currently discussing the reopening of their border, closed since 1994. The leaders of those countries had expressed the political will to begin a new page in their relations. In addition, he said that an important Polisario representative had “bravely supported” the Moroccan plan for autonomy. He, therefore, called on the wider international community to support the autonomy plan, as well as negotiations between the parties.
During the general debate on decolonization that followed, Kenya’s representative said that the natural resources of Non-Self-Governing Territories were also the heritage of their indigenous peoples. In that light, the United Nations needed to ensure that economic activities carried out by administering Powers did not harm their rights. Rather, they should promote the socio‑economic development of those populations.
Cuba’s representative said that this year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Special Committee on Decolonization. While the Fourth Committee was continuing to step up dialogue with administering Powers, it was troubling that some Powers continued to fail to cooperate with the Decolonization Committee, neglecting their obligations according to the United Nations Charter.
Also speaking along those lines, Peru’s representative said that, since the adoption of the Declaration 50 years ago, more than 80 territories had gained independence. As this year also marked the start of the Third International Decade, this should foster a greater capacity for decision‑making and action. The principle of self-determination trumped any other principle, and he reiterated that political will and adoption of a case‑by‑case approach were crucial to speedy resolution of the decolonization problem.
Also speaking during the general debate were the representatives of Guyana, Guatemala (on behalf of Union of South American Nations), Venezuela, Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Iran, India, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and Kyrgyzstan.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the United Kingdom and Argentina.
The Fourth Committee will meet again on Monday, 10 October, to continue its consideration of decolonization issues.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to continue its consideration of all decolonization issues. It was expected to hear the remaining petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, and to continue its general debate. For background on those topics, please see Press Release GA/SPD/478 of 3 October.
Question of Western Sahara
STEFANO VACCARI, member, local government of Modena Province, Italy, said that in October 2010, within the territories occupied by Morocco, thousands of Saharan people gathered peacefully in Gdeim Izik near El Aaiun to set up a Dignity Camp. That camp was repressed violently, resulting in numerous deaths. The Moroccan Government had been repressing peaceful protests, hiding prisoners, or accusing innocents. It was, therefore, necessary to ask the Fourth Committee and the General Assembly to get involved. The protection of fundamental human rights in the occupied territories should be integrated into the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
If there had been no violations, as Morocco had claimed, he asked, why had journalists, representatives of the European Parliament and delegations from other countries been denied access to the occupied territories? Referring to the 1975 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, which noted that Western Sahara was not legally tied to Morocco, he said that Morocco had no right to claim that its territorial integrity “must not be questioned”.
He added that starting in the latter half of the 1980s, while Morocco had occupied two thirds of that territory, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic had become a member of the Organization of African Unity (OUA), then a founder state of the African Union. In 1988, Morocco, under United Nations auspices, had come to an agreement with the Polisario, recognizing the decolonization problem and agreeing to the self-determination referendum. But Morocco went on to refuse the plan — not even recognizing the Polisario as a negotiating party. Morocco had instead advanced autonomy proposals. There can be no self-determination without a referendum. Sixty‑three years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Saharan people needed an answer; one which fully respected human rights.
ANTHONY JEAN, Association des Amis de la Republique Arabe du Sahara Democratique, spoke of his visit to the Dignity Camp. Twenty thousand Saharans were present in the camp despite heavy army presence outside. There was no electricity in the camp and the antennas had been brought down to prevent communication. He had taken pictures and video and conducted several hours of interviews.
He had seen the Moroccan army kill a 14‑year‑old. Everyone in the camp had come there of their own will to call for socio-economic rights such as the right to work, right to housing, and the right to assemble. An organizing committee had distributed tasks to the inhabitants of the camp while a dialogue committee organized assemblies inside to inform everyone of the status of negotiations with Morocco. The camp was self-regulated, with families in charge of trash collection and food distribution. The army tried to block supplies to the camp and forbade the entry of water trucks, new tents and sanitary equipment.
He said that the great courage of the Western Saharans was evident everywhere. He hailed the fact that a people oppressed for 35 years had undertaken an act of popular resistance of such scope. More than 20,000 people had come from the desert to ask for their rights. Several had been taken as political prisoners. In November 2010, the camp had been violently dismantled and the number of victims remained unknown. In closing, he added that he had not come to New York to denounce oppression, but merely to bear witness to the unity and solidarity of the Saharan people. The international community must consider that in their discussions regarding Western Sahara.
