Special Committee on Decolonization Concludes Session with Adoption of Resolutions on Tokelau, New Caledonia

22 June 2012
GA/COL/3244

Special Committee on Decolonization Concludes Session with Adoption of Resolutions on Tokelau, New Caledonia

22 June 2012
General Assembly
GA/COL/3244
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on Decolonization

11th Meeting (AM)

Special Committee on Decolonization Concludes Session with Adoption

 

of Resolutions on Tokelau, New Caledonia

Also Hears Petitioners from Tokelau, Turks and Caicos;

Chair Says Committee Must Make Process ‘Pragmatic and Useful’ for Territories

The Special Committee on Decolonization concluded its 2012 substantive session today with the adoption by consensus of two draft resolutions on the questions of Tokelau and New Caledonia, and with its Chair stressing it must make the process of decolonization pragmatic and useful for the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories under its purview.

By the terms of the draft resolution on Tokelau, the General Assembly would acknowledgethe 2008 decision of the General Fono that consideration of any future act of self-determination by Tokelau would be deferred and that New Zealand and Tokelau would devote renewed effort and attention to ensuring that essential services and infrastructure on the atolls of Tokelau were enhanced, thereby ensuring an enhanced quality of life for the people of Tokelau.

Appearing today as a petitioner and praising the “generous and conscientious support” of the Government of New Zealand to “our small and remote country”, Aliki Faipule Kerisiano Kalolo, titular Head of Tokelau, emphasized that self-determination was at present secondary to infrastructure development.  There had been significant progress in healthcare and education, and “everyone was working hard” on long-term solutions, such as shipping service and air service.

Noting that transport had dominated New Zealand’s engagement with Tokelau over the last two years, the representative of New Zealand stated that the year had not been without challenges.  It remained “a balancing exercise” for New Zealand between respecting Tokelau’s wish for control of some of its affairs and New Zealand’s need to ensure that its substantial assistance in Tokelau was used most effectively.

Under the terms of the draft resolution on New Caledonia, the General Assembly would invite all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options were open and which would safeguard the rights of all sectors of the population, according to the letter and the spirit of the Nouméa Accord, which is based on the principle that it was for the populations of New Caledonia to choose how to control their destiny.

The representative of Fiji introduced both draft resolutions.

The Committee also heard from a petitioner on the question of Turks and Caicos as a follow-up to its earlier consideration of the question of that territory.  The petitioner stated that overseers from the United Kingdom who were in authority during the period of runaway corruption in Turks and Caicos had been allowed to exit the territory “without being asked a single question by police, prosecutor, judge or investigative journalist”.  Further, in the November 2012 elections to be held in Turks and Caicos, a decision announced by the British Government without participation from the citizens of the territory, indigenous citizens abroad would be denied the right to vote while long-resident expatriates were allowed to.  He requested that a special mission from the Committee should be established to monitor the action of the administering Power in Turks and Caicos.

In closing remarks, Special Committee Chairman Diego Morejon-Pazmino ( Ecuador) said the Third International Decade could not be “a lost decade for decolonization”.  The haunting spectre of colonialism needed to be confronted.  The Committee must explore how to advance the process by taking into account current realities and prospects.  The Third International Decade asked from the international community nothing less than steadfast support to the Non-Self-Governing Territories in establishing viable conditions of self-government on the ground, on a case-by-case basis.  Territories should be empowered to exercise their will on their respective political status through an internationally recognized act of self-determination, eventually leading to their delisting by the General Assembly.

Background

The Special Committee on Decolonization met this morning to take up the questions of Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, and New Caledonia as it concluded its 2012 session.  In that context, it was expected to take action on two draft resolutions relating to the questions of New Caledonia and Tokelau (documents A/AC.109/2012/L.12 and L.15), and hear petitioners on the questions of Tokelau and Turks and Caicos Islands.

For its debate, the Special Committee had before it a related working paper, which provided both background information and updates on the latest constitutional, legal and political developments, as well as economic and social conditions in Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2012/1).

