|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Discussion at Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization Focuses on Challenges,
Opportunities for Non-Self-Governing Territories
QUITO, ECUADOR, 31 May — On its second day, the Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the Third International Decade for Eradication of Colonialism discussed the challenges and opportunities in the decolonization process of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
At the opening of the meeting, WILMA REVERON–COLLAZO, Puerto Rico, drew the participants’ attention to some matters of concern raised in the previous Seminar, including the need to return to the principles embodied in resolution 1514(XV). She urged the Special Committee on Decolonization to focus on the real needs of the Territories, guided by the will of the people in the Territories, and pointed out the need for the people to be informed about their options for determining their political status and the consequences of those choices.
She stressed that one of the first goals of the Committee during the seminar was to assess whether there had been any advancement in the attention to and implementation of any of the above-stated concerns and recommendations made at the last Seminar.
LANA HOYOUNG, from the Anguilla National Council of Women, said her presence was supported by the wider Anguillan society. Noting that her Territory was the only remaining Overseas Territory with an unfinished constitutional reform process, she outlined concrete recommendations to the Special Committee, including that the decolonization process must be expanded to involve other United Nations and “extra-UN” bodies concerned with human rights, economic development and the environment. Civil society should also get more involved in the process. She also underlined the importance of education and suggested the appointment of local focal points or commissions in the Territories.
VICTORIA SULIMANI, Sierra Leone, outlined the importance of obtaining adequate information to steer the work of the Special Committee towards the fulfilment of the objectives of the Third International Decade. She concluded by stating that by the end of 2020 “we would have done considerable work to eradicate colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”.
OSCAR LEON GONZALEZ, Cuba, called for the total elimination of colonialism and asked for further information regarding Puerto Rico’s current efforts on education in light of the upcoming referendum. He also pointed out Anguilla’s civil organizations working on the decolonization agenda and their involvement with social organizations in the United Kingdom. He reiterated his country’s support to the people of Puerto Rico.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO, Nicaragua, said “colonialism wants to survive at all costs”, and expressed his country’s support to the people of Puerto Rico.
FERNANDO LUQUE, Ecuador, asked for clean and transparent procedures, called for the decisions taken by the Special Committee to receive broader dissemination and publicity, and stressed the importance of working together.
ROGER EDWARDS, member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, demanded that Islanders be “accepted as a people with the very basic of human rights, the right to determine their own future, the right of self-determination”. He further stated that they would be “very alarmed if the Special Committee in any way weakened its commitment to self-determination” and “very concerned if General Assembly resolutions or Special Committee considerations were interpreted in any way that undermined the primacy of resolution 1514”.
“Today we are a modern Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, internally self-governing, and, moreover, self-financing,” he said. He denounced the current “many aggressive attempts by the Argentine Government to impede certain sectors of our economy”. He expressed his wish that “this year, the Special Committee will recognise that the people of the Falklands will always be here, and as has been proven right across the globe many times before, self-determination is the only solution that will lead to a permanent, peaceful solution”.
JOSEPH JOSE BOSSANO, Gibraltar, said Gibraltar had been included in the list of colonies of the United Kingdom, its administering Power, when the list was created in 1946. “The international order that the UN Charter created in the context of colonialism was to redefine the status and the role of the former colonial Powers,” he stated. In order to bring that about, the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories had to exercise their inalienable human right to self-determination in deciding their future status.
He went on to say that the people of Gibraltar did not wish to pass under the sovereignty of Spain and that Gibraltar’s sovereignty was not a matter for negotiation between the United Kingdom and Spain. “This continues to be the position today,” he said.
He also stated that the “Committee has the independence granted to it by its mandate to take a proactive role. It is expected to look at what stage in the process of decolonization each Territory is, on a case-by-case basis.” He further noted that “no progress can or will be made unless the Committee identifies the requirements that need to be achieved by each Territory in what was always intended to be a progressive development from colonial rule to self-rule”.
GERARDO DÍAZ BARTOLOMÉ, Argentina, declared the country’s firm commitment to the decolonization process. He expressed support for the work of the Special Committee to advance the cause of decolonization, taking into account the particular characteristics of each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and on the basis of the principles of resolution 1514 (XV), namely self-determination and territorial integrity.
Argentina’s conviction of its sovereignty in the “Question of the Malvinas Islands” was rooted in the rights inherited from Spain, he said. The United Nations and Organization of American States had recognized this “special and particular colonial case”. He referred to historical aspects, which constituted the essence of the “Question of the Malvinas Islands”, including the 1833 United Kingdom’s usurpation of the Islands and formation of a “bespoke community of settlers who came from the metropolis” and the implementation of strict migration rules to prevent Argentines from settling in the Islands. Subsequently, he stressed that, although Argentina supported the principle of self-determination in those cases where the United Nations stated its applicability, the “Question of the Malvinas Islands was a case involving a “colonial situation and not [of] a colonized people”. United Nations resolution 2065 (XX), adopted in 1965, determined the non-applicability of the self-determination principle in that case and recognized the existence of a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Díaz Bartolomé went on to say that Argentina regretted the United Kingdom’s attempt to distort the historical facts to conceal the act of usurpation and also asked the United Kingdom to honour the commitment assumed in 1966 to resume negotiations over the sovereignty of Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas to find a solution to the dispute.
Argentina condemned the United Kingdom’s “persistent unilateral actions” aimed at taking over the country’s renewable and non-renewable natural resources. In response, Argentina had implemented legal actions against companies that carry out exploration activities in the “Argentine continental shelf”.