Monsignor JEAN ABBOUD said that Algeria and Morocco were currently discussing the reopening of their border, closed since 1994. The new dialogue of recent months had been carried out by swapping official visits. Those countries’ leaders had expressed the political will to begin a new page in their relations. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had said that the problem of Western Sahara was a United Nations problem. Morocco was a brother and a neighbour country, and both nations needed to cooperate. King Mohammed VI of Morocco had invited the population of the Sahara to manage itself through legislative, executive and judiciary bodies, and, endowed with special jurisdiction, the population would find the resolution necessary for development. It would also take part in an active manner in the economic and social life of the Kingdom. Mustapha Salma, an important figure in the Polisario, had bravely supported the Moroccan plan for autonomy, which had come long before the current discussion between those two countries. He had described the situation in the camps as degrading endlessly, with the impasse of all solutions to the question of Western Sahara.
He called on all nations to support the project for autonomy, and further called on nations to encourage the practice of negotiations between the parties, extolling the virtue of a policy that was realistic and based on compromise. He also encouraged parties to discuss with the brotherly countries the efforts to reopen the land border closed since 1994. He hoped that at the end of the conflict, the Nobel Prize would be given to King Mohammed VI, President Bouteflika, and Mustapha Salma.
AHMED BOUKHARI, Polisario Front, said that colonialism had not yet been eliminated from Africa, the proof of which lay in his country — Western Sahara — the last colony on the agenda of the Fourth Committee. The “collusion” among the former colonial Power, Spain, the Moroccan army and settlers had invaded Western Sahara in successive waves. During 16 years of combat prior to the ceasefire in 1991, the invading army was engaged in a “scorched earth” policy and extermination, and with time, its settlers became auxiliary forces in the punitive operations, which had included hunting down and capturing the Saharans in the occupied zones.
That was what the world had seen in the assault on and dismantling of Gdeim Izik, the Saharan people’s huge protest camp, last November. The coming together of that protest had been an immediate precursor to the Arab Spring, and had resulted in deaths, and dozens being injured and detained, including young women subjected to repeated rape by their guardians and jailers. The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) had not been able to monitor the situation in the camps, because Moroccan authorities impeded its access. That tragedy had stretched to the city of Dakhla as of 25 September, where injuries and deaths were occurring due to the unleashing of “night operations”, which included hunting and capturing Saharans, the destruction of their properties, and sexual abuse. Western Sahara remained a shameful case for the universal conscience. The territory had been waiting 35 years for a referendum, and Western Sahara could not be an exception to the general principle guiding colonized peoples towards their freedom and independence.
STEFAN SIMANOWITZ, All Party Parliamentary Group, said he had first gone to the Algerian refugee camps in 2009 as a journalist, and had been shocked by the abject conditions as he had previously been unaware of the camps’ existence. His ignorance reflected a wider lack of awareness of the forgotten conflict around the world, and it was that very ignorance which had allowed the conflict to continue. “This is why the international solidarity campaigns are so important,” he said, noting that in Britain, the Western Sahara Campaign UK worked closely with other organizations to increase awareness about the situation. That campaign was part of a wider global solidarity movement. Together, those groups were calling for human rights monitoring, a referendum and an international trading agreement that complied with international law.
JEFFREY SMITH, Western Sahara Resource Watch, said that he wished to address the matter of natural resources and had a few recommendations to help assess how the Saharan people could realize their right to self‑determination. There were four key natural resources in the Western Sahara. The taking of fine sand and petroleum exploration were of relative unimportance. In comparison, offshore fishing and phosphate mining contributed to the occupation of Western Sahara.
He said that the taking of the Saharan fishery under a European‑ Morocco agreement and by a 2010 Morocco‑ Russia treaty earned Morocco about €50 million annually. The export of phosphate from occupied Western Sahara was “a greater economic prize”. A production of 3 million tonnes resulted in a current gross annual revenue of more than €400 million. In contrast, Morocco spent very little on economic development in the occupied territory. The trade in the resources legitimized Morocco’s occupation and enriched Morocco, allowing its occupation to be financed. More seriously, the trade deprived the Saharans of the future benefit of their resources.