Petitioner on Tokelau

ALIKI FAIPULE KERISIANO KALOLO, titular Head of Tokelau, said that since the 2008 agreement between the Governments of New Zealand and Tokelau, which said the issue of self-determination would be left for a while to focus on infrastructure development, Tokelau had worked on developmental programmes relating to its school, hospitals, renewable energy and transport and communication.  School buildings and a hospital would be completed in the next six months and the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project would be completed before the end of the current year and would meet 100 per cent of Tokelau’s electricity needs.

Transport remained a major issue, he said, as a shipping service was essential for the regular movement of passengers and goods between Tokelau and the outside world, as well as for the delivery of education and health services.  In May the New Zealand Government had advised that Tokelau would be getting a new vessel in June and everyone was working hard on long-term solutions, such as a shipping service and air service.

Speaking on the subject of self-determination for Tokelau, he added that, at present, that was secondary to infrastructure development, and before undertaking another self-determination referendum, it was necessary that the people of Tokelau must understand integration, independence, the particular features of free association, and relevant international experience, including that of Micronesia and the Caribbean countries.  He concluded by praising the “generous and conscientious support” of the Government of New Zealand to “our small and remote country”.

BERNADETTE CAVANAGH ( New Zealand) stated that Tokelau continued to face a number of challenges posed by its geographical isolation and a population of only around 1,400.  Transport had dominated New Zealand’s engagement with Tokelau over the last two years.  The Administrator had recently signed a $12 million contract for a two-year shipping charter service between Apia and Tokelau and an Environmental Impact Assessment was currently under way in Nukunonu atoll to inform further discussion on developing an airport.

The year had not been without challenges, she added.  There was overexpenditure in the current year’s budget, less progress than hoped for in key infrastructure projects and some safety concerns around the overloading of a passenger vessel.  Much remained to be accomplished by Tokelau to ensure that core services were delivered for the people of each atoll and before conditions agreed for any future referendum could be seen to be met.  It remained “a balancing exercise” for New Zealand between respecting Tokelau’s wish for control of some of its affairs and New Zealand’s need to ensure that its substantial assistance in Tokelau was used most effectively.  She concluded by acknowledging the contributions of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization in assisting Tokelau.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

The Special Committee then took up the draft resolution entitled “Question of New Tokelau” (document A/AC.109/2012/L.15).

By the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would acknowledgethe 2008 decision of the General Fono that consideration of any future act of self-determination by Tokelau would be deferred and that New Zealand and Tokelau would devote renewed effort and attention to ensuring that essential services and infrastructure on the atolls of Tokelau were enhanced and strengthened, thereby ensuring an enhanced quality of life for the people of Tokelau.

By further terms of the draft text, the General Assembly would note that Tokelau and New Zealand remained firmly committed to the ongoing development of Tokelau for the long-term benefit of the people of the territory, with particular emphasis on the further development of facilities on each atoll that met their current requirements.

It would further acknowledge the ongoing and consistent commitment of New Zealand to meeting the social and economic requirements of the people of Tokelau, as well as the support and cooperation of the United Nations Development Programme.  In addition, it would have the Assembly welcome the cooperative attitude of the other States and territories in the region towards Tokelau, and their support for its economic and political aspirations and its increasing participation in regional and international affairs.  It would then call on the administering Power and the United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further developed.

PETER THOMPSON (Fiji), introducing the draft resolution, welcomed the progress made on the question of Tokelau and the decision that any future act of self-determination on the future of Tokelau would be deferred.  The resolution, presented on behalf of Papua New Guinea, contains a few technical updates from that of the previous years.  He recommended that the draft text be adopted by consensus.

The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution by consensus.

Petitioner on Turks and Caicos

A petitioner on Turks and Caicos, who had not been able to speak during the consideration of the question of Turks and Caicos on 24 June, addressed the Committee.

BENJAMIN ROBERTS, Turks and Caicos Forum, stated that the conditions within Turks and Caicos screamed for an impartial and close assessment, especially with regard to the matter of the application of justice.  Local alleged wrongdoers were being dealt with to the full extent of the law, while United Kingdom overseers with ultimate authority during the period of runaway corruption in Turks and Caicos remained blameless.  Those men had been allowed to exit the territory without being asked a single question by police, prosecutor, judge or investigative journalist.

