|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
6th Meeting (AM)
Fourth Committee Approves Five Consensus Texts Reaffirming
Inalienable Right to Self-Determination and Independence
Committee Wraps Up General Debate on Decolonization Issues, Speakers
Focus on Question of Western Sahara, Special Committee on Decolonization
Forwarding five consensus draft texts to the General Assembly, including on the questions of Western Sahara, Gibraltar, New Caledonia and Tokelau, the Fourth Committee reaffirmed the inalienable right of all people to self-determination and independence, as it concluded today its general debate on decolonization matters.
By a text on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Assembly would express the strong conviction that the continuation and expansion of scholarship offers was essential in order to meet the increasing need of students from those Territories for educational and training assistance. The Assembly would invite all States to contribute to such endeavours, including by providing travel funds to prospective students.
By the draft decision on the question of Gibraltar, the Assembly would urge the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom to “reach a definitive solution to the dispute”, and would welcome the continuing commitment to the trilateral Forum for Dialogue, including in the six additional areas of cooperation announced in 2009.
Before taking action on the texts, delegations during the wrap-up of the general debate praised the work of the Special Committee on Decolonization —known informally as the “C-24” — and called for increased dynamism and a redoubling of efforts with regard to completing the decolonization process of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories
Guinea’s representative said that, since its creation, the Special Committee’s accomplishments had enabled the United Nations to better understand the situation in colonial countries, giving irreversible impetus to the decolonization process.
Continuing in that vein, the representative of Pakistan stressed that the Special Committee was a focal point for engaging the United Nations bodies and agencies, as well as the peoples of the Territories and the administering Powers and the wider international community. However, he lamented that, due to a lack of political will, the problem of colonialism persisted, even at the end of the Second International Decade established by the world body to accelerate the eradication of that practice.
He went on to say that decolonization was an objective of such importance that it could not be limited to the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories alone, since the negation of the right to self-determination could ignite regional conflicts.
Along those lines, Timor-Leste’s representative said continuing with the status quo in Western Sahara was unacceptable and brought serious risks to that region’s stability. The struggle of the Western Sahara for self‑determination echoed Timor‑Leste’s own quest for independence, and there needed to be more progress on the core issues of the conflict, he said. In that light, he supported direct negotiations between the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario) and Morocco under the United Nations auspices.
South Africa’s representative said that the United Nations remained “paralysed” when it came to Western Sahara. The referendum mandated by the Security Council three decades ago had yet to materialize, and the Saharans deserved to have all options open to them, rather than being subjected to the current attempts by Morocco to impose autonomy.
He called for an intensification of efforts to hold the referendum, and stressed the importance of United Nations site visits to the region, with on-the-ground updates provided through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Along those lines, Algeria’s representative said that the peoples of Western Sahara — “the last place of colonial rule in Africa” — must be given their full rights. He noted the global trend towards creating and consolidating major regional groups, which was all the more true when those groups were joined by a common destiny and history, as was the case in the Maghreb.
According to Morocco’s representative, recent changes in that region offered the appropriate opportunity for a rapid launch of both the project of the Maghreb and for inter-Maghreb relations. As for the Western Sahara dispute, he said Morocco had answered the Security Council’s insistent call for the parties to explore all avenues of compromise by drafting its autonomy initiative. In preparation, Morocco had engaged in a national process of dialogue coupled with regional and international consultations, which integrated international standards and answered the expectations of the populations directly concerned.
The recent ministerial visits between Morocco and Algeria had sparked fresh hope for a new dynamic in bilateral interactions, he said. For its part, Morocco was determined to normalize relations, including through the opening of terrestrial borders between these two neighbouring States. The revitalization of that relationship would undoubtedly have a positive influence on the resolution of the dispute over the “Moroccan Sahara”.
On that what she termed the “thorny issue” of the Sahara, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo also supported Morocco’s autonomy initiative, and called on the parties to show realism and a spirit of compromise to move the negotiations forward towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable resolution to the dispute.
She invited the international community to encourage parties to take that historic opportunity offered by that initiative, in order to put an end to the extremely difficult humanitarian situation for the people living in the Tindouf camps.
Also speaking in the general debate were the representatives of Bahrain, Paraguay, New Zealand, Gabon, Ecuador, Central African Republic, Bolivia, Uruguay, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Costa Rica, Namibia and Equatorial Guinea.
The Head of the Delegation of the European Union spoke in explanation of position during action on draft texts.
Also speaking in explanation of position were the representatives of Benin, Spain, Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of India, Pakistan, United Kingdom, and Argentina.
The Fourth Committee will meet again tomorrow, 11 October, at 10 a.m. to take action on its remaining draft texts on decolonization items, and to begin consideration of its agenda item on “the peaceful uses of outer space”.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its consideration of questions relating to decolonization and to take up the cluster of resolutions and decisions on that item.
The Committee had before it a 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 General Assembly, contained in document A/66/23, and the Secretary‑General’s report on Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the Charter of the United Nations contained in documents A/66/65 and Add.1, as well as a report of the Secretary‑General on the Question of Western Sahara, contained in document A/66/260. (For summaries of these reports, see Press Release GA/SPD/478 of 3 October.)
By the terms of draft resolution I, on information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the Charter of the United Nations, the General Assembly would request the administrating Powers concerned to transmit, or continue to transmit, regularly to the Secretary‑General information relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories, for which they are responsible. It would also request the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned, within a maximum period of six months following the expiration of the administrative year in those Territories.
Draft resolution II, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, would have the Assembly reaffirm the right of peoples of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to self‑determination in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, as well as their right to enjoy and dispose of their natural resources in their best interest.