Two areas of law applied to Morocco’s liability in that, he continued. The first was the right of non‑self‑governing people to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources. The second area of law was international humanitarian law, applicable to peoples under occupation. Morocco had acceded to the Fourth Geneva Convention 65 years ago and was a party to the law prohibiting the taking of natural resources from territories under occupation. The war crime of “pillage” was well‑defined in the Statue of the International Criminal Court and various international precedents.
The speaker also said that it was imperative upon the United Nations, despite awkwardness to Member States, to recognize the formal complicity of the European Union and the Russian Federation in concluding treaties to fish in Saharan waters. It was also imperative to act positively to ensure self‑determination for the people of Sahara in the decisive manner of the General Assembly when it had sought and received an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the “ Palestine wall”. The speaker recommended that the Committee should regard the illegal removal of natural resources from the Sahara carefully and determine if the precedent of the United Nations‑established Council for Namibia was applicable to the question of Western Sahara.
HASSAN OMAR HASSAN, Commissioner, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights spoke of the Kenyan model as an example for bringing resolution to the problem of Western Sahara. Kenya had adopted a new Constitution in August 2010, and further reforms were on the way through the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process. As a result, the people of the East African region were moving steadfastly towards political integration.
Morocco, similarly, had adopted a new Constitution during a time of great political turmoil in the Middle East, he said. The new Constitution respected fundamental human rights and prohibited discrimination. Regarding local governance, the Constitution envisaged Morocco as a decentralized State based on regionalization and also recognized Morocco’s cultural diversity. By submitting the Autonomy Plan for the Sahara region, Morocco had provided a “robust framework for the resolution of the Sahara state”. The Security Council had welcomed the initiative as a serious and credible initiative in six consecutive resolutions. The speaker concluded by urging the international community to pursue the Autonomy Plan, saying that it would guarantee justice and human rights.
NOUREDDINE BELLALI, Association Al Mostakbal, said the now‑crumbling system that had been put in place by Muammar al‑Qadhafi in Libya was a prime example of “the movement of contemporary history”. That “tyrannical regime” had fallen, and the world was now aware of the false declarations and mottos it had proclaimed. Qadhafi’s regime had tightened its grip on the Libyan people and seized tremendous wealth, distributing it among family members and sending financial support to armed groups throughout the world. He congratulated the Libyan people on their patience and courage that had led to the fall of that regime. He questioned the destiny of the groups to which Qadhafi had given weaponry and political support. He said those “orphans” included the Polisario, which had received support and weaponry from the Qadhafi regime to destabilize the Kingdom of Morocco. The Polisario’s loyalty to that regime was not a secret. Those who sold themselves to the devil paid little heed to scandal or shame.
UlYSSES SMITH, Bar Association of the City of New York, said that two years ago the group’s United Nations Committee had begun to study the legal issues involved in the dispute over Western Sahara in order to give policy guidance to the United States Government. Based on information available to the Association, Morocco’s activities relating to oil and gas were only exploratory and had not become exploitative. To the extent that that was the case, such activities arguably continued to be consistent with Morocco’s obligations under international law. However, to the extent that such activities were expanded to include extraction of oil and/or gas from the territory, such extraction would be unlawful unless it was done in consultation with, and to the benefit of, the people of Western Sahara.
JESUS LOZA AGUIRRE, President of the Intergrupos Paz y Libertad para el Sahara Occidental de los Parlamentos Autonomicos de Espana, said 20 years after the settlement plan, everything remained the same, which, in fact, meant that everything was worse. The recent serious situation in Dakhla was the consequence of a situation that flared up at the slightest spark, and occurred in places where an isolated population had settled. Such settlers were jobless and penniless, and took out their frustrations on the local Western Saharans, who were not protected by the authorities. The divide between the Moroccan settlers and the Western Saharans was growing wider and wider — despite the similarities of their situation — creating grievances that could lead to an outbreak of violence at any time.
George Talbot (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), said that the international community was at a significant juncture in the decolonization process as it embarked on the Third International Decade. The existence of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories bore testimony to the incomplete nature of the decolonization process. The member States of UNASUR would continue to support the work and activities of the Committee.