The British Government had announced, he stated, that elections would take place in Turks and Caicos on 9 November 2012, a decision from which local citizens had been absent.  Something was wrong with “this picture that a man of a race not indigenous to Turks and Caicos had to come from across the Atlantic in a suit and permit them their democratic right to vote”.  Further, the British, while violating the human rights of the indigenous citizens abroad and in denying them to vote, had facilitated and extended the privilege of long-resident expatriates to vote in the election.  Concluding, he requested that the United Nations should establish a special mission from the Special Committee to Turks and Caicos to monitor the action of the administering Power and put forward a resolution on Turks and Caicos, independent of the omnibus resolutions for Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Question of New Caledonia

The Special Committee next turned to the question of New Caledonia and took up the draft resolution entitled “Question of New Caledonia” (document A/AC.109/2012/L.12).

By the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would invite all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options were open and which would safeguard the rights of all sectors of the population, according to the letter and the spirit of the Nouméa Accord, which is based on the principle that it is for the populations of New Caledonia to choose how to control their destiny.

It would also have the Assembly note that the steering committee on the institutional future of New Caledonia has been established and mandated to prepare the basic issues to be decided by referendum, that is, the transfer of sovereign powers, access to full international status and the organization of citizenship into nationality and, in that regard, welcome the five agreements signed in October 2011 between the French authorities and the Government of New Caledonia to organize the transfer of secondary education, with effect on 1 January 2012.

Further, the text would have the Assembly recall the relevant provisions of the Nouméa Accord aimed at taking the Kanak identity more broadly into account in the political and social organization of New Caledonia, noting that the new anthem is used together with the French hymn and that the follow-up committee in 2010 recommended that the French flag and the Kanak flag fly together in New Caledonia.

Additionally, the Assembly would, under the terms of the draft resolution, note the concerns expressed by a group of indigenous people in New Caledonia regarding their underrepresentation in the territory’s governmental and social structures and by the representatives of indigenous people regarding incessant migratory flows and the impact of mining on the environment.

The Assembly would also welcome the cooperative attitude of the other States and territories in the region towards New Caledonia, its economic and political aspirations and its increasing participation in regional and international affairs and would decide to keep under continuous review the process unfolding in New Caledonia as a result of the signing of the Nouméa Accord.

PETER THOMPSON ( Fiji), introducing the draft resolution, said that significant steps had been taken by the Melanesian Spearhead Group to monitor the Nouméa Accord.  Its leaders had conducted visits to New Caledonia and updates relating to those visits had been reflected in the draft resolution.  There had been positive developments, but that did not detract from the fact that there was much more to be achieved.  The final recommendation in the draft resolution remained that the Special Committee should continuously review the process that was unfolding in New Caledonia.  He recommended that the draft resolution be approved by consensus.

The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

In a concluding statement for the session, Special Committee Chairman DIEGO MOREJON-PAZMINO ( Ecuador) said that, looking forward at the various aspects of the work of the Special Committee, it was important for it to help ensure that the process of decolonization was pragmatic and useful for the Non-Self-Governing Territories under its purview.  Their numbers had to be reduced whenever possible during the current international decade.  The Third International Decade could not be a lost decade for decolonization. The haunting spectre of colonialism in perpetuity needed to be confronted.

The Special Committee had an ongoing responsibility to make effective progress in implementing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, he said.  It, therefore, needed to continue to explore how to advance the process of decolonization by taking into account current realities and prospects.  The Third International Decade asked from the international community nothing less than steadfast support to the Non-Self-Governing Territories in establishing viable conditions of self-government on the ground, on a case-by-case basis.  Territories would then be empowered to exercise their will on their respective political status through an internationally recognized act of self-determination, eventually leading to their delisting by the General Assembly.  The Committee needed to redouble its efforts to work together towards that historic goal.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.