By the terms of draft resolution III, on implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations, the Assembly would recommend that all States intensify their efforts in the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system in which they were members to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and other relevant United Nations resolutions.
By the terms of draft resolution IV, on the question of New Caledonia, the Assembly would urge all the parties involved to maintain, in the framework of the Nouméa Accord, their dialogue in a spirit of harmony and in this context welcomed the unanimous agreement, reached in Paris on 8 December 2008, on the transfer of powers to New Caledonia in 2009 and the conduct of provincial elections in May 2009.
As for draft resolution V, on the question of Tokelau, the General Assembly would note New Zealand’s exemplary cooperation and ongoing recognition of the complete right of the people of Tokelau to undertake the act of self‑determination when they consider it to be appropriate.
By draft resolution VI, on Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands, the Assembly would call upon the administering Powers to participate in and cooperate fully with the work of the Special Committee, and would request the Territories and the administering Powers to take all measures necessary to protect and conserve the environment of the Territories. It would stress the importance of implementing the plan of action for the Second and Third International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism, as well as the importance of the various constitutional exercises in the respective Territories administered by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America, and led by the territorial Governments, designed to address internal constitutional structures within the present territorial arrangements. It would decide to follow closely the developments concerning the future political status of those Territories.
Also by that text, the Assembly would reiterate its request that the Human Rights Committee collaborate with the Special Committee with the aim of exchanging information, including political and constitutional developments, in many of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories that are within the purview of the Special Committee.
By draft resolution VII, on dissemination of information on decolonization, the Assembly would request the Department of Public Information to continue its efforts to update web‑based information on the assistance programmes available to the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and also request the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information to implement the recommendations of the Special Committee and to continue their efforts to take measures through all the media available.
By the terms of draft resolution VIII, on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the Assembly would request the Special Committee to continue to seek suitable means for the immediate and full implementation of the Declaration and to carry out the actions approved by the General Assembly regarding the Second and Third International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism in all Territories that have not yet exercised their right to self‑determination, including independence.
By the draft resolution on Offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, contained in document A/C.4/66/L.3, the Assembly would urge the administering Powers to take effective measures to ensure the widespread and continuous dissemination in the Territories under their administration of information relating to offers of study and training facilities made by States.
By the draft resolution entitled Question of Western Sahara contained in document A/C.4/66/L.5, the Assembly would call upon the parties to cooperate with the Secretary‑General and his personal envoy as well as with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and further call upon them to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.
By the terms of the draft decision on the question of Gibraltar (document A/C.4/66/L.4), the General Assembly would urge both Governments, while listening to the interests and aspirations of Gibraltar, to reach, in the spirit of the statement of 27 November 1984, a definitive solution to the question of Gibraltar.
FAISAL AL ZAYANI ( Bahrain) began by speaking of the suffering that colonized people had suffered living in precarious conditions and the bitterness they felt at the rise of imperialism. Colonialism contradicted human rights and freedoms. The United Nations Charter showed a path for developing friendly relations between States, and providing for the principle of equality between peoples. The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Decolonization Declaration) also gave a strong impetus to the achievement of those goals. And, many resolutions of the General Assembly aimed at fulfilling that quest.
He said that the United Nations had achieved many goals in decolonization, and the Committee had also played an important role. Although total decolonization had not been achieved in the First International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the last three decades had seen the campaign to overcome colonialism. It had been unthinkable that that process would proceed just as it had prior to adoption of the Decolonization Declaration, in particular, its provision of the rights of people and the duties contained therein to eliminate all forms of foreign domination. Foreign hegemony was a denial of human rights.
LISUALDO GASPAR, Director of Bilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Timor‑Leste, associating his statement with that of the Non‑Aligned Movement, addressed his remarks to the struggle of the Western Sahara for self‑determination — which had similarities to Timor‑Leste’s own struggle. The people of Western Sahara, he said, had a legitimate right to self‑determination and to finding a long‑lasting solution based on the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions. To that end, his delegation supported direct negotiations between the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el‑Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario) and Morocco under the United Nations auspices. That position was based on Timor‑Leste’s own Constitution, as well as on the position taken by the African Union, the International Court of Justice, the General Assembly and the Security Council in various resolutions.
In fact, he added, Timor‑Leste had accorded full diplomatic representation to the Embassy of the “ Saharawi Republic” in its capital, Dili, in 2010. While he welcomed the report by the Secretary‑General on progress made on the issue, he stressed nonetheless that there should be more progress on the core issue of the conflict — namely, the right of the Saharan people to self‑determination. Continuing with the status quo was unacceptable and brought serious risk to the region’s stability. He recalled that the United Nations had declared 2010‑2020 as the Third International Decade for Eradication of Colonialism, and he hoped to see the international community work together towards the final resolution of the last remaining African territory on the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) expressed support for the recommendations contained in the report of the Special Committee on Implementation of the Declaration (document A/66/23). The General Assembly had denounced colonialism in resolution 1514 (SV) of 1960, echoing similar sentiments in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pakistan considered the Committee a focal point for engaging the United Nations bodies and agencies, the peoples of the Territories and the administering Powers, and the wider international community. But the problem of colonialism persisted, even at the end of the Second Decade, because of a lack of political will.
He called on the administering Powers to show the political will to engage positively with their respective Territories and to create enabling conditions in the Territories for people to exercise their right to self‑determination. The United Nations also had an important role to play in addressing the special needs of the people of the Territories and keeping them informed of their options.