The question of the Malvinas islands was of special importance to the member States of UNASUR. In a letter sent to the Secretary-General on 2 April 2011, UNASUR had reaffirmed its strong support for the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas. The letter also spoke of the region’s abiding interest in an agreement by the United Kingdom to resume negotiations with Argentina. UNASUR, therefore, had requested the Secretary-General to renew his efforts to resume negotiations and keep UNASUR Governments informed of his progress.
He also said that at a special UNASUR summit in 2010, the group had called on the Government of the United Kingdom to refrain from taking decisions that would imply unilateral modifications during a time when the islands were going through the process recommended by the General Assembly. At the same summit, UNASUR States had committed themselves to adopting appropriate regulatory measures to prevent the entry, into their ports, of vessels flying the illegal flag of the Malvinas, and informing the Argentine Government about any vessel travelling to the Malvinas with cargo to be used for illegal hydrocarbons, and/or mining activities in the Argentine continental shelf.
He said that in 2010, UNASUR States had protested the British Government’s intent to conduct military exercises in the territory of the Malvinas. He concluded by recalling the region’s abiding interest in the resumption of negotiations between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom, and recognizing the willingness of Argentina to resume the process of the negotiations as soon as possible.
RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said decolonization remained an important area of United Nations activity. However, it was part of the Organization’s unfinished agenda, and the many achievements of the United Nations over the years could not be considered truly global while some peoples continued to live under colonial rule. Six of the Non‑Self‑ Governing Territories were in the Caribbean, and thus the issue was of special importance to his delegation. Unfortunately, decolonization had moved from the “unfinished” agenda to the “un‑attended agenda”. Working together, the United Nations and its Member States needed to prevent another “lost decade” for the decolonization process.
He said that actions need to go beyond the mere reaffirmation of support for the principles of self‑determination, and must unequivocally demonstrate the commitment to implementing the relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter governing self‑determination and decolonization. He expressed concern over the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in which United Kingdom, the administering Power, had dissolved the Government and legislature of the territory, and had suspended the right to trial by jury. It had replaced the elected government with direct rule, which was in direct violation of the principle of self-determination.
Regarding Western Sahara, he expressed support for the ongoing informal talks between the concerned parties. He encouraged those parties to negotiate in a spirit of compromise and sincere commitment, and hoped that the upcoming talks would pave the way to more substantive negotiations between all parties with the objective of reaching a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution to this protracted conflict. When it came to decolonization matters, he said, the price of the status quo was far greater than the price of change. The international community could not continue to pay the price of constant repetition without concrete results. Rather, the world must challenge itself to ensure that the Third International Decade was a successful one for the colonized countries and peoples.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala),aligning his statement with those made earlier on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Rio Group, stated his country’s firm support for the legitimate rights of Argentina over the Malvinas islands in the sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom. The United Nations had been the primary catalyst for the decolonization of many Non-Self-Governing Territories in keeping with Assembly resolution 1514. Yet, it had not been able to achieve complete decolonization, and one of the 16 Territories that awaited decolonization was the Malvinas islands.
Guyana recognized that there were special and particular features that set the case of the Malvinas islands apart from classic decolonization cases. There was a sovereignty dispute, since the territorial integrity of Argentina had been broken in 1833 and the Malvinas islands had been occupied by force. The Argentine population and authorities were then expelled and not allowed to return. The United Kingdom had transferred its own population to that stretch of Argentine land. Therefore, this was the case of “a colonized territory but not a colonized population”. The United Nations, bearing in mind that special and particular nature, had discarded the principle of self-determination in this matter. At the same time, he said, there was concern over the United Kingdom’s unilateral activities in the Argentine continental shelf in violation of Assembly resolution 31/49.
Guatemala supported the mandates in force, established by the Committee and the General Assembly with regard to the question of the Malvinas islands. Noting that Argentina had expressed an ongoing and permanent will to resolve this dispute, the speaker expressed the hope that Argentina and the United Kingdom would renew bilateral negotiations towards a fair and lasting solution.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said that since the adoption of resolution 1514, major advances had taken place in the field of decolonization. However, there were still colonial situations; countries and territories that were occupied by foreign Powers, violating the rules and principles of international law and human rights. Cases such as Western Sahara and Puerto Rico, as well as the dispute over the sovereignty of the Malvinas islands, were still pending, which contravened the spirit and purpose of the United Nations Charter. He stressed the importance of the question of Puerto Rico, which had been considered for more than 36 years by the Special Committee on Decolonization. The peoples of that Territory constituted a Latin American and Caribbean nation, which had its own and unequivocal national identity. Thus, the Assembly should consider the question of Puerto Rico in a comprehensive way and in all its aspects.
