Fourth Committee, Concluding Consideration of Decolonization, Approves Ten Draft Resolutions, One Decision, Half by Recorded Vote

15 October 2012
GA/SPD/509

Fourth Committee, Concluding Consideration of Decolonization, Approves Ten Draft Resolutions, One Decision, Half by Recorded Vote

15 October 2012
General Assembly
GA/SPD/509
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

7th Meeting (AM)

Fourth Committee, Concluding Consideration of Decolonization, Approves

 

TEN Draft Resolutions, One Decision, Half by Recorded Vote

 

The Fourth Committee today, having considered the question of decolonization in depth since its began its session on 8 October, forwarded 11 draft texts to the General Assembly, with half approved without a vote, reaffirming the rights of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories to shape their destiny.

Acting without a vote, it approved its annual omnibus draft resolution 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. 

By its terms, the General Assembly would stress the importance of the decolonization process by expediting the application of the work programme for the decolonization of each of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on its list, on a case-by-case basis, as well as reaffirm that in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was a fundamental human right.

The Assembly would also stress the importance 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 being kept apprised of the views and wishes of the peoples of the Territories and would call upon the administering Powers to cooperate fully with that Committee’s work.

Explaining her country’s position after the vote, the representative of Spain said that self-determination was not the only principle to be considered for Non-Self-Governing Territories; in cases such as Gibraltar, territorial integrity should also be applied.  Concerning the process of the decolonization of Gibraltar, Spain was prepared to move forthwith to a permanent solution that could only be the result of direct negotiations with the United Kingdom, in which the wishes and aspirations of the people of Gibraltar would be heard.

Along similar lines, Argentina, said its representative, gave its full support to the right of self-determination, in general, and for a11 the Territories covered by the resolution just approved, as long as the exercise of that right was in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and the freely expressed wishes of the people of the Territories concerned.  

At the same time, he said, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514, the principle of self-determination was only one of two guiding tenets that applied to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Territorial integrity, as established by numerous General Assembly resolutions, was also to be considered in special and particular cases, such as that of the Malvinas Islands[*].  He reiterated his country’s “permanent willingness” to renew negotiations with the United Kingdom.

The representative of the United Kingdom, explaining her delegation’s position, expressed regret at the “outdated approach” of the Special Committee, which did not recognize progress made in the Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom.  Some of the language in today’s resolution was unacceptable as it did not reflect that the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Territories, which was based on shared values and the right to self-determination.  

On the subject of Turks and Caicos, she said, the resolution did not reflect the considerable progress that had been made in that Territory.  Further, the United Kingdom did not accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar and of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) did not have the right to self-determination.

The other draft resolutions approved without a vote today concerned:  the importance of promoting the educational advancement of the inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and the responsibility of the United Nations towards the people of Western Sahara.  Draft decisions were on the Questions of New Caledonia and Tokelau, and Gibraltar. 

Moving on to recorded votes, the Committee approved a draft resolution on economic and other activities that affect Non-Self-Governing Territories by 165 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France United Kingdom).  By the terms of that text, the Assembly would affirm the value of foreign economic investment undertaken in collaboration with the peoples of the Territories and, among other terms of the text, urge the administering Powers to safeguard and guarantee the right of those to their natural resources and to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevailed in the Territories.

Also requiring recorded votes were the resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations — 161 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Israel, France, United Kingdom, United States), and on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations — 118 in favour to none against, with 51 abstentions.

The remaining two texts requiring recorded votes were on:  dissemination of information on decolonization — 164 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States) with 1 abstention (France); and implementation of the Declaration — 164 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (Belgium, France).

On the latter text, the representative of the Bahamas cautioned the international community against letting the process of decolonization succumb to lethargy, and called for the earliest return to democratic governance in Turks and Caicos.  She said the principle of self-determination “should not merely be considered an abstract ideal but an imperative to act”.

The Head of the Delegation of the European Union delivered a general statement ahead of action on the texts.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 17 October, at to begin consideration of its agenda item on “the peaceful uses of outer space”.

Background

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 2012 General Assembly (document A/67/23 and Corr.1) and the Secretary-General’s report on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter (document A/67/71), as well as a Report of the Secretary -General on the Question of Western Sahara (document A/67/366).  For summaries of these reports, see Press Release GA/SPD/504 of 8 October.

Draft Texts

By the terms of draft resolution I, on information from Non -Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/67/23, chapter XII, p.31), the General Assembly would request the administrating Powers concerned to transmit or continue to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned.

Draft resolution II, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non -Self-Governing Territories (document A/67/23, chapter XII, p.32), would have the Assembly reaffirm the need to avoid any economic and other activities that adversely affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and urge the administering Powers concerned to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to their natural resources.

