NADI, FIJI, 22 May — The second day of the Pacific Regional Seminar saw participants discuss developments and challenges in accelerating the decolonization of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and generated significant debate on the need to accelerate action in Non-Self-Governing Territories of other regions.
GILLES MONTAGNIER (France) continued the previous day’s discussion on the question of New Caledonia by presenting further clarifications on the economic and social rebalancing of the Territory’s provinces. He said the decolonization process was a historic issue for France and New Caledonia alike, adding that they were currently in a delicate period in which France would continue to play an active role.
EDWARD PAUL WOLFERS, expert from Australia, acknowledged the various reasons why decolonization was being discussed in a different and encouraging atmosphere in the modern context. In reference to the Special Committee’s work, he acknowledged the need for credibility and the usefulness of disaggregating cases of decolonization in different environments in order to realize post-colonial prospects.
RICHARD ARIIHAU TUHEIAVA, representative of French Polynesia, informed participants about that Territory’s activities in observance of the first anniversary of its inscription on the list of Non-Self-Governing-Territories. He said the blueprint for the Territory’s decolonization was clear and recognized its unique constitutional context. Regrettably, however, the administering Power had failed to transmit information under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter. He acknowledged the Territory’s interest in the Secretary-General’s report, and that of relevant specialized agencies of the United Nations, in light of the environmental, ecological, health and other consequences resulting from 30 years of nuclear testing in the Territory.
Accelerating Action in Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories
WILMA REVERON-COLLAZO, expert from Puerto Rico, pointed out that some Territories removed from the Special Committee’s list had been left in a “juridical limbo”. Puerto Rico had been delisted in 1953, following the adoption of a United Nations resolution in which the United States committed to address future claims by the Territory. Puerto Rico was committed to sovereignty and had made a number of related recommendations to the Special Committee, she said.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba) reiterated the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico, noting that it had also been acknowledged by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2013, and reaffirmed his country’s solidarity with that Territory’s people.
JOSE EDUARDO PROAÑO (Ecuador) also cited CELAC’s support for Puerto Rico, emphasizing that the free expression of the right to self-determination was an undeniable right that echoed the Special Committee’s 2013 decision urging the release of political prisoners.
Accelerating Action in Non-Self-Governing Territories of Other Regions
ROGER EDWARDS, representative for the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, said the Territory’s decolonization faced many challenges. Its people had an unequivocal right to determine their own future, and the Territory “would be delighted to have a normal, friendly relationship with all our neighbours”.
JOSEPH BOSSANO, representative of Gibraltar, said the right to self-determination, as reflected in United Nations forums and documents, was universal and inalienable. He reiterated his invitation to the Special Committee to scrutinize the Territory’s most recent constitutional advance and identify where it fell short of the requirements of self-government. However, it was “theoretically possible to have a future in peaceful coexistence with Spain”, he said.
FADEL KAMEL MOHAMED, representative of Western Sahara, pointed out that 51 years had passed since the Territory had been placed on the Special Committee’s list as Africa’s last colony. “A process of self-determination to resolve the Territory’s status once and for all does not appear to be any closer than when the committee last met,” he said.
GERARDO DIAZ BARTOLOME (Argentina) recalled that the United Nations had repeatedly reiterated the special and particular case of colonialism as it related to the question of the Malvinas. Resumed negotiations on sovereignty over the Territory between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom was the only way to end the dispute, he stressed.
Argentina was a firm believer in the decolonization process, he said, emphasizing that the Malvinas question affected Argentina’s territorial integrity. The United Nations had ruled out the applicability of the principle of self-determination to that case, and the so-called “referendum” of 2013 in no way altered the essence of the question. Argentina was not against the population of the islands, and had committed to take their interests into account, “in strict accordance with the UN mandate”, he said, acknowledging the support of many regional organizations around the world.
ALEJANDRO BETTS, expert, highlighted the demographic composition of the Malvinas, saying its birth rate was not capable of counteracting the negative impacts of immigration and mortality rates. The native people had become the minority in the Territory, he added.
MOHAMMED MAEL-AININ (Morocco) recalled the history of the “regional dispute” over Western Sahara and the resulting consultation initiatives involving all stakeholders. He noted the framework provided by Security Council resolutions on that case, and referred to the number of people in the refugee camps and the fact that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had not been allowed to conduct a census.
JAVIER GUTIERREZ (Spain) said the colonial situation of Gibraltar undermined his country’s territorial integrity. The Spanish Government had urged the United Kingdom to resume as soon as possible the bilateral negotiations on sovereignty that had been interrupted for too many years. Reiterating that the occupation of the isthmus was illegal and contrary to international law, he said Spain was willing to take the interests of Gibraltar’s population into account, as recommended by the United Nations, describing the Territory’s case as a clear example of “consented colonialism”.
Mr. LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), on the question of the Malvinas (Falklands) reiterated his country’s full support for Argentina’s legitimate rights and called for a negotiated solution as soon as possible. Cuba rejected unilateral actions in the dispute area, in line with resolution 31/49. As for Western Sahara, he reaffirmed his country’s support for its people, and referred to the dramatic humanitarian situation there in light of the ongoing financial constraints faced by donors. Despite its modest capacity, Cuba continued to provide education opportunities for young Saharawi people, he said.
AMADU KOROMA (Sierra Leone) said that since Puerto Rico was not on the Special Committee’s list, the latter’s engagement should be very limited. Concerning the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), he noted the new information provided on the Territory’s demographic composition and proposed strong bilateral engagement by Argentina and the United Kingdom on the issue, as well as a visiting mission to the Territory. Regarding Gibraltar, he said the Special Committee should not be mandated to address a sovereignty issue. As for Western Sahara, he said the African Union wished to encourage greater synergy between itself and the Special Committee in order to find a solution.
Mr. PROAÑO (Ecuador) emphasized his country’s full support for Argentina’s position on the Malvinas, and urged the United Kingdom to respond affirmatively to the appeals of the international community, including regional organizations like CELAC, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) for a peaceful and definitive solution to the dispute. Ecuador also supported the inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, he added.
JOSE ANTONIO COUSIÑO (Chile) stated his full agreement with and support for the statements by Cuba and Ecuador, emphasizing that the deployment of visiting missions in sovereignty issues was not appropriate. Chile would welcome a referendum in Western Sahara, which had been denied for many years, he added.
SERGEI CHERNIAVSKY, expert from Ukraine, recalled the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, as well as the creation of the Special Committee and its original mandate. He also addressed the limitations of the current mandate, changes in the Special Committee’s membership and the future challenges of decolonization in the Pacific region. In submitting a paper to the Seminar, he proposed a number of recommendations to the Special Committee.
Participants also heard follow-up statements by representatives of Indonesia, Morocco, Cuba, Chile and Ecuador, as well as by experts and speakers representing Non-Self-Governing Territories. Their comments and responses will inform the report to be drafted during the Seminar.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).