British colonial and military interventions in 1833, and later in 1892, took place because of the occupation of the Malvinas, South Georgia, South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas, he said. Those were indisputable examples of colonial and imperial practices. It could easily be seen that this was not a subjugated population by a colonial Power but, on the contrary, British inhabitants whose condition had not changed for the years they had resided there. He rejected the fact that military exercises, including rocket fire, were performed in the territory of the Malvinas islands, in violation of resolution 31/49 and hampering fulfilment of the regulations governing maritime safety of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said that it was of special importance to Mexico that the United Nations continued to be fully involved with decolonization, especially at the beginning of the Third International Decade and the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Committee. One of the pending questions in the area was the Western Sahara. Mexico supported the efforts to find a fair and lasting solution in step with the pertinent Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. In order to achieve Western Sahara’s right to self-determination, Mexico supported the holding of a referendum that provided three choices, including independence, autonomy, or integration.
Further, she noted, the twentieth anniversary of MINURSO was an opportunity to listen to the will and voice of the Saharan people. It was especially important that MINURSO have a mandate for human rights monitoring in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camp. Mexico had insisted on that during its tenure as an elected member of the Security Council. Mexico also supported the efforts of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy Christopher Ross, and hoped that the holding of informal talks might lead to a new definitive round of negotiations. The parties must show the political will to delve deeper into each other’s proposals. She concluded by stating that Mexico also backed the rights of Argentina over the Malvinas islands.
YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), aligning his statement with that made earlier on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Movement’s sixteenth Ministerial Conference and Commemorative Meeting had renewed its call to United Nations Member States to speed up the process of decolonization towards the complete elimination of colonialism. In that regard, he reiterated the effective implementation of the Plan of Action for the Third International Decade. Early this year, Indonesia had also been pleased to participate in the Caribbean Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the Decade, which had focused on goals and expected accomplishments. He strongly supported the conclusion that, in light of the cross-cutting nature of the challenges faced by some Non-Self-Governing Territories, efforts must be made for the continued strengthening of administrative capacity, good governance and economic sustainability, in order to enable the Territories to address issues in a holistic manner.
He encouraged all administering Powers to take all necessary steps to implement decolonization, and to support the work of the Special Committee in that regard. At the same time, he commended administering Powers that had actively participated in the Special Committee and had engaged in efforts to implement the Declaration. He encouraged the populations of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to continue to participate actively in the process and take educated decisions concerning the best option available to them under resolution 1514. He called on relevant United Nations bodies, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to grant much-needed economic and technical assistance to those populations.
ROBERTO RODRÍGUEZ ( Peru) said that in 2010, as the international community celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of resolution 1514, more than 80 territories had gained independence, 16 such territories remained non-self-governing. The Third International Decade should foster a greater capacity for decision-making and action. The principle of self-determination trumped any other principle. Peru wished to reiterate two factors that were crucial to speedy resolution of the decolonization problem — political will and adoption of a case by case approach. It was important to evaluate each one of the cases of decolonization on a continuous basis and the Committee must remain in contact with all parties concerned. He also called on administering Powers to cooperate with the Committee and to adopt the necessary measures.
Referring to a case that was of particular importance to Peru, he said that the historical reality of the Malvinas had caused it to be recognized as a particular and specific case. Peru reiterated its unshakeable position regarding the rights of Argentina over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich islands, and their maritime areas. In step with Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), he said that negotiations were the only solution to the question of the Malvinas. In the meantime, it was important to refrain from exploitation of the natural resources in the Argentine continental shelf and from British military activities in the area under dispute. He concluded by reaffirming the historic position of Peru in support of decolonization.
S.K. MAINA ( Kenya) encouraged the Special Committee to pursue genuine dialogue aimed at finding “fresh, concrete and creative ways” to abolish all forms of colonialism. Administering Powers needed to ensure the Organization’s visiting and special missions got necessary support; they should also regularly transmit information on conditions in Territories, since they were obligated to promote the socio‑economic and educational advancement of the peoples from them.