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 (document A/67/23, chapter XII, p.34), the Assembly would request the specialized agencies and other organizations and institutions of the United Nations system and regional organizations to strengthen existing measures of support and formulate appropriate programmes of assistance to the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, within the framework of their respective mandates, in order to accelerate progress in the economic and social sectors of those Territories.

By the terms of draft resolution IV, on the question of New Caledonia, the Assembly would urge all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia (document A/67/23/chapter XII, p.39) to maintain, in the framework of the Nouméa Accord, their dialogue in a spirit of harmony, and in this context welcomes the unanimous agreement, reached in Paris on 8 December 2008, on the transfer of powers to New Caledonia in 2009.

As for draft resolution V, on the question of Tokelau (document A/67/23, chapter XII, p.43), the Assembly would note that Tokelau and New Zealand remain firmly committed to the ongoing development of Tokelau for the long-term benefit of its people, and call upon the administering Power and United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further develops.

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 (document A/6723/ chapter XII, p.45), the Assembly would call upon the administering Powers to participate in and cooperate fully with the work of the Special Committee in order to implement the provisions of Article 73 e of the Charter and the Declaration and in order to advise the Special Committee on the implementation of the provisions under Article 73 b of the Charter on efforts to promote self-government in the Territories, and encourage the administering Powers to facilitate visiting and special missions to the Territories.  It would reaffirm the responsibility of the administering Powers under the Charter to promote the economic and social development and to preserve the cultural identity of the Territories, and, as a priority, to mitigate the effects of the current global financial crisis where possible, in consultation with the territorial Governments concerned.

By draft resolution VII, on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/67/23/chapter XII, p. 62), the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to further enhance the information provided on the United Nations decolonization website and to continue to include the full series of reports of the regional seminars on decolonization, the statements and scholarly papers presented at those seminars and links to the full series of reports 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.

By the terms of draft resolution VIII, on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (document A/67/23), the Assembly would call upon the administering Powers to ensure that economic and other activities in the Non-Self-Governing Territories under their administration do not adversely affect the interests of the peoples but instead promote development, and to assist them in the exercise of their right to self-determination.  By the terms of that text, the Assembly would also urge all States, directly and through their action in the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, to provide moral and material assistance, as needed, to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

By the terms of the draft decision on Offers by Member States for study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/C.4/67/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 (document A/C.4/67/L.4), 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.4/67/L.5), the 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.

Action on Texts

The Committee turned first to agenda item 59 and the draft resolution L.3 on 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 draft resolution L.4 on the Question of Western Sahara.

Making a general statement on that text before the vote, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union, YERA ORTIZ DE URBINA welcomed the consensual adoption of the resolution on the Question of Western Sahara, and wished to reaffirm the Union’s full support of the Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution to the dispute.  The Union continued to encourage the parties to work towards a solution within the United Nations framework and felt that it was important for them to demonstrate further political will.  She commended the work of Ambassador Christopher Ross and strongly encouraged the parties and neighbouring countries to continue to work with him to advance the process.

She also encouraged the parties to collaborate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  She also welcomed, among other developments, progress made on the issue of confidence-building measures and the successful seminars that had taken place in Portugal.  The Union remained concerned about the impact of the dispute on the security of the region.

The Committee then approved the resolution without a vote.

Also acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft decision L.5 on the Question of Gibraltar; resolution IV, as orally revised, on the question of New Caledonia and draft resolution V, on the question of Tokelau.

The Committee next 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, approving that text without a vote. 

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Spain stated that her country supported the principle of self-determination for the Territories concerned in the text just adopted, but wished to recall that the self-determination was not the only principle to be considered for Non-Self-Governing Territories; territorial integrity should also be applied in some cases, and one such case was Gibraltar.  Concerning the process of the decolonization of Gibraltar, Spain was prepared to move forthwith to a permanent solution that could only be the result of direct negotiations with the United Kingdom, in which the wishes and aspirations of the people of Gibraltar would be heard.

Also speaking in explanation of position, Argentina’s representative stated that Argentina gave its full support to the right of self-determination, in general, and for a11 the Territories covered by the resolution just approved, as long as the exercise of that right was in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and the freely expressed wishes of the people of the Territories concerned.   Argentina supported the rights of the peoples concerned to establish their own political status, and reiterated its call on the administering Powers, together with the governments of the Territories and other relevant institutions to ensure that the people were aware of their rights and options.  At the same time, he recalled that, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514, the principle of self-determination was only one of two guiding tenets that applied to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Territorial integrity, as established by numerous General Assembly resolutions, was also to be considered in special and particular cases, such as that of the Malvinas Islands*.  He reiterated his country’s “permanent willingness” to renew negotiations with the United Kingdom.