Decolonization was an objective of such importance that it could not be limited to the Non‑Self‑ Governing Territories alone. The negation of the right to self‑determination often ignited regional conflicts. In South Asia, the inalienable right to self‑determination of the People of Jammu and Kashmir had been recognized by a number of Security Council resolutions. Pakistan was committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, which would lead to durable peace and stability in South Asia. Indeed, the United Nations decolonization agenda would be incomplete without resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
In the Middle East, he continued, persistent denial of the right to self‑determination of the Palestinian people was the core underlying cause and the primary impediment to comprehensive peace. Pakistan supported the struggle of the Palestinian people, as well as their quest for United Nations membership for the State of Palestine. A strong and viable State of Palestine could be the best guarantor of peace with its neighbours and within the broader region. Pakistan also supported a just and mutually acceptable settlement of the issue of Western Sahara and was hopeful that the parties would reach a settlement through ongoing negotiations, in a spirit of mutual good will and compromise.
JOSE ANTONIO DOS SANTOS( Paraguay) said that the United Nations Member States had proclaimed the need to end colonialism in all its forms. All peoples had the right to self‑determination, and Paraguay wished to restate its support for the decolonization process. Paraguay had an unswerving position in regard to the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, and about Argentina’s sovereign rights to this territory. Referring to the resolutions adopted at the meetings of the Council of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Paraguay urged the parties to peacefully resolve the long‑standing dispute.
He added that Paraguay regretted the absence of real and significant progress in the bilateral dialogue process between Argentina and the United Kingdom. A satisfactory solution can be found solely with firm and consistent political will. The solution must take into account the historic rights of Argentina over those archipelagos.
With regard to the exploitation of hydrocarbons, resolution 31/49 of the General Assembly called on the parties to refrain from taking decisions involving unilateral modifications, he noted, calling on the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to forge political, economic, and cultural links that strengthened the bilateral relationship.
BERNADETTE CAVANAGH ( New Zealand), addressing the draft resolution on “The Question of Tokelau”, said two self‑determination referendums had signalled that timing and conditions were not yet right for constitutional change. The Administrator, therefore, needed to address the core requirements of the atoll populations before Tokelau would undertake any further act of self‑determination. The vulnerability of Tokelau had been underlined by the five‑month period without rain. A joint New Zealand‑United States air and sea operation was carrying military water containers and desalination equipment to Tokelau.
She said the Tokelau National Strategic Plan had formed the basis for a comprehensive planning process that had identified Tokelau’s development priorities for the coming four years. Over the last year, progress had been made on the construction of two new schools and a hospital, and improving the transfer of passengers and goods between ships and the shore, among other things. Health and education, however, were ongoing challenges. The relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand was both strong and positive. Her country would remain respectful of the wishes of the people of Tokelau and receptive to advice from its leaders on how best to further develop the partnership.
MICHEL REGIS ONANGA NDIAYE ( Gabon) said that the current decade offered the opportunity to welcome the historic work achieved by the Committee to achieve the decolonization of several Territories and to recognize the considerable contribution of the United Nations towards decolonization of various Territories in Africa. Gabon remained concerned about the fate of the 16 Territories that had not yet achieved decolonization and appealed to the administering Powers to take necessary measures to conclude that process, taking into account the specificities of the Territories.
He said that the question of Western Sahara was of special interest to Gabon, and he noted the efforts of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, who had helped to re‑establish dialogue between the parties through various negotiation cycles. Despite the impasse and the divergent views, there were signs of development in the issue. The Moroccan initiative for autonomy which Gabon fully supported, had been qualified as “credible and serious” by the Secretary‑General. The prospect of holding a new informal meeting in October under the Envoy’s auspices was also encouraging. It was important to intensify those efforts, and he invited the countries to settle their differences as that would also have an impact on stability in the region. He hoped that a constructive spirit of consensus would prevail.
JENNY LALAMA ( Ecuador), welcoming the statements made previously on behalf of MERCOSUR and the Rio Group, expressed concern with the slow progress made on decolonization in recent decades. She urged countries to make efforts to achieve the existing plans of action in that regard and called for the legal self‑determination of peoples and also for cooperation and solidarity. Her country had complied with the standards of international law and human rights, and had chaired the Special Committee last February, in the belief that, with the beginning of the Third International Decade, new strategies were needed to lead to the decolonization of the Territories remaining on the list. It was important to step up dialogue between the Governments of the Territories and the administering Powers.
She said that five decades had elapsed since the United Nations had appealed for a peaceful solution to the question of the Malvinas Islands, but still no resolution had been found to that colonial situation — a situation which had gone on for too long. The dispute regarding the question of the Malvinas Islands and the surrounding maritime areas also occupied by the United Kingdom should be settled between the two parties. She rejected the military activities and exploitation of the non‑renewable natural resources by the United Kingdom and called for that situation to be resolved.
The conflict in Western Sahara required urgent attention, as the Saharan people had the right to determine their own future, she said. In recent years, several rounds of negotiations had taken place and the parties had restated their commitment. Ecuador repeated full support for the Saharan people to find a solution that was compatible with the Charter resolution 1514. She recognized the work of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy, and said the family visit programmes should be re‑established and strengthened. Concerning the situation in Puerto Rico, more than a century had passed; she stressed that those peoples were also entitled to self‑determination.
MAMADI TOURE ( Guinea) said the accomplishments of the Special Committee since its creation had enabled the United Nations to better understand the situation in colonial countries and had given an irreversible impetus to the decolonization process. The Special Committee must intensify its dialogue and cooperation with the administering Powers. Encouraging it to hold regional seminars, he said he hoped that the one to be held in the Pacific region in 2012 would lead to decisive outcomes.