Natural resources of those Territories were also the heritage of their indigenous peoples; the Organization should ensure economic activities carried out by administering Powers did not harm their rights, but promoted their social‑economic development. Kenya recognized the rights of all people to maintain and conserve their national heritage as basis of their cultural identity, and urged administering Powers to fully implement UNESCO decisions and resolutions on restitution of cultural properties to their rightful owners still under colonial occupation.
On the question of Western Sahara, Kenya supported continued negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary‑General and his Special Envoy. “Despite a welcome series of informal rounds of talks held in the last one year, little progress has been achieved so far. Kenya believes that both parties need to negotiate without preconditions and in good faith. This is the only path of achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution,” he said.
AUGUSTINE UGOCHUKWU NWOSA (Nigeria), citing the first operative paragraph of General Assembly resolution 1514(XV), and his own country’s history, said that Nigeria continued to regard colonialism as a negation of human values and called on all administering Powers of the remaining colonial territories to hasten the independence of territories under their control.
Further, he expressed disappointment that since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 34/37of 1979 recognizing the right of the Western Saharan people to self-determination and independence after the conclusion of the relevant referendum, the occupying Power continued to delay the holding of such referendum and so denied the recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic from taking its rightful place among nations. Nigeria had recognized that Republic in 1984. He called on the United Nations to set in motion the machinery leading to the independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic under the Organization’s auspices.
ANTONIA GUMENDE ( Mozambique) said his country joined its voice to those committed to the issue of implementing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, especially the peoples of Palestine and Western Sahara. His delegation had followed with satisfaction the re-launch of the much anticipated talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel last year in New York, under the auspices of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process. The fact that Israel and Palestine were holding direct talks raised expectations and strengthened the belief that those development would lead to a fair and acceptable outcome for both parties: the establishment of two the States of Palestine and Israel, coexisting peacefully and according to the 1967 borders.
However, he expressed disappointment by the lack of progress so far. In order to fulfil the longstanding aspirations of independence for the people of Palestine, he expressed full support to the ongoing negotiations and reiterated the call made by President Armandao Emilio Geubuza of Mozambique to concerned parties to seize the political momentum generated to reach a sustainable and acceptable political solution. He further reiterated his delegation’s support for the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, and commended the efforts of the international community to find a sustainable solution there. That would be achieved when the Saharans were able to choose their own destiny through a referendum for independence to be held as soon as possible.
MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI ( Iran) said that gratifying results had been achieved in the field of decolonization by the United Nations, but the remaining existence of colonialism in any form or manifestation, including economic exploitation, was incompatible with the Organization’s Charter and needed to be eradicated through an accelerated process. Meanwhile, the administering Powers had the obligation to promote the advancement of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑ Governing Territories, to protect their human and natural resources and take all necessary measures to avoid any economic and other activities that might adversely affect them and their cultural and social integrity.
In that light, it was important to note, that military installations and some activities of the administering Powers posed a threat to the environment, economic development and health of the peoples of the Territories. Lending his full support to the Special Committee, he advocated enhancing the efficiency of its work and improving its interaction with administering Powers. He commended the Department of Public Information and Department of Political Affairs on their roles in furthering the cause of decolonization through technical advice and dissemination of information, and encouraged them to intensify those efforts. The political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Territories was a prerequisite for any decision taken to change their status, he maintained.
MOINUL HASSAN AHAMED ( India) aligned his statement with that made earlier in the week on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement. He said that colonialism was not only anachronistic, archaic and outmoded, “it also contravenes the fundamental tenets of democracy, freedom, human dignity and rights”. Today, while discussing decolonization, many countries were witnessing major social and political upheavals, which indicated it was time to get rid of all aspects of colonialism. The General Assembly in 1960, under resolution 1514, adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The Declaration solemnly proclaimed the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end, colonialism in all its forms. The right of peoples under alien subjugation, domination and exploitation, to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development, was recognized as a result of that Declaration.