He further noted the strong support of the international community for Argentina’s position in the dispute, including through declarations adopted by regional and subregional bodies. Last February, Argentina had warned the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council, as well as the Secretary-General, about the increasing militarization of the South Atlantic by the United Kingdom. The region had also rejected the British military presence in the South Atlantic through several statements.
Lastly, Argentina hoped that the United Kingdom would finally agree to assume its responsibilities as the Power that administers 10 of the non-autonomous Territories that are dealt with by the Special Committee.
FERNANDO LUQUE, Ecuador, reiterated his country’s support for Argentina’s sovereignty over the “question of Malvinas Islands” and called for the resumption of negotiations between the United Kingdom and Argentina, as mandated by United Nations resolutions.
Ecuador condemned the United Kingdom’s increasing militarization of the South Atlantic, as well as the attempts to exploit natural resources, including hydrocarbons, in the surrounding maritime areas of the Islands. He stated that “ Argentina is not alone in its claim”, stressing the strong and firm commitment of Latin America and the Caribbean, which had continuously expressed its support and called for dialogue among the parties.
ALEXIS COTO VARELA, Costa Rica,expressed support for Argentina’s sovereignty over the “Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas”. He reiterated the region’s interest in resumed negotiations between the United Kingdom and Argentina in order to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution to the dispute, in accordance with United Nations resolutions, as well as those adopted by the Organization of American States.
OSCAR LEON GONZALEZ, Cuba, noted that the “Question of the Malvinas Islands” had been considered “with more than 40 resolutions”, in addition to those adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. He stressed that the dispute had to be resolved through negotiations on the basis of the United Nations Charter and resolution 1514 (XV), taking into account the interests of the Islands’ inhabitants. He referred to the summit of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC), in which the Heads of State had issued a communiqué on the “Question of the Malvinas Islands”, which called on the United Nations Secretary-General to renew his mission of good offices to resolve the dispute. The Ambassador of Chile, in his capacity as CELAC’s pro-tempore President, had approached the Secretary-General to reiterate that demand and requested that progress be made on the implementation of his good offices.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO, Nicaragua,praised Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez for her “fight to obtain sovereignty” over the “Question of the Malvinas Islands”. He also said that “the fight of Argentina is the fight of Latin America and the Caribbean”. The region strongly condemned the “ UK occupation and military invasion”. He noted that one of the first achievements of CELAC was the expression of the strong regional support for Argentina’s claim. CELAC had also recognized Argentina’s “constructive attitude, as well as its political will” to negotiate a peaceful and definitive solution.
MOHAMED YESLEM BEISAT, Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario), said “the decolonization of Western Sahara is still a goal and responsibility of the United Nations and, therefore, of this Committee as well”. The Committee had been following closely the tortuous course of the negotiation process between the Frente Polisario and the occupying Power. “This process has not yet led to any results owing to the intransigence exhibited by the other party which, as it has stated publicity, will not accept any solution other than the reconfirmation of its annexations claims. It does not want the Saharawi people to be consulted about their future.”
He went on to say that the wise idea agreed before by both parties, namely the referendum, was the only path to definitively learn whether the people wanted to be part of Morocco or part of free nations. Even after having been proclaimed a State that was recognized by dozens of countries and the African Union, Polisario agreed to a referendum for the Saharan people, and committed to accept their decision.
“This position contrasts sharply with the Moroccan position, which does not in any way want the Sahrawi people to be consulted about their future,” he said, adding that the Committee could not continue to take a passive attitude regarding the last colonial problem in Africa on its agenda. He also expressed his full support for the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christopher Ross, and invited the Special Committee to hold a special session on Western Sahara.
ALBERTO DE LA CALLE, Spain, said Gibraltar was “still awaiting decolonization because the administering Power has decided to ignore the recommendations of this Committee and the resolutions of the General Assembly and intends to apply, in turn, a unique formula”. He further stated that “ Spain does not, and never will, acknowledge any international legal status of the current inhabitants of Gibraltar nor will it ever accept their pretended right to dispose of the Rock”.
KHADDAD EL MOUSSAOUI, Morocco, said his country had proposed a status of “large autonomy” for the Saharans, considered serious and credible by a large number of countries, the Secretary-General and the Security Council. Such a status would allow the Saharans to manage their own political and economic affairs within the sovereignty, the national unity and territorial integrity of Morocco. Under the autonomy proposal, Morocco guaranteed to all the Saharans their full rights, without exclusion or discrimination. He stated that by 2000 the Secretary-General had come to the conclusion that it was not possible to apply entirely the main provisions of the 1991 settlement plan, except for the ceasefire. A “third way” had been recommended, with no winner and no loser, to get out of the deadlock.
He added that the Frente Polisario was not the sole representative of the Saharans. Polisario and Algeria should lift the blockade in the Tindouf camps in the south of Algeria. He went on to enumerate a number of disastrous consequences of that situation, including the trafficking in human beings and the creation of a home for terrorists, among others.
MAHIEDDINE DJEFFAL, Algeria, expressed his concern about the situation of Western Sahara. “The people of this territory are not yet allowed to exercise their fundamental right of self-determination and to freely decide their own future,” he said.
Western Sahara was the last place of colonial rule in Africa, “which is still waiting to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination”, Mr. Djeffal said, recalling that Algeria was convinced that the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination was the only way forward to settle that last unresolved problem of decolonization in Africa.
He concluded by offering Algeria’s full support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his personal Envoy, Mr. Ross, in their search for a solution to the conflict of Western Sahara, based on the right of the Saharan people.
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* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (see document ST/CS/SER.A/42).