He said his country had made enormous sacrifices for decolonization in Africa and the world, and would follow with great interest future developments in decolonization, while continuing to support the international community in the eradication of colonialism. He noted the increased interest of the United Nations in Western Sahara and welcomed the close cooperation established between the Secretary‑General and the African Union. Guinea also had a special appreciation for the efforts of the Secretary‑General’s envoy Christopher Ross in involving the parties and neighbouring States. Another sign of hope and encouragement had been the convening of several cycles of negotiations, during which the parties had agreed to continue discussion of specific issues. Guinea also appreciated the strengthening of confidence‑building measures, such as the family visits.
While endorsing the Moroccan initiative, he added that Guinea remained convinced that there was no alternative to the search for a political solution for negotiating a just, lasting and peaceful solution, thereby guaranteeing peace in the region. He welcomed the political will of the parties to negotiate in good faith and bring the process to a more intensive phase of negotiation, more focused on substance. He encouraged the Secretary‑General and his envoy to persevere in the quest for a peaceful solution to Western Sahara and invited the parties to continue to negotiate under their auspices and to display an attitude of compromise.
CHARLES‑ARMEL DOUBANE ( Central African Republic) said the conflict on Western Sahara began 30 years ago, and the international community had been calling for a just solution. Human communities living in the same territory and sharing the same cultural values were undermined by the destructive violence, which did not even spare women and children. This conflict was at the centre of his delegation’s concerns, and he urged parties to achieve a political solution. He recalled in that context the assessment of the Security Council, which took into account the credible efforts of Morocco. The Council had urged the parties to enter into negotiations, showing commitment and realism towards a way out.
He expressed support for the Security Council resolution 1979 (2011) and of the assessments of the Secretary‑General in his most recent report on Western Sahara, regarding the need for a census in the camps.
RAFAEL ARCHONDO (Bolivia), aligning his statement with those of the Non‑Aligned Movement, the Rio Group, and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), said that 50 years after the adoption of resolution 1514, 16 Territories remained non‑self‑governing. Bolivia called on administering Powers to find just, negotiated, and lasting solutions that were consistent with international law. On the question of Western Sahara, he emphasized Bolivia‘s support for the efforts of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy, urging that a sustainable solution be found, which guaranteed the future of the Saharan people.
He described Puerto Rico as a “Latin American and Caribbean nation colonized by an occupying Power”. Bolivia called upon the United States Government to initiate a frank and transparent process of dialogue enabling the people of Puerto Rico to exercise their inalienable right to self‑determination.
He restated Bolivia’s support for the legitimate rights of Argentina in the dispute with the United Kingdom over the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. There was no doubt that the Malvinas were and continued to belong to Argentina. Territorial occupation by force did not give rights to the occupying Power. Despite the passing of 178 years, the lapse of time would not remove the rights of Argentina. Negotiation was the best means to resolving that controversy and any unilateral actions by the United Kingdom would be contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter. He called upon the administering Powers to accelerate the decolonization process as the international community entered the Third Decade.
CHARLOTTE OMOY MALENGA ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that when it came to the “thorny issue” of Western Sahara, she reaffirmed support for the efforts already undertaken by the Secretary‑General, the Security Council and the international community, which continued to reaffirm their desire to help the parties achieve a just political solution. She commended the innovative approach for the negotiation process that was under way, and said the Democratic Republic of the Congo had continually urged the parties to make progress towards a political solution. In the latest Security Council resolution, 1979 (2011) on Western Sahara, the Council had once again confirmed the eminence of the Moroccan initiative for autonomy, and reiterated the appeal to the parties to show realism and a spirit of compromise to move the negotiations forward towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable resolution to the dispute.
She supported the efforts of Morocco to undertake the innovative approach advocated by Personal Envoy Ross to move forward towards a solution of the dispute, and also stressed the need to reach a solution on natural resources. She said Morocco’s plan was likely to achieve a just and acceptable political solution for all. She invited the international community to encourage parties to take that historic opportunity offered by that initiative, in order to put an end to the extremely difficult humanitarian situation for the people living in the Tindouf camps.
MARTIN VIDAL ( Uruguay) said that the fact that the international community was beginning the Third Decade should, in itself, appeal to its “better nature” to redouble the efforts for decolonization. Turning to the question of Western Sahara, Uruguay defended the right of the Saharan people to self‑determination. It was crucial that conversations between Morocco and the Frente Polisario be resumed shortly and in good faith. Uruguay expressed its support for resolution 1514 and the unswerving efforts of the Secretary‑General and his Personal Envoy to find a just and lasting solution. Calling for depoliticization, he urged both parties to collaborate with the United Nations. He voiced Uruguay’s backing for the adoption by consensus of the draft resolution on the matter, which would give a concrete sign of support by the international community for a prompt and peaceful solution.
He said that the question of the Malvinas Islands was important to Uruguay. Supporting the claim of Argentina for its legitimate right of sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgias and Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, he stated that Uruguay’s support was based, not on the fact that Argentina was a brother country, but on the justice of the historic and geographical nature of its claim. The General Assembly and the Committee had made it clear that that was a special colonial situation and the solution was a peaceful negotiation. It was crucial for the Governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina to promptly resume negotiations in order to arrive at a peaceful, just and lasting solution. He recognized the constructive attitude of Argentina’s Government and supported the renewal of efforts by the Secretary‑General.
MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso), associating his statement with that made on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said he attached great importance to the issue of decolonization, and commended the United Nations for its assistance in guiding Non‑Self‑ Governing Territories towards independence. Permanent coordination and consultation between the peoples of the Territories and the administering Powers must be used to strengthen economic and social development, which remained highly vulnerable in several regards.
He noted the interested attention of the international community on the issue of Western Sahara, and underlined the importance of the cooperation of all parties to find a solution. Despite the difficulties faced in a series of informal negotiations conducted by the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy, the parties remained determined to explore the best means possible to achieve a politically acceptable solution for the people of Western Sahara. The status quo was beneficial to no one. The current impasse was dangerous to peace and stability in the region, and harmful to civilians who were paying a high price.
He advocated for dialogue and compromise to find a just and acceptable solution, and for a reaffirmed commitment to the relevant Security Council resolutions, including 1979 (2011). He reaffirmed support for the Secretary‑General in his efforts to achieve a political solution, saying the Moroccan initiative was a credible alternative to the dispute. It remained essential that the parties over the next stage of discussions engage in discussions on substantive issues and make necessary compromises. Further, they must refrain from any action or initiative likely to undermine the negotiations, and he urged the international community to support the parties in that dynamic.
EMMANUEL NDABISHURIYE ( Burundi) stated that as a country that had known disaster and had a long experience in repatriation, Burundi wished to express a few comments on the question of Western Sahara. He endorsed the declaration by Egypt on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement and stated support for the efforts of the Secretary‑General and his envoy to reach a just, mutually acceptable, and lasting solution to the issue of self‑determination there. The draft proposal for autonomy proposed by Morocco was considered by the United Nations Security Council as “serious and credible”, and Burundi congratulated the parties for the advances they had made and encouraged them to continue that momentum in order to accelerate the process of achieving peace and stability in that region of Africa.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of the Rio Group, restated support for the decolonization process as one of the memorable transformations of the twentieth century, when many countries had joined the United Nations as independent and sovereign States. The General Assembly was actively promoting self‑determination in the remaining Non‑Self‑ Governing Territories, instead of merely overseeing the activities of the administering Powers.
He endorsed the recommendations issued by the Special Committee in its report, and hoped that the General Assembly, with the beginning of the Third International Decade, would be able to at last achieve full decolonization. The Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands were an integral part of the territory of Argentina. However, since 1833, a colonial dispute had violated Argentine territorial integrity. The validity of that claim had been recognized by the General Assembly. He expressed solidarity with the Latin American region’s interest in seeing the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom resume negotiations to arrive at a solution that was not only peaceful but also just and definitive.
Regarding the unilateral actions and exploitation of renewable and non‑renewable resources, he appealed to the United Kingdom to stop making unilateral change to the territory, and restated that the United Nations should facilitate the resolution of that international dispute. His delegation was of the view that self‑determination was the right of peoples, and that there should be a direct link between sovereignty and democracy.
He further said that Costa Rica continued to support a just and lasting democratic solution that was suitable to all parties in the Western Sahara. The General Assembly had provided a logical outcome to achieving the right to self‑determination, through the holding of a referendum that included the options of independence, autonomy and integration. He called for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to monitor human rights abuses in the territory. He further supported the work of the Secretary‑General and his Personal Envoy. Concerted reconciliatory actions in Western Sahara would ensure that the situation was not subjected to further delay and bring the international community closer in its efforts to a world free from colonialism in all its forms.
WILFRIED I. EMVULA ( Namibia), associating his statement with that of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country’s experience of human tragedy taught it to value freedom and independence. It would continue to keep faith with the peoples of Western Sahara, who yearned to be free and to exercise their rights to self‑determination. Namibia was concerned that the question of decolonization remained unresolved and with little space on the United Nations calendar. His Government, therefore, encouraged the parties to the conflict to redouble their efforts and speed up the negotiation process that would eventually lead to the holding of a free and fair referendum in Western Sahara, as provided for by United Nations resolutions.
He said that the Saharan people, like those of any other nation in the world, deserved peace, respect and, above all, the freedom to exercise their right to self‑determination and independence. Namibia attached great importance to the issue of decolonization and fully supported the Committee on the implementation of the Declaration, in addressing the plight of people who were still under colonial domination. His country’s support and solidarity with the people of Western Sahara, Palestine, and others in their just cause was unwavering. It hoped that their long‑cherished goal for freedom would be attained sooner rather than later. Namibia called for the implementation of the Decolonization Declaration.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa), aligning his statement with that of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the United Nations was a harmonizing centre among nations, but on the question of the self‑determination of Western Sahara, the Organization remained paralyzed. As a custodian of international law, the United Nations had an obligation to the people of Western Sahara. Both the International Court of Justice in 1975 and the legal department of the United Nations in 2002 had presented opinions that were legally compelling and supported the rights of the Saharans to self‑determination. The referendum mandated by the Security Council three decades ago had not yet materialized. That was a violation of the Charter of the United Nations.
He added that there were also transgressions of international law, as some Member States exploited the resources of the Saharans through bilateral agreements. It was important to recognize and respect that only the Western Saharans could know best what direction their future should take. The decision to hold the referendum had been clear and unambiguous. South Africa remained committed to the African Union position calling for intensification of efforts to hold the referendum. In accordance with international law, all options should be open to them, instead of current attempts to impose autonomy.