Decolonization was among the visible achievements of the United Nations since its formation in 1945. The fact that fewer than 2 million people in 16 territories lived under colonial rule was a testimony to the efforts of the Organization. However, the 16 territories served as constant reminders that decolonization was incomplete. With the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism currently under way, he hoped that things would change by 2020. The way ahead should be marked by “a judicious mix of urgency and activism on the one hand, and one of sensitivity and circumscription on the other”. It had to take into account the needs of the people of the Territories. He welcomed the efforts of the Special Committee on Decolonization to engage the administering Powers in a constructive manner to end colonialism. India was a strong believer in the ideals of democracy, human rights, dignity and peaceful coexistence.
ROBERT G. AISI (Papua New Guinea) noted that 16 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories remained on the Committee’s list at the start of the Third International Decade. While some progress had been made towards self‑determination in a few of those Territories, greater effort was needed in others. Progress was continuing in two such Territories in his region, New Caledonia and Tokelau, he said.
He welcomed acceptance by France, the administering Power of New Caledonia, of the subregional Melanesian Spearhead Group’s enhanced role, including consultations with the indigenous people of the Territory on their political aspirations in accordance with the Noumea Accord. That complemented the Committee’s efforts to assist the people of New Caledonia to freely determine their political status and pursue development. Agreement had been reached on identity symbols for the Territory and for initiatives to protect the environment and on regional cooperation. However, there remained a need for trained professionals and development capacity throughout government. Training was needed for the indigenous Kanak people, especially the youth, to ensure their full participation in the development of their Territory. He called for all parties involved to maintain positive momentum.
All that remained for the people of Tokelau, he said, was for them to determine their future political status. In two referendums — in February 2006 and October 2007 — they had decided to turn their attention to the Territory’s economic and social development with the cooperation of the administering Power, New Zealand. The focus now was to fully implement the Joint Commitment for Development between Tokelau and New Zealand, which included transportation and infrastructure development, fisheries, human resources, capacity and strengthening governance. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had also provided valuable assistance, he said. The decolonization process in Tokelau could serve as a model for other Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to follow, he said.
ADONIA AYEBARE ( Uganda) said his delegation had followed closely the unresolved and outstanding cases of decolonization which constituted part of the important work of the Committee. Uganda continued to follow closely the unresolved cases of decolonization and reiterated full support for the full implementation of Assembly resolutions, reaffirming the right of self‑determination to colonial countries and peoples. On the African continent, Western Sahara — Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic — a fully fledged member of the African Union (formerly OAU) since 1982, was the only question of decolonization that remained unresolved.
On the question of Western Sahara, Uganda was convinced that only the Saharan people should decide their own destiny, without conditions. That was consistent with their inalienable right to self‑determination. Uganda commended the efforts of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy aimed at finding a lasting solution to the problem. However, in spite of such efforts, the people of Western Sahara had not yet had the opportunity of free choice. While many challenges remained, it was ultimately in the long‑term interests of Morocco and the Polisario to engage constructively in order to overcome the obstacles and reach a durable solution.
He remained concerned about reports of violations of human rights in Western Sahara and reiterated the call for concrete steps to be taken for monitoring and protection of human rights. Uganda was also concerned by reports of illegal exploitation of the resources in the Western Sahara. Those reports merited serious attention and investigation. Finally after almost four decades, the people of Western Sahara had placed faith in the United Nations to enable them to exercise their inalienable right to self‑determination in accordance with the Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions.
JUMAKADYR ATABEKOV ( Kyrgyzstan) said that the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories continued to occupy pride of place in the Committee’s agenda. A close study of this problem revealed some common approaches and specific aspects. There was a keen wish among an overwhelming number of States to break the logjam that prevented decolonization. Some positive results had been achieved in regional seminars held in those Territories by the Committee. There was also joint understanding among all delegations that the Committee had not reached its final destination. The Non-Self-Governing Territories — most of which were island areas — were facing problems and needed help from the international community.