Also speaking in explanation of position, the representative of the United Kingdom stated that her country regretted that the “Committee of 24” (Special Committee on Decolonization) continued with its outdated approach even though the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories had modernized.  Some of the language in today’s resolution was unacceptable as it did not reflect that the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Territories, which was based on shared values and the right to self-determination.  On the subject of Turks and Caicos, the resolution did not reflect the considerable progress that had been made in that Territory.  Further, the United Kingdom did not accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar and of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) did not have the right to self-determination.

The Committee then turned to draft resolution I, on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations, approving it by a recorded vote of 161 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions ( France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States).

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said her delegation did not take issue with the main objective of the resolution and continued to meet its obligations in that regard with its Overseas Territories.  Whether a Non-Self-Governing Territory had reached the level of self-government was ultimately for the government of the Territory and the administering Power to decide and not for the General Assembly.

Next, the Committee approved draft resolution II, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, by a recorded vote of 165 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina said the draft just adopted was part of General Assembly resolution 1514 and other relevant Assembly resolutions on decolonization.  As a result, the applicability of the text for specific Territories depended on the right to self-determination, applicable to that Territory in particular.  For the exercise of that right, there needed to be an active subject — a people subjected to domination and exploitation by a foreign party.  If that was not the case, there was no right to self-determination.

The delegate added that the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas had been illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, which had expelled the population by force and replaced it with its own.  That meant that the issue of self-determination was inapplicable to the Malvinas Islands.  The draft resolution just approved, therefore, was in no way applicable to the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  Any General Assembly resolution on the Malvinas as, well as those approved today had expressly established that, because there was a sovereignty dispute on Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, the way to end that colonial situation was not self-determination, but a negotiated solution to the sovereignty dispute between the parties, the United Kingdom and Argentina.

The General Assembly, said the speaker, had decided that the principle of self-determination was not applicable to the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, when it rejected the British proposal that wished to include that principle for the issue.  It should also be pointed out that in resolution 31/49, the General Assembly also asked Argentina and the United Kingdom to abstain from adopting decisions that involved the introduction of unilateral measures while the Islands were in the negotiation process recommended by the Assembly.

Additionally, said the representative, the unilateral exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural energy sources of the Republic of Argentina in the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, was openly against this Declaration and was unacceptable and not in line with the United Nations resolutions.

In response to the statement made by the representative of Argentina, the representative of the United Kingdom stated that her country did not accept the assertion that the people of Falkland Islands did not have the right to self-determination.

The Committee then approved draft resolution III on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations, by a recorded vote of 118 in favour to none against, with 51 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentinasaid that, according to the text, the draft resolution that had just been adopted should be applied in conformity with relevant United Nations decisions and resolutions, including of the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization, on the specific Territories.

The representative of the United Kingdom reaffirmed support for the specialized agencies in their efforts to assist Non-Self-Governing Territories in humanitarian and technical and educational fields, but the statutes of those agencies needed to be carefully protected and therefore her delegation had abstained on the resolution.

The Committee next approved draft resolution VII on dissemination of information on decolonization by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States) with 1 abstention (France).

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said her delegation had voted against the text, as it drained the Secretariat’s scarce resources, which was unacceptable.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina expressed firm support for self-determination when a population was subjected to colonial occupation.  Without prejudice to that, the approved text should be interpreted in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Fourth Committee.  All pronouncements of the General Assembly and the Committee on the Malvinas had expressly described it as a special colonial situation as it involved a sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, between Argentina and the United Kingdom as the only two parties.  The way to solve that dispute was by reconvening bilateral relations leading to a fair, peaceful and permanent solution as soon as possible, which took into account the interests of the people of the Territories.

Next, the Committee approved draft resolution VIII on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (Belgium, France).

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the United Kingdom ’s representative said her delegation had voted against the text, as some elements of the resolution remained unacceptable.  Despite that negative vote, the United Kingdom remained committed to modernizing the relationships with its Overseas Territories, taking into account the views of their people.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentinasaid that regarding operative paragraph 7 of the resolution, he recalled that visiting missions were only applicable in the case of Territories where self-determination was applicable, meaning Territories in which there was no sovereignty dispute.  For a visiting mission to take place, there should be prior approval by the General Assembly.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the Bahamas stated that her country was pleased with the adoption of the draft resolution under agenda item 60 on the decolonization Declaration.  The international community must not allow the process of decolonization to succumb to lethargy.  On the question of Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas wished to place on record that in view of its close cultural and historical ties with that Territory, the Bahamas viewed the developments there with interest and concern and echoed the calls made by the Latin American and Caribbean States for its earliest return to democratic governance.

The Bahamas noted with interest, she added, the completion of the constitutional reform process in Turks and Caicos.  Any expressed will of the indigenous peoples must not be stifled so they might be allowed to shape their own future.  Indeed all activities that had bearing on the interests of the people of the Territory should take into account their social and economic interests.  The principle of self-determination should not merely be considered an abstract ideal but an imperative to act.

* *** *

[*] A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

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