The “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic” was a credible member of the African Union, he stated. The lack of resolution concerning Western Sahara was an impediment to the socio‑economic development of the continent. Mining of phosphate and oil exploration were flagrant violations of international law. The United Nations was obliged to protect resources and ensure that the Saharan people were consulted on any questions concerning their resources. The Security Council had also ignored the question of human rights in Western Sahara. Capacity‑building was a crucial element of decolonization. In the absence of any reports of progress in the socio‑cultural development of Western Sahara, it was essential that the United Nations conduct site visits to the region and, through its various offices, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, provide updates on the situation on the ground.
NDONG MBA ( Equatorial Guinea) said that, driven by the love for equity and justice, it was necessary to find a peaceful and balanced solution in Western Sahara. He was pleased that the negotiations process was ongoing, and had been described as serious and credible by the Security Council in the various resolutions adopted since 2007. The fact that the Moroccan initiative had been drafted in the context of broad national consultation, which included various actors, including political parties, together with international consultation, was very encouraging. He appealed to all parties to show realism and a spirit that would allow negotiations to move towards the achievement of a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable agreement. He urged the countries involved in the conflict to be flexible, so that a new dynamism could be forged that would ensure mutual confidence. In that light, he supported the adoption of the consensus draft resolution on Western Sahara. He urged the parties to the conflict to take advantage of those historical circumstances to arrive at a definitive solution to resolve the situation.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) reassured the Committee of the Moroccan delegation’s full readiness to work in a spirit of good faith, compromise, and consensus. Those were the three principles that underlay Morocco’s approach in all its efforts towards reaching a negotiated political solution to the dispute over the Moroccan Sahara, and guided the Moroccan delegation towards the negotiation and the adoption of this year’s resolution on the issue.
The debate this year had taken place, he said, in a particular regional context dominated by the profound and joint aspiration of the Moroccan people towards democracy, unity, and the construction of a common future. The Maghreb solidarity demonstrated in the past months by all the people of the Maghreb region constituted an eloquent call to surpass the differences and join efforts, in order to cleanse neighbourly relations, and unite energies so as to confront and overcome the threats facing the region. Morocco hoped that the current dynamic of democratization that was developing in the region would enable a quick solution to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara and incite the other parties to adopt a constructive attitude conducive to reaching such a solution.
A faithful application of the spirit and letter of Article 12 of the Charter and a responsible recognition of the efforts of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary‑General and the Security Council could have prevented a debate that did not contribute in any way whatsoever towards finding a solution. However, given the insistence of the other parties to perpetuate that debate, Morocco found itself forced to participate in order to establish the truth, to clarify some confusions, and to shed light on the reality of the dispute, as well as of Morocco’s efforts to put an end to it.
For more than 10 years, Morocco had engaged in good faith towards the implementation of the laborious settlement plan up to when the Secretary‑General and the Security Council had found it to be inapplicable, he said. His country had been the first to answer the call of the Security Council in 2000 on the need to explore the perspectives of a political solution. As to the other parties, instead of working towards that new objective, they had done all they could to thwart it, up to the point of presenting officially to the Personal Envoy a partition plan that contradicted the founding principles of their own position.
Later on, and in response to the insistent call of the Security Council to the parties to explore all avenues of compromise, Morocco had taken it upon itself to engage in a national process of dialogue coupled with regional and international consultations, he said. That had led to the drafting of an autonomy initiative, which integrated international standards, answered the expectations of the populations directly concerned, and complied with the terms of reference of the Security Council.
The presentation of that initiative in April 2007 as a basis for negotiation had been welcomed by the Security Council, which had conferred to it pre‑eminence over all other frameworks, as well as attested to its credibility and its ability to contribute to the emergence of a compromise solution. That initiative had triggered the ongoing process of negotiations, on which Morocco and all the populations of the Sahara placed much hope. The initiative was still relevant today and satisfied the United Nations terms of reference.
While recommending negotiations, the Council expected that both the parties and neighbouring States would behave in a way that could help the negotiations to progress, he said. The Council had also set inviolable parameters to those negotiations that were realistic, in the spirit of compromise, and an expression of the will of the population concerned. Morocco had manifested its commitment to achieving that goal during eight rounds of informal meetings, held between August 2009 and August 2011, the primary objective of which was to establish trust between the parties through formal discussion of non‑controversial thematics so as to pave the way to the resumption of formal negotiations. Morocco hoped that the other parties, which had been lacking political resolve up to now, would be responsive when the Personal Envoy decided to resume formal talks.
“This is no time for indecision or delaying manoeuvres,” he said. “This is no time to dig up obsolete Plans or to camouflage them as new proposals when their winner‑loser approach has been declared inapplicable. This is no time for mechanical and selective interpretations of the principle of self‑determination, which are completely opposite to the United Nations practice, in order to immobilize ongoing negotiations. It is time to sincerely engage in and to negotiate a win‑win solution.” That was the only possible solution because it is the only viable solution, he declared.
He added that the population of the Tindouf camps had been living for more than three decades with the hope to seeing a quick solution brought to the conflict allowing for their repatriation among their own. Those populations followed closely the efforts of Morocco for the development of infrastructures and public utilities answering the needs of their children. Further, the peoples of the Maghreb region had found themselves at a turning point in their modern history. Their aspiration towards unity and the construction of a better common future was undeterred. The international community should not disappoint them. The changes witnessed in the Maghreb region offered the appropriate opportunity for a rapid launch, both of the project of the Maghreb and inter‑Maghreb relations, two objectives that remained a strategic choice for Morocco.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), associating his statement with that made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the year 2011 marked the start of the Third International Decade for the Elimination of Colonialism, the launch of which exposed the delay in completing the work on decolonization. However, it showed the determination of the Member States to redouble efforts to achieve that noble process. The adoption of resolution 65/119 embodied the Organization’s rejection of colonial ideology. Fifty years later, the objective remained the same. Algeria firmly endorsed those objectives, and hoped the Third Decade would bring about the necessary impetus so that colonialism could be eliminated swiftly and completely in the remaining 16 Territories. In that regard, he expressed his delegation’s great appreciation for the work of the Special Committee.
He said that Western Sahara, as the last place of colonial rule in Africa, was still awaiting a final decision. He shared the views expressed by the delegate from South Africa with regard to giving the peoples of Western Sahara back their full rights, and called for the increased efforts to hold a referendum so as to enable the Saharan people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. Loyal to history and to Africa, Algeria reaffirmed brotherly solidarity and full support for the people of Western Sahara, and assured the international community of its tireless efforts towards the legitimate recovery of the people to freely choose their destiny.
At the same time, he said, it was the responsibility of the United Nations to serve all people of the world, and to provide for a settlement of the issue of Western Sahara, with respect for the undeniable right of the people of the territory, in accordance with resolution 1514 of the General Assembly and the United Nations practice of decolonization. In the negotiation process launched by the Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) and maintained by subsequent texts, calling for direct and unconditional negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario must be part of that logic.
The history of Algeria’s own glorious campaign for independence served as an essential actor in the liberation movement, as his nation showed unswerving commitments to stand side by side with people subjected to colonial domination, he said. The country must, therefore, support the peoples of Western Sahara in their endeavours. In that spirit, Algeria had taken part in formal and informal negotiations in its capacity as an observer State and neighbour to the parties to the conflict. He welcomed the positive impetus given to the negotiations process by Personal Envoy Ross, as well as the holding since August 2009 of eight informal negotiations and preparations for a new series of formal negotiations. However, he regretted that efforts were still being stymied by divergent views, which he felt could be overcome.
Algeria, he said, continued to support the Secretary-General and Mr. Ross and would spare no efforts to make its contribution to a dynamic of peace in a framework of completing the decolonization of Western Sahara. In the area of globalization, trends were towards the creation and consolidation of major regional groups promoting the synergies of capacities. That was all the more true for regional groupings joined by common destiny and history. In that context, the peoples of the Maghreb were looking closely at progress made by those in the neighbourhood. Algeria looked forward to re-establishing the necessary climate of confidence to resolve the conflict, and called for efforts in that area to work with neighbours to re-launch the Maghreb process for a lasting and effective rebuilding of the region and generous vision of the future. Achieving a just and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara would open the way for a united Maghreb, living in peace, stability and prosperity.
Action on Texts
The Committee turned first to agenda item 59 and the draft resolution A/C.4/66/L.3 entitled Offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories, approving it without a vote.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on the Question of Western Sahara contained in document A/C.4/66/L.5.
Making a general statement on that text before the vote, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union reaffirmed the Union’s full support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter. He encouraged the parties to work towards such a solution, within the framework of the United Nations, and commended the efforts the Secretary-General’s envoy, welcoming Mr. Ross’ ongoing consultations with the parties and neighbouring States.
The Union, he added, also welcomed the adoptions of Security Council resolution 1979 (2011) and the commitment of the parties to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions, taking note of efforts and developments since 2006, thus ensuring implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions, as well as the success of negotiations.
The Union also fully supported the intensification of informal meetings, including the several rounds of negotiations in Manhasset, Long Island, and in Mellieha, Malta, since the adoption of resolution 65/112, he said. In that respect, the Union welcomed the discussions on the ideas put forward by the Secretary-General in paragraph 120 of his report (document S/2011/249).
He said that the Union encouraged the parties to collaborate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the implementation of confidence-building measures. The Union was convinced that progress on those issues could help to improve the atmosphere for the political process. It welcomed the parties’ readiness to support the extension of the UNHCR’s Confidence-Building Measures Programme by allowing people to travel overland for family visits, and it looked forward to their implementation. The Union also encouraged the parties to explore the possibility of enlarging the family flight visit programme and welcomed the successful seminar held in Madeira, Portugal, in September. The Union remained concerned about the implications of the Western Sahara conflict for security and cooperation in the region.
Also speaking in a general statement before the vote, the representative of Benin said that the international community was likely to make considerable progress finding satisfactory solutions, including for the situation of Western Sahara. The clarity of the Secretary-General’s report in that regard was welcome. He remained concerned by violations of the military agreement by the parties and asked them to look into allegations regarding the humanitarian situation. He urged the parties to the conflict to conform and accept the family visit programme and to engage in consultations with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for its implementation.
He said that the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy had been able to make significant progress towards alleviating that conflict, which had gone on too long. He emphasized the need for negotiations, as it was in the best interest of the population to motivate the parties to be realistic and reach a negotiated solution.
Regarding new threats faced by the international community in the Sahara, he said it was important to find ways to deal with those threats, which could be very destabilizing for the region. The Moroccan initiative was seeking a consensus solution and deserved the fullest attention of the international community. The mediators must consider how to adjust any agreement, in order to meet the needs of all parties, and for the reunification of Saharan families. Economic and social development, as such, held the promise of a better future for the people of the region and would end the desperation and exile of those individuals.
The Committee then approved the resolution without a vote.
Taking up the draft decision on the Question of Gibraltar contained in document A/C.4/66/L.4, the Committee approved it without a vote.
Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Spain said that the principle of self-determination was not the only principle in carrying out decolonization of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as there were particular cases when principles of territorial integrity applied. One of those cases was that of Gibraltar, which was subjected to a specific decision adopted by consensus. In the decolonization process of that Territory, Spain was ready to move rapidly forward towards a final solution, which could only be the outcome of direct negotiations with the United Kingdom.
Next, the Committee approved resolution IV on the question of New Caledonia, also without a vote.
The Committee then approved draft resolution V, on the question of Tokelau without a vote, as orally revised.
The Committee then turned to draft resolution VI on Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
Speaking in explanation of position, Argentina’s representative said his delegation would join the consensus on the resolution concerning peoples subjected to colonial domination. He expressed full support for the right to self-determination of the 11 Territories considered in the text, including the valid options of self-determination, assuming those were in conjunction with the wishes of the peoples of the Territories and in concert with the resolutions of the United Nations. He said it was up to the peoples themselves to freely decide on their political status, in keeping with the relevant provisions of the Charter. He repeated the longstanding appeal to the administering Powers, in collaboration with all governments of the Territories and competent bodies of the United Nations, to promote the establishment of civic institutions so that the peoples could become aware of their rights to self-determination on the basis of the clearly defined principles of resolution 1514 and other relevant documents.
Consistent with resolution 1514, he said, the principle of self-determination was not stand-alone, but was one of the two guiding principles of decolonization, as there were specific cases when the principle of territorial integrity must apply. One of those cases was that of the Malvinas Islands, which needed specific treatment by the Special Committee. Argentina was ready to resume negotiations with the United Kingdom, as provided in the relevant resolution, and settle the matter of sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands, and the surrounding maritime areas.
Also speaking in explanation of position, the representative of the United Kingdom said her delegation was joining the consensus on the draft resolution, reflecting, inter alia, full support for the right of self-determination. However she regretted that the Special Committee continued in its outdated approach and failed to take into account the way the relationships between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories had modernized. Some of the language contained within the resolution was unacceptable and did not reflect the modern relationship, which was based on partnership.
On the Turks and Caicos Islands, she said her delegation was disappointed that the resolution did not reflect all the progress made in the Territory. Through discussions with political leaders and civil society, a new constitution had been drafted and would be underpinned with good governance. That constitution would be brought into force when the United Kingdom judged that conditions were right. There were milestones that needed to me met before elections could once again take place within the Territory. Elections were planned for 2012. She added that the United Kingdom did not accept the assertion that the peoples of the Falkland Islands did not have the right to self-determination.
The Committee chair announced that, owing to problems with the voting machine, consideration of draft resolution VI, as well as the remaining texts on decolonization, would be deferred to the next meeting.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, India’s representative said that the representative of Pakistan had made comments that were unwarranted and completely irrelevant to the Committee. He wished to remind that representative that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had expressed their free will by participating in free and fair elections.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Pakistan said that the representative of India had made an untenable assertion with regard to Jammu and Kashmir. The Decolonization Declaration had stated that all people under alien subjugation had the right to self-determination. The denial of that right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir was very relevant to the work of the Committee. Jammu and Kashmir was not an integral part of India and had never been so. Repeated resolutions of the Security Council had recognized that Jammu and Kashmir was disputed territory and that it was necessary to conduct a free and impartial plebiscite, under United Nations auspices, to determine the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir; no electoral exercise conducted by India could be considered a replacement. Those United Nations resolutions had been accepted by both India and Pakistan and remained binding.
Also speaking in right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom responded to the remarks made by the delegations of Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Costa Rico, saying that her country had no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime areas. The United Kingdom attached great importance to the principle of the right to self-determination. There could be no negotiations on sovereignty unless and until such a time as the islanders so wished. The relationship with its overseas territories was a modern one, and it was up to the inhabitants of those territories to determine whether or not they wished to retain a link to the United Kingdom. The peoples of the Falkland Islands had expressed their wishes clearly when they visited the United Nations. They had stressed that the right to self-determination was a universal human right, and made it clear that they, like any other people, were entitled to exercise that right.
She reiterated that the Falkland Islands had no indigenous people, and that no population was removed prior to the United Kingdom settling there. The people of the Falkland Islands were and always had been the only people of the Falkland Islands, and she lamented measures by Argentina that unlawfully aimed to limit transport and block access to free trade. The right to make use of a population’s own resources was an integral part of the right to self-determination, as people should not be deprived of the ability to freely dispense of their natural wealth and resources. The United Kingdom remained fully committed to defending the rights of the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their own future.
Argentina’s representative also spoke in exercise of the right of reply regarding the statement made by the United Kingdom’s representative on the Malvinas Islands. He said the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas were an integral part of Argentina’s territory, and that those areas had been illegally occupied by the United Kingdom. Thus, they were subjected to a dispute of sovereignty between the two Governments, as recognized by international organizations.
He said that the illegal occupation by the United Kingdom had lead the General Assembly to adopt numerous resolutions, all of which recognized the existence of a sovereignty dispute with regard to the Malvinas Islands. Those texts urged the Governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina to resume negotiations to arrive as soon as possible at a peaceful solution to the dispute. The Special Committee had repeatedly given an opinion along the same lines, as recently as June. The Organization of American States had made a new statement along the same lines. He regretted that the British Government tried to change historical facts, regarding the usurpation committed in 1833.
The United Kingdom, he said, should honour its commitments and immediately resume all negotiations with Argentina, regarding the issue of the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surround maritime areas, in order to arrive at a fair and final solution to the dispute. If it were to do so, the United Kingdom would be acting lawfully and responsibly, in the same way that that country called on the rest of the international community to act. He regretted the United Kingdom’s irresponsibility to create expectations among the inhabitants of those islands.
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