Welcoming the Third Decade, he endorsed the proposal for Member States, specialized United Nations agencies, and non‑governmental organizations to take part in implementing the action‑plan of the Third International Decade. It was also noted that since its inception, the Fourth Committee had many achievements to its credit. The number of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories had declined. In the course of the Third International Decade, colonialism could be completely eradicated. Pointing out that some of the issues related to natural resources also affected Kyrgyzstan, the speaker concluded by reaffirming Kyrgyzstan’s intention to participate actively in the Fourth Committee.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba) said the cause of decolonization was, and must continue to be, a priority of the United Nations. This year was the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Special Committee and the first year of the Third International Decade. The Fourth Committee had continued to step up dialogue with administering Powers, representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and Member States. However, the cause of decolonization required the full support of the administering Powers, and it was troubling that some Powers continued to fail to cooperate with the Decolonization Committee, neglecting their obligations according to the United Nations Charter.
He said that this year, the Government and people of Saint Vincent and Grenadines had hosted the Caribbean regional seminar on decolonization. It had been an especially significant event for Cuba, as it took place in a fraternal nation. Although a century of colonial rule had taken place, the Puerto Rican people had never flinched in their valiant and arduous struggle to exercise their right to self-determination and independence. Although they had not developed sovereign State, they had maintained their own distinct national identity. The Fourth Committee had adopted by consensus over the last 13 years a resolution recognizing the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence.
On a related issue, he said the United Nations had reaffirmed that Western Sahara was a question of decolonization, which came within the purview of Assembly resolution 1514, and was the Organization’s direct responsibility. The Saharan people were entitled to determine their own future. A number of negotiating rounds on the question had been held, including informal meetings under the auspices of the Secretary-General, and parties reasserted their commitment to continue with talks. Efforts should be made to find a solution to ensure the self-determination of the Western Saharan people. He further expressed support for the sovereignty rights of Argentina over the Malvinas islands, reiterated the resolute commitment of Cuba to the cause of decolonization and urged all Member States to continue working hard and hand in hand, so they could wipe out the scourge of colonialism once and for all.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom said she wished to address her reply to the statements made by the representatives of Guyana, Guatemala, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Cuba. She said her country had no doubts 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 Islands.
In response to remarks made by the representative of Jamaica on the Turks and Caicos Islands, she said that since August 2009, when ministerial government and the house of assembly were suspended, much progress had been made to reform and embed the principles of sound financial management and good governance across the structures and government of Turks and Caicos. In December last year, United Kingdom ministers had set out in a statement the milestones that they judged would need to be met before election could once again take place in the territory. The milestones identified did not include everything that would have to be done before elections took place, yet it remained the United Kingdom Government’s considered view that those milestones were the minimum preconditions before the Turks and Caicos Islands could return to elected government.
It remained the United Kingdom’s intention to hold elections in 2012, provided that significant progress had been made against the milestones. She said that the implementation of a new Turks and Caicos Islands constitutional order showed significant progress against one of the milestones. Following extensive public consultation in the territory, and United Kingdom Ministerial discussion with Turks and Caicos Islands political leaders and members of civil society, a new constitution, which would underpin good governance and sound public financial management, had been made and could be brought into force by the Governor when the United Kingdom ministers judged that conditions were right for elections to be held.
In response, the representative of Argentina reminded the Committee of his delegation’s statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs before the Committee on 21 June 2010. He reiterated that the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas, were integral parts of the Argentine Territories, illegitimately occupied by the United Kingdom and subject to a sovereignty dispute. The illegal occupation of the Malvinas exercised by the United Kingdom had been recognized by the General Assembly in various resolutions, all of which recognized the sovereignty question of the Malvinas islands, and called upon the parties to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the dispute.
He said that the dispute had also been recognized in the pronouncements of the Organization of American States (OAS). Argentina regretted that the Government of the United Kingdom sought to distort historical facts in order to conceal its usurpation of Argentine territory in 1833. That invasion had been the subject of repeated protests since the moment it had begun. Such misrepresentation showed that the United Kingdom was not certain of its rights on the subject of the Malvinas islands.
He went on to say that, rather than trying to refute historical facts already admitted to have occurred, the United Kingdom should immediately resume negotiations with Argentina to reach a just and lasting solution. “To do so would be to act lawfully and responsibly”, he said, the same way that the United Kingdom expected the international community to act. Likewise, Argentina regretted that the United Kingdom should continue to defend its hopes for the Malvinas islands based on the appropriations of the islands’ natural resources. The interests and ways of life of its inhabitants were protected by the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Constitution of Argentina. He concluded by reiterating the sovereignty of Argentina over the Malvinas